A perfect movie theme song has several notes it must hit. As shown by Adele and Skyfall, it must capture the spirit of the film and even highlight some plot points. The song has to reflect the film in a way that once you hear it, you can never separate the two.
As the latest Bond movie sits on the horizon, Movie Fanatic was inspired by the power channeled by Adele and thought we’d look over movie history and determine the Top 10 Movie Theme Songs. Will a Bond theme be on this list? Read on to see…
10. Footloose by Kenny Loggins in Footloose
How does one define resonance in terms of a song and its film? The example of Footloose gives a clear answer. When filmmakers sought to remake the 1980s classic starring Kevin Bacon, they used the same song as their theme, even if they country-fied it a bit with Blake Shelton singing. Kenny Loggins had quite a run of movie hits in that era, but none has the power and emotional connection to its film as Footloose.
9. Shaft by Isaac Hayes in Shaft
From the opening percussive beats, there are few theme songs that are as recognizable as Shaft. Isaac Hayes could not have been a better choice to belt out the theme to the 1970s actioner starring Richard Roundtree. It was almost as if Shaft himself was singing his own song! It even works in the remake that stars Samuel L. Jackson.
8. Fame by Irene Cara in Fame
Caught between the keyboard driven pop of the 1980s and the disco beats of the 1970s, Fame by Irene Cara arrived in 1980 as an impeccable musical representation of the film about a group of young high school arts students and their dreams of achieving the song and the movie’s moniker.
7. I’ve Had the Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes in Dirty Dancing
Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes achieved the impossible with their theme to Dirty Dancing. The track had to work as a pop song of the late 1980s while still serving as a believable song of the 1960s as Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze danced onstage in the film. Did it work? History says yes.
6. My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion in Titanic
Say what you want about the theme song from Titanic, but Celine Dion's Oscar-winning track perfectly captured the heart at the center of the epic love story. Yes, My Heart Will Go On is sappy. But isn't Titanic too?
5. Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland in Wizard of Oz
The classic of all movie themes doesn't necessarily make it the best of all time. But there is no question that Somewhere Over the Rainbow set the standard for how all movie theme songs would be measured from then on. Judy Garland will forever be identified by this track and her iconic role in The Wizard of Oz that many consider one of the best films ever.
4. I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard
Not only is I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston one of the best movie theme songs ever, it is one of the best pop songs recorded of all-time. When the track plays in the film as Houston is saying her goodbyes to The Bodyguard, Dolly Parton’s words have never rung truer.
3. Lose Yourself by Eminem in 8 Mile
It was a crime that Lose Yourself by Eminem did not win the Oscar for Best Song. The theme to 8 Mile was a priceless encompassing of everything Eminem’s character had gone through in the film that led him to that rap battle on that stage in the film’s epic conclusion. The lyrics paint a picture that took two hours to tell onscreen in four minutes of musical mastery.
2. Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney and Wings in Live and Let Die
Some Bond fans may disagree, but Live and Let Die is the best of the Bond themes when it comes to reflecting its film. The action and whimsical nature of Roger Moore’s James Bond is mirrored on Paul McCartney’s track. The explosions, the building power of the chorus, the race-against-time feel of the middle stretch of the song and McCartney scores further proof of his priceless contributions to pop culture.
1. Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds in The Breakfast Club
As Judd Nelson’s John Bender is walking across the football field at the end of The Breakfast Club and Simple Minds’ theme of Don’t You Forget About Me begins its crescendo, for this Movie Fanatic, there are few moments where cinema and music have been more beautifully melded. Given the breadth of the John Hughes film, the lyrics and the melody capture the themes and emotions of the entire picture in a way that we may likely never see again.
Honorable mentions: Colors by Ice-T, Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey, Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen, It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp by Three 6 Mafia, The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand, You’ve Got a Friend in Me by Randy Newman and Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová.