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The 10 Songs That Movies Need to Stop Using

By Figgy | Lists | July 16, 2010 |

By Figgy | Lists | July 16, 2010 |

Let’s get this out of the way first: These aren’t necessarily bad songs (except maybe for “All Star,” though I sort of like it). In fact, some are well-loved classics by some of the most respected musical artists in history. A few of these are among my favorites.

But somewhere along the line, someone decided that, if their movie contained a certain scene (say, someone arriving in London) it just had to be accompanied by a certain song (in this case, “London Calling” by The Clash). They’re almost always played during a montage or a scene with no dialogue, because it’s just easier to use a well-known song to say what you want than it is to have to come up with anything original. Not that they aren’t very effective when used in great movies, but by and large we’re just kind of sick of them being used in films.

It wasn’t until I did a quick search on IMDb that I realized just how overused these songs are. And I’m only including movies here; if I were to list TV shows we’d be here all day long. AND these are just the “most popular titles” (according to IMDb).

These are the 10 songs that Dustin and I came up with off the top of our heads, so I readily admit that we might be missing some. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

They’re ordered by the most movies that listed them on IMDb.

10. “All Star” by Smash Mouth

Movies used: Shrek, Shrek the Third, Mystery Men, Inspector Gadget

9. “London Calling” by The Clash

Movies used: Get Him to the Greek, Die Another Day, What a Girl Wants, Billy Elliott, Intimacy, about five others

8. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Tarrell (plus other versions)

Movies used: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Stepmom, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Chicken Little, about five others

7. “Mr. Blue Sky” by E.L.O.

Movies used: Role Models, The Invention of Lying, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Game Plan, Martian Child, three others

6. “All by Myself” by Eric Carmen (though there’s a lot of versions of this one, including one by Celine Dion)

Movies used: Bridget Jones’s Diary, Dawn of the Dead, Down to Earth, about eight others plus a LOT of TV series

(By the way, Zellweger got a lifetime pass from me for this video. Love it so much.)

5. “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood & the Destroyers

Movies used: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Parent Trap (1998), Joe Dirt, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, about eight others

4. “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles (or The Isley Brothers)

Movies used: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Wayne’s World 2, about ten others

3. “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees

Movies used: The Bounty Hunter, Airplane!, Madagascar, Mars Attacks!, Swingers, Chicken Little, and about 18 others

2. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

Movies used: Forrest Gump, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Platoon, Bicentennial Man, St. Elmo’s Fire, about 24 others

1. “What a Wonderful World” (the Louis Armstrong version is popular, but the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole one is used even more these days, and there are more)

Movies used: Twelve Monkeys; Animal House; Good Morning, Vietnam!; Hitch; Madagascar; and more than 30 others! Damn.


Other candidates: “All You Need is Love,” a number of Barry White songs, “La Vie en Rose” (probably in any movie set in Paris), and “Oh Pretty Woman.”

Fun things I found out while doing the list:

  • A lot of these are used in some terrible movies, which seems to prove me right in that it’s a very lazy device to use.

  • That makes me feel really embarrassed for these artists.

  • These songs must be really cheap to use.

    Figgy is a displaced Honduran living in Dallas, TX. You can read more of her ramblings at her blog or follow her on Twitter.

    Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.