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25 March 2022, 11:45 | Updated: 25 March 2022, 11:51
Since silent films became 'talkies', music wasn't far behind. For over 100 years, movie songs and soundtracks have been a hugely important part of any Hollywood hit.
We've collected 100 of the very best music moments in film history to create the ultimate playlist and countdown for any cinema and music lover.
From musical songs to tracks written especially for a film, to already-known hits which had a new lease of life thanks to an iconic movie moment, we're including them all.
Here is our pick of the greatest movie songs of all time:
A huge UK number one single in 2000, All Saints recorded the main theme tune to this Leonardo DiCaprio film.
Probably the best thing about the film, it's still a fantastic summery pop tune over two decades later.
Halfway through filming Furious 7 - the seventh Fast and Furious film, one of its main stars, Paul Walker, died in a tragic car crash.
With the film finished via the use of clever CGI and stand-ins from Paul's brothers, the film needed a fitting send-off, and it got just that with this poignant ballad about losing a loved one.
While not written specifically for the teen romcom, 'Kiss Me' was used as the film's main theme, and gave it a brand new lease of life.
There are plenty of brilliant music moments from Baz Luhrmann's extravaganza, but it doesn't get much more epic than this team-up of 2001's biggest pop divas.
The teenage Lulu scored a number one hit in the USA with this sentimental song.
It was the title track of the Sidney Poitier film about social and racial issues at an inner city UK school in the 1960s.
Originally intended as a horror movie song, it was later reworked perfectly as a song to play while Jennifer Beals trained hard at home, it became a big '80s pop hit for Michael.
Eminem's autobiographical movie was a resounding success for the rapper, helped largely to this main song from the film.
While largely spelling out the plot of the film, it has also become something of an anthem relating to taking your moment and challenging yourself.
OK, Bill Murray may have grown to hate this song thanks to his character Phil constantly hearing it every time he woke up, but it's now an iconic movie song because of his suffering. Sorry, Phil.
In a film full of '80s classics, it was an inspired move to record a piano cover of Tears for Fears' brilliant song 'Mad World' for the powerful finale.
Two years later, it was the UK's surprise Christmas number one after a new single release, and it remains one of cinema's most moving music moments.
A ridiculously uplifting and catchy song, Pharrell Williams had a massive hit with the animated comedy sequel's main song.
Pharrell wrote and recorded the film's entire soundtrack, bringing back the days of big animated films recruiting top music names.
One of the most romantic ballads of all time, this song first appeared in the 1936 musical comedy Swing Time.
One of those songs that became so big that it's easy to forget that it first appeared in a film.
Doris Day performed the classic song in an Alfred Hitchcock film, no less. It became her signature song, and won an Oscar.
We'd argue that this song is more famous as a song in its own right rather than being from a film, but we're counting it anyway!
Will Smith was the '90s king when it came to recording theme songs for films he was also starring.
His best was the theme tune to sci-fi comedy Men in Black, which managed to explain the plot of the film and be catchy.
Barbra Streisand's career was arguably revived thanks to the success of this song from the film of the same name, in which she also starred.
A huge hit single, it won two Academy Awards.
British pop legend Billy Ocean was recruited by Hollywood to perform the main theme tune to adventure flick The Jewel of the Nile starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.
As Billy explained to Smooth, Michael, Kathleen and Danny DeVito even popped up to star in Billy's music video!
This is definitely one of those songs that was a bigger deal than the movie it was from.
Brooke Shields starred in the romantic drama of the same name in 1981, but the most memorable part of the film will always be the stunning duet from two of pop's biggest stars: Lionel Richie and Diana Ross.
A perfect example of how a film could bring a new lease of life to a song.
An iconic scene from this 1989 film featured broken-hearted Lloyd (John Cusack) serenading his ex-girlfriend outside her bedroom window by holding a boombox up above his head and playing the Peter Gabriel song for her.
Harry Nilsson was recommended for the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack to director John Schlesinger, who then selected this song.
The track was used as the theme song for the Jon Voigt and Dustin Hoffman movie, and would become closely identified with it from then on.
This song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, describing somebody who overcomes their troubles by realizing that "it won't be long 'till happiness steps up to greet me."
The single topped the US chart and won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
Future South Park star Isaac Hayes created one of funk's finest moments for the main theme for the 1971 drama.
Hayes became the first African American to win the Best Original Song Oscar – or any Academy Award in a non-acting category.
In 2000, Elton John's seminal song 'Tiny Dancer' was used in a prominent scene in Cameron Crowe's music drama Almost Famous.
The scene helped the song gain a new legion of fans, and it returned to Hollywood after being used in the Elton biopic Rocket Man.
It's the world's best-selling song of all time, and a staple of Christmas since the 1940s.
Because of the song's iconic status, it has kept Bing's film on our screens every December, alongside its spiritual follow-up movie of the same name.
It's an underrated Bond theme, and one that perfectly brings together 007's mood and '80s pomp.
1990s comedy Wayne's World saw Wayne, Garth and the boys headbang it out to Brian May's guitar work, with great comic effect.
It helped revitalise Roy's career, especially when the film used the song itself as part of the soundtrack.
A quirky song sung in a non-conventional manner by Noel Harrison, this '60s thriller theme tune remains one of the best of its era.
Originally a French song, the reworked version won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1969.
This ballad was written by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Tim Rice. A duet was originally recorded by singers Brad Kane and Lea Salonga in their roles as the singing voices of Aladdin and Jasmine.
The track is both the film's love and theme song, and describes Aladdin showing the confined princess a life of freedom while riding on a magic carpet. The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1993.
A single version of the song was released, performed by American singers Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. This version is played over the film's end credits and was a hit around the world.
Of all of Love Actually's music moments (a nod goes out to 'God Only Knows'), this one has to be the most memorable.
In a heartbreaking scene after Emma Thompson's character has discovered her husband (Alan Rickman) had been cheating on her, she has a private and dignified cry before having to stay stoic for the sake of her family, all while Joni Mitchell's 2000 version of her heartbreaking ballad.
This was the secondary - but more well known - theme tune for George Lazenby's single outing as Bond.
An ageing Louis Armstrong was the surprise but perfect choice for this ballad, and was chosen by John Barry because he felt he could "deliver the title line with irony". The title line is taken from Bond's final and emotional quote in the movie.
It returned to great effect in Daniel Craig's final outing No Time To Die, marking the first time a theme was used more than once in two different movies.
Weirdly, both LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood released the country power ballad 'How Do I Live' at the exact same time in 1997.
While LeAnn's version is the more well known, it was actually Trisha's version that was used in the Nicolas Cage action romp Con Air.
It was a rather surprising song to choose for such an explosive movie, but it somehow worked.
This '80s synthpop staple was another song that ended up more famous and popular than the film it was from.
The Electric Dreams film's finest quality was its soundtrack, which was headed up by this fantastic tune.
Before Flashdance, Irene Cara was hired to record the theme tune for the 1980 musical film Fame.
It was Irene's debut single, and it won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
This sweet little ditty was performed by Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog for the Muppets' 1979 film adventure.
In 2020, it was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry.
This was the film's main theme song that played at the beginning of the film, with Bowie releasing a different version as a single.
Pop-rock veterans Starship provided this '80s anthem as the main theme song to romantic comedy Mannequin in 1987, and it's still a banger.
Not only was it a number one hit around the world, but it was nominated for an Oscar.
The 1995 movie Dangerous Minds might not have had a lasting legacy, but its main theme from rapper Coolio and singer LV very much has.
Sampling Stevie Wonder, the huge-selling single also featured an appearance from the film's main star Michelle Pfieffer.
Speaking of Stevie, the music legend recorded this simple but effective ballad for the soundtrack of The Woman in Red in 1984.
It became the best-selling single of Stevie's career, and won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Song.
Randy Newman wrote and performed this litty tune, which would become the main theme for all the Toy Story films.
The song is played during the opening credits for Toy Story, Toy Story 3, and Toy Story 4, focusing on the importance of Woody and Andy in the first film, and for all his toys in the third and fourth.
The song was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, but lost both to 'Colors of the Wind' from Disney's Pocahontas.
For the 1986 film of the same name, the Ben E King soul classic found a new lease of life thanks to its use in the film.
Taking place in the late 1950s, it brought new fans to the film's soundtrack of music from the era.
Following the success of Michael Bay's Armageddon, he followed the trick of releasing a power ballad for his next action romance: Pearl Harbor.
Here, country superstar Faith Hill was recruited to perform the film's main theme tune that crossed over into the pop charts.
Originally a Christmas song, the festive references were removed as Roxette recorded a new version for the Pretty Woman soundtrack.
Its use in the film made the song a massive international hit, and turned Roxette into pop legends.
Ghostbusters was bound to always a be a big box office hit. But we'd argue it probably wouldn't have been anywhere near as big without Ray Parker Jr's catchy juggernaut of a theme tune.
It was nominated for an Oscar, but lost out to Stevie Wonder's track above.
A truly iconic cinematic moment, here's Marilyn Monroe at her peak, seductively singing about exploiting men for riches.
Her performance has been parodied and referenced by various stars ever since, ranging from Madonna to Kylie Minogue.
The ultimate film and song that summed up the counter-culture movement of the late 1960s, it's impossible not to imagine yourself out for a ride on a motorbike with a stars and stipe helmet on.
This iconic Irving Berlin ballad was nominated for an Oscar and has become a standard since its use back in 1936.
It had a second cinematic highlight after its heartbreaking use in 1999's The Green Mile, and we're tearing up just thinking about it.
Director Richard Curtis made use of this classic Bill Withers soul ballad's short length by using it in a memorable montage scene to showcase the passage of time across a year.
If there's one entry in this list that perfectly explains how a song can forever have a totally different mood after its use in a film, it's probably this one.
Quentin Tarantino picked this classic rock staple to be playing while Michael Madsen got busy with a knife in a gruesome but comedic scene, and cinema history was made.
Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan's 1998 romantic drama City of Angels had a cracking soundtrack: Sarah McLachlan's 'Angel' and Alanis Morissette's 'Uninvited' were also there.
But the best has to be this alt-rock power ballad from Goo Goo Dolls, which really should have received an Oscar nomination.
With 'I Will Always Love You' being such a barnstorming hit, it's easy to forget that there were several other bangers from The Bodyguard.
This was the second-best song from the soundtrack, and became one of Whitney's signature tunes.
OK, technically speaking it was Marty McFly singing this instead of Chuck Berry, but this song will now always be synonymous with the Enchcanted Under the Sea Dance in Back to the Future.
The Monty Python boys managed to come up with a song that was both hilarious and mellow at the same time, and was the perfect finale scene for their seminal Life of Brian film.
Daniel Craig's third outing as James Bond secured the services of pop's biggest star when Adele belted out this stunning theme tune.
The song won an Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy and Brit Award. So, it did pretty well.
This song performed by Audrey Hepburn won the Oscar for Best Song, as well as two Grammys in 1962.
It would later become the signature song for Andy Williams and has been covered by countless artists.
You might not remember much about the film it was from (it starred Jeff Bridges, by the way), but Phil Collins' title track from its soundtrack became one of the best-loved power ballads of all time, and one of his biggest hits.
Love or hate the Twilight movie franchise, you have to say that this love song from Christina Perri is one of the very best from the past decade or so.
Amazingly, it wasn't even nominated for an Oscar.
There could have been seven or eight entries from this one film alone.
The Bee Gees became the unexpected Kings of Disco when they were hired to make the soundtrack for this film, and ended up releasing one of the best-selling albums ever.
It just makes you want to grab your comb and run to the dancefloor as soon as you hear it.
If you're talking trying to shoehorn the film's difficult title into a theme tune and making it work wonders, John Parr is the king.
The main love theme from Tom Cruise's Top Gun movie, this power ballad won an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Song in 1986.
Berlin may have been one hit wonders, but what a hit to have.
The love theme from the 1961 movie adaptation of West Side Story is a beautiful and heartbreaking cinematic moment. Although Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood played Tony and Maria, they were actually dubbed by Jim Bryant and Marni Nixon.
The song would go on to be covered by many artists ranging from Barbra Streisand to Pet Shop Boys.
There's not many more iconic film moments than the sight of Julie Andrews running over the hills (which were very alive) to sing the legendary musical's opening number.
Dick Van Dyke may not have been the best at doing British accents, but when it came to singing a beautiful lullaby in a kids' film, he was arguably the best.
The ultimate mid-80s power ballad crafted especially for Hollywood, you just want to grab your shades and feel the need for speed pronto.
Grease was certainly the word in 1978, and John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John ruled the charts with several massive hits from the soundtrack.
This opening number between the pair and their pals is still a karaoke favourite nearly 50 years later.
Not only did Tina Turner star in this Mad Max sequel, but she recorded the main theme tune.
Despite attempting to include 'Thunderdome' within the song's lyrics, it still sounds like a typical catchy Tina Turner anthem that works without the original context.
Former Chicago singer Peter Cetera took his brand of epic '80s love songs for this main theme for The Karate Kid sequel.
It was nominated for an Oscar but lost out to Berlin's 'Take My Breath Away'.
Sylvester Stallone originally wanted Queen's 'Another One Bites the Dust' as the theme for the third Rocky movie, but the band refused.
Instead, rock band Survivor came up with this '80s rock staple, which was a number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
When you think of '80s cinema moments, the sight of Jennifer Beals swapping her welding gear for a seriously epic dance routine to the tune of 'What a Feeling' in Flashdance is right up there.
Irene Cara's anthem won an Oscar and Golden Globe for best song in 1984.
This was the song that made James Bond's theme music come alive. In the first two movies, they were something of an after thought, but Shirley's theme tune to 'Goldfinger' went POW!
Co-written by crooner Anthony Newley, the song was inspired by 'Mack the Knife' and was produced by Beatles legend George Martin.
This love ballad won Elton John and Tim Rice an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song in 1995.
The song was performed in the film by Kristle Edwards, Joseph Williams, Sally Dworsky, Nathan Lane, and Ernie Sabella, with Elton recording another version in the film's closing credits.
The original version of this ballad was sung by Cliff Edwards in the character of Jiminy Cricket, and is heard over the opening credits and in the final scene of Pinocchio.
It won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was also the first Disney song to win an Oscar.
In the 1980s, 'When You Wish Upon a Star' became the signature song of The Walt Disney Company, and is still used in its production logos at the beginning of many Disney films.
This was the main theme for the 1981 film Arthur starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli. It won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1981, and was a number one hit in the US.
This Oscar-winning song was written for the 1993 movie Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks, an early mainstream film dealing with HIV/AIDS.
In early 1993, director Jonathan Demme asked Springsteen to write a song for the in-progress film, and by June, he had done so. Demme wanted people not familiar with HIV to see his film.
He felt Springsteen and fellow soundtrack contributor Neil Young would bring an audience that would not ordinarily see a movie about a gay man dying of AIDS. It is Springsteen’s biggest hit in the UK.
Director Richard Curtis approached the band to record a cover of this Troggs song, and it ended up becoming one of the biggest hits in UK chart history.
It spent 15 weeks at the top of the charts in 1994, with Marti Pellow later saying: "We did everybody's head in the summer of 1994.
"I still think it's a brilliant record. Its strength is its sheer simplicity. Any band would give their eye teeth to have a hit record like that. I'm very proud of it."
In a true one-off moment, Dirty Dancing's male lead Patrick Swayze co-wrote and performed this stunning ballad, and then never really did anything like it since.
The song helped the movie's soundtrack sales soar, and just made us love him even more.
It was actually intended for the film Grandview USA, and later Youngblood, but was rejected by both before being accepted for Swayze's iconic 1987 drama.
Even with the strange breakdown in the middle of the track, you can't argue that this song has something truly special and timeless about it.
It was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Barbra Streisand's 'The Way We Were'.
Scottish band Simple Minds were brought in to record the main theme for teen drama The Breakfast Club, and they couldn't have done a better job.
One of the greatest '80s movie moments is surely Judd Nelson's John Bender fist pumping the sky to the tune of this '80s banger.
'Play it, Sam'.
A timeless ballad that has transcended cinema, and is now even used as the opening bars of all Warner Bros films.
"Mrs Robinson, you're trying to seduce me..."
It was a huge hit around the world, but sadly missed out on an Oscar nomination as it was technically not written for the film.
Originally recorded in 1979, this old-school rock track became a movie anthem after it was used in an iconic scene involving Tom Cruise, a pair of socks and a kick-ass skid.
No-one saw this one coming, a sudden top five hit from stadium veteran rockers Aerosmith.
The power ballad featured in frontman Steven Tyler's daughter Liv Tyler's latest movie Armageddon, and it remains their all-time biggest hit in the UK.
Barbra Streisand already had huge success with her '70s version of A Star is Born, including the song 'Evergreen'. But Gaga and Cooper had their own triumph with their 2018 remake.
'Shallow' was one of many hugely popular songs from the soundtrack, and the heartbreaking ballad reached number one in the UK, and also won the Oscar for Best Song.
The iconic song that changed cinema forever. A teenage Judy Garland starred as Dorothy Gale in 1939, performing this timeless ballad about a hopeful future.
It won the Oscar for Best Song (of course it did), and has been covered by pretty much any artist you can think of from the 20th century.
This song was written in 1987, but weirdly, Seal felt “embarrassed by it” and “threw the tape in the corner”.
It was later used in the soundtrack for Batman Forever in 1995. Director Joel Schumacher called Seal to request the song to play over a love scene. However, it was instead used to play over the end credits, which helped it reach number one in the States that year, and won three Grammys.
Out of all the classic songs from Grease, this one still makes us feel all warm inside.
Halfway through shooting the movie, Olivia's contractually-entitled vocal solo had yet to be written.
John Farrar, Newton-John's producer, wrote the song and gave it to the film's team. Although reluctant, they eventually approved it, and recorded the scene after the other parts of the film had been completed.
It's impossible not to think of John Travolta strutting his stuff on a Friday night while the Bee Gees' pulsating disco anthem plays.
'Unchained Melody' had its roots in film, as it originally appeared in the 1955 movie Unchained.
Fast forward to 1990, and the Righteous Brothers version was used in a truly iconic scene involving Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and some messy and seductive pottery.
It propelled the '60s track back into the charts, and was 1990's best-selling single in the UK.
You can't argue with 16 weeks at number one, which is still the record the consecutive weeks at the top to this day.
Bryan Adams recorded the song for the Kevin Costner action caper, and you couldn't escape it in 1991.
Ah, the sight Richard Gere in his navy whites in An Officer and a Gentleman.
This duet topped the US charts and won an Oscar, though producer Don Simpson was apparently convinced it would be a flop. Hindsight, eh?
The ultimate feel-good '80s movie pop anthem, Huey Lewis was hired to come up with a couple of tunes for Back to the Future, and he more than succeeded with this.
It was nominated for an Oscar, but lost out to Lionel Richie's 'Say You Say Me'.
We'd argue that the Footloose movie wouldn't have been anywhere near as memorable or successful if it wasn't for this ridiculously catchy anthem by Kenny Loggins.
A number one hit in America, it lost out in the Best Song Oscar to Stevie Wonder's 'I Just Called To Say I Love You'.
There's nothing quite like hearing the opening bars of 'Circle of Life' as The Lion King begins.
Written by Elton John, with lyrics by Tim Rice, the song was performed by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M in the original film. Elton also sang a pop version with slightly different lyrics, scoring a hit of his own.
'Circle of Life' was nominated for the Academy Award in 1994, but lost out to... 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight', also from The Lion King.
We realise we've said the word 'iconic' about 50 times in this article, but there's not many scenes in Hollywood history that deserves that title more than this.
A delightfully happy Gene Kelly (despite having a fever at the time) sings and dances in the rain in such a simple but amazing moment.
First recorded by Kimahl of all people, Bette's version has become one of her signature songs and won her a couple of Grammy Awards.
"Tell me about, stud..."
Along with 'Summer Nights', the two Johns scored two of the biggest hits of all time, let alone the 1970s.
Both songs featured on the Grease soundtrack in 1978, and reached number one in the UK and sold 15 million copies worldwide.
Not only was Dolly excellent in this comedy film from 1980, but she recorded the song that the film is best known for, and it still sounds amazing.
Nominated for an Oscar and winner of two Grammys, it became one of Dolly's most beloved tracks, and became an anthem for disgruntled office workers and female empowerment.
For the biggest movie of all time, you needed a truly massive song. And they got it in the form of this Celine Dion power ballad.
Dion said retrospectively: "'My Heart Will Go On' gave me the opportunity to be associated with a classic that will live forever".
It won the Oscar for Best Song, dominated the Grammys and sold nearly 2 million copies worldwide.
It spent 14 weeks at number one in the US, 10 weeks in the UK, and sold millions around the world.
Sadly, it couldn't win the Oscar for Best Song as Dolly didn't write it for the film, but we all know it would have done.
As movie songs go, this is the one to beat.
Written for the film, a perfectly fantastic finale moment (don't try and do the lift, it never goes well), catchy as hell, the ultimate duet and karaoke song. It still sounds amazing after all these years no matter how many times you hear it.
It won an Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy, as it should have done.