Since completing My Salute to Animation several months ago, I have been contemplating what film-related list to do next. Then the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences only nominated two original songs at the 2011 Oscars. It then became clear that I had to compose a countdown dedicated to the best in movie songs. The Best Original Song Oscar has gotten such a bad reputation over the years that some have argued the category should be discontinued. This suggestion is entirely understandable given the various songs that have been snubbed by the Academy, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wrestler” and Mary J. Blige’s “The Living Proof” just to name a few. Nevertheless, movie music is still well worth embracing and awarding recognition. A truly great song can add great emotional weight to a pivotal scene and capture the entire message of a movie. In some cases, a song may even be more influential than the movie itself. Can you honestly recall anything memorable about the film “Flashdance” other than it’s kick-ass soundtrack? I didn’t think so. These are just a few of the reasons why I have developed this list of my 101 favorite movie songs. Keep in mind that this list will not only include songs written specifically for movies, but song adaptations as well. This means I will be discussing songs that vary from the Broadway born melodies of “The Sound of Music” to the immortal music of Simon & Garfunkel that elevated “The Graduate.” Since just writing about these songs hardly does them justice though, I shall additionally supply Youtube links. That way you will be able to listen and fully comprehend what makes these 101 songs masterworks.
101. “Big Bottom” from This is Spinal Tap
How could I leave this song behind? One of the many things that makes “This is Spinal Tap” such a sidesplitting comedy is due to how believable the film is. The fictional Rock ‘n’ Roll band of Spinal Tap is realistic, their backstage dilemmas are relatable, and their over-the-top outfits and hair are spot-on. Even their music, while purely satirical, is at the same level of quality as the works of Kiss and the Rolling Stones. The best song in the movie has got to be “Big Bottom,” an uproarious number in which the band expresses their fetish for a woman’s rear end. It’s impossible not to crack up upon hearing lyrics such as My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo. I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo. Now lets all turn our speakers up to 11 and give this classic song a listen.
100. Anyone Else But You from Juno
soundtrack comprised of various indie rock songs played a key role in setting
the tone for Jason Reitmans little comedy, Juno. There are numerous songs
that define the folksy cheer of the movie, like All I Want is You and Tree
Hugger. But the films trademark song is the charming Anyone Else but You by
the Moldy Peaches. In the movies final minutes, Juno and Paulie Bleeker come
together and sing about what it truly means to be in love and completely
dedicated to your mutual other. Its hard to think of a more sincere a subtle
song to epitomize the relationship these two incredibly likeable people share.
99. “America” from West Side Story
In addition to being a classic love story, “West Side Story” is also a significant musical about gang violence and prejudice. In the song entitled “America,” Oscar-winners Rita Moreno and George Chakiris engage in a dispute about the pros and cons of an immigrant living in this country. Moreno’s Anita expresses her affection for the land of the free, which offers opportunity, terrace apartments, and Cadillac’s. Chakiris’ Bernardo meanwhile suggests that America offers Puerto Ricans nothing but poverty, cramped rooms, and rejection. It’s really quite interesting that although this song is over fifty years old, its message regarding racial tension is still highly pertinent in contemporary society. With truthfully humorous lyrics and a universally relevant theme, “America” is a song that will always stand the test of time.
98. “Scotty Doesn't Know” from EuroTrip
Chances are you either think “EuroTrip” is an underappreciated R-rated classic of just another “American Pie” wannabe. Whether you love or hate the film, you will undeniably walk away from the experience humming the lyrics of “Scotty Doesn’t Know.” The song occurs shortly after the character of Scotty gets dumped by Fiona, his long-term girlfriend who turns out to be a major slut. What could possibly make Scotty’s day any worse? How about having a tattooed skinhead played by Matt Damon showing up to a graduation party and singing about how he has been sleeping with Fiona behind Scotty’s back! This catchy tune simply cracks me up every time I hear it, making it a worthy victor for the 98th spot on this list.
97. “Somewhere in my Memory” from Home Alone
This is a song I always enjoy hearing around Christmas time. Fractions of “Somewhere in my Memory” can be heard throughout various section of “Home Alone.” But the song mainly stands out as Kevin McCallister sees another family come together on Christmas Eve. Watching them gather on this joyous holiday, Kevin longs for his own family to return home regardless of their previous argument. John Williams’ musical score and Leslie Bricusse’s lyrics supply the scene with a certain melancholy warmth and nostalgic sentiment that the holiday season evokes within us all. Skeptics often recognize “Home Alone” merely as a slapstick children’s comedy. But it is touches like this that make it a genuine Christmas movie that encourages forgiveness, togetherness, and the importance of family.
96.“Marian the Librarian” from The Music Man
A library is among the most inappropriate locations to jumpstart a musical number. The prim Marian particularly has little tolerance for such shenanigans in her tidy library. When the conman Harold Hill asks the stern Marian out on a date, she naturally turns him down flat. Thus, Harold Harold decides to use the librarian's pet peeve to his advantage. Fuelling every young reader in the room with oomph, Harold unravels all order in Marian's library through song and dance. It all amounts to a whimsically choreographed number as Marian tries to regain control while simultaneously finding herself attracted to Harold. Stars Robert Preston and Shirley Jones additionally share an unmatchable chemistry, ultimately providing the backbone for this incredibly fun song.
95. “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show
I’m honestly not the biggest “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fan. In my eyes, the most entertaining part of the 1975 film, and the stage show of same name, is the audience. “Rocky Horror” can be a fun experience if you see it with a large group that’s in on the jokes. Watching it alone in your room though, “Rocky Horror” is the equivalent of one hand clapping. Perhaps the reason “Rocky Horror” doesn’t work that well as a stand-alone piece of art is because, aside from not making much sense, it doesn’t have a lot of great songs. There are two numbers in the film that are admittedly a lot of fun though. One of which is Tim Curry’s career-defining “Sweet Transvestite.” The other is my favorite song in the film, “Time Warp.” This electrifying ensemble number puts a spell on it’s audience, motivating them to jump to the left, step to the right, put their hands on their hips, and bring their knees in tight. Receiving dance instructions has never been so exhilarating. Whether you’re the biggest “Rocky Horror” fan on the planet or have mixed feelings on the musical, this catchy as hell song will leave you wanting to do the time-warp again.
94. “Cheek to Cheek” from Top Hat
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were undoubtedly among the most eminent reoccurring screen duos of all time, staring in ten movies together. The two were at their absolute best in the 1935 musical comedy “Top Hat.” Throughout the film, Astaire’s Jerry Travers tries to win the affection of Rogers’ Dale Tremont. Although Dale is constantly driven away from him due to misunderstandings, Jerry refuses to give up and always maintains a positive outlook. In the elegant song “Cheek to Cheek,” Jerry and Dale finally come together for a luminous dance. I think Michael Clarke Duncan’s character in “The Green Mile” best described Fred and Ginger in this moment as “Angels, just like up in heaven.” The legendary Irving Berlin’s melody is very easygoing and delicate as apposed to being sweepingly epic. This is appropriate given the song’s message that sharing a simple moment with the one you love can be more exhilarating than reaching the peak of a mountain. That’s a poetic thought that’s really honest to what love means.
93. “Unchained Melody” from Ghost
“Unchained Melody” has quite an interested history. Originally written by Alex North and Hy Zaret, the song was first featured in the 1955 film “Unchained.” It received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, but lost to “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.” Since then many artists have recorded different versions of “Unchained Melody.” The version people are most familiar with though is the 1965 one by The Righteous Brothers. 25 years later, The Righteous Brother’s “Unchained Melody” would play a key role in the iconic scene from “Ghost.” Now whenever anybody hears this song, they immediately think of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore sharing that tender moment at a pottery wheel. But why is it that everyone associates “Unchained Melody” with “Ghost” as apposed to “Unchained” where it was initially used? It’s because the song itself and this particular scene in “Ghost” are paired so perfectly. “Unchained Melody” wholly encompasses the love and passion the characters of Sam and Molly feel for one another at the beginning of the film. When a mugger kills Sam though, it appears that he will never get to feel Molly’s touch again. He’ll spend the remainder of the movie trying to protect Molly at all cost. And if he’s lucky, maybe Sam will get to touch the love of his life one last time. It’s a beautiful song meets a beautiful scene that sums up the theme of the entire movie.
92. “A Real Hero” from DriveThe fiercely overlooked “Drive” featured one of last year’s finest soundtracks. The song that best sums up the main character, simply known as the Driver, is “A Real Hero.” The Driver is a blank slate that rarely talks or expresses any desire for companionship. The fact that he doesn’t even have a name completely strips him of an identity. The only people the Driver shares a meaningful bond with are his neighbors, a woman named Irene and her little boy. As the Driver gives the two a ride home one beautiful afternoon, he experiences what’s possibly the closest thing he has ever felt to joy. When Irene and her son face certain death by the hands of some ruthless mobsters, the Driver goes out of his way to save them. Director Nicolas Winding Refn described “Drive” as a fairytale. While this may seem like an odd connection at first, it bizarrely makes sense the more you think about it. In many ways the Driver resembles Pinocchio, both of whom start off as objects without much personality. Through sacrifice and newly found feelings though, the two both evolve into real human beings. “Drive” never relies on dialog to get these emotions across. The powerful music is all the audience needs to know what the silent Driver is thinking, making the soundtrack a crucial presence.
91. “New York, New York” from On the Town
A common complaint in many modern movie musicals is that the male leads are not always the most talented singers. Pierce Brosnan in “Mamma Mia!” and Gerard Butler in “Phantom of the Opera” were two notable downgrades from the original Broadway performers. There was an era of cinema however, in which numerous screen actors were known for their musical gifts. The 1949 adaptation of “On the Town” treated audiences to one of the finest male musical trios of all time. The film is lead by Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin, who is often regarded as the third, less-famous guy. They play three sailors who have one day to see the sights and find romance in New York. Nowadays it’s easy to dwell on the numerous problems in New York, such as the pollution, Wall Street protests, and 911 tragedies. Watching Kelly, Sinatra and Munshin explore the city in awe though, reminds us why New York is the most famous city in the world. The number “New York, New York” encourages its audience to forget about all the negative aspects of New York and focus on the great things it has to offer. The only downside to the song is that the filmmakers were forced to alter the lyrics, “New York, New York, it’s a helluva town” to “New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town.” Censorship aside, “New York, New York” is still a helluva of a song.
90. “America, Fuck Yeah” from Team America: World Police
In my last critique I discussed how late 1940s censors removed the word “helluva” from “New York, New York.” Those censors would have had a field day trying to edit any of the songs from “Team America: World Police.” When an artist writes a pro-America song, words like pride, freedom, and perseverance often come into play. But the phrase that probably best describes America and everything the nation stands for is “Fuck Yeah!” Can you think of two better words to describe how you felt when Osama Bin Laden was assassinated or when we won the most medals at the Vancouver Olympics? There’s just something immortal about “Fuck Yeah” that epitomizes the joy of being an American. This hilarious song additionally references many of the unflattering stereotypes people associate with American jingoists, such as Taco Bell, ghettos, porno, slavery, breast implants and a few other things. “American, Fuck Yeah” embraces American culture while satirically mocking it, a natural talent of both Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
89. “Bohemian Rhapsody” from Wayne’s World
In the early nineties it looked like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” had officially run its course. That was until the classic rock song was made most excellent again via the film adaptation of “Wayne’s World.” Much like how people associate “Unchained Melody” with “Ghost,” it’s hard to hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” and not recall Wayne and Garth singing along, rocking their heads in the Mirthmobile. Believe it or not, Director Penelope Spheeris was actually against including the song in the movie. Mike Myers fought for “Bohemian Rhapsody” though, and thank God he did. Both the song and the way it’s integrated into the film perfectly sums up who Wayne and Garth are, two good-hearted slackers that love rock music and have a little too much free time on their hands.
88. “9 to 5” from Nine to Five
If I had to choose one song to wake me up every morning for the rest of my life, it would have to be the title song from “Nine to Five.” Dolly Parton wholly encompasses the standard morning routine working people face every weekday. We all know what it feels like to force ourselves out of bed at 7:00 am, take a quick shower, and sit in heavy traffic to work an eight hour day at a job we don’t even like. Waking up and getting ready for work can’t be entirely miserable though, if this song is playing in the background. With a lively beat set to the sound of a typewriter and peppy lyrics, “9 to 5” is more energizing than any cup of coffee you will ever drink.
87. “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” from The Wizard of Oz
“Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” is like several great mini songs for the price of one. Not only does the number include a verse of “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead,” but several other unforgettable ballads, including “It Really Was No Miracle,” “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are,” and “We Welcome You to Munchkinland.” Perhaps the most memorable of all is “We Represent the Lollipop Guild,” sung by three gritty Munchkins that manage to appear tough despite holding all-day suckers. It doesn’t get much more enchanting than this marvelous ensemble piece as Dorothy first arrives in Oz and is hailed for accidentally killing the Wicked Witch of the East. It’s just too bad that there are only three Munchkin’s still alive as of today. But their memories will always live on as we gleefully chant “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” whenever a despicable human being dies, be it Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein or hopefully someday Casey Anthony.
86. “Circle of Life” from The Lion King
In My Salute to Animation, I stated that “The Lion King” commenced with the single most enthralling opening of any animated film. While the breathtaking animation and epic scale greatly contribute to the opening, Elton John and Tim Rice’s timeless song, “Circle of Life,” is what truly carries the scene. It’s impossible not to get excited as the animals of the pride lands gather at Pride Rock to honor Simba, the newly born lion that will one day be king. The song significantly plays into the life journey of Simba, who we follow from birth to adulthood. As an adventurous cub, Simba is fully confident in his ability to rule the land. After Simba allegedly causes the death of his father though, he relinquishes his kingly duties and runs away. For years he shuns the cards life has dealt him. But through accepting his mistakes and facing his fears, Simba is finally set on the right path to his place in the world. “Circle of Life” ultimately demonstrates that every living creature serves a purpose and we must all follow our destinies even if we are unsure of the outcome.
85. “The Living Proof” from The Help
One of the most unforgiveable Oscar snubs of recent years was the omission of Mary J. Blige’s “The Living Proof,” a beautifully written song that wholly embodies the themes of “The Help.” This thought-provoking song plays over the end credits as Aibileen Clark, portrayed by Viola Davis in a performance that should have won her an Oscar, begins to walk home down an increasingly long street. Although she has overcome a great deal, Aibileen still has a long walk ahead of her. There’s no doubt she’ll continue to face oppression for the rest of her life, as will the rest of the African American community. In this moment though, Aibileen emerges as a completely victorious individual. She has proven that through fearlessness and brains, the most underprivileged person can overcome the most horrendous obstacles. “The Living Proof” not only speaks to African Americans that have survived bigotry, but any person who has ever been confronted by a monumental challenge. Although life may never be perfect, “The Living Proof” encourages us all to put the worst behind us and continue looking forward. By staying strong, a person can provide another with the optimism to keep going.
84. “In the Deep” from Crash
No matter how overrated people continue to claim it is, I am never going to stop defending “Crash.” I can’t think of a movie that has depicted prejudice in 21st century American in a more provocative and honest fashion. “Crash” explores the lives of a dozen or so Los Angeles citizens that have either inflicted racism, been victimized by racism, or are caught in the middle. At first glance, these may seem like stock individuals who are going to be categorized as either good guys or bad guys. Throughout the film though, the audience gets to see each of these characters in a different light. They reveal that intolerance doesn’t always come down to good and evil. Some of us are just ordinary people trying our to cope in this confusing world. Kathleen York and the late Michael Becker connect the entire ensemble in the film’s final minutes via their poetic song, “In the Deep.” While all of these characters have different views on racial and social tensions, they all similarly start off confident that their perspective is the right one. By the end of the picture however, each person has demonstrated change, in some cases for the better and in other cases for the worst. Everyone has become a little more accepting and has learned something new about their inner selves. While these people may never all see eye to eye, they can all agree that life is surprising and mystifying. “In the Deep” flawlessly conveys what every character is uniformly thinking in this instance.
83. “Dracula's Lament” from Forgetting Sarah Marshall
“Forgetting Sarah Marshal” has a lot of WTF moments, including an instance where Jason Segel flashes his penis and Paul Rudd questions if a woman’s carpet matches her pubic hair. But the most left field instance in the entire comedy has got to be a Dracula rock opera featuring puppets. In the uproariously tragic “Dracula’s Lament,” Segel expresses both his own heartbreak and the lonely vampire’s desire to be with his beloved. The fact that he maintains a Transylvanian accent throughout the song only makes the scene more classic. It’s additionally ironic that Segel would go from creating this incredibly demented puppet show to co-writing and staring in the new “Muppet” movie. But I’ll talk more about that next time.
82. “Life's a Happy Song” from The Muppets
While “Man or Muppet” might have won the Best Original Song Oscar last year, the preeminent song in the movie was actually “Life’s a Happy Song.” This wholeheartedly jolly tune summons all the innocence and corniness of the earlier “Muppet” movies. Bret McKenzie of “Flight of the Conchords” incorporates plenty of his offbeat quirkiness into the sunny tune. It is evident that McKenzie has nothing less than respect for the “Muppet” franchise, making him the ideal songwriter for their return to the big screen. If “Life’s a Happy Song” doesn’t put on a smile on your face, you officially have no soul.
81. “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast
In the early nineties, the Walt Disney Animation Studio underwent a much-needed revamp after a string of failures. One of the fundamental forces behind this new Disney renaissance was the songwriting team of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. Through “The Little Mermaid” and especially “Beauty and the Beast,” Menken and Ashman recaptured the delight of classic Disney songs while adding their own Broadway twist. “Beauty and the Beast” has the sensation of an animated stage musical. Menken and Ashman’s Broadway origins can be considerably noticed in the ensemble number, “Belle,” as the townsfolk gossip about the beautiful, but peculiar, leading lady. Meanwhile, Belle expresses her own desires in life. Although Belle’s not entirely sure what she’s looking for yet, she’s sure it’s something much grander than what her little town has to offer. Gaston, the local town huntsman, knows exactly what he wants though. To have Belle’s hand in marriage, regardless of how she feels about him. “Belle” immaculately establishes who these characters are, what they want out of life, and sets the bar for one hell of a movie.
80. “This is Halloween” from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
As kids, I think we all thought it would be pretty cool if our favorite holiday occurred everyday of the week. Most kids would probably consider Christmas to be their favorite holiday. My most beloved holiday growing up however, was Halloween. Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” made my greatest childhood fantasy a reality, creating a world where it’s Halloween 24/7. In the opening scene of the movie, the audience is introduced to this magnificently trippy world via “This is Halloween.” Vampires, witches, and all of the most famous horror characters gather to celebrate the true meaning of this wicked holiday, scaring people. This is a song so gothic, bizarre, and utterly fun that even Marilyn Manson, the king of all things weird, recorded a cover of it. That’s got to be the highest possible seal of approval to Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman.
79. “Gee, Officer Krupke” from West Side Story
In any stage production of “West Side Story,” “Gee, Officer Krupke” is traditionally featured in the second act after all hell has broken loose. For the 1961 Robert Wise film however, this comical song was moved up to the first act at the request of lyricist Stephen Sondheim. Since “West Side Story” begins as a comedy and evolves into a tragedy, it was an irrefutably appropriate choice to have “Gee, Officer Krupke” occur in the beginning rather than the end. The song itself is a joyously fun romp in which the Jets express why they are juvenile delinquents. They come to the conclusion that their parents and society aren’t at fault for their actions. They’re just naturally no good kids and have no intention of bettering themselves. “Gee, Officer Krupke” additionally inspired a hilarious episode of “Curb your Enthusiasm” in which Larry encounters an officer of the same name. The events that ensue are priceless, making this song even more awesome.
78. “If I Only Had a Brain, a Heart, the Nerve” from The Wizard of Oz
Needless to say that “The Wizard of Oz” wouldn’t be half the masterpiece it is without such a timeless supporting cast. While Dorothy is a perfectly likable protagonist who’s easy to rout for, it’s the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion you remember walking away from the experience. Who could ever forget seeing these three classic characters on the screen for the first time? The trio joins Dorothy on her quest to find the basic human entities they have been deprived of, a brain for Scarecrow, a heart for Tin Man, and the nerve for Lion. In the end however, the three learn that they’ve possessed wits, affection, and courage all along. Sometimes you just need to search yourself to find that you are not incomplete, but a whole individual.
77. “Stu's Song” from The Hangover
Have you ever wondered what tiger’s dream of when they take a little tiger snooze? I certainly didn’t until hearing “Stu’s Song” in “The Hangover.” The short piano solo, which was improvised by Ed Helms on the spot, provides what just might be the funniest bit in a movie with one great laugh after another. Even though “Stu’s Song” is just under a minute long, it’s still among the most sidesplitting 57 seconds of musical comedy you’ll ever see. The tradition of having Helms sing a brief song was carried on in “The Hangover Part II.” Like much of rehashed humor in that sequel though, Stu’s new song wasn’t nearly as funny as the original.
76. “And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going” from Dreamgirls
Few modern screen performances have been so show stopping that I literally felt the urge to applaud in the theater. Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar-winning performance in “Dreamgirls” is a portrayal worthy of a standing ovation whether you observe her on a big screen or via a Youtube video. Hudson dishes out her heart and soul as Effie White in the gut wrenching torch song, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Bringing down the entire house, Effie refuses to walk away from her man or the spotlight. When all is said and done though, she is left alone on stage with nobody left to love her. Jennifer Holliday first made the song famous on the Broadway stage. Hudson embodies much of Holliday’s spunk and attitude, while also creating an Effie of her own.
75. “Don't Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl
“Funny Girl” would have been a very mediocre musical if it weren’t for one factor, Barbra Streisand. She was perfectly cast as comedienne Fanny Brice in the 1964 Broadway hit musical. The performance was so magnificent that she was asked to reprise the role in the film adaptation four years later. Streisand’s portrayal of Brice went onto win the Best Actress Academy Award, tying with Katherine Hepburn for her work in “The Lion in Winter.” Her absolute finest moment on screen has got to be the arresting number, “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Despite what everyone else has told her, Brice decides to take a leap of faith and be with the one she loves, Nick Arnstein. In this instant, Brice is fueled with such confidence and optimism that nobody can bring her down. Some of the film choices that Streisand made after “Funny Girl,” such as the 1975 sequel “Funny Lady,” were poor to say the least. Nevertheless, observing her rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” exemplifies why Babs is still considered by many to be the first lady of show business.
74. “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart
At the beginning of this list I discussed many of the songs that were reprehensibly snubbed by the Oscars in recent years. Every once in a while though, the Academy does manage to award a truly deserving song with the gold. Such is the case with “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart.” This song characterizes the protagonist of Bade Blake, a broken-down country music star. Blake has fallen from fame and glory to being a four-time divorced alcoholic who manages to make a living by performing in low-rent bars. Thanks to an unlikely relationship with a young journalist name Jean, Blake is motivated to give up drinking and write a song entitled, “The Weary Kind.” Through the song, the audience sees a glimpse of Blake’s cracked soul that is slowly beginning to mend. Blake has realized that the world is a tough place to survive and can really take it out of a man. Rather than give up and drink himself into an early grave though, Blake decides to finally wake up and live life the best he can.
73. “Heigh-Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Most film enthusiasts consider “Someday My Prince Will Come” to be the pinnacle song in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” My favorite however, is “Heigh-Ho!,” a tune that introduces us to the seven dwarfs as they mine for diamonds. The music is joyfully captivating, practically making you want to sing along, and the imagery is revolution for the time. Much like “The Wizard of Oz,” “Snow White” is a movie that succeeds more for its supporting characters than the leading lady. Perhaps that is why I have so much more affection for “Heigh-Ho!” than “Someday My Prince Will Come.” It’s the dwarfs that carry this movie and they instantly win us over in their debut scene.
72. “NeverEnding Story” from The NeverEnding Story
“The NeverEnding Story” wasn’t a financial success when it was first released in theatres. Since then, it has developed a cult following and attained the title of a lost nostalgic treasure. Personally, I do enjoy the film for it’s production design, creatures, and imagination. What impacted me above all else though, is the catchy as hell theme song. The title song was sung by the artist Limahl, who at the time was sporting a wacky 80s haircut that shares a resemblance to David Bowie’s hairdo in “Labyrinth.” The beguiling electronic pop mood supplied by Composers Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey will make you want to replay the song over and over again. I guess that’s why the movie and song have “NeverEnding” in the title.
71. “Footloose” from Footloose
Remember when I said that some movie soundtracks end up being vastly superior to the movies themselves? Along with “Flashdance,” “Footloose” is a prime example. Both of these films came out in an era where audiences were being treated to a lot of movies that felt more like extended music videos than feature films. As far as narrative, characters, and originality go, “Footloose” is, in the purest sense, a turkey. Yet, I’d be lying if I said that some of the music and dance sequences weren’t kind of fun. “Lets Hear it For the Boy,” “Holding Out for a Hero,” “I’m Free” and numerous others contribute to making “Footloose” one of my 100 favorite movie soundtracks ever. The best of all is the title song by Kenny Loggins. There’s never been a better song to capture the energized feeling of being out of school with a weekend of cutting loose ahead. “Footloose” may be a crappy film. But at least it gave us a killer soundtrack and one of the 101 greatest movie songs ever.
70. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from Hair
Today’s generation probably best recognizes “Aquarius/ Let the Sunshine In” as the songs that bizarrely concluded “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Long before Steve Carrel performed these songs to celebrate his first sexual encounter though, “Aquarius/ Let the Sunshine In” was featured in the 1967 musical “Hair” and the 1979 movie of the same name. This is a timeless pair of songs that defines the late 1960’s, a time of hippies, rebellion, and hope that we will soon be entering an era of peace. Given all the prejudice, hate, and war that still exist in the world, none of us may ever get to live in the Age of Aquarius. If we try to follow the morals of “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” though, maybe future generations will be lucky enough to live in a world based on love and humanity. Plus, the song has dancing horses, which is always cool.
69. “All You Need is Love” from Across the Universe
Like “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “All You Need is Love” remains one of the most influential and celebrated songs of the 60s. The hit song, which of course belongs to the immortal group that is The Beatles, has been featured in numerous movies over the years. Few renditions of “All You Need is Love” however, have been as memorable as the one in Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe.” People seem to either loathe this musical with a passion or believe it’s a thing of pure beauty. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. There are a lot of numbers in the film that are dazzlingly staged, marvelously sung, and well integrated into the plot. Other numbers, like Eddie Izzard’s take on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” are among the single worst musical moments in cinematic history. “All You Need is Love” however, is a prime example of “Across the Universe” at it’s best. This is probably the least extravagant song in the movie, which is appropriate given how it was first conceived. The Beatles were asked to write a song with a simple message that every person can understand. Now “All You Need is Love” is among the most popular slogans of all time. Many things can get in the way of a relationship, such as loss, ego, and global problems. In the finale of “Across the Universe” though, the character of Jude expresses that love is everything and love is all you need. If only more people could think like this, maybe there would be more affection and understanding in the world and less heartbreak.
68. “The Wrestler” from The Wrestler
Among all the pigheaded, idiotic snubs the Academy has made in the Best Original Song category over the years, none has been more notorious than the absence of Bruce Springsteen’s title song for “The Wrestler.” This song is so pivotal in conveying the life and nature of Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Similar to Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart,” Randy has plummeted from glory to nothing. When he learns that his body cannot handle wrestling anymore, Randy loses the minimal self-worth he had. Unlike so many other tunes that are played over end credits, “The Wrestler” is a song that really leaves you reflecting on both the main character and the film itself as you exit the theater. Springsteen’s song was woven from the soul and passion of Randy the Ram. The fact that it was not even nominated for the Oscar further proves that this category needs to undergo some serious changes.
67. “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” from Hamlet 2
I was truly surprised that “Hamlet 2” didn’t do so well at the box office. What baffled me even more though, was that the song, “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus,” never caught on. The highlight song within this wild musical comedy has the pizzazz of “Grease,” “Star Wars,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” all rolled into one. With unforgettably hilarious lyrics and an elevating beat, how has this song not become a cult classic? Maybe some people found its subject matter too controversial? As I see it though, there’s really nothing offensive about a song that makes Jesus out to be a sexy hipster that influences youths to go to church and do good deeds. After all, where in the bible does it say that Jesus was not sexy? Whatever the case is, both this song and movie deserves a much stronger following.
66. “Not While I'm Around” from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
“Sweeney Todd” is a musical composed of some positively demented songs. None of them is more chilling to the core though, than “Not While I’m Around.” The song is carried by young Ed Sanders, who is ironically the best singer in the entire film, as Toby. After living a life of cruelty under the hand of his former master, Toby has found an apparently loving mother figure in Mrs. Lovett. When Toby suspects Mr. Todd of committing depraved deeds, he swears to protect Mrs. Lovett at all cost. How does Mrs. Lovett return this affection? By plotting to murder Toby so he will not thwart the man she has come to love. “Not While I’m Around” is a haunting song on many different levels. On one hand, it is a painful examination of Mrs. Lovett’s sick, lonely mind. On the other hand, the song is a heartbreaking example of when a child places their trust in the wrong person, such as an abusive guardian. Stephen Sondheim’s subtle tempo only makes “Not While I’m Around” even more lingering, amounting to one of the most freighting songs in one of the cinemas most frightening musicals.
65. “Camelot Song” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Through their movies and television series, the Monty Python team has concocted numerous hysterically ludicrous musical numbers. It’s impossible to consider yourself a Monty Python fan and not be familiar with “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” or “The Lumberjack Song.” My personal favorite of the bunch is “Knights of the Round Table,” aka “Camelot Song, a drive-by-shooting of the random absurdity. As King Arthur and his men “ride to Camelot,” they sing of the many activities knights are known for, like attending the opera, eating spam, and impersonating Clarke Gable. It suddenly dawns on Arthur though that they should not go to Camelot because “it is a silly place.” Like much of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the “Camelot Song” makes little sense and has hardly any bearing on the plot. But even after over thirty years, it still has people pushing the pram a lot.
64. “Born to be Wild” from Easy Rider
Whenever there’s a road trip or motorcycle montage in a movie, it is almost always set to the heavy metal song, “Born to be Wild.” Even the Rock Biter inexplicably sings it as he rides his giant bicycle in “The NeverEnding Story III.” While “Born to be Wild” has been overused in many movies, it was the 1969 classic, “Easy Rider,” that started the tradition. Played over the opening credits, the song immaculately establishes the main characters portrayed by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, two renegade bikers ready to ride wherever the road takes them. “Born to be Wild” just may be the ultimate song about rebelling against conformity and searching for the American Dream, making it a natural fit for “Easy Rider.” Between “Aquarius,” “All You Need is Love,” and now “Born to be Wild,” I have discussed many songs regarding the late 1960s. That just goes to show what a timeless era this was for music.
63. “Somewhere” from West Side Story
“West Side Story” at first establishes itself as a comedy through several feel-good songs like “I Feel Pretty,” “Gee, Officer Krupke,” and “America.” Keeping in the spirit of “Romeo and Juliet” though, the musical transitions into tragedy when Tony kills Bernardo, the brother of his beloved Maria. The two lovers are yanked out of the clouds to face the cold reality that their families and friends will never accept them. All they have left to hold onto is each other and the hope that they can find a place that will accept their love. “Somewhere” is briefly reprised in the film’s finale as Tony dies in the arms of Maria. While they may never get to be with each other in life, maybe Tony and Maria will find a place to embrace their love someday somewhere when they meet in death. That’s simply the devastating nature of many romances in narrow-minded environments.
62. “You Must Love Me" from Evita
Among all the creative outlets Madonna has undertaken over the years, acting has been her least successful venture. Her nine Razzie Awards, including a win for Worst Actress of the 20th Century, is proof of that. If you want to see a movie where Madonna actually delivers a pretty charismatic performance though, check out the 1996 screen adaptation of “Evita.” It benefits Madonna that this musical biopic of Eva Peron is done entirely in song with virtually no dialog breaks. She is thus able to showcase her strongest attributes as a performer, her singing and magnetism. The standout moment in the film is an original song by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice entitled, “You Must Love Me.” This lovely ballad occurs as Eva Peron becomes weaker and death approaches. Juan Peron, Eva’s husband and president of Argentina, holds her hand every step of the way as she perishes. One fault with “Evita” as a film is that it offers few new incites into the life of Eva Peron or Argentina. Through “You Must Love Me” though, “Evita” does take a strong stance that Eva was more to Juan than a tool to help him get elected. She was somebody he truly loved.
61. “El Tango de Roxanne” from Moulin Rouge
Similar to “Across the Universe,” “Moulin Rouge” is a musical that either really engages its spectators or annoys them beyond content. But even the biggest skeptics of this movie have a hard time denying that “El Tango de Roxanne” is nothing short of brilliant. Everything about this scene is flat-out perfect. The vocals, the editing, the pacing, the choreography, and the cinematography explode with exhilaration as Christian waits for Satine to give herself to the evil Duke. The number is so extravagantly and stylishly interpreted by Baz Luhrmann that it is easy to forget that “Roxanne” was originally a new wave song by The Police. The music video for “Roxanne” and “El Tango de Roxanne” feel like two completely different songs when played back-to-back. Rearranging “Roxanne” into a tango is not an easy task. Luhrmann and company flawlessly pull it off though, making for a miraculous and haunting musical moment.
60. "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins
Here’s an exercise for all you aspiring composers out there: Think of the longest word imaginable, even if you have to make it up, and write an entire number about it. While this may not be an easy task, the Sherman Brothers pulled it off through the eternally memorable “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in “Mary Poppins.” The Sherman Brothers were, in many ways, the Alan Menken and Howard Ashman of the 1960s, acting as Disney’s go-to songwriting team for many films. They delivered numerous great songs, such as the “Winnie the Pooh” theme and “It’s a Small World.” Their best song by far though, has got to be the mouth-full that is "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." The song is further brought to life thanks to Julie Andrews, blessing us with her magical, Oscar winning performance, and Dick Van Dyke. They all prove that if a catchy song can be derived from a word like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, then no lyrics are impossible to work with. The only question that remains is what does Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious mean exactly?
59. "Blame Canada" from South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
Parents could blame themselves for allowing their children to watch vulgar, R-rated movies in the first place. But it’s much easier for them to shift all the blame to another source. For the parents of South Park, the blame for their children’s naughty mouths lies in the country of Canada. In “Blame Canada,” written by Trey Parker & Marc Shaiman, an enraged mother rallies the parents of her town to bring down the evil that is Canada before somebody realizes that neglectful parenting is really at fault. This satirical song was so strong that it earned both Parker and Shaiman an Oscar nomination. Interesting that if they had won, Parker would have become one of the few entertainers to win an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award. Nobody could have predicted that happening over a decade ago when “South Park” first hit television and Cartman got an anal probe. Of course the Oscar ended up going to Phil Collins for “You’ll Be in My Heart.” But Parker would get his revenge in a later “South Park” episode.
58. “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney animations are known for producing marvelous villains, all of which normally get their own song. Who could forget “Poor, Unfortunate Souls” from “The Little Mermaid” or “Be Prepared” from “The Lion King?” Disney’s finest villain song of all has got to be “Hellfire” from their unsung masterpiece, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” This unnerving song delves into the unwinding sanity of Judge Frollo, who has convinced himself that he is a moral human being above common lustful men. His beliefs become conflicted however, when Frollo develops an attraction towards the gypsy Esmeralda. Frollo refuses to accept responsible for his own feelings, convinced that it is Esmeralda’s fault. Thus, he decides to make Esmeralda his own or else burn the she-devil for her sins. The images of a blazing fire in the shape of Esmeralda’s alluring body and a choir of judging, red-hooded monks adds to Frollo’s internal conflict as he is conquered by sin and denial. Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” often gets a bad reputation for simplifying Victor Hugo’s novel. It’s risky moments like this though, that remind us that the film is by far the darkest, most complex tale Disney has ever told.
57. “Don't You Forget About Me” from The Breakfast Club
One thing you could always expect from a John Hughes movie, in addition to honest characters and dialog, was a sweat soundtrack. So many songs forever belong to the John Hughes classics of the 80’s, like “Oh Yeah” in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “If You Were Here” in “Sixteen Candles.” No song best defines Hughes’ gift for incorporating music into a narrative than “Don’t You Forget About Me” from “The Breakfast Club.” That’s probably why the documentary on Hughes’ life was named after the song. “Don’t You Forget About Me” fits so well into “The Breakfast Club,” a film about five teenagers that spend a day together in detention. While they may be completely different in terms of social backgrounds and personalities, the kids come to realize that they actually suffer from many of the same insecurities. The day ends and the five go back to their lives, likely to never socialize with one another again. Nevertheless, they’ll always remember that day and the lessons they have learned.
It only felt appropriate to pair “Gonna Fly Now” and “Eye of the Tiger” together, not only because they are from the same franchise, but also because they are exceptional for the same reasons. Whether you are training for the boxing match of your life or just trying to drop five pounds, nothing will pump you with more motivation than these two inspiring songs. Just like how “Born to be Wild” is used in every motorcycle montage, these two songs have become the model tunes to accompany a training montage. Just listening to “Gonna Fly Now” or “Eye of the Tiger” makes you want to fulfill your goal without a moments rest. They both play rightly into these two “Rocky” movies, which are all about never giving up and an underdog achieving the impossible.
55. “The Man That Got Away” from A Star is Born
Judy Garland very well might have been the most influential actress/singer ever to enchant the silver screen. It’s a royal shame that she died at such a young age and never won an Oscar, although she did receive an honorary Juvenile Award in 1940. Garland arguably should have won the Academy Award for her leading role in “A Star is Born.” Her paramount moment on screen is during the number, “The Man that Got Away.” Norman Maine, an entertainer who is declining in popularity, enters a downtown club one night to find Garland’s Esther Blodgett rehearsing. In the loneliest of dives during the latest hours of the night with no audience observing her, Esther exemplifies the makings of a born star that just needs a push into the spotlight. Norman immediately recognizes her talent and soon leads her on the road to becoming a success.
54. “Mrs. Robinson” from The Graduate
It’s difficult to imagine Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate” without the timeless soundtrack by Simon & Garfunkel. One of their standout tunes in the film is “Mrs. Robinson,” the folk rock song about the aging, yet still sexy, woman of the same name. Both the song and Anne Bancroft’s performance have engraved Mrs. Robinson as the cinema’s most iconic MILF, forever encouraging young men to give into the advances of older women. Interestingly enough, the song was originally going to be about a woman named Mrs. Roosevelt, possibly referencing Eleanor Roosevelt. When Simon & Garfunkel were brought on to write the songs for “The Graduate” though, Nichols’ insisted that they change the name to “Mrs. Robinson” and make it part of the movie. The rest is history.
53. “Stuck in the Middle With You” from Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino has always had such a knack for incorporating music into his films. The audience immediately recognizes his passion for music in the opening scene of “Reservoir Dogs” as the characters discuss the meaning behind Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and “True Blue.” The best use of music in the film is “Stuck in the Middle With You” as Mr. Blonde gleefully tortures a police officer. “Stuck in the Middle With You” might seem like an unusual song to accompany a criminal chopping off a man’s ear. In it’s own ironic, humorous way though, the song blends into the situation perfectly as the unfortunate cop finds himself stuck with the worst captor imaginable. I especially love that little dance Mr. Blonde does as he warms up slicing the cop. It’s reminiscent of the scene in “A Clockwork Orange” as Alex beats a couple while singing “Singin’ in the Rain.” Both of these films take songs that would normally fill a listener with joy and instead impact the most demented acts conceivable.
52. “Bye Bye Life” from All That Jazz
Joe Gideon has spent a majority of his life neglecting to take care of himself, smoking like a chimney and working on various creative projects nonstop. His poor lifestyle choices drive Gideon to an early departure from this world. Rather than dying a pitiful death, Gideon decides to go out in style by imagining a huge production number in his head. In “Bye Bye Life,” all of Gideon’s loved ones are gathered in an auditorium with the dying party taking center stage. After bidding everyone farewell, Gideon is drawn towards an angle of death as he prepares to depart into the afterlife. The film then cuts to Gideon’s corpse being zipped up in a body bag. Thus, a once charismatic man has fallen from one last moment of glory to being another lifeless, silent stiff.
51. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from Meet Me in St. Louis
You can’t turn on a radio during the holiday season and not come across “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” at least once. It has evolved into one of the most cherished and universal Christmas songs of all time. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was first made famous by Judy Garland in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” The song arises on Christmas Eve night as Garland’s character tries to cheer up her little sister who is distraught over an upcoming move to New York. Every year brings us a new set of troubles and confrontations. As the year comes to an end and Christmas approaches though, we are able to put our problems behind us and look ahead with optimism. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” embraces the hope and brightness of the holiday season, offering comfort and warmth after another long year.
50. “Good Morning” from Singin’ in the Rain
A song from “Singin’ in the Rain” had to make an appearance on this countdown sooner or later. It’s impossible to craft a list about movie music without bringing the film up a few times. With exception to the brief opening, “Good Morning” is the only song in “Singin’ in the Rain” to unite the film’s three stars, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. All hope seems lost for these struggling artists after a failed movie preview. Once they put their heads together, the trio comes up with an inspired direction to save the film. As a new morning dawns, this terrific threesome sing with glee about the possibilities that lie ahead. Kelly’s choreography is especially a wonder, finding a number of creative ways to use raincoats as instruments. “Good Morning” was originally written for the 1939 musical “Babes in Arms.” Like all of the songs it adapted though, “Singin’ in the Rain” made “Good Morning” it’s own.
49. “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid
In addition to villain songs, Disney movies typically feature a number in which the hero or heroine express what they desire most out of life. The late Howard Ashman described this as the “I Want” song. The tradition of the “I Want” song has been carried all the way from “Someday My Prince Will Come” in “Snow White” to “When Will My Life Begin” in “Tangled.” For my money, the best of the Disney “I Want” songs is “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid.” This beautifully subtle number reveals the aspirations of Ariel, a mermaid who wishes to shed her tailfin and become human. The dark, cold lighting of Ariel’s environment contributes to her longing to be in a brighter, sunnier place. Songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman impeccably set up Ariel as a character who we instantly rout for. To think that Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg originally wanted the song cut from “The Little Mermaid.” If they had lost “Part of Your World” though, they might as well have scraped the entire picture.
48. “We Go Together” from Grease
The longevity of “Grease” is something really special. It was the highest grossing film of 1978 and its soundtrack sold like hotcakes. Over thirty years later, “Grease” remains the biggest live-action musical of all time and people still gather for “Grease” sing-alongs. But what makes “Grease” such a timeless musical? The upbeat songs and the joyous atmosphere certainly contribute to its success. But I think what makes “Grease” so universally appealing is the fact that it’s about the high school experience. Granted, “Grease” is far from the most realistic movie about high school; especially since all the principle characters are played by actors over twenty. But many of the issues it brings up, like unplanned pregnancy, fitting in, and teenage hormones, are relatable even today. “Grease” never felt like a traditional musical, but a cool musical for a more hip generation. The song that makes us reflect on the high school experience most of all is “We Go Together,” the 50’s scat finale that occurs on the last day of school. The characters begin to question if they’ll ever see each other again now that school is over. Seeing how barely any of these characters were in “Grease 2,” it can be assumed most of them went their separate ways. The memories of their high school years will forever live on in spirit though. It makes us all look back on our own high school experience and the friends we made along the way. Also, I must take a moment to gloat and mention that I can recite every lyric of this song from start to finish. I suppose that makes me either very impressive or just a guy with too much free time on his hands.
47. “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Pure imagination is exactly what “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is. Like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Snow White,” this is a perennial fantasy that taps into all of our childhoods. It brings us back to a time when magic seemed possible and our imaginations were limitless. The most enchanting scene in the film has got to be when the bewildering Willy Wonka introduces the five children to the chocolate room, an area made entirely out of edible candy. This is the kind of sight every child only dreamed of until the filmmakers made the chocolate room a reality. Accompanying the scene is the wonderful song “Pure Imagination,” sung by the perfectly cast Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, who is so used to whimsy that the chocolate room is like a casual walk in the park. “Pure Imagination” is a song that makes its audience believe that any fantasy can become true, at least in the realm of movies.
46. “Believe” from The Polar Express
For the second week in a row we end things with a Christmas song. Just as there hasn’t been a more delightful Christmas movie in recent years than “The Polar Express,” no modern Christmas song has become more celebrated than “Believe.” While some of the other songs in “The Polar Express” can feel a little tacked on, “Believe” is an absolute gem that defines the film’s major theme of believing. The song primarily applies to the main character, a growing boy who is losing his faith in Santa Clause. But the song can just as easily relate to a person’s struggle to believe in a religion, an ideal or even oneself. In today’s skeptical world, it’s harder than ever to seek comfort in something greater. If we all can find something to believe in though, our lives will be more enriching and certain. Nobody can achieve their dreams unless they take the crucial first step that comprises of believing.
45. “Dentist” from Little Shop of Horrors
Anyone who knows me personally likely figured this would make the list. For all those that don’t know, I had the privilege of playing the dentist in my high school production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Even if I didn’t have a personal connection to the song though, “Dentist” still easily would have made this countdown. Steve Martin was at his best as this frenzied sadist that is both a professional dentist and a no good biker punk. Before hearing this song, I always figured that dentistry was a backup career for those that couldn’t become real doctors. Now I know that the true appeal of being a dentist is getting to cause patients unspeakable pain. One thing’s for certain about the filmmakers that brought us “Little Shop of Horrors.” They are all severe anti-dentites.
44. “Ghostbusters” from Ghostbusters
Even if the original “Ghostbusters” hadn’t been the comedic classic it remains today, the film would have at least granted us one of the catchiest theme songs of all time. After hearing the funky lyrics by Ray Parker Jr. just once, this song will never leave you. It’s almost as if the song has some sort of hypnotic power over people. Whenever somebody asks the question, “Who you gonna call,” you naturally respond, “Ghostbusters!” As much as you might not want to say it, you can’t control yourself. The reaction is simply burned into your mind. At some point in our youth the notion of ghosts and evil spirits might have scared us all. But this song and the encouraging words of “I ain’t afraid of no ghost” could always diminish those fears.
43. “Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Most modern moviegoers probably best know “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from “Moulin Rouge.” As spectacular as that rendition was, the song forever belongs to Marilyn Monroe in the musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Wrapped up in that iconic pink dress, Monroe’s shallow character explains that the best way for a man to work his way into a woman’s heart is via expensive jewels. In addition to Monroe’s version, Jane Russell’s reprise of “Diamonds” later in the film is also well worth mentioning. In an interpretation of the song that might have been considered risqué by 1950’s standards, Russell unveils an outfit that leaves little to the imagination and brings down a courthouse. Whether you go with Monroe’s version of Russell’s, “Diamond’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend” is irrefutably a gem.
42. “42nd Street” from 42nd Street
Whenever I think of big ensemble numbers, the finale of “42nd Street” instantly pops into my head. The song starts off as a solo with Ruby Keeler as Peggy Sawyer taking center stage. Peggy is a newcomer to Broadway who is given the chance to be the leading lady when the star of the show becomes incapacitated. Keeler didn’t go on to do much after “42nd Street,” which is a real shame given the charm and charisma she demonstrated here. Following Keeler’s solo, the song shifts gears and becomes an extravagant production piece unlike any other. Watching the reconstructed 42nd Street bust with action captures the absolute chaos of walking through the streets of New York. The ensemble constructing a city of skyscrapers near the conclusion of the song is an equally vigorous sight to behold. The finale of “42nd Street” ultimately leaves you with the feeling that you have literally witnessed a live show on Broadway, a feat that is not easy for a film to pull off.
41. “Luck be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls
We all know that Marlon Brando is one of the greatest actors that ever lived. But who would have ever guessed that the guy was a good singer? Well…a passable singer at least. Brando’s performance as Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls” further exemplified that there was no role he could not pull off…except for maybe Dr. Moreau. In “Luck be a Lady,” Sky is confronted with the most important game of craps in his life. The future of Sky’s romance with Sister Sarah Brown depends on him rolling a winning pair. His fate lies in the hands of Lady Luck, who will either set Sky on the right path or give him the cold shoulder. It all works up to an exceptional climax that will leave you busting with suspense.
40. “A Whole New World” from Aladdin
After Howard Ashman passed away during the early production stages of “Aladdin,” Disney brought in lyricist Tim Rice to help finish the film’s songs. Rice and Composer Alan Menken went on to produce the movie’s most memorable song, “A Whole New World.” The leads of Aladdin and Jasmine finally break free of their confined environment to see the world beyond Agrabah. On a moonlit night, they witness everything from the Great Pyramids to the Forbidden City in China from the perspective of a magic carpet. This is easily among the most magical of Disney songs, combining excitement, romance, and excellent animation all into one package. But am I the only one who thinks that “A Whole New World” drops a lot of sexual innuendos? “Take you over sideways and under on a magic carpet ride” seems especially suggestive. Then again, that’s probably just my perverted imagination running wild.
39. “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady
I’m probably going to get a lot of shit for saying this, but I’ve always found “My Fair Lady” to be a rather overrated movie musical. It’s by no means a bad film. Yet, the lack of chemistry between the leads, the wandering plot, and the incredibly limited vocal range of Rex Harrison have always made me question why “My Fair Lady” is held in such a high regard. That said, what does redeem the film for me is the musical numbers. In a sea of some truly marvelous songs, the finest has got to be “I Could Have Danced All Night.” The new, improved Eliza Doolittle has conquered her poor manners and atrocious voice to become a sophisticated lady. Overcome with joy and buoyancy, Eliza finds it impossible to fall asleep. While Audrey Hepburn played Eliza, it was Marni Nixon who provided her singing voice. Although Nixon never became a household name, she dubbed many voices for screen legends, including Deborah Kerr in “The King and I,” Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” and even Marilyn Monroe in a few parts of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” It’s a real shame that somebody with such a beautiful voice never got to shine on camera. Nixon’s overlooked talent is best exemplified in “I Could Have Danced All Night,” a song that defines vocal adrenaline.
38. “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Where Audrey Hepburn was required to lip-sync in “My Fair Lady,” she was permitted to use her own voice for the subtle “Moon River” in “Breakfast at Tiffanies.” The song is a simple, yet irrefutably perennial, melody sung by Hepburn’s creation of Holly Golightly. Hepburn utterly embodied this enduring character, providing Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini the inspiration to write the song. “Moon River” is yet another tune that aptly sums up the film’s main character, a free spirit drifting through life until she meets the new tenant that has moved into her apartment building. Like several other songs on this list, “Moon River” came very close to never seeing the light of day. After a preview screening of the film, the president of Paramount Pictures ordered the song to be cut. Hepburn retaliated however, stating that “Moon River” would be removed over her dead body. What I would give to see Hepburn saying these words on tape.
37. “Tonight” from” West Side Story
“Tonight” is the forth and the most excellent song from “West Side Story” to make it onto this list. The song brings together every key player of the musical, all of whom are looking forward to the night ahead with optimism. Both the Sharks and the Jets believe that their gang will come out on top after the brawl. Anita looks forward to Bernardo’s return home when they will make love. Tony and Maria continue to live the deluded fantasy that their friends and family will accept their union. It certainly turns out to be a night to remember. Sadly, these people will end up remembering this night for the most tragic reasons possible.
36. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King
In addition to being Disney’s highest grossing animated feature, “The Lion King” also remains the best-selling Disney soundtrack to this date. There was no question that composer’s Elton John and Tim Rice would win the Best Original Song Oscar back in 1995. But which of their three nominated songs would come up victorious? The award could have gone to the epic “Circle of Life” or the relentlessly popular “Hakuna Matata” and nobody would have been surprised. In the end though, the Academy made the right choice in honoring “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” In this pivotal moment, Simba and Nala are reunited for the first time since childhood. Similar to Bambi and Faline in “Bambi,” the two lions begin to see each other in a new light. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” captures the sensation of falling in love and leaving childhood innocence behind to discover more adult feelings. It’s not only one of the best Disney songs ever written, but one of the greatest love songs of all time.
35. “I See the Light” from Tangled
Even after two decades, Alan Menken remains the ideal composer to accompany Disney’s animated features. Sorry Randy Newman and Phil Collins, there’s no competition here. Menken was a natural choice to write the songs for Disney’s latest fairytale, “Tangled.” Along with lyrists Glenn Slater, Menken produced one the most enchanting of all Disney songs entitled “I See the Light.” As the sky fills with lanterns of perpetual radiance, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider realize where they are meant to be and whom they want to be with. Watching two lanterns dance in the sky as the leads sing of their new outlooks is an especially poignant sight. Gorgeously animated and elegantly written, “I See the Light” is one of the many aspects of “Tangled” that took me back to the glory days of first seeing “The Little Mermaid” or “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s another classic Disney song from Menken and hopefully not his last.
34. “Falling Slowly” from Once
When I saw “Once” back in 2006, I knew that if the film didn’t win Best Original Song then the category might as well be eliminated. It was such a delight when “Once” did win the Oscar, giving this normally disappointing category some hope. The film’s fundamental song is “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. In addition to writing the songs, Hansard and Irglova also play the film’s leads, simply named Guy and Girl. Although they haven’t known each other long, the two feel a mutual connection unlike any other. In a small music shop, the Guy and Girl express these feelings through this uplifting piece.
33. “Cabaret” from Cabaret
It still baffles me that “Cabaret” beat out “The Godfather” for several Oscars, including Best Director and Best Supporting Actor. It would have been a travesty if the film had won Best Picture over “Godfather.” While some of its victories were unjust, one award that “Cabaret” truly did deserve to win was Best Actress for Liza Minnelli. Full of spontaneity, Minnelli’s ageless Sally Bowles lives every day as if it is a party. Her worldview is defined in the finale of “Cabaret,” a spectacular number that encourages us to leave our confined rooms and really start living. Walking away from the picture, we’re all influenced to treat life as a cabaret.
32. "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music
If there was ever a song designed to cheer people up, it would be “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music.” It doesn’t matter how horrid of a mood you are in. All of your problems immediately melt away upon hearing Julie Andrews’ comforting words of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” In this merry song, Andrews’ Maria attempts to calm down the seven frightened Von Trapp children during a storm. They are all relaxed as they think of their favorite things and come to recognize Maria as a motherly figure. If you still feel bad after the song is over, then nothing will ever lift your spirits.
31. "Springtime For Hitler" from The Producers
One thing I always look forward to in a Mel Brooks movie is the musical number. Who doesn’t love “I’m Tired” from “Blazing Saddles” and the “Young Frankenstein” version of “Puttin’ On the Ritz?” The finest number Brooks ever concocted was “Springtime for Hitler,” the funniest song of all time. Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom are looking for a show that will result in the biggest Broadway flop ever. They find the mother load in “Springtime For Hitler,” a love letter to the Nazi dictator. The opening number of the show combines everything that makes Mel Brooks such as unique talent, his absurdity, his willingness to mock his own people, his musical timing, and his bad taste among all else. It’s not at all surprising that Brooks would go onto adapted “The Producers” into a Broadway show, which won several Tony Awards and would later be turned into another movie.
30. “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray
Can anybody think of a more lovable modern movie character than Tracy Turnblad? This chubby high school girl instantly wins the audience over in the opening scene of “Hairspray,” as she sings about her love for the city of Baltimore. Tracy manages to put a positive spin on everything in her city, from the rats on the streets, to the bums, even a flasher played by John Waters. The optimistic Tracy also expresses her personal dream to be famous and for Baltimore to recognize her as a star someday. “Good Morning Baltimore” is a ray of sunshine and joy, as is this movie.
29. “The Cell Block Tango” from Chicago
“The Cell Block Tango” is one of the most brilliant examples of telling a story through song. Actually, the number illustrates not just one, but several stories of how the murderesses of the Cook County Jail justly murdered their husbands. The motives of these vengeful women range from their lovers cheating on them, to physically abusing them, to merely chewing gum in their presence. In terms of narrative, all of these tales are inventive and engaging. The scene is additionally influenced by the tasteful choreography by Director Rob Marshall and the stylish lighting sets the mood perfectly. The climax of the song is especially electrifying, making all of us men think twice before pissing off our spouses.
28. “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast
“Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast” brings a whole new meaning to the term dinner and a show. After years of tending to the ungrateful beast, the living objects of the castle are finally allowed to show off their serving talents to Belle. They pull out all the stops with spoons synchronized swimming in a pool of punch, drunken mugs doing flips across the table, and Lumiere the Candelabra headlining this sensational ensemble piece. It is positively marvelous how the Disney animators were able to give faceless silverware and plates personalities and actions as they dance throughout the dining room. The unyielding imagination of Disney animation combined with the music of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken amounted to one enchanting musical extravaganza. Although it is a tad wasteful that the servants made a banquet large enough to feed entire villages and Belle apparently only has a few bites of food.
27. “The Sound of Silence” from The Graduate
Colossal messes can arise from secrecy and lack of communication. This is one of the many reasons why “The Sound of Silence” fits so well into “The Graduate,” a film about people too afraid to talk about their problems, feelings and affairs. “The Sound of Silence” plays throughout several instances in the film. The best use of the song is in the ending as Benjamin and Elaine run away together on a bus. The two feel absolutely victorious after ditching Elaine’s family and fiancé. Reality soon dawns on Ben and Elaine though, as they are now unsure where to go. They realize that they’re act of rebellion might have felt good for an instance, but will negatively effect them in the long run. Rather than discuss their life-altering decision, Ben and Elaine just sit there with uncertain expressions on their faces. Consequently, the sound of silence continues to eat away at these people.
26. “I've Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing
“Dirty Dancing” is another movie that’s mediocre at best when it comes to storytelling and characters. While I possess little affection for the film itself, I’d gladly pop in the soundtrack any day. The song that stands out to everyone is “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” the grand finale in which Jennifer Grey’s Baby and Patrick Swayze’s Johnny are joined to dance before an audience. Even though the movie isn’t very original or good, “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” does delightfully play into the romance of Baby and Johnny, two people from contrasting classes that are unified by their love for dance. Excitingly sung by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes with stirring choreography by Kenny Ortega, “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” is evidence to why nobody puts Baby in the corner.
25. “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman
The ending of “An Officer and a Gentleman” has been parodied in a number of other entertainments, from “Friends” to “The Simpsons.” It’s a scene poised for satire given its unlikely nature. After all, how often do your boyfriends show up to your place of work in a naval officer uniform and sweep you off your while everybody around applauds? As unrealistic as this ending may be, it is also probably the most romantic scenario possible. With exception to being seduced by a vampire, this scene has got to be the ultimate sexual fantasy for females. Just when it seems that this scene can’t be any more romantic and uplifting, an instrumental electric guitar version of “Up Where We Belong” chimes in, propelling the audience into sheer happiness. The final image of Richard Gere carrying Debra Winger remains burned in our minds with Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes singing over the credits. It’s just another example of how the right song can make a classic scene ever more memorable.
24. “Nobody Does it Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me
With every new James Bond movie comes a new original song. There have been many good Bond songs over the years, like the theme from “Goldfinger,” and some bad ones, like “Another Way to Die” from the recent “Quantum of Solace.” My favorite of the bunch is “Nobody Does it Better” from “The Spy Who Loved Me.” This song could be associated with James Bond’s paramount abilities as a lover. I however, relate the song to Bond’s status as one of the ultimate movie heroes. Other than maybe Indiana Jones, has there ever been a more timeless adventurer depicted on film than Mr. Bond? There’s something so enduring about this character that appeals to every generation. Nobody does it better than James Bond. That’s is one of the many reasons why this Bond song dominants all others in my opinion.
23. "No Day But Today" from Rent
I have a number of reservations regarding the musical “Rent.” One of the most cringe-inducing aspects of the show is how pretentious the characters are despite the fact that they don’t do anything. You’re hungry, frozen and can’t pay the rent? Then get a day job, hippie! But I digress. There are still a lot of great moments in the stage show written by the late Jonathan Larson and the 2005 movie by Chris Columbus. The scene that gets me chocked up every time I see the film is the finale of “No Day But Today.” The stripper Mimi is given a second chance at life and is reunited with her friends. Watching Mark’s documentary, the group sings about how the mistakes of the past and uncertainty of the future can hold us all back. But we need to live our lives now and never waste a day. It’s a meaningful message full of humanity and beautifully sung. The final shot of the deceased Angle as the film fades to black always gives me the chills, making the moral of “Rent” even more eternal. For all it’s flaws, moments like “No Day But Today” is what “Rent” a much better film than people give it credit.
22. “Twist and Shout” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Selecting your favorite Beatles song is not a simple task for any music lover. One Beatles song that I can listen to over and over again though is “Twist and Shout.” This catchy and enlivening song always reminds me of the scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as the title character leads the Von Steuben Day parade. Like the ending to “An Officer and a Gentleman,” this sequence is pretty improbable and begs a number of questions. Who holds a parade on a weekday? How did Ferris get on a float without being arrested? On top of all that, where did all of these perfectly choreographed dancers come from? None of that matters though. Director John Hughes knew that at this point of the movie, the audience would want to see the most sporadic, most blissful, most flat-out fun party erupt on screen. There’s no better tune to accompany such a party than “Twist and Shout,” one of the most enthralling songs ever written.
21. "I Will Always Love You" from The Bodyguard
Although “I Will Always Love You” was initially written and sung by Dolly Parton, the version that resonates with everyone is Whitney Houston’s recording from “The Bodyguard.” Houston made this her trademark song through her debut performance as actress/singer Rachel Marron. Throughout the film, Kevin Costner’s Frank Farmer saves Rachel on several occasions. They form an unlikely bond in one of the first casual romances between mixed races ever portrayed on screen. When Rachel’s stalkers are finally brought to justice, the actress and her bodyguard go their separate ways. “I Will Always Love You” was the perfect song to play over the bittersweet farewell these characters share and an even more fitting song for Jennifer Hudson to sing as a tribute to the late Houston at this year’s Grammys.
20. "Stayin' Alive” from Saturday Night Fever
Throughout this list, I’ve talked about an assortment of songs that were shockingly ignored by the Academy. Never was there a more appalling or unjustifiable Best Original Song omission than in the case of “Saturday Night Fever.” Whether you love Disco or hate it with a passion, no film lover than can deny that “Saturday Night Fever” was accompanied by one of the most iconic soundtracks of all time. The songs by the Bee Gees notably played a key role in the film, providing the underlining themes of the narrative. Yet, not a single one of their original songs were nominated that year. It’s really unbelievable they didn’t even recognize “Stayin’ Alive,” the everlasting opening theme as John Travolta’s Tony Manero struts down the streets of New York. While Tony appears completely confident and cool, inside he is unsure of what he’s doing with his life and where he’s going. For now, he’s just trying to survive the big city. Even though the clearly anti-Disco Academy snubbed “Stayin’ Alive,” it still remains one of the most identifiable movie songs ever.
19. "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid
Between My Salute to Animation and this countdown, I feel like I’ve talked my mouth off about the impact of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Do I even need to discuss their show stopping “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid?” We’ve all heard this reggae number sung by Sebastian the Crab. We were all blown away upon first seeing this colorfully imaginative number performed on screen with coral and shells as musical instruments. We all know that it brought Disney back to the glory days of classic songs like “When You Wish Upon A Star.” What more can be said? “Under the Sea” is simply a triumph of lyrics, rhythm and animation. If you haven’t heard it, you’ve probably been living under the sea.
18. “Shipoopi” from The Music Man
Long before Peter Griffin performed the “Shipoopi” in response to a touchdown, the song was made famous via the musical, “The Music Man.” You won’t have much luck if you try looking up “Shipoopi” in Webster’s Dictionary. The word was actually fabricated by the song’s writer, Meredith Willson. The song describes a Shipoopi as a girl who’s hard to get, relating to the concealed Marian the Library whom conman Harold Hill has finally managed to win over. The trouble is that the scheming Harold may be starting to have feelings for Marian as well. Harold is further tempted to stay in River City as the Shipoopi brings out the best in the townsfolk. With fanciful choreography and lyrics, “Shipoopi” is nothing short of downright musical fun.
Keep in mind I couldn't find a video with the film's original audio. So this version with the Family Guy audio will have to do.
17. “Make 'Em Laugh” from Singin’ in the Rain
I cannot recall a more mind-blowing song and dance solo ever exemplified on screen than Donald O’Connor’s rendition of “Make ‘Em Laugh” from “Singin’ in the Rain.” O’Connor, a veteran of vaudeville, delivered his signature four minutes on screen through this astoundingly vigorous number. His antics and use of props were a miracle of dance composition as O’Connor wrestled with a dummy and ran up a wall. From start to finish, he never used a stunt double or signified a hint of exhaustion. It’s not at all surprising that O’Connor apparently had to be hospitalized and slept for three days after filming “Make ‘Em Laugh.” This man deserves a standing ovation for sacrificing his own health to grant us a scene that can always put a smile on our faces.
16. "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile
In many ways, “8 Mile” is to rap what “Saturday Night Fever” is to Disco with a lost, young protagonist at the center. Music provides the main characters in both films a sanctuary as they attempt to deal with the drama of life. I was overjoyed to see the Academy let their snobbish guard down back in 2002 when they granted “8 Mile” the Best Original Song award for “Lose Yourself.” Jeff Bass, Luis Reston, and Eminem of all people wrote this inspirational hip-hop hit single. It feels so surreal calling Eminem an Oscar-winner, especially seeing how Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Johnny Depp, and countless other performers have yet to take home a single award. Regardless, I cannot deny that Eminem and company contributed some empowering original music to “8 Mile.” In addition to writing much of the music, Eminem took on his first and only screen role as Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith. He’s a rapper attempting to do right by his mother and daughter, both of whom are facing eviction. The trouble with Rabbit’s music career is that he suffers from occasional stage fright brought on by insecurity. Through “Lose Yourself,” Rabbit expresses his phobias of performing before an audience. If Rabbit lets this moment slip through his fingers through, he may never find the confidence to get his life on track.
15. “Listen” from Dreamgirls
Usually whenever a hit Broadway musical is given the film treatment, a brand new song is throne into the mix. The original song is rarely as beloved as any of the numbers from the initial soundtrack. “Listen” from “Dreamgirls” is a prime exception however, providing the film’s most superlative song in a pivotal moment. Beyoncé Knowles gives one of her better performances as Deena Jones, the lead Dreamgirl who feels she is being limited by her manager and husband, Jamie Foxx’s Curtis Taylor. Deena breaks free of the chains Curtis enslaved her in through “Listen.” This is a prevailing song about escaping the authority in control of your life, be it a boss or lover, and finding a voice of your own. It additionally broadens the eternal struggle of Deena, making her a much more fleshed out character. Where most original songs in Broadway adaptations can feel really tacked on, “Listen” is a song with real purpose and meaning.
14. "Come What May" from Moulin Rouge
“Come What May” was initially intended to be apart of Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo+Juliet.” After the song was cut from the picture though, Luhrmann decided to recycle it for his tour de force of “Moulin Rouge.” Because of this, “Come What May” was deemed ineligible for the Best Original Song Oscar. Regardless of this stupid technicality, “Come What May” has endured as one of the most perennial movie songs of the past decade. It’s a fitting love theme to accompany the impractical, yet still poignant, romance of Christian and Satine. The two have been forbidden to be with each other and must keep their love a secret. They are able to embrace their affection via “Come What May,” a song about preserving love no matter what obstacles two people face. Keeping in the tradition of “Romeo and Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge” doesn’t have the happiest of endings. But Christian and Satine’s love will live on as long as they remember the lyrics of “Come What May.”
13. “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire
“Slumdog Millionaire” begins with the most depressing circumstances imaginable. Dev Patel’s Jamal is tortured for allegedly cheating on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Through flashbacks, we see Jamal’s tragic origins as he loses his home and mother in a riot. Since the film begins on such a heartbreaking note, the audience naturally wants to see Jamal have the most triumphant ending possible. Director Danny Boyle certainly delivered with Jamal becoming an overnight millionaire and reuniting with the love of his life. Just when you think matters can’t get any more joyous, the credits role with the Bollywood song/dance of “Jai Ho.” When translated to English, A.R. Rahman’s happy-go-lucky song is apparently about celebrating victory. Even if you can’t understand a word of “Jai Ho” though, it’s impossible to feel nothing but bliss while listening to it.
12. "Fame" from Fame
“Fame” became a hit motion picture that inspired a television series, a stage musical and a 2009 theatrical remake of the same name. I actually think the title song sung by Irene Cara is what has solely kept this franchise alive for so long. Honestly, can you remember anything about “Fame” the movie, show, musical, or remake other than that pop song? Personally, this song works its way into my brain and sticks in there for days every time I hear it. “Fame” is probably the definitive song for any young person that has strived to be an actor, singer, or dancer. Obviously becoming famous is not an easy feat for even the most talented performers to accomplish. Many are eventually forced to give up on the dream after years of rejection. But I have a suggestion to all you struggling artists out there. If you ever feel unconfident in your ability to make it in a creative field, listen to “Fame.” I guarantee it will motivate you to keep going until you’re finally famous.
11. “The Sound of Music” from The Sound of Music
If I had to single out my favorite song to commence a movie, it would easily be the opening theme of “The Sound of Music.” Preceding an extraordinary zoom shot through the hills, the song introduces us to Julie Andrew’s Maria, one of the great protagonists of all musicals. Freely walking through the fields one morning, Maria expresses her passion for music. To me this is a melody that not only exemplifies the impact a song can have on a movie but also the power of music in general. “The Sound of Music” reminds us that music is a gift that can provide us all comfort in times of loneliness and vagueness, ultimately enriching life as we know it.
10. “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca
“As Time Goes By” became a well-established song when it was written for the 1931 Broadway musical “Everybody’s Welcome.” But it was the 1942 cinematic treasure “Casablanca” that engraved “As Time Goes By” as an ageless classic. The song acts as a connection between Humphrey Bogart’s Rick and Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa, two lovers separated by bad timing and unfortunate circumstances. When Ilsa shows up years later in Rick’s café, she asks Sam the pianist to play “As Time Goes By.” The song recalls a lot of painful memories for the bitter Rick, who is still not over how Ilsa left him. On the whole though, Rick and Ilsa are fondly reminded of their romance in Paris, the happiest period of their lives. In one of the greatest of all movie endings, Rick lets Ilsa go so she may fulfill her destiny. They will always remember each other though through “As Time Goes By,” one of the best examples of an existing song integrated into an original movie.
9. "Summer Nights" from Grease
“Summer Nights” from “Grease” is nothing less than the best song about summer romance ever conceived. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John respectively play Danny and Sandy, two teenagers that shared a wonderful summer affair and are now unknowingly attending the same high school. With their separate groups of friends, the two reminiscence of their summer together. Sandy’s version is very romantic and sweet where Danny’s take on the experience is much more raunchy and arrogant. Despite hitting different tones, both Danny and Sandy eventually arrive at a subtle note as they express just how much they miss each other. All in all, “Summer Nights” is a glorious song about love, nostalgia, and the longing for a significant other.
8. “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio
“When You Wish Upon a Star” became the first of many Disney songs to win the Academy Award and has since become the company’s trademark number. Everybody recognizes this abiding tune from “Pinocchio,” the fairytale about a wooden puppet with aspirations to become a real boy. Over the years, much controversy has arisen via the meaning of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Some overanalyzes have argued that the song sends a negative message to children, implanting the impression that you’ll get whatever you desire as long as you wish for it. This accusation is unwarranted in my humble opinion however. While Pinocchio’s creation stems from a wish, he doesn’t instantly get to be a real boy. He has to prove himself worthy by being brave, unselfish and avoiding temptation. The true message of “When You Wish Upon a Star” is that through ambition, hope and hard work, dreams can become reality. They even confirm this through the recent Disney animated feature, “The Princess and the Frog.” No matter how you interpret the song, “When You Wish Upon a Star” is a groundbreaking piece of music nonetheless.
7. "Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie
Where “When You Wish Upon A Star” has become the trademark song for Disney, “Rainbow Connection” has incontestably evolved into the brand song for the “Muppet” franchise. Interestingly enough, songwriters Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher actually derived their influence for “Rainbow Connection” from “Pinocchio.” Much like Jiminy Cricket set the mood in the beginning of that film, they felt that Kermit ought to do the same for “The Muppet Movie.” The outcome was this heartening song about the magic that rainbows promise. It was additionally so strange to see Kermit in full view playing a banjo when at the time audiences had mainly seen the hand puppet from the waist up. Kermit made us all believe that if a frog can play a musical instrument, then just about anything is possible.
6. "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music” arose from the most basic technique of learning to sing, the Solfège syllables. “Do Re Mi” was a show tune that additionally taught its audience something in addition to amusing them. There are few songs out there that can successfully combine a degree of learning with entertainment. Much like the songs in “School House Rock” and “Animaniacs” though, “Do Re Mi” engages the audience in its informative subject matter through fun lyrics and glee. Julie Andrews’ Maria introduces the seven Von Trapp children to the roots of music using “Do Re Mi.” They find that they can conjure up any tune by the means of seven simple words. The “Do Re Mi” song has since provided a blueprint for teaching people to sing, including myself. The fact that Rodgers and Hammerstein were able to craft such a memorable song from the most obvious source is further proof that “The Sound of Music” is the best musical ever made about the art and joy of singing.
5. "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic
“Titanic” royally took the world by storm back in 1997, winning 11 Academy Awards and becoming the highest grossing motion picture of it’s time. The success of the film extended to James Horner and Will Jenning’s “My Heart Will Go On.” It’s absolutely amazing to think that, at the time, hardly anybody wanted to produce this now enormously popular song. James Cameron was reluctant to include any songs in his film and Celine Dion was unwilling to record it. Now it’s impossible to imagine “Titanic” without the best selling single that recapitulates the theme of everlasting romance. Even after eighty-something years, the elderly Rose still dreams of Jack, the love of her life who sank with the Titanic. Encouraged by her memories of Jack and Titanic, Rose is able to live a long, fearless life. It goes to show that life goes on as well as the heart, until you are reunited with your loved ones in your dreams and the afterlife. In the years to come, Michael Bay would attempt to rip off the disaster/romance formula of “Titanic” with his film’s “Armageddon” and “Peal Harbor.” Those movie’s additionally included love ballads, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and “There You’ll Be,” both of which were blatant rip-offs of a particular song from “Titanic.” While those movies and songs were successful upon release, they definitely haven’t had the durability of “Titanic” or “My Heart Will Go On.”
4. “You Can't Stop the Beat” from Hairspray
I’m sure a lot of you are thinking that a song this recent doesn’t deserve a spot so high on the list. To me though, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from “Hairspray” is nothing less than the most rousing example of a show-stopping finale with a caring message at the core. No matter how hard people try to manipulate the waves of the future, there are some things in life that cannot be stopped. “Hairspray” merrily explores the progression African American’s made in the 1960s as they fought for integration. This may not be the most practical movie about the civil rights movement. Seeing how “Hairspray” is a musical though, the suspension of disbelief is acceptable. Even by musical standards, “Hairspray” is still a very potent picture about embracing change and diversity. This meaningful topic is promoted in “You Can’t Stop the Beat” where the whole ensemble celebrates the changing tides. Prejudice towards different groups of people remains a very prevalent factor in today’s world. But songs like “You Can’t Stop the Beat” remind us that at least our society is moving forward, rather than backwards.
3. "Beauty and the Beast" from Beauty and the Beast
A majority of us were likely introduced to the movie musical genre through Disney animated classics. Many people would additionally agree that the studio’s premium musical effort is their Best Picture nominated “Beauty and the Beast.” Along with the “I Want” song and the villain song, Disney films are habitually famous for their love songs. In my eyes, the touching title song of “Beauty and the Beast” is Disney’s decisive love ballad, as well as their best overall song to date. “Beauty and the Beast” is another paradisiacal marriage of animation and music from Disney in which Belle and the Beast share a dance in a golden ballroom with the sensation of angles walking on clouds. It’s not easy to buy into a movie where a woman brings out the humanity in a beast and finds a soul mate in due course. In this instance though, the audience indisputably believes the connection between Belle and Beast as their illimitable romance reaches its peak. As Howard Ashman’s lyrics put it, “Beauty and the Beast” is a tale as old as time and song as old as rhyme.
2. “Singin' in the Rain” from Singin’ in the Rain
Composing a song from scratch undeniably requires a lot of perseverance. But effectively incorporating an existing song into an original narrative can be just as challenging. It can be really cheap and uninspired when a musical bases its entire soundtrack on songs that have been around for years. With the right creative minds involved though, an already existing song can be reinvented into something unique. That’s exactly what Gene Kelly did in “Singin’ in the Rain” where he made the movie’s centerpiece song his own. Written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb, “Singin’ in the Rain” became a popular song in 1929. It was sung by a number of stars over the years, from Judy Garland to Cliff Edwards, who provided the voice of Jiminy Cricket. The late great Gene Kelly gave us the definitive version of the song in his treasured movie musical, “Singin’ in the Rain.” Realizing that the woman he loves shares the same affection, Kelly’s Don Lockwood is so invigorated that he can’t help must dance and sing in the rain. The most appropriate word to describe “Singin’ in the Rain” is joy, which can be unleashed even during unflattering weather conditions.
1. "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz
Sorry for going with such a predictable choice for the top spot. But in some cases, the obvious choice is also the right one. There was never any doubt in my mind that Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow” would dominate this countdown. What I find so endearing about “Over the Rainbow” is the fact that there’s really nothing extravagant about it. There’s no excessive choreography, backup singers, or colorful set pieces. The song is basically just a young girl walking around her farm and singing about her life’s desires. The subtle reality of the scene contrasts with the remainder of the film as Dorothy is swooped into the wondrous Land of Oz. It additionally appeals to all dreamers with the aspirations to find something or somewhere grander. In the end though, we might start to miss the simplicity of our conventional lives and realize that there’s no place like home. “Over the Rainbow,” as well as several other songs one this list, owe Judy Garland a good deal of gratitude. It’s her charm and grace that chiefly made “Over the Rainbow” the elevating hit we still look to during times of uncertainty. Now if only the Academy would recognize more songs with the timelessness of “Over the Rainbow,” maybe the Best Original Song category would be worth salvaging.