Music — whether songs are specifically made for a film or just added to certain scenes — is the emotional undercurrent of movies. It can make people cry, laugh, sympathize, or feel displaced. Whatever the case, many songs become inseparably linked to the movies they are featured in, becoming part of entertainment history.
24/7 Tempo reviewed the American Film Institute rankings to list the 50 greatest songs from movies in the last 100 years.
The majority of the best songs from movies over the past century are from films released more than 50 years ago. The newest movie on the list is “Titanic,” which came out in 1997. The most popular song from the movie — “My Heart Will Go On” — earned Céline Dion several Grammys, including Record of the Year in 1999.
Four movies appear twice on the list of the 50 greatest songs from movies. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of them is the musical “West Side Story.” “A Star Is Born” is another movie title that shows up twice, but each is a different remake — the one from 1954 with Judy Garland and the one from 1976 with Barbra Streisand.
Both of these actors appear in record numbers on this list of iconic movie songs. Barbra Streisand has the most songs, with four of the 50 best songs from films, two from her “Funny Girl” movie. Judy Garland appears three times — with songs from different movies. Garland is tied only with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, though both have a song on this list that they sing with other people.
Several of the songs on this list are not the original versions but were made famous by the movies in which they were featured. For example, the song “Everybody’s Talkin’,” originally recorded in 1967 by Fred Neil, became a hit when it was featured in the 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy.” Harry Nilsson performed the song in the film and even won a Grammy.
Movies will not be the same without music. In some cases, songs are arguably more popular than the films themselves — here is the most popular soundtrack every year since 1964.