Some songs will forever be tied to a singular movie moment -- think “The Sound of Silence” in The Graduate, or “Fight the Power” in Do the Right Thing. On the other hand, some songs are forever tied to the cinematic experience itself, thanks to multiple onscreen appearances that sometimes span several decades. From hits by Smash Mouth to Judy Garland to Jimi Hendrix, check out the most overplayed songs in movie history, and a brief rundown of the several films in which they pop up.
Disco smashes were prominently used by films in the late '70s, but the opening to , featuring the disco strut of “Stayin’ Alive,” is easily the most memorable. The Bee Gees classic will always be tied to the soundtrack, but has since been used in dramas ( ), comedies ( ) and children’s movies ( ).
Since being featured in the 1981 Olympics drama of the same name, the inspiring instrumental by Greek composer Vangelis has been used to parody slow-motion heroics in films like , and .
The two-note theme of dread featured in Steven Spielberg’s landmark 1975 summer blockbuster was the iconic work of John Williams, and has been used in countless television and film projects to spoof the feeling of terror, from to .
The 1967 rock touchstone is often used to denote a psychedelic passage in a film, like in the LSD trip scene in and when Jim Carrey busts out his otherworldly karaoke skills in (pictured).
Five Stairsteps, “O-o-h Child”
The soothing soul track, released by Chicago group the Five Stairsteps in 1970, has endured in popular culture thanks to appearances in Guardians of the Galaxy, Shark Tale, Bridge to Terabithia and, most notably, in a pivotal sequence in John Singleton’s instant classic Boyz n the Hood (pictured).
Spandau Ballet, “True”
A mix of soft rock, synth pop and new age music, Spandau Ballet’s “True” will forever be linked to the school dance scene in Sixteen Candles, although the song has since been featured in The Wedding Singer (and on many other occasions as the main sample in P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”).
Steppenwolf, “Born to be Wild”
Can you imagine the men of Easy Rider cruising down the highway on their motorcycles to any other song besides “Born to Be Wild”? We certainly cannot. The Steppenwolf staple has become a touchstone of rebellion in film, popping up in Wild America, Nymphomaniac, Dr. Dolittle 2 and countless other projects.