One of the great experiences in going to the movies is hearing the music or a specific song or its theme song that may open or close the film. Music oftentimes sets the mood or scene during the screenplay. It can make you feel good, excite you or scare you right out of your seat. These ten memorable movie music, songs and themes will do that and more.
Many will certainly make you fell good while others may even get you up on your feet to dance. Then there are those who will send a chill up your spine one way or another. One thing they all have in common is they’ve become a part of our pop culture. Some of the music you will instantly recognize from being featured in television commercials, TV shows, radio, video games and even other films. Once you hear them you won’t forget the music or the movie it originally came from.
10.) Mission Impossible Theme – Mission Impossible (1996)
Originally this was an extremely popular TV series running from 1966 to 1973. It was ahead of its time in many ways, including the high-tech gadgetry used on the show. This was one of my favorite TV shows growing up, because I absolutely loved the theme song composed by Lalo Schifrin. I use to love making up dance routines to it. In 1996 I was thrilled they made a movie version of “Mission Impossible” that I went to see the very day it opened.
The only thing I loved about this 90s film version was the incredible theme song. It was the only thing that stayed true to the television series. U2’s Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. were fans of the TV show and wanted to honor Lalo Schifrin’s legendary theme song with their dance floor type composition and performance. You can’t help but start dancing in your seat when you hear it in the film or on the radio. Needless to say, the film version was extremely disappointing, but I was glad it became a box office success. No, I’ve never seen the other MI sequels nor do I intend to.
9.) The Sound of Music (Prelude) – The Sound of Music (1965)
Here is another song written specifically for the film. It is the only musical on the list. Other films that are featured are musicals in a sense that they contain songs heard on the radio and were Top 40 hits at one time. This specific song is featured in the film’s stunning opening sequence where you see the magnificent Swiss Alps. Then Julie Andrews has her arms outstretched at arms length turning around so perfectly and naturally while singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” To this day I still get chills and goosebumps when I watch it. The song is so hauntingly beautiful. Her voice is one in a million.
8.) As Time Goes By – Casablanca (1942)
If you see a film made by the Warner Brothers studios since 1998 you’ll always hear the instrumental chorus of this song from the Warner Brothers opening logo. The song comes from the very same studio’s immortal classic “Casablanca.” Contrary to popular belief “As Time Goes By” was not written specifically for the movie. Originally it was composed in 1931 for a Broadway musical. It was then re-introduced into the 1942 film as a recurring theme or leitmotif throughout it. The actor Dooley Wilson, who plays Sam, sings it so memorably. This is the only movie love song featured on the list. American Film Institute (AFI) voted it as the second best song from their 100 Songs list from films.
7.) Rock Around the Clock – Blackboard Jungle (1955) & American Graffiti (1973)
Not only did this opening theme song for two separate films start off the rock and roll revolution, as well as the rock music genre, it was also the forerunner to hearing a song from a movie on a Top 40 radio program or radio station. Once you hear this song you will instantly recognize it as a pivotal song of rock and roll. It is one of the first major rock hits, but a year later Elvis Presley would take rock music on to another level. Never before had a feature film from the mid fifties used any rock and roll songs since the older generation disliked it intensely.
However, the director of the film “Blackboard Jungle” wanted to feature a song the teens would like that was rebellious in sound. The star of the film, Glenn Ford, had a teenage son who had a rock music collection. When Richard Brooks, the film’s director, heard “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and his Comets the rest as they say is history. When the film was released the song was instantly number one on the Billboard chart for eight weeks.
I remember seeing the film “Blackboard Jungle” on TV as a kid. When I heard the theme song I absolutely fell in love with it. To me it was the greatest song I ever heard. Coincidentally, the film “American Graffiti” was released shortly thereafter. It was also used as its opening theme song. You heard the song everywhere at that time, because of this 1950s nostalgic craze back in the early to mid 70s. Dick Clark has proclaimed “Rock Around the Clock” as the national anthem of rock and roll.
6.) Born to Be Wild – Easy Rider (1969)
Speaking of a groundbreaking theme song earlier, now here’s a pioneering soundtrack featuring rock music from artists like Jimi Hendrix and Steppenwolf. The song “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf was released on the radio in 1968 a year before the film was released where it charted at number two. The film’s editor, Donn Cambern, used music from his record collection for the film’s soundtrack while having to edit hours of bike footage. Ever since the release of the film the song is still heavily associated to this day with road trips, motorcycles and the film itself.
5.) Staying Alive – Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Robert Stigwood, the film’s producer, asked the Bee Gees to write music for the film that would later represent the disco era for decades to come. This particular song opens the film while showing the opening credits as well as seeing John Travolta’s famous strut down the street somewhere in Brooklyn. Stigwood’s inspiration for the film and the Bee Gee’s opening song was based on a New York magazine article about the Brooklyn dance club scene. Whenever I hear this song on the radio or anywhere else I still think of Travolta’s celebrated walk.
4.) The End – Apocalypse Now (1979)
To this day whenever I hear this song by The Doors I always think of the Vietnam War images from the film “Apocalypse Now.” There is something so evocative and surreal about the song. It’s actually eleven minutes long featuring a spoken interlude by Jim Morrison, the lead singer, who uses words about violence, profanity and an incestuous subject. “The End’s” music has a mystical Indian sound that you’d hear from India. At any rate, the song fits in perfect as the film’s opener and during a violent scene later on in the plot.
3.) Battle without Honor or Humanity – Kill Bill (2003 & 2004)
Talk about the perfect song to use in getting ready for battle. This instrumental music is best known from “Kill Bill”, but it was originally written for a Japanese film titled “Another Battle” released in 2000 The composer of this musical piece, Tomoyasu Hotei, also acted in the Japanese film. Hotei is an accomplished guitarist, composer and actor in Japan. When I first heard this song in a TV commercial for the “Kill Bill” movie trailer it literally got my attention. I love the fierce guitar licks in the beginning as it builds up into this bombastic crescendo, then right into its continuous electronic drum beat. This song is now used constantly in countless TV shows, other films, video games and sporting events televised or live globally. It is by far one of the best pieces of music used in a film I have heard in a very long time.
2.) Theme to Jaws – Jaws (1975)
Never in the history of movie themes and musical scores in a film has it ever made the moviegoer shudder in complete fear and terror over a specific sound. That particular sound is the slow alternating notes of E and F from a tuba (of all instruments) alerting the audience of impending doom. Eventually the two notes escalate with a full orchestra by adding further suspense then it comes to a clash with the appearance of the shark. Every time I hear that music my heart starts racing. John Williams composed the theme and musical score. It won the Academy Award for Best Music (Original Score).
1.) Also Sprach Zarathustra (Opening Fanfare) – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Along with the musical piece used in “Kill Bill” this classical music composition by Richard Strauss from 1896 has been used in countless television commercials, other films, TV shows and openings for athletes and entertainers. The opening fanfare “Sunrise” from this tone poem or orchestral music is featured in the opening, The Dawn of Man and closing segments within the film. Even though it is less than a two-minute piece of music it’s still popular for over four decades testifies to its literal timelessness. Without question it is the quintessential movie music to use in an opening and closing for such an epic film.
If you’ve come to love seeing these movies and hearing their featured music or songs you can purchase the DVDs at www.amazon.com or download the music at Amazon or at www.iTunes.com. Many of today’s greatest hits came from the movies.
Broadcast Yourself, YouTube
The Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia
The Internet Movie Database, IMDb
Song Meanings at Songfacts, Songsfacts