In honor of the blog-a-thon, I reproduced a copy of the top 100 movie songs of all time. I made this after I saw the AFI special and it when I was far less knowledgeable about film than I was now. The listings are as follows: song/musician/movie. By musician, it could be the person who wrote it or the one who sang it. Whichever one i found first:
1. Singing in the Rain, Gene Kelly, Singing in the Rain-The title song from the quintessential musical. I think what people love about this number is how much fun Gene Kelly is having. He starts jumping up and down in the puddles as if he almost forgets he’s supposed to be tap dancing.
2. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland, Wizard of Oz-I didn’t realize how good Judy Garland was until watching this special.
3. Mrs. Robinson, Simon and Garfunkel, The Graduate-I listen to it and don’t really know what they’re talking about (like references to Jesus and Joe DiMaggio) but it’s certainly very interesting
4. Tonight, Tonight Quintet, West Side Story-West Side Story was a fusion between drama, movement and music that I don’t believe had ever been seen before and has ever been replicated since. The Tonight quintet is so perfectly integrated between different singers, it’s almost like an audio montage.
5. Moon River, Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s-The guy who wrote this is Henry Mancini, who did a lot for movie music, mixing jazz in with traditional movie fare (he did the Pink Panther too), and Audrey Hepburn looks so emotionally drained in that scene, it’s incredible.
6. As Time Goes By, Casablanca-The AFI had it at #2 or something. I don’t hate the song or anything, so I’ll put it there
7. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, Tex Ritter, High Noon-This is one of the first movies in history to be marketed based on the song. It’s sung over the opening title credits and must have really been something new.
8. Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas, Judy Garland, Meet me in St. Louis-considering that this song was written for this movie, (I thought it had been around forever) I’d say it had a really pervasive effect, since it’s now like THE Christmas song
9. Ol’ Man River, Paul Robeson, Showboat-I think this song is really powerful and in a way beautiful, considering its time, it was sung by a black man and the words are about hopelessness (“but ol’ man river, he just keeps rolling along”), he personifies the river, and because the river keeps rolling along, as he says, therefore boats will go down it, and as long as boats go down the river, this guy along with all the other poor black people have to work on the boats and, it’s just a cycle, the man singing just has this sense of weariness to him.
10. American in Paris, Gerswhin, American in Paris-Does this count as a song? It was quite an interesting way to end a film at the time, to have the character resolve his conflicts entirely through song and dance. At the beginning of the song, he doesn’t have the girl, at the end of the song, he does have the girl, which suggests that the ballet itself changed the course of the storyline. That is quite abstract and far-fetched outside the realm of the integrated musical, but the integrated musical is an abstract and nonsensical genre in itself, so that does sort of make sense, in that respect.
11. White Christmas, Bing Crosby, Holiday Inn-I don’t know if I like it that much, but it had an impact.
12. When You Wish Upon a Star, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Pinocchio-It was written by Glenn Miller I found out the other day, and I like a lot of his stuff
13. Summertime, George Gerswhin, Porgy and Bess-Kind of like Ol’ Man River, this song is like THE SONG. I love Gerswhin and this is probably Gershwin’s most definitive one. He was just a Jewish guy from New York City, yet with Porgy and Bess, he really captured the plight of sharecropping Southerners.
14. Jailhouse Rock, Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock-It’s hard to explain how cool this number is (or how cool Elvis is, for that matter), without just showing it to you. Elvis Presely is so effortless in his choreography, he’s like the Fred Astaire of cool.
15. Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, Gerswhin (per. by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), Shall we Dance-Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on roller skates. We gotta award them twice the degree of difficulty for that!
16. Que Sera Sera, Doris Day, Shall We Dance-First, Doris Day is really too good looking and young to be a mother-figure in that movie, but she really pulls it off. Her sheer anxiety over her son being kidnapped, really comes through in that song. While she’s singing, she’s banging the keys a little too hard in frustration, also within the context of the movie’s plot it’s ingenious how the song ties in.
17. Rock Around the Clock, Bill Haley and the Comets, Blackboard Jungle-It’s pretty much the embodiment of rock and roll and the 60s
18. I’ve Had the Time of my Life, Dirty Dancing-Of the 80s songs on their list, this is probably the one that’s really good and not just retroactively a joke. I agree with the person from the show who said that the song starts out slow and tender than speeds up to the point where it’s kind of wild and party like, and the great thing is that the dancers on screen are convincingly having fun up there, by the time the song kicks in
19. 42nd Street, Ruby Keeler, 42nd Street-A familiar tune about show business, high life glamour, etc. It’s also the pivotal point of this dramatic musical.
20. Buffalo Gals, Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life-It’s a Wonderful Life is an exceptional film, and it’s all embodied in Jim Stewart’s youthful joy which comes out a lot in that song.
21. I’ve Got Rhythm, George Gerswhin (perf. Gene Kelley), American in Paris-The challenge for Kelly was to recreate a number he already did in a previous movie, which he does by teaching the song to half the children in Paris. It’s a pretty fun number.
22. My Favorite Things, Julie Andrews, Sound of Music-The song is memorable because Julie Andrews really gets into it and unleashes her inner child. The lyrics are so inventive, too.
23. Somewhere, Natalie Wood (Marni Nixon) and Richard Beymer, West Side Story-First, it’s a beautiful song with two parts that beautifully compliment each other. It’s also a great moment of fantasy escapism in the middle of a really terrible situation, most of us feel like that when we decide to go to a movie in the first place
24. All My Loving, The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night-The best track from The Beatles musical medley “Hard Day’s Night.”
25. Zippady Doo-Dah, Song of the South-Since Disney did a lot for music, I should probably put an abundant # of Disney songs in, and this one’s pretty fun and it has a simple message
26. I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard-It’s well-remembered, and it’s an incredibly well-crafted performance from diva Whitney Houston, she could have overdone the embellishments but I think she got it just right
27. Spoonful of Sugar, Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins-Pretty memorable song, I’m sure there’s some kind of bite-sized theme behind it like adding little bit of fun to life makes the hard parts of it easier. Personally, I’ve always interpreted it literally and added a spoonful of sugar to that nasty cough medicine when I’m sick.
28. On the Street Where You Live, Jeremy Brett, My Fair Lady-This guy is standing on a street waiting for this girl to come out of her house that he likes, we’d call that stalking today, but who cares, the guy’s genuinely in love and he expresses his intentions so beautifully that he oughtta be aloud to stay there and stalk her forever. Another plus: Add a little swing to the song and it’s a great jazz standard.
29. Jonny B Goode, Michael J Fox, Back to the Future-Even though it’s obviously dubbed, you gotta love that scene where Michael J Fox takes down the house of a 1950s gym with a song that hasn’t even been invented yet. After watching the movie for the 8th time, I finally got the inside joke where Marvin Berry tells his cousin Chuck “you’ve gotta hear this,” meaning that Chuck Berry actually ripped off the song from Marty McFly, who ripped it off from Chuck Berry, so…ehh, time paradoxes are confusing.
30. Get Happy, Judy Garland, Summer Stock-Judy Garland’s seductive side mixed in with Judy Garland’s childhood dreamy side, what a perfect combination.
31. Luck be a Lady, Marlon Brando, Guys and Dolls-Clever lyrics, great melody, a key change or two to build suspense, great choreography, and best of all, Marlon Brando’s singing it. This is so disorienting to see Marlon Brando in here. I had no idea that he did anything other than serious depressing movies, but here, he’s just having some light-hearted fun
32. Don’t Rain on my Parade, Barbara Streissand, Funny Girl-The melody bounces around all over the place, and Barbara Streissand really takes over on the syncopation, and I love how truly integrated this number is. She’s moving around at a hectic pace and is so engrossed in the reality around her, that the number feels like she’s just singing as a natural form of expression, rather than singing for the camera.
33. I Could’ve Danced All Night, Audery Hepburn, My Fair Lady-Like they (the commentary people in the AFI film) said, Audrey Hepburn is really really exuberant with joy and considering for most of the film, her character’s not really in a happy state, the contrast hits you.
34. Aquarius, Fifth Dimension, Hair-This song is so out in left field, it’s really a unique song, not really rock, not really ballad, it starts out with a kind of psychedelic intro “when the moon is in the seventh star, and Jupiter aligns with Mars”, and then takes off at just the right moment into a multi-harmony 60s rock song.
35. Almost Like Being in Love, Gene Kelly, Brigadoon-It’s pretty much the best mushy love song there is. Consider that he’s not even singing this love song to her. He’s just singing to grass and trees and to his grumpy friend who doesn’t even believe in love. That’s really a powerful show of being in love, isn’t it?
36. Good Morning, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Donald O’Connor, Singing in the Rain-Debbie Reynolds takes charge and kind of holds her own against the other two, what strikes me about this song is it’s very egalitarian, it’s not like a usual song where the women are singing about men or the men are singing about women, it’s two men and a woman singing to each other, or not so much singing but just expressing a simple sediment “good morning” and the way they move and their sing really shares the joy among all three of them. It’s also so well-timed
37. Summer Nights, John Trovolta and Olivia Newton-John-I don’t think I can get away with not putting a Grease song in my list, and as far as Grease songs go, this is the best showcase of John Trovolta’s stuff. It’s a very accurate high-schoolish kind of thing too, where the guy is bragging about his summer conquest and the girl is bragging about being in love.
38. Born to be Wild, Steppenwolff, Easy Rider-Pretty ahead of its times.
39. Anything Goes, Kate Capshaw, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-I thought this was from Cabaret or something, but Kate Capshaw sings her heart out here, and captured mine too in the process, great way to start off an action-packed opening scene
40. Theme from Shaft, Isaac Hayes, Shaft-Definitely had an impact, and upon hearing the full version of it, it’s pretty exciting, building up as it goes along
41. Trolley Song, Judy Garland, Meet Me in St. Louis-It’s really exciting, there’s a lot of motion and imagery, of the trolley clanking and the heart beating, really a brilliant song. Garland is really exceptional in this film and inserts inflections into certain parts of the song to enhance it. She just has a natural feel. And the whole feeling of everyone on this trolley wanting to hear her story and being in this trance-like state must have just felt delightfully absurd if you were watching it in 1944. I believe Meet me in St Louis is one of the first integrated musicals. Judy Garland’s daughter said the movie is so great, you just want to live in it. Obviously, cause if you sang on any public transit vehicle, you probably wouldn’t be met with as friendly of a reaction.
42. My Heart Will Go On, James Horner (Celine Dion), Titanic-James Horner made a really great score to the Titanic and this song is kind of an extension of that, to be fair it sounds better when it’s reused throughout the movie rather than when it’s being sung by Celine Dione at the end.
43. Stormy Weather, Lena Horne, Stormy Weather-Whenever my dad hears that Nora Jones song “Don’t Know Why”, he starts singing to himself “Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather” which is the words to this song, evidently. It seems like in retrospect, that single performance was the most common thing (and in many cases the only thing) that Lena Horne was remembered for.
44. Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat, Stubby Kaye, Guys and Dolls-A really great and catchy song, that deserves to be in a better musical. Like Luck be a Lady it has really good interplay with the chorus and words that have such rich imagery.
45. Thanks for the Memories, Bob Hope & Shirley Ross, Big Broadcast of 1938-Didn’t think much of it when I first heard it, but in the film it registers as a very poignant moment expresses Bob Hope’s shy way of saying “I really really like you, and after you leave I’ll be miserable.” Bob Hope, ironically, was never shy or at a lack of words, which might be what makes the song stick out more
46. America, Rita Moreno, George Chikaris and the Sharks, West Side Story-These Puerto Ricans make urban poverty look pretty fun. Those triplets are hard to pull off, too
47. Suicide is Painless, Johnny Mandel, MASH-The words are very poetic, but somehow I don’t think the song really is meant to be read at face value. It’s incredible to think that a 14-year old wrote that
48. On Broadway, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, All That Kazz-The song fits the movie so well, you’d almost think it was written specifically for that opening montage where the Broadway dancers are auditioning and being cut one by one. It’s about the only 5 minutes I really liked in All That Jazz
49. Moonlight Becomes You, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Road to Morocco-The catchiest tune from the many that littered the road movies.
50. Streets of Philadelphia, Bruce Springsteen, Philadelphia-It really ties itself together in many ways, Bruce Springsteen is kind of singing about brotherhood and man helping man, “ain’t no angel gonna greet me, it’s just you and I, my friend”, there’s really a beautiful sense of desperation there with Springsteen’s words and music, just calling out to your fellow man to help you, and it ties in to the fact that Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love
51. It Might as Well be Spring, Rogers and Hammerstein, State Fair-Another song with a great melody, especially the inverted arpeggio in the second phrase
52. Tiny Dancer, Elton John, Almost Famous-It was written probably 30 years or something before being put in a movie, but really fits the film perfectly.
53. Put the Blame on Mame, Rita Hayworth, Gilda-Suddenly, you want to go see this film after seeing that number. Hayworth is very seductive and ironically, the film is classified by imdb as a film noir.
54. Sounds of Silence, Simon and Garfunkel, The Graduate-I’m deducting points because I never understood why it plays during the airport stroll/opening credits. Still, a pretty definitive song of the 60s.
55. Beauty and the Beast, Alan Menken and Howard Lashman (per. by Angela Lansbury)-I’ve never seen a song get away with throwing in so many clichés and still sound original
56. Cell Block Tango, Catherine Zeta Jones and friends, Chicago-Much more memorable than All That Jazz in my opinion. It’s very clever how they simulate murder through ballet and the six or seven murderesses sound so distinct when they join into the chorus.
57. Swinging on a Star, Bing Crosby, Going my Way-Peter Boyle said that every catholic school boy grows up singing this song, I’ll take his word for it. Also, it’s moderately catchy.
58. Twist and Shout, Isley Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off-Pretty much the high point/culmination of all of Ferris Bueller’s mischief
59. Lullaby of Broadway, Dick Powell and Wini Shaw, Gold diggers of 1935-Like 42nd Street, a good ode to Broadway number, I really like the references to things like “the rattle of a taxi” “the milkman”, etc. It paints a vivid picture
60. Shadow of Your Smile, The Sandpiper-I’m sorry, I’m going back through this list and can’t remember why I put i on. It struck a chord with me about 45 minutes ago when I got to #62. that’s all I can report.
61. Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head, Burt Bacharach, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kidd-It could’ve been sung better and Bob Westall of “Forward to Yesterday” makes a persuasive argument on why the song fails within the context of the scene. On its own, however, the song itself stands as a good song and especially uplifting one, in the movie (which I haven’t seen), I’ve heard it’s even better
62. Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, Marilyn Monroe, Gentlemen Perfer Blondes-The melody’s good and Marilyn Monroe is ever so photogenic. I wonder if she was able to memorize her lyrics for this one.
63. 9 to 5, Dolly Parton, 9 to 5-I don’t like country but Dolly Parton’s song has a nice rhythm to it and works as a working class anthem.
64. Yankee Doodle Boy, George M Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandee-I don’t think I can appreciate it as well as the people who saw it back then, but you can easily tell that James Cagney gives the performance 110%. I also kind of like how they mix the song in on top of the basic “Yankee Doodle” melody
65. Goldfinger Title Theme, Shirley Bassey, Goldfinger-Blaring wawa muted horns and Shirley Bassey’s alluring voice set the stage for a Bond film better than any other, it also has elements of Barry’s score mixed into the film
66. Bridge on the River Kwai March, Traditional, Bridge on the River Kwai-If I remember correctly, I think school kids use this song substituting disgusting lyrics for fun. That’s how much of an impact it has
67. Just the Way You Look Tonight, Jerome Kern (per. by Fred Astaire), Swing Time-A great song considering Fred Astaire sings and doesn’t dance which is quite unusual, considering a) Astaire always dances when he sings and b) this is because his singing would’ve been scarcely good enough to fill out the chorus of a Hollywood Revue without the dancing to go along with it. Perhaps, the film’s choreographer got lazy. At the same time, it’s just a very heartfelt and natural moment (the number can neither be categorized as backstage or integrated) when he just sits on the piano and lets the song pass him by.
68. Bali Hai, Rogers and Hammerstein (perf. By Anita Hall) South Pacific-American Musicals are an improvement over their predecessors because they take the songs and steep them into the folk traditions of the setting. With that, Bali Hai sounds very exotic.
69. I Enjoy Being a Girl, Nancy Kwan, Flower Drum Song-Really an unusual statement, don’t you think? for someone to shout out that they enjoy being whatever gender they are, most of us never think about it. In the movie, it really strikes you, it’s a very striking statement, and the song backs that up, especially since the film is a culturally eye-opener for Asian-Americans who never really appeared sexualized in films.
70. Chim Chimaree, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins-Part of the somewhat haunting element Mary Poppins has to it, the song single-handedly adds a lot more depth to the film
71. Broadway Rhythm, Gene Kelly, Singing in the Rain-Kelly’s reinvention of the original Broadway Melody number is sped up, livelier, and pleasantly surreal. It’s one of the most ambitious numbers of the film.
72. *Springtime for Hitler, Mel Brooks, The Producers-This song is obviously intended for comic effect, but the melody is actually quite humnmable.
73. *Blue Moon, Elvis Presley, Mystery Train-The movie could have easily been called Blue Moon because the song is the motif that links all the stories in the movie together. It’s really amazing, how the song kind of serves as a photographic essay as its emotions seep into the movie’s different characters over one point in time
74. *What a Wonderful World, Louie Armstrong, Good Morning Vietnam-I’m probably the only person on the planet who thinks Louie Armstrong can sometimes sound annoying, but I can’t deny the power of this song over the Vietnam War Montage (even though the AFI did).
75. Chatanooga Choo Choo, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Sun Valley Serenade-Not a well-known film, but it’s a great dance scene, it’s incredibly exciting to see Glenn Miller’s band up close, and it’s such a great portrait of 1930s life.
76. Our Love is Here to Stay, Gene Kelly, American in Paris-Not one of Gershwin’s best songs, but it’s song with a lot of conviction by Gene Kelly and it’s sung at least 3 times in the movie at different points, so it ends up being stuck in your head for a while.
77. Rainbow Connection, Jim Henson, a Muppet Movie-A song for dreamers
78. Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do), Christopher Cross, Arthur-A pretty catchy song. That line of “being caught between the moon and New York City” is very memorable for some reason. It just sounds so abstract. Oh and did you know, Burt Bacharach worked on it?
79. Stranger in Paradise, Bob Wright and Chet Forrest, Kismet -I really like this song, I love the movie too, but the scene is that the King of this far off Arabian land leaves the palace and enters the garden of a woman who doesn’t know he’s the King, who asks her “to take my hand, I’m a stranger in paradise”, really beautiful moment, and the song’s awesome
80. Gonna Fly Now, Bill Conti, Rocky-Bill Conti was able to hit a lot of different emotional tones just by experimenting with the same basic riff
81. Someone to Watch Over Me, Jean Louisa Kelly, Mr. Holland’s Opus-Mr Holland’s Opus might not have left a lasting legacy, but the song in this film really is a moving rendition of a great number
82. Be Our Guest, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Beauty and the Beast-Let’s call this the token fun Disney song on my list (the other list had Hakuna Matata), it’s the song that’s not meant to be sung during the end credits, but provides more light-hearted fun, like My Favorite Things, it just has a lot of fun rhyming and makes your head go dancing
83. Gangsta’s Paradise, Coolio, Dangerous Minds-Has this song been forgotten by our culture? It was really moving when it came out, and I’d like to think it still does, this came at a time when rap wasn’t as pervasive and overdone as it is today, and it cleverly starts with a bible verse and it caps off a pretty powerful movie
84. Whistle While You Work, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-Snow White is like the first Disney animated thing ever, so props to that
85. New York, New York, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munchin, and Gene Kelly, On the Town-As Rita Moreno points out, it was one of the first musicals shot on location. But then again, isn’t New York the media capital of the world? That’s not that exotic of a location.
86. Pick Yourself Up, Jerome Kern, Swing Time-You gotta love the concept of Fred Astaire trying to pretend he doesn’t dance. And then when Ginger Rogers suddenly realizes that Astaire can dance, that look of “ok, let’s have some fun” is priceless. And then the actual dance they do is one of the most inventive numbers I’ve ever seen.
87. Buttons and Bows, Bob Hope, The Paleface-It’s a pentatonic song that you could play really easily just by hitting the black keys on the piano, but Bob Hope adds a whole lot more into it.
88. A View to a Kill, Duran Duran, A View to a Kill-The only James Bond song ever to hit #1 on the charts, the punctuated base line ups the excitement, and reinvents the Bond theme.
89. Do Re Mi, Julie Andrews, Sound of Music-A simple song but this song demonstrates how a simple idea can be made into something great.
90. Circle of Life, Elton John-The opening montage when the baby lion is lifted up to be shown to the animal kingdom in the African setting, really captures the beauty of the shot
91. Meet Me in St Louis, Ensemble, Meet Me in St Louis-I like how the song spreads from person to person but I also wonder if the entire film was sponsored by the St Louis Chamber of Commerce.
92. Putting on the Ritz, Peter Boyle and Gene Wilder, Young Frankenstein-A parody of the show stopper musical number. A well-placed bout of hilarity.
93. Fight the Power, Do the Right Thing-Spike Lee deserves some props on my list, and according to Rosie Perez, the song “makes everybody want to get up and dance.” Why would I disagree with her?
94. Cheek to Cheek, Irving Berlin (perf. by Fred Astaire), Top Hat-Astaire is so serene in this number. One of his best vocal performances
95. Somewhere Out There, Linda Ronsdadt and James Ingram, American Tale-The song is beautiful on its own but as an interaction between two voices, and two characters, it comes out even more
96. Road to Morrocco, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Road to Morrocco-Hope and Crosby paired up in the Road pictures for what might have been the most lightweight escapist entertainment the world has ever seen. This jokes are so low-key, they just fly under the radar.
97. Lose Yourself, Eminem, 8 Mile-It would be a mistake to say this is the pinnacle of Eminem’s career or representative of Eminem in any way, because Eminem’s popularity thrives on controvoursey and bad words, which are absent from this song, but nevertheless this is a great marriage between what’s hip right now, in pop culture, and film music
98. I am the Man of Constant Sorrow, Dan Tyminski, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou-It wasn’t sung by George Clooney, he lipsincked it, and the song wasn’t written for the film, but that’s the point of the whole thing, it’s a throwback (or not even a throwback since it’s very much alive) to the Southern music culture of bluegrass and what not, and the song plays is such a prominent center to the whole film
99. Diamonds are Forever, Shirley Bassey, Diamonds are Forever-One of the more haunting scores from the James Bond collection.
100. Killing Me Softly, Hugh Grant, About a Boy-A poignant moment to end a film on, and Hugh Grant sounds appropriately awful.