Top 7 Movie Soundtrack Songs More Popular than the Movies They Were Written For

Here’s another music-related list when it comes to various movies. I’m sure people like at least one film soundtrack of sorts. There are certain songs that are immortally tied to the movies they are associated with where even people who haven’t seen these films instantly know it’s from this or that movie. They don’t even have to be theme songs either. Let me give you some examples. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. Can anyone NOT think about Titanic if they hear it? “Maniac” by Michael Sembello. Easily the 2nd most famous song from Flashdance besides the theme by Irene Cara, obviously. What about “(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life”? Regardless of Black Eyes Peas ruining that song in the early 2010s, it still invokes imagery of Dirty Dancing even to this very day. Shoot, I was a kid during the Disney Rennaissance Era. I can remember hearing songs from multiple movies in that decade that were Top 40 hits on the radio even before Radio Disney would be a thing. This doesn’t happen as much in the current era besides a few exceptions. Even then, a lot of these music videos become glorified clip shows with movie footage with the singers or bands doing whatever with lazy editing.

However, there are songs that were written specifically for movies that are popular, but people don’t think of or in some cases don’t even know about them being associated with the silver screen. Trust me, it happens way more than you think and there were cases that I didn’t even know that they were soundtrack numbers. It can be quite surprising how the songs become more famous than the movies they were written for. Yes, it’s a weird thing to think about, but I wanted to make a creative list. This will also surprisingly involve a lot of mainstream entries which is rare at Iridium Eye on so many levels even though I have referenced mainstream examples in a few Top 7 lists in the past.

Here are the rules:

-The song has to be written for that movie or at least make its debut on the film’s soundtrack if it ends up being an album cut during or after the fact.

-If I were to mention or even sing the songs to someone random, would they think of the movie if they hear it?

-No cover songs will be on this list. Whitney Houston’s take on Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard and Tim Capello’s cover of The Call’s “I Still Believe” from The Lost Boys would both be VERY high on the list if that was the case.

-The levels involve the popularity of the song against the memory of the average person’s thoughts on the movies. This isn’t about my most favorite song even though I do like some of these songs. Let me make that clear before you judge my tastes.

I used those guidelines even though I do get a bit opinionated here. Some of them were big movies back in the day. Some honorable mentions that one could make a case for would be the following:

“Doesn’t Really Matter” by Janet Jackson (The Nutty Professor II)
“King of Wishful Thinking” by Go West (Pretty Woman)
“Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” by Mike + The Mechanics (Choke Canyon)

Alright, let’s turn it up!

7: Stay (I Missed You) by Lisa Loeb
Movie: Reality Bites

Hey, look! It’s that one folk singer who rocked the hipster glasses before they became widespread with the indie kids! Did you know this debuted on a Ben Stiller movie of all places? Yeah! I know, right? I never saw Reality Bites ever in my life, but I definitely remember this song when I was a kid either on the radio or playing at some random stores. Granted, this was when adult alternative was a thing back in the day, but I still heard it at different places. Interestingly enough, “Stay (I Missed You)” was also the first song in Billboard history to reach #1 by an unsigned artist which was unheard of in the 90s. Yes, she got signed after the fact and had another hit song later with “I Do”. To put this in perspective, the 2nd unsigned artist to achieve this same feat was Macklemore with “Thrift Shop”. When was the last time you heard about people talking about Reality Bites? Yeah, exactly. This little folk-pop ditty is still remembered especially with those who remember the 90s, but the movie? Not so much.

6: Kokomo by The Beach Boys
Movie: Cocktail

I never thought I would put anything by The Beach Boys on this blog, but today is finally the day. I had a lot of history with this song since I remember hearing it on a tropical-themed cassette compilation that was used for my sister’s luau-motif birthday party back when we were little. That chorus gets stuck in your head for years on end and I legitimately had no idea this was written for a movie until roughly last year when I revisited Todd In The Shadows’s YouTube Channel and saw his review of their dreadful “Summer in Paradise” album for his Trainwreckords series. You don’t have to go far in watching it because it’s the first thing he mentions in the video and mentions that fact in passing. Cocktail wasn’t some indie movie, it was a shock hit with Tom Cruise in the lead role that raked in millions of dollars at the box office. I had never heard of that movie, but it does look pretty terrible. I do admit that “Kokomo” is super-catchy and I still know the chorus to this day. Granted, I’m not a Beach Boys fan, but I am aware that they’ve made better songs. This still blows my mind how this was written for a movie that people still know this song more than that critically-panned work.

5: Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio ft. LV
Movie: Dangerous Minds

Before I start to talk about this song, I feel obligated to address multiple generations of readers. To all the Boomers out there, I’m well aware that this samples “Pasttime Paradise” by Stevie Wonder. To all the Generation Z-ers out there, this song has been around long before that Sonic the Hedgehog movie. That decision still boggles my mind since Sonic is more of a rocker and the only connection is that both existed in the 90s. This won’t be the only case of mistaken movie soundtrack identity on this list. Moving on…

Maybe some of you might remember Dangerous Minds or at least know that Michelle Pfieffer was in that movie. That’s a decent observation which I won’t dispute. I have issues with it playing up the same Save Our Students beats with the White Savior rhythm, but that’s a rant for another day. Gangsta’s Paradise was a HUGE song when this came out. How huge was it? Gansta’s Paradise was the most-played song of 1995 with it being #1 on the Top 100 AND the year-end list which makes it the first rap song to achieve both feats. Think about that. I wasn’t allowed to listen to Coolio during the height of his fame in my childhood, but I definitely remember hearing it at random places. Then again, the song has no swearing at all, so this is shockingly tame compared to rap music that came out in the same time period even until now. All the 90s kids know this song (or at the very least the opening Psalms quote and the chorus), but I doubt most people have even seen Dangerous Minds. This song is still used in movies, commercials, or random nostalgia posts. I certainly hear it in the conversation of 90s rap songs, but never the movie it was written for. What does that say about the song and the film? It’s just something I find interesting.

4: Try Again by Aaliyah
Movie: Romeo Must Die

For starters, Rest In Peace, Aaliyah. If this isn’t a testament to the legacy of this singer’s music after tragically passing away over 20 years ago at the height of her fame, then I don’t know what is.

I remember hearing this song and seeing this music video on The Box channel back in the day during my youth. That’s the same channel that would eventually be bought out by MTV and would become MTV2 for those that didn’t know. Oddly enough, I actually heard this song again not long ago while I was grocery shopping and it partially inspired the concept of this list. Don’t lie, a lot of you can name at least one Aaliyah song, but I seriously doubt you saw the Jet Li movie this was made for. Romeo Must Die was also Aaliyah’s film debut and I found out that it was her only film to date that was completed in her lifetime since Queen of the Damned came out months after her death. It was nostalgic hearing this song after not hearing it for several years. Aaliyah’s voice is great as always and the beat work hasn’t aged that much. In case you didn’t know, that was Timbaland responsible for the production and even makes a cameo in the video early on. Apparently, Romeo Must Die got a bunch of negative reviews, but at least it had a kicking theme song to make up for it.

3: All Star by Smash Mouth
Movie: Mystery Men

I hate to sound like some old fogey which I’m not, but I’m going to derail the thoughts that I know are being thought of when first seeing this. “All Star” was not, I repeat NOT originally made for the freaking Shrek soundtrack, people! Man alive, this song was in a Gatorade commercial and even in the English dub of Digimon: The Movie before that Dreamworks movie existed! Okay, I had to blow off some steam here.

This time I get to deal with another song that was huge in the 90s that was also involved in something Ben Stiller starred in (as well as Hank Azaria and Kel Mitchell [yes, THAT Kel] among others). If my list was about songs being mistaken for being written for other films, then I would put this at #1, no questions asked. I remember hearing this song everywhere when it came out and I know I’m not the only one who experienced it back in 1999. It eventually became a meme and associated with Shrek just because it was in the 1st movie. I assume it was because Smash Mouth would also provide their cover of “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees, but I digress. It’s also one of those songs that people who were around at the time could memorize the chorus and the first verse. Seriously, try it out to people who remember the song being big at karaoke and they might even vocalize that turntable scratching part after “You never know if you don’t go” during a sing-a-long. Mystery Men didn’t have that kind of notoriety despite the cast members showing up in the music video. It was a box office flop, but if this was made a few years ago when the MCU was dominating movie theaters, then the parody aspects could be even more timely. Yes, there was a time when liking superheroes wasn’t cool. Trust me, I’ve been made fun of for reading comics and even playing HeroClix at one point. Smash Mouth’s most famous song had an origin that most people don’t remember and you can blame a certain ogre for that.

2: Kiss by Prince
Movie: Under the Cherry Moon

Hold up! One of Prince’s biggest songs ever was originally for a movie? Yes, that actually happened. Prince directed a movie called Under the Cherry Moon and made a whole soundtrack for it which was his “Parade” album. What? You thought Purple Rain or the Tim Burton Batman soundtrack was his only forays into scoring? I can’t make this up if I tried. I heard that song for a good portion of my life and I didn’t know it was a glorified soundtrack song until fairly recently. It did pique my interest in watching Under the Cherry Moon until I saw that it tied with Howard the Duck with the most amount of Razzies. I know I’m a bit of a rebellious reviewer, but even that raised red flags for me. Well, at least the soundtrack is still regarded in high esteem even if it was associated with the vanity-laden dreck of a film. I get that Prince has been subjected to parodies and random JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure-related memes (the parallels to the Torture Dance song to “P. Control” were so intentional with the homage). The song is still quality work that I’m sure will be remembered after we’re all dead and gone.

Anyone who disses Prince’s music needs to purify themselves in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. Oh, come on! Did anyone think I wouldn’t bust out a Chappelle’s Show reference when talking about this late singer? It’s okay, that event actually happened and he was cool with that re-enactment while he was still alive.

1: The Prayer by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion
Movie: Quest for Camelot

The song starts at 1:37.

Objectively, this isn’t my favorite song on this list, but “The Prayer” is the one most deserving of being #1 given the concept of this Top 7 list. Everyone and their mom (especially their mom) knows this song. This has been frequently covered even in these times whether it’s by Josh Groban, Anthony Callea, or that one duo who showed up on Britain’s Got Talent. Real talk, I remember seeing a choir performing a mashup of this song and a worship hymn (can’t remember which one) at a church service on a Sunday morning a few years ago. I swear to God (no pun or blasphemy intended) I witnessed that. Even back then, I thought it was some classical opera piece.

Then shock of all shocks, I didn’t know that it was an original song tailor-made for Quest for Camelot until I saw that one review Nostalgia Critic did years ago. NC can go do one, but my jaw dropped when I was hit by that fact in that video. The same movie that people crap on for years and accuse it of being a Disney ripoff project like how Kayley looks just like Belle (but those same Disney fans wouldn’t DARE call Scar a ripoff of Claw from Kimba or how the former’s movie has a plagiarized song in it. Hypocrisy, much?) was responsible for this well-loved song? Wow, even at this time, I’m floored how that connection could’ve happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Celine Dion fan and I’m not knee-deep into the opera scene to appreciate Andrea Bocelli (he has a great voice though), but this has to be the strongest case of a song’s legacy outshining the movie it was made for. I was blown away by the heaps of praise the song got and hearing about how it won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. In that same year, it beat out “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt and even “Reflection” from Mulan! This conquered a Disney song in a decade where their movies dominated in box office numbers and awards. Do you want to know which Disney songs won that same award just in the 90s alone? “A Whole New World”, “Beauty and the Beast” (also involving Celine), and oh yeah…”Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”. Every one of those songs let alone their respective movies are still beloved by the masses, but when was the last time you heard Quest for Camelot in the same conversation as those movies? Scratch that, spoken of positively? My point exactly. Certainly not me since I’ve been vocal about my critiques of Mickey Mouse’s company, but that’s not the point.

That was the list. I thought it would be nice to have a musical-themed post this time around. What was your favorite song on here? Can you think of other songs made for movies that got more popular than the films they were written for?

All photos and videos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. The music note picture is from Pinterest.


  1. All Star is such a good song, I still find myself listening to it every now and again. Digimon: The Movie was the first time I heard it in a film, I didn’t see Mystery Men until many years later. It’s a crime that film isn’t better known it’s so fun and creative.

    I’m also partial to listening to Gangsta’s Paradise though I usually go for the Vintage 1920’s Al Capone Style version by Postmodern Jukebox.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely. It does encapsulate the late 90s nostalgia. Haha! I remember hearing this on almost every radio station when it came out and I definitely remember it in Digimon: The Movie which would’ve been the first time I heard it in a film before, too. I have seen clips of Mystery Men, but not the whole thing. My sister was a fan of that movie and I’m sure she still has a DVD of that, so I might have to ask if I could borrow it sometime. Haha!

      Very nice! I don’t think I’ve heard of Postmodern Jukebox’s cover of it, so I’ll have to check out their version since I’ve liked most of the covers they’ve done of random pop songs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. AHHH! Quest for Camelot was one of my favorite non-Disney films as a kid, in part because of “The Prayer”! (There, now you’ve heard someone say something nice about the film)!

    This was such a fun idea for a list! I remember my parents having lots of discussions about songs they didn’t realize originated on a film soundtrack. I’ll have to tell them about “Kokomo”! Beach Boys is one of our favorites!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember you saying that you liked this movie years ago. I didn’t know you were that big a fan of the original song. Looks like you provided a contribution to the world by saying something positive about this movie. Hahaha! To be honest, I think it’s one of those movies that’s apparently “cool to hate” because it’s not a Disney animated work, but that’s a rant for another day.

      Thank you very much! Those must have been some fun discussions. I didn’t even know your family were big Beach Boys fans. I think they’ll love the fact about “Kokomo” being connected to a now-obscure Tom Cruise movie. You even see clips of it in the music video!


  3. Good list Curtis! Of course the James Bond songs are a great variety of music for each movie. I liked the Paul McCartney tune the most I think, Live and let die. Of these songs the prince one is pretty good! And Kokomo. Haha

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t know that “The Prayer” was written for Quest for Camelot! Like you, I thought it was some classical opera song…I love the rendition of it by that duo you mention, once British X factor contenders Jonathan and Charlotte. This is a long shot but song “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams was the song of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” film, but I don’t think people will now or immediately make this connection, maybe some will, I am not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s right! I would’ve never guessed that and I remember that movie coming out when I was in elementary school. So many others I know didn’t know that about “The Prayer”.

      Yes, that’s the duo I referred to in the list. I couldn’t remember their names, but I knew they were in a major British reality show since I saw the video of them performing years ago.

      That song makes sense for a list and I didn’t even think of it! That song is still used in weddings and slow dances, but no one really talks about Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves these days even though they use clips of the movie in the music video.

      After I made the list, there were other songs that could be candidates that I realized could work for this list:

      “Are You That Somebody?” by Aaliyah (Dr. Dolittle)
      “The End is the Beginning is the End” by Smashing Pumpkins (Batman & Robin [NOT Watchman!])
      “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal (Batman Forever)
      “Ghetto Superstar” by Pras ft. ODB and Mya (Bulworth)

      Liked by 1 person

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