Cinema's 12 most over-used songs

News Glen Chapman 11 Jul 2011 - 15:37

Glen highlights the tracks that tend to get aired just a little too often in modern day movies...

There are quite literally millions of songs available on this planet called Earth, catering to all ages and tastes. But in spite of the vastness of this musical back catalogue, there seems to be a small percentage that crop up time and time again in films, depriving other songs of much deserved royalties.

In an attempt to encourage the movers and shakers of the movie industry (like they actually read this) to spread the love, I thought I’d highlight a few songs that have been over-used in the movies.

Just to clarify, I don’t necessarily hate the songs included (except Who Let The Dogs Out, but that’s not really a song). It’s just that I’ve heard enough of them in the movies, and think they should be shelved or retired so that other songs can be given a shot.

Walking On Sunshine – Katrina And The Waves

This infectiously upbeat pop number has been used in a variety of films over the years, and not necessarily in the light-hearted family friendly fare you’d expect. Indeed, some of its finest uses have been in the likes of American Psycho, Moon, State Of Play and High Fidelity. However, films such as Bean, Herbie Fully Loaded and Daddy Day Care do the song few favours.

Low Rider – War

Since its inclusion in Up In Smoke back in 1978, this song really has been a great way to establish that your character is fond of some of the more illicit delights mother nature has to offer.

It’s hard to argue with the quality of the song, as it’s great, but the way it has been used, particularly in the last 10 to 15 years, in films such as Gone In 60 Seconds and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, has been a little uninspired.

Bodies – Drowning Pool
(Nominated by Den of Geek writer Harry Slater.)

Is your movie of the action variety, involving numerous bodies hitting the floor? Then this is the song for you, apparently. As far as commercial US metal goes, this is tolerable, I suppose, but it has been used far too much for Mr Slater’s liking, having featured in films such as xXx, Jason X and Daredevil.

One Week – Barenaked Ladies
(Nominated by Den of Geek editor Simon Brew.)

The trend for this being used in every US teen comedy seems to have passed, but the Ladies must have earned themselves a sizable chunk of royalties when the song was in its heyday. Again, this isn’t a terrible song by any means just one that suffered from over exposure for a while.

Who Let the Dogs Out? – Baha Men

I’m not entirely convinced that this is actually a song. It’s more of a cynical attempt at earning royalties or a social experiment, examining how the mass public will buy any old shit and turn it into a hit. Even to this day, 11 years after the song's release, if a film features a dog, there’s a decent chance you will hear this.

For evidence, take a look at movies such as The Shaggy Dog, Snow Dogs and Marmaduke. Rumours that the Baha Men penned a song entitled Get Your Rat Out to cash in on rodent-based films, and further expand their royalties, are as yet unconfirmed. Mainly because said rumours were made up by me.

All Star – Smash Mouth
(Nominated by Den of Geek writer Mark Harrison.)

Originally penned as the theme for the rather ace Mystery Men, All Star has been used fairly consistently in movies and TV shows since. Even the fact that it featured in Mystery Men didn’t stop it featuring in the awful Inspector Gadget adaptation the same year, either.

Over The Rainbow – Judy Garland/Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
(Nominated by Den of Geek writer Carley Tauchert.)

The Judy Garland version of Over The Rainbow is tremendous, and became the song that she was most recognised for, which is impressive considering the volume of her output. The AFI deemed it to be the finest movie song of all time in their AFI 100 years, 100 songs list.

In recent years, however, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole’s ukulele cover, which features elements of What a Wonderful World, has been the go-to version of the song ever since it featured in Meet Joe Black in 1998, clocking up 16 credits for TV and film over the years. Quite charming the first time you hear it, but it’s getting rather silly now.

Oh Yeah – Yello

It’s the kind of song that you may not know by title, but when you hear it, it’ll be stuck in your head for ages. Popularised in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it seemed to be illegal for it not to be used in at least one film a year during the late 80s, with it seeing a resurgence in the 2000s when everything 80s was cool again.

Shows such as Chuck, South Park, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Warehouse 13 and The Simpsons have all featured the song, the latter using it no fewer than four times. It also saw a resurgence in movies, perhaps not to the extent that it did on TV, but still, its exposure has reached the point where it should cease to be used, as nothing has matched its use in Ferris Bueller, and it’s highly unlikely that it ever will.

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd 

It’s a sure sign that a song is quite popular in the world of cinema when it has a film named after it. Through its use in film, TV and radio airplay, if someone over the age of one month hasn’t heard this song, they’re really not trying very hard at all. The political messages at the heart of the song probably gets lost on the majority of audiences. Still, any song that gets used in Con Air should get a pass, really.

Bad To The Bone – George Thorogood and the Destroyers

What’s the best way to let your audience know that your character is a bit of a bad ass? Well, get a song to tell them of course!

It was effective in the likes of Christine and Terminator 2, but sadly this is another song that has been appropriated by kid friendly material, and used to the point where it loses all effectiveness.

Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf/Mars Bonfire

As above, really, except with its original use in Easy Rider it also seems to be an almost essential addition if a film features a motorcycle. For other examples of its over-use, see Rugrats Go Wild, Mr Bean’s Holiday, and Borat.

Without You – Badfinger/Various

One of the most covered songs in history, it’s little surprise that it has featured in as many films as it has. Given the lyrical content, it usually features when things are set to get a bit weepy. For me, the most effective use of the song was in The Rules Of Attraction, where it was used to superb effect in a suicide scene that still never fails to send chills down my spine.

Honourable mention:

Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, which was nominated by Den of Geek writer Josh Butler, but as mentioned by the good man himself, this is a list of overused songs in movies, not TV medical dramas.

Please provide your own suggestions below!


Click here for a list of ALL the lists at Den Of Geek...

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Electric Light Orchestra - Mr Blue Sky
So overused!

Honorable mention if not on the list Dirty Little Secret - All American Rejects

lets get it on - marvin gaye. every sexy ever!!!

even though I like the song, I think Love Today was often used in 2000s movies

I still think the James Bond theme was used in the most movies overall...

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