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10 Songs That Became More Popular Than The Movies They Were Made For

It may be a wise move to write a song for a movie and time that song’s release with the movie’s release. Many artists have achieved some of their biggest hits with this, like if someone enjoys a movie and a song written for it, chances are they’ll want to track it down and listen to it once the movie is over.


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If the movie comes first, it makes sense that it would be more memorable than any song written for it. If the song is particularly popular, maybe the song and movie will be equally popular (eg Titanic and “My heart will go on”). However, it sometimes happens that a song becomes more popular than the film for which it was written. Whether it’s because the song was hugely popular or the movie was kind of forgettable, the next 10 songs all overshadowed the movies they were made for.

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“(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams – ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ (1991)

Image via The Guardian

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is far from final Robin Hood movie it could be. It’s a live-action, big-budget take on the iconic character and his story, though it’s not a classic to this day, with perhaps by Alan Rickman take on the Sheriff of Nottingham be its strongest element.

The power ballad of Bryan Adams, “(Everything I do) I do it for you.” It’s the kind of song most have probably heard, and you might be surprised to learn that it was even written for a movie. To be one of the best-selling singles of the 1990swhile the movie itself can’t be nearly as popular, at least not these days.

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan – ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’ (1973)

Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid - 1973

Sam Peckinpah was a groundbreaking director whose films have done well, even though he was not very successful in his time. His most famous films are probably The wild gang and the Steve McQueen vehicle, The escapeleaving behind some of his other films, such as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kidcriminally underestimated.

At least from Bob Dylan song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” fared much better, eventually becoming one of the folk/rock musician’s most iconic songs. He wrote it for the film and also starred in it, in a supporting role. Everyone else was unfairly overlooked for their efforts to make this great western, but thankfully the tide has turned in the years since its release and it is now more widely recognized and appreciated.

“New York, New York” (covered by Frank Sinatra) – ‘New York, New York’ (1977)

New York New York - 1977

An unusual movie inside Martin Scorsese filmography, New York, New York is a romance/musical about the turbulent relationship between a saxophonist and a young singer in the years after the end of the Second World War.

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The song “New York, New York” was originally written for the movie and sung by the star, Lisa Minelli. However, just a few years after the film’s release, the title song was covered by Frank Sinatra, and immediately became one of the singer’s biggest hits. Many will probably be surprised to discover that Sinatra’s version was a cover; that’s how much more popular it became than the movie it spawned from.

“Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley – ‘Blue Hawaii’ (1961)

blue-hawaii-1961-elvis
Image via Paramount Pictures

When it comes to Elvis Presley, it’s fair to say that many of his songs have endured more than most of his movies. Although he had a prolific career as an actor, he is still best known for his music, and so is he Blue Hawaii and the song “Can’t Help Falling in Love” extra standout.

It’s an instantly recognizable classic love song that most have probably heard, or at least heard/covered by other musicians. The number of people who have actually seen the movie it was written for (especially these days) is certainly much lower.

“Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Ballerina’ (2016)

Ballet dancer - 2016

Let’s be honest: not many people have heard of it ballerina. It was an animated family movie that was also a Canadian and French co-production, and is about a young girl who will do anything to become a world famous ballerina.

While the song “Cut to the Feeling” from Carly Rae Jepsen might not have been the cultural juggernaut that “Call Me Maybe” was (even though it’s downright a better song), it’s still better known than the movie it was written for. It is one of Jepsen’s best songs and a great pop song that is well regarded in many music circles, even if it has not achieved worldwide acclaim. Still, it’s definitely more famous than the movie ballerina.

“Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio – ‘Dangerous Minds’ (1995)

Dangerous Ghosts - 1995

Dangerous settings is now, in the 2020s, a fairly obscure film, even if it shines Michelle Pfeiffer, which has remained relevant and popular throughout the 21st century. It is a film that follows a white woman who becomes a teacher in a high school with students who are mostly Latino and African American, and is about the experience she has teaching people from a different background than her.

It’s not a movie that’s really made it to this day, but the song “Gangsta’s Paradise” has definitely held up as a classic ’90s song. It’s easy Coolios most widely recognized song, reaching mainstream popularity in a way the movie it was written for ultimately failed.

“Call Me” by Blondie – ‘American Gigolo’ (1980)

American Gigolo0

At the risk of being too blunt, “Call Me” from blonde is too good for that American gigolo. The 1980 movie about a high-class male prostitute is by no means terrible, but it doesn’t detract from the song written for it, which stands as one of Blondie’s biggest hits, and is a defining song of the 1980s. As a whole.

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In the end, the film’s soundtrack is filled with the song. It plays constantly throughout the movie, often as an instrumental, with very little effort from George Moroder to adapt and remix the classic song to fit the scenes it accompanies. Who can really blame Moroder when the song is as fantastic as “Call Me”?

“Going Home: Theme from Local Hero” by Mark Knopfler – ‘Local Hero’ (1983)

Local Hero - 1983

Local hero is a quiet and humble – but ultimately compelling – film about a small coastal town in Scotland that clashes with an oil company that wants to drill off their coast. It may not sound particularly exciting, but it’s well made, nicely shot and features very good acting, making it a solid film overall.

However, it is the rare film whose main theme ended up becoming more popular than the film itself. Mark Knopfler (from Serious difficulties fame) wrote the instrumental theme, and it’s one that once heard, you can’t forget. It’s almost a perfect instrumental pop song, so while Local hero is a good film, it ultimately cannot compete with the earwig that is Knopfler’s theme.

“Together in Electric Dreams” by Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey – ‘Electric Dreams’ (1984)

Electric Dreams - 1984

Electric dreams is an odd movie that probably won’t be for everyone, but those who get on the movie wavelength will probably find it to be one of the most underrated movies of the 1980s. Broadly speaking, it is about a young man and his hyper-intelligent computer, and a love triangle that develops between man, machine and an attractive young woman who lives in a neighboring apartment.

It’s a loose take on the story of Cyrano de Bergerac is silly but charming, and the movie overall is greatly helped by the fantastic soundtrack. The crown jewel in said soundtrack is “Together in Electric Dreams” by Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey (from The Human League), which stands as one of the greatest anthems of the 1980s, and an incredible song that overshadows the movie it was written for (even while that movie is still very good).

“Cat People (Extinguishing Fire)” by David Bowie – Cat People (1982)

Cat People - 1982

1982 Cats People is a loose remake/update of the 1942 film of the same name. It is a horror film about a woman who is afraid of turning into a giant cat, and with this 1982 version it goes up considerably in content compared to the original film whose it’s a loose remake.

It’s not a bad movie, but it spawned an iconic song that has overtaken the movie in terms of popularity. From David Bowie Recognized as one of his best post-1980 songs, “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” has gained additional attention in recent years due to its iconic usage Quentin Tarantino inglorious bastards. Cats People might stand as a decent horror movie, but Bowie’s song for the movie inevitably stands as a certified pop/rock banger.

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