There’s always that one song on a film’s soundtrack that everyone remembers−that everyone can recite by heart. For years the motion picture industry has done its part in popularising songs and artists. Being featured on a movie soundtrack can be the reason for a songs success. It can be the difference between a song remaining unknown or becoming iconic. The songs on this list are those which had already been released but became famous because they were featured in a motion picture soundtrack. This means that songs written specifically for films won’t be included.
The Exorcist: Tubular Bells Pt 1 by Mike Oldfield
Tubular Bells was British musician Mike Oldfield’s debut studio album. Oldfield wrote the instrumental album when he was just 17 and it was recorded when he was 19 years old, with Oldfield playing almost all the instruments himself. It was released in May 1973. Initially sales of the album were fairly slow, and it didn’t even appear in the UK albums chart until July.
This changed when Tubular Bells Pt 1 was featured on the soundtrack of new horror film: The Exorcist, which premiered in December 1973. Tubular Bells Pt 1 was used as the opening theme of the iconic horror film and as a result became iconic itself. While the album and Oldfield were successful before the release of the motion picture, after the film’s release sales started rising steadily. Tubular Bells took the UK albums chart’s number one spot in October 1974, and as of 2019 is the 42nd best-selling album of all time in the UK charts.
The Full Monty: You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate
You Sexy Thing is a song by British soul band Hot Chocolate, written by the group’s lead singer and bass guitarist, Errol Brown and Tony Wilson. It was released in October 1975 and got up to number two on the UK singles chart that November and reached number two on the New Zealand singles chart between 1975-76.
In 1997 a British comedy motion picture was released; The Full Monty. The film was a massive hit, garnering both critical praise and international commercial success. In one scene Robert Carlyle’s Gaz tries to convince the other characters to try their luck as strippers, and what should he dance to but Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing. More than 15 years after the song’s initial release, You Sexy Thing became part of a classic British comedy’s soundtrack. Not only that, it is featured in one of the film’s most iconic scenes. In 1997 after The Full Monty premiered, Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing was once again back in the top ten of the UK singles chart, reaching number 6.
Batman Forever: Kiss From A Rose by Seal
Seal first wrote the song that would become the iconic Kiss From A Rose in 1987 but was dissatisfied with it and discarded it. He only presented to his producer after recording Seal II. The song originally reached number 20 on the UK singles chart in 1994. However, it dropped out of the charts soon after its release.
Kiss From A Rose got new momentum after Joel Schumacher contacted Seal and asked to use it in the soundtrack of his next film Batman Forever. The motion picture was released in June 1995. Soon after, Kiss From A Rose was back in the UK singles chart this time reaching number four. It also topped the US billboard top 100 in August that same year. It also topped the US Adult Contemporary and US Adult Top 40. The iconic song also earned a nomination for the MTV movie award for best song from a movie in 1996.
Pretty Woman: Oh, Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison
When it was released in 1964 Oh, Pretty Woman was a hit in its own right. Written by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees, the song was released in August and topped the US billboard top 100 for three weeks. It also spent three weeks at the top of the UK singles chart. By October the single was certified gold by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America.
After the iconic Oh, Pretty Woman was released Orbison’s career plateaued and then started on a downward trajectory. He was somewhat revived in the 80s collaborating on projects with musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. Then in 1990 the romantic comedy Pretty Woman came out. Not only was Orbison’s song part of the motion picture soundtrack, but it inspired the film’s title. Now the song has become so iconic that if you even say ‘pretty woman’ people will burst into song.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Oh Yeah by Yello
Yello, a Swiss electronic music band, released Oh Yeah as part of their 1985 album Stella. It is famous for the manipulated vocals and simple lyrics. Although the song was never in the UK charts, it soared to success after being in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off came out a year after Oh Yeah was released. The song was used to help create the film’s iconic ending. The song was also used in the soundtrack for The Secret Of My Success and many a motion picture after that. Oh Yeah was used so much that it came to be known as a 1980s Hollywood cliché. It has become a staple way of conveying overindulgence and lust.
Stand By Me: Stand By Me by Ben E. King
Written by the talented Ben E. King in collaboration with lyricists Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Stand By Me was released in 1961. King was inspired by Christian music and based the song on a psalm. Stand By Me did well in the US upon its initial release, topping the US hot R&B sides chart. It also earned a spot in the top five for the US billboard top 100 and US cash box top 100 charts. It did fairly well in the UK to reaching number 27 on the UK singles chart.
The song became even more iconic after Stand By Me, the motion picture based on one of Stephen King’s novellas, came out. The film used the song in its soundtrack, and to promote the film a music video was released featuring Ben E. King with stars Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix, garnering the song even more recognition. Soon after that in 1987 Ben E. King’s Stand By Me was used in a Levi’s advert that aired in Europe. This gained the song even more success. After the Stand By Me motion picture, the song made it into the charts again. It topped the UK singles chart as well as charts in Canada and Ireland.