What makes a movie great? There are many factors that go into determining whether a given movie is deemed unforgettable or merely watchable by the general population, such as the script, the dialogue, the skills of the actors, the time and money spent on effects, the ability of the producers and directors to craft a finished project, the success of whatever it is the dolly grip does, and on and on ad infinitum.

When you’re thinking about the greatness of movies though, you might forget to include the soundtrack. The soundtrack is just an after thought, you might say, a compilation of songs they put in so that we have something to listen to between dialogue and sound effects. But if you’ve ever watched a movie that has either an awesome or a terrible soundtrack, then you know how much music can affect how well it goes over with the masses.

And what better way to craft the perfect soundtrack than with rock? The following are some of the greatest rock songs in movies of all time. We realize that many of these iconic songs appear in more than the movie we’ve mentioned in our list, but we’ve chosen ones that we think properly illustrate the awesomeness of the music involved.


We Will Rock You (Queen) in The Mighty Ducks



The best motivational, heart warming, uplifting, feel-good underdog success story of all time!

Before you yell at us, yes, we know that We Will Rock You by Queen has appeared frequently as a pop culture reference, and it’s hard to say for sure that The Mighty Ducks is the best possible example. But no one can argue against We Will Rock You being just about the perfect rock song for a movie, especially one that’s about succeeding against all odds in a competition of skill, will, and grace, and also of slamming people into one another and doing funny dances in the penalty box.

We Will Rock You is actually an interesting example of Queen music. Over the years, Queen has experimented with a whole host of different styles, and they’re known for Freddie Mercury’s amazing vocal chops, Brian May’s skills on the guitar, and the overall epicness of their soaring compositions in the rock opera style. We Will Rock You is probably one of the most basic songs they’ve ever made, but it’s become one of the most popular, and is virtually the standard anthem for sports games in the US. As such, it’s taken a place in our collective hearts, giving us a visceral emotional reaction every time we hear it played, and making it the perfect tune for a movie soundtrack.


Bad to the Bone (George Thorogood and Destroyers) Terminator 2



Just hearing the opening licks of this song make people die and go to heaven, even before the Terminator gets to them.

Listening to Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood and The Destroyers is like experiencing a perfect aural version of the movie Terminator 2.

In one of the first (and best, in our humble opinion) scenes in the movie, you’ve got Arnold Schwarzenegger, quite possibly one of the most badass actors of all time, playing a virtually indestructible cyborg sent from the future. What better accompaniment could you possibly have to the Terminator raiding a seedy bar and demanding the clothes and motorcycle of one of the patrons, and then proceeding to lay waste to anything and anyone who stands in his way before claiming his prize and driving off into the night with sunglasses and shotgun on a beautiful two-wheeled machine?

Later in the movie, the Terminator listens to whiny John Connor and goes all soft with his “not killing people” shtick. But before that, it’s pure, butt-kicking, glorious fun, set to the most perfect song you could ever imagine.


Eye of the Tiger (Survivor) in Rocky


Eye of the Tiger by Survivor is yet another example of a perfect movie anthem. The original movie Rocky, starring yet another epic tough-guy Sylvester Stallone as a boxer who struggles to be the best against remarkable odds (are you noticing a theme here?), gives us some of the greatest pump-up music of all time, and this song doesn’t disappoint as part of the medley.

Chances are, if you’ve ever wanted to overcome a challenge in your life, you have this song somewhere in the bowels of your music collection, and it’s probably thanks to Rocky that you associate it with achieving success. It’s interesting to wonder if this song would have been quite as popular if it had never been in the movie; luckily, it’s not something we need worry about.


Twist and Shout (The Beatles) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off



The vest definitely screams

What better way to celebrate the best day off ever than inspiring a city full of people to get down by lip-synching and dancing to Twist and Shout by the Beatles?

In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, our title character is the quintessential lovable bad-boy. He excels at getting in trouble and pushing his luck with ever grander gestures, but he doesn’t just do it for himself: he loves to make people happy as well. And this song is the perfect way to do it. Even construction workers and window washers can’t help but get their grooves on when they hear this song ringing through the streets!


Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf) in Easy Rider



True nature’s child, indeed!

No other song has ever captured what it’s like to ride a motorcycle on the open road like Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf. So it’s fitting that a movie about, well, riding motorcycles on the open road would be set to this song.

The 60’s in America were all about achieving freedom – freedom from oppression, freedom from societal pressures to conform, freedom of love and drugs and music, and the 1969 movie Easy Rider was about freedom as well. The hippies, the rampant drug use, and the communal living explored in this film may be fading or gone, but the song remains, a reminder of what it really means to be free.


Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival) in Forrest Gump



The song that is forever linked with movies about Vietnam.

It’s ironic that we’ve come to associate the anti-war song Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival with patriotism, but that’s just the way things go sometimes.

Regardless of whether or not the song is used as was originally intended by the people who wrote and performed it, it still makes for a great movie rock song. Like with many of the songs on this list you only have to hear the first few bars to get instantly transported into a certain frame of mind, and that’s why movie makers love it. And once again, it’s no surprise that it’s a song associated with underdogs, this time with the people who received little praise or reward for serving their country in times of war.


Welcome To The Jungle (Guns N’ Roses) in Lean on Me



Morgan Freeman is a terrifying even if his only weapon is a megaphone.

The song Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses is the perfect song to capture the essence of an inner city high school before its transformation from an urban jungle into a place of growth and learning by the efforts of principal Joe Clark, played by Morgan Freeman.

Although a high school might not appear to be exactly like a jungle at first glance, the struggles of the students to just survive from one day to the next is very similar to what it’s like surviving in the wilderness, and the song captures that struggle and fear perfectly.


War [What Is It Good For] (Edwin Starr) in Small Soldiers



We never looked at toys the same way again.

War (What Is It Good For) by Edwin Starr is another one of those songs that ends up being associated with wars in movies, even though it’s meant to be anti-war. It’s also another rock song that’s perfectly suited for use in movie soundtracks.

Okay, so in the case of Small Soldiers, it’s a war between toys that have implanted microchips that make them come to life and the unfortunate owners of said toys, but it’s war nonetheless, and frankly still pretty terrifying. The music really drives the point home for us. Imagine what it would have been like if they’d used I Feel Pretty in the soundtrack instead. Now you know why awesome rock songs are so important for making movies awesome.

Emma Larkins is a freelance writer. To learn more about her work, follow her on Twitter or check out her blog.

Written by Emma Larkins – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.net

Image Sources

Image sources:

  • – We Will Rock You (Queen) in The Mighty Ducks: http://bluelinestation.com/files/2011/03/MightyDucks3.jpg
  • – Bad to the Bone (George Thorogood and the Destroyers) in Terminator 2: http://lanternhollow.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/terminator2-blu-ray.jpg
  • – Eye of the Tiger (Survivor) in Rocky: http://nighthawknews.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/rocky06.jpg
  • – Twist and Shout (The Beatles) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: http://buzzworthy.mtv.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/ferris.jpg
  • – Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf) in Easy Rider: http://www.mrzip66.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/easy_rider_peter_dennis_and_jack_on_cycles.jpg
  • – Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival) in Forrest Gump: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/comparisons/comparisons/e_g/forrestgump/forrestgump_us1.JPG
  • – Welcome To The Jungle (Guns N’ Roses) in Lean on Me: http://www.cerritos.edu/glazor/CIS%20102/Web%20Page%20Summer%202007/leanonme/morganfreeman.jpg
  • – War [What Is It Good For] (Edwin Starr) in Small Soldiers: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_mpJRvQpHWXU/S8lJkDLg2CI/AAAAAAAADsM/wrLO7akbMgg/s1600/MV5BMTk0MTI0OTY5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMDEwODY3._V1._SX475_SY291_.jpg