You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

The 10 Best Original Movie Songs of the 21st Century

From "The Greatest Showman" to "Call Me by Your Name," these original movie tunes are going to be stuck in our heads forever.

Hugh Jackman the Greatest Showman

“The Greatest Showman”

This weekend sees the release of “Hearts Beat Loud,” a winsome new indie about a father (Nick Offerman) and a daughter (Kiersey Clemons) who unexpectedly form a band together during the summer before the kid goes off to college. Riding a poppy, heartfelt soundtrack by Keegan DeWitt (whose songs are brought to life by the actors who sing them), “Hearts Beat Loud” is a nice reminder that movies are a peerlessly effective mechanism for bringing new music into our lives.

With that in mind, here are our picks for the 10 best original songs from the movies of the 21st century.

10. “Montage” (from “Swiss Army Man”)

Pop-pop-corn pop-pop-corn pop-pop-corn pop-pop-corn
pop-pop-corn! pop-pop-corn! pop-pop-corn! pop-pop-corn!

It’s already stuck in your head. This self-referential ear worm — the highlight of the exquisitely strange soundtrack that Manchester Orchestra wrote for Daniels’ exquisitely strange first movie — is dropped right into the middle of “Swiss Army Man,” giving you permission to fall in love with this giddy and grotesque human comedy about a man who befriends a farting corpse. “Montage” is the catchiest, hand-clappiest song you’ll ever hear about two dudes celebrating their bromance while eating the fish they just killed.

9. “Let it Go” (from “Frozen”)

Stockholm Syndrome is a hell of a thing.

8. “Belleville Rendez-vous” (from “The Triplets of Belleville”)

It’s hard to imagine why Sylvain Chomet’s brilliant animated fable wasn’t a bigger hit in the United States — nothing drives American audiences wild like a wordless animated oddity about an old woman venturing into the big city in search of her cyclist grandson (kidnapped by the mafia during the Tour de France), and making friends with a trio of elderly music hall singers from the 1930s. It’s a shame, because this movie has universal appeal, much of which can be heard in the hit song that its title characters supposedly wrote in their heyday. A garbled ode to the pleasures of living life to the fullest, “Belleville Rendez-vous” sounds like it’s being pumped right from the bottom of a pre-war radio. The tune never fails to make your neck bob in place, and one note is enough to suck you write back into Chomet’s watercolor world.

7. “This Is Me” (from “The Greatest Showman”)

Consider this self-esteem anthem a stand-in for all the songs that Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote for “The Greatest Showman,” the circus musical that could. Perfectly pitched between idiocy and genius, “The Greatest Showman” gets by on the charisma of its cast and the brute strength of its ahistorical sincerity, and a show-stopping number like “This Is Me” puts both of those forces on full display. As hard as you try to resist the appeal of a bearded lady rebelling against P.T. Barnum with a song that kinda sounds like it should be pumping through the speakers at your local Walmart, singer Keala Settle manages to sell every note. It isn’t long before the straight-faced silliness of it all starts to feel like more of a feature than a bug. The next thing you know, you’re listening to this jam when you wake up in the morning, you’re running to it at night, and you’re sharing in the unwavering belief that yes — dammit — this is you.

6. “Lose Yourself” (from “8 Mile”)

You ever feel like you need to stop living up here, and start living down here? Eminem does, and this is a song about why. Supposedly written during his downtime on the set of “8 Mile,” “Lose Yourself” takes the autobiographical rage the rapper often puts into his music and channels it into something positive. Already simmering into a rare and unusually aggressive kind of self-affirmation, Eminem’s flow is lifted to new heights by an iconic piano chord, and immortalized by guitar lick that lashes at him with the strength of his demons.

5. “Mystery of Love” (from “Call Me by Your Name”)

The story goes that Luca Guadagnino first asked Sufjan Stevens to narrate this achingly beautiful coming-of-age story, thinking that the folk singer’s brittle whisper might help the movie find the right tone. Stevens declined, opting to write a pair of original songs instead, but “Mystery of Love” is such an expressive ballad that it effectively serves the same function. Delicate and divine (even by Stevens’ unique standards), this airy little ballad floats along with the intimacy of a precious secret that’s only shared between two people. It’s a love song, but also a loss one, flecked with a nostalgia that twists beauty into pain and vice-versa, over and over for as long as you keep playing it on repeat.

4. “Glory” (from “Selma”)

It’s probably inevitable that “Selma,” Ava DuVernay’s stirring historical drama about the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, was capped off with an inspirational song from some of today’s most vital black musicians. But there was no guarantee that the single was going to be a flat-out all-timer, especially after so many other artists have leveraged good intentions towards godawful songwriting. Fortunately for us, DuVernay has a knack for finding the right way to address past wrongs, and the duet she commissioned from Common and John Legend is as powerful and enduring as the film that it follows. Legend’s soulful croon has never sounded more urgent, and Common’s verses cut right to the heart of the matter.

3. “Falling Slowly” (from “Once”)

It’s a good thing that “Falling Slowly” completely slays, because “Once” wouldn’t be much of a movie without it. That isn’t to say that John Carney’s delicate, scruffy, over-achieving musical isn’t buoyed by a raft of other charms, but rather to acknowledge just how crucial the Oscar-winning song is to the story that forms around it. The bit where Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova perform the straining ballad makes for the film’s most important scene — it’s a meet-cute, a cry for help, and a flickering belief in a brighter future all in one. It packs a lifetime of heartache and hope into just a few short minutes.

2. “Into the West” (from “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”)

Even for a total legend like Annie Lennox, it can’t have been an easy task to deliver a six-minute song that captures the full sweep of a 600-minute saga. And yet, the Oscar-winning “Into the West” does exactly that. Channeling the bittersweet tenderness of the film’s last moments (as opposed the bombast of the epic adventure that came before them), Lennox unleashes a ballad that aches with the exhaustion of what’s come before it, and stares clear-eyed into the uncertain future that still awaits those left behind.

1. “Young and Beautiful” (from “The Great Gatsby”)

It’s rare for a truly great song to originate on a movie soundtrack, but it still happens frequently enough that we felt compelled to cobble together this list. On the other hand, it’s almost unheard of for a mega-popular artist to donate the best song she’s ever recorded to an OST. Such is the generosity of Lana Del Rey, whose “Young and Beautiful” both crystallizes the wild melancholy of Baz Luhrmann’s modernized riff on the Great American Novel, and epitomizes the forlorn head-rush that flows through all of Del Rey’s music.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged ,