10 Most Famous Movie Theme Songs

Friday, February 4 by Frank Mucci

Our list of the ten most famous movie theme songs covers a period of more than 50 years of cinema and includes popular hits as well as songs written specifically for the films that made them famous. It is impossible to go through this list without humming at least a few bars of each of these tunes.

  1. "Over the Rainbow" – "The Wizard of Oz." Perhaps the most performed tune in film history tops our list of ten famous movie theme songs. Sung by Judy Garland in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz,” “Over the Rainbow” has withstood more than ten decades to remain one of the most beloved songs of all time.
  2. "Main Theme from Star Wars" – "Star Wars." “Star Wars, Nothing but Star Wars, Gimme those Star Wars, Don’t let them end.” So warbles Bill Murray as Nick the Lounge Singer on “Saturday Night Live.” But the “Main Theme from Star Wars”—the next entry on our list of most famous movie theme songs—is purely instrumental and comes from five-time Oscar winner, John Williams.
  3. "Theme from Indiana Jones" – "Indiana Jones." It’s John Williams again with the “Theme from Indiana Jones,” one of the most recognizable movie songs of all time. It is impossible to hear this one without joining in with the only words anyone has ever sung to it: “Da-d-d-da, da-d-da!”
  4. "Theme from Jaws" – "Jaws." “Duh-dum, Duh-dum, Duh-dum, Duh-dum, Duh-dum, Duh-dum.” John Williams makes his third appearance on our list of famous movie theme songs with this heart-pounding composition that serves as sufficient warning to viewers that “Jaws” is coming.
  5. "As Time Goes By" – "Casablanca." Next on our list of ten famous movie themes is the song partly responsible for one of the most misquoted movie lines of all time. Humphrey Bogart never does say “Play it again Sam,” but the number Sam plays again and again in the film “Casablanca” is the beautiful “As Time Goes By.”
  6. "White Christmas" – "White Christmas." Although this Irving Berlin tune made its debut in the movie “Holiday Inn,” it is another Bing Crosby film that bears its name. Crosby’s recording of “White Christmas” is the best-selling single of all time earning it as opt on our list of most famous movie songs.
  7. "Theme from Shaft" – "Shaft." Without this classic, which became a hit for Isaac Hayes, we would never have been treated to some of the greatest lyrics in music history: “This cat Shaft is a bad mother (shut yo’ mouth!).” That alone earns the “Theme from Shaft” a spot on our list of the ten most famous movie theme songs of all time.
  8. "Born to be Wild" – "Easy Rider." “Born to be Wild”—the perfect biker anthem from the rebellious 60's—was a major hit for Steppenwolf and ranks among the most famous movie theme songs of all time. If this high-powered tune from “Easy Rider” doesn’t “get your motor running,” you may be dead.
  9. "Oh, Pretty Woman" – "Pretty Woman." This song was made famous many years before it ever hit the Silver Screen. A big hit for the incomparable Roy Orbison in 1964, “Oh, Pretty Woman” was resurrected in 1990 as the theme song of the Richard Gere/Julia Roberts film “Pretty Woman.”
  10. "Tara’s Theme" – "Gone with the Wind." The final entry on our list of famous movie theme songs comes from one of the greatest and most celebrated films of all time.  Max Steiner’s score includes Tara’s Theme which opens the film with the words “Gone with the Wind” breezing across the screen.
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