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Top 50 Cover Songs from Movies

From Aimee Mann to Wilco, these are the songs that didn't remain the same

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    Say Anything has “In Your Eyes”, Goodfellas has “Layla”, Apocalypse Now has “The End”, and Fight Club has “Where Is My Mind”. These are established truths. But a cover song in a movie is different. It can actually elevate the drama — ascribing meaning and sentiment to the music being played. All of a sudden this song that we’re pretty sure we’ve heard before is chewing the scenery and the actors fade into the background.

    All too often, the cover song is tailor-made for the movie itself. If you recall the ’90s, countless covers were contributed to movies just to fulfill some bureaucratic record contract quota, which is why you saw all kind of questionable punkska, and nu metal covers padding out these soundtracks and bands’ setlists. Ahead, you’ll find songs that (mostly) go beyond contractual obligations and, with the movie, help to carve out a nice little niche for each other in the pop culture canon.

    Keep in mind that there are essentially three kinds of cover songs in this list: songs the movie desperately needed, songs the movie helped make, and songs that transcended the movie altogether. For instance, Hole song might be the only redeemable part of a film, an Eagles song made into a rumba might define scene, and a Neil Diamond cover might just become the quintessential version of the song. So, grab your headphones, heat up some popcorn, and relish these 50 covers.


    50. “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”

    Dumb and Dumber (1994)

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    Performed By: Crash Test Dummies

    Originally By: XTC

    “Peter Pumpkinhead came to town/ Spreading wisdom and cash around,” or so the story tells us. Fans of classic Farrelly Brothers comedy Dumb and Dumber know that dimwitted Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas also came to Aspen dropping Benjamins. As far as wisdom, eh, they’ll have to write you an IOU. However, one thing we do know for sure is the filmmakers were wise to invite the cover-friendly Crash Test Dummies along for arguably the stupidest road trip in film history. They chop a verse from XTC’s original hit from two years prior, but keep the song’s ironic spirit intact. Most memorably, backup Dummies vocalist Ellen Reid sings lead – with Brad Roberts’ three-testicle baritone surfacing on choruses — and absolutely smashes it. There was such hope for the single that Jeff Daniels even reprised his role as Harry in the music video, which relates Peter’s story. Whether it’s XTC or CTD, it’s fair to say that we like this song a lot. –Matt Melis


    49. “Desolation Row”

    Watchmen (2009)

    Performed By: My Chemical Romance

    Originally By: Bob Dylan

    In a film full of musical choices both pitch-perfect (“The Times They Are A Changin'” over the world-setting prologue) and highly suspect (slow humping to Leonard Cohen!), My Chemical Romance’s cover of another Dylan classic sits somewhere squarely between the two. Yet for whatever you might have to say about Zach Snyder’s interpretation of the medium-defining graphic novel, it’s hard to say that the furious opening riffs of this modern update aren’t immensely satisfying over the final image of Rorschach’s journal, waiting to destroy the false new social order that the titular group of heroes chose to leave in their wake. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    48. “Mustang Sally”

    The Commitments (1991)

    Performed By: The Commitments

    Originally By: Mack Rice

    Before there was Sing Street, there was The Commitments. Back in 1991, Alan Parker’s Irish-British-American musical comedy was one of the hippest movies around. For nearly two hours, you could escape overseas and hang out with larger-than-life characters like Deco Cuffe, Outspan Foster, or Jimmy Rabbitte as they got their shit together to create great music. They were a total mess, but that’s what made their story so intriguing. They were a bunch of local losers trying their darnedest to be, as Rabbitte later says, “the hardest-workin’ band in the world.” That “try” fuels their Robert Palmer-esque cover of “Mustang Sally”, a bluesy culmination of all their sweat, energy, and emotion, the likes of which are led by Andrew Strong’s Kentucky bourbon-glazed vocals and Glen Hansard’s silver licks. Ah, who are we kidding, this movie’s still hip as hell. –Michael Roffman


    47. “Any Major Dude Will Tell You”

    Me, Myself, & Irene (2000)

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    Performed By: Wilco

    Originally By: Steely Dan

    Packed with ’90s radio mainstays – from Third Eye Blind to Hootie & The Blowfish – the soundtrack to Me, Myself & Irene seems no different from any other early Farrelly Brothers movie. But like the film itself, there’s a disarming pathos beneath the surface, mainly in the form of eight–count ’em, eight–Steely Dan covers. Unsurprisingly, Wilco best pulls off the Dan’s sugar-coated subversiveness with their take on “Any Major Dude Will Tell You”, most likely due to their own experience with burying weird-ass lyrics beneath laid back arrangements. The flirting organs of Leroy Bach and the late Jay Bennett allow lines like “Have you ever seen a squonk’s tears?” to go down like honey. It’s a lawnchair gem that would fit in on any of the band’s last three albums. –Dan Caffrey


    46. “Sweet Child o’ Mine”

    Big Daddy (1999)

    Performed By: Sheryl Crow

    Originally By: Guns N’ Roses

    Big Daddy is hardly a movie. Have you watched it recently? The whole thing plays out like an extended music video; or rather, a string of vignettes taped together by popular FM hits from that era and the years prior. It’s a direct bi-product of the TRL Generation, and there isn’t a single frame of the film that suggests it’s anywhere but 1999. All things considered, there are a few gems on the soundtrack — from Garbage’s “When I Grow Up” to Big Audio Dynamite’s “Rush — but the most memorable takeaway is Sheryl Crow’s inspired cover of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine”. Gone is any trace of the song ever being a hard rock anthem and in its place is a sunny country ballad that fits snugly in Crow’s oeuvre. Today, she sings it better than Axl Rose and we’re okay with that. –Michael Roffman


    45. “Did You Ever See A Dream Walking”

    Lady in White (1988)

    Performed By: Bing Crosby

    Originally By: Art Jarret

    Many scary movies associate their ghost or murderer with a popular song. A Stir Of Echoes had “Paint It Black”, Halloween II used “Mr. Sandman”, and you can guess what tune popped up in Jeepers Creepers. But the most unnerving instance of musical terror belongs to Lady In White, a little-seen, coming-of-age/horror tale starring an adolescent Lukas Haas. I won’t spoil exactly how the song comes into play here, but opting for Bing Crosby’s take of “Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?” over Art Jarrett’s initial version was a smart move on the filmmaker’s part. Whereas Jarrett’s rendition seems like the logical choice with its tinny, melancholy tone, Uncle Bing’s fireside baritone is downright cheery, providing eerie juxtaposition to the events onscreen. –Dan Caffrey 


    44. “Easy”

    Baby Driver (2017)

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    Performed By: Sky Ferreira

    Originally By: The Commodores

    For all of the killer tracks on display throughout Edgar Wright’s exercise in kickass songs and flawless action choreography, it’s one of the sweetest songs that also ends up mattering most. Baby might have a lot of mixes, but it’s the golden-edged tape with “Mom” scrawled on the site that he’d put his life in danger to recover: a lilting take on “Easy” by his deceased mother (ahem, Sky Ferreira). Not everything goes the way Baby would hope by film’s end, but through it all, he’s still easy like Sunday morning. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    43. “Such Great Heights”

    Garden State (2004)

    Performed By:  Iron & Wine

    Originally By: The Postal Service

    The already-precious “Such Great Heights” is made rice-paper fragile by Sam Beam for the one soundtrack that had youths everywhere confusing privileged disaffection with clinical depression. Nevertheless, the whisper of Beam on the wind turns a bubbly digi-love song into an intimate ballad. This isn’t the one that will “change your life”, but it’s now the marquee song for visiting your childhood home, staring at the artifacts of your past, and thinking about how it all used to be so goddamn simple. –Jeremy D. Larson


    42. “Gold Dust Woman”

    The Crow: City of Angels (1996)

    Performed By: Hole

    Originally By: Fleetwood Mac

    Look, there never should have been a sequel to The Crow. But, you can’t argue that City of Angels director Tim Pope didn’t at least try to do something different with James O’Barr’s gothic graphic novel. His grimy 1996 sequel turns Los Angeles into a bone-dry, urine-colored shithole, a far cry from the stormy, slippery Detroit that Alex Proyas conceived of two years prior. Still, the similarities were obvious, especially the sequel’s attempt to capture the magic of its predecessor’s soundtrack, and to its credit, the film comes dangerously close. PJ Harvey, Iggy Pop, Deftones, White Zombie, Bush, and Filter all contribute admirable tracks, though the real standout was Hole’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman”. Coming off of Live Through This, Courtney Love brings her fuck you attitude front and center, turning the classic rock hit into a grunge-y stomper. Purists be damned, but it’s exactly the type of song you want to hear if you’re avenging the death of your son on All Saints’ Day. –Michael Roffman

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    41. “Degenerated”

    Airheads (1994)

    Performed By: The Lone Rangers

    Originally By: Reagan Youth

    Sometimes a song makes a movie. And sometimes a song is the movie. Just imagine an Airheads where Chazz, Rex, and Pip spin their Long Rangers demo on air for all the guppies listening to Ian the Shark and it actually is just Pip farting on a snare drum. Even Milo would have to agree the three (not to mention the movie) would each look like half a butt puppet (so, um, one and a half butt puppets). Luckily, the film’s creative team opted to re-record “Degenerated”, an early ‘80s punk song by hardcore band Reagan Youth. No, that’s White Zombie, not Pip and Rex, backing Brendan Fraser on vocals, but the results are some first-class mid-‘90s “powerslop” (not that we like to label things) that could pass as a legit demo and, more importantly, get heads banging. While the song turned out well for both Airheads and The Lone Rangers, you gotta wonder if Kayla will ever catch on that Chazz totally didn’t write this for her. –Matt Melis


    40. “Against All Odds”

    Wicker Park (2004)

    Performed By: The Postal Service

    Originally By: Phil Collins

    Wicker Park was a mind-numbing, self-important blowhard of a romance film, with none of the depth or nuance it thought it was portraying. This sort of over-the-top melodrama doesn’t work in film. Two places it does work? In Phil Collins’ songs and in Ben Gibbard’s vocal delivery. Both of these environments are made better by unabashed melodrama, and it’s why The Postal Service’s fractured cover of the Collins song “Against All Odds” is an All-Time Best Breakup in the Pouring Rain song. Jimmy Tamborello is the perfect choice to reinterpret Collins work for the ’00s, as his sense of arrangement is at once an homage, an update, and a reinterpretation. Wicker Park may have been nigh unwatchable, but the pocket soap opera of “Against All Odds” was and remains listenable. –Chris Bosman


    39. “Please Send Me Someone To Love”

    Philadelphia (1993)

    Performed By: Sade

    Originally By: Percy Mayfield

    By the time Sade released this loping R&B version of “Please Send Me Someone To Love” in ‘93, it had been too long. A great update of Percy Mayfield’s 1950 ballad hadn’t been done since a ’57 take by the Moonglows. Sure, Sade’s cover isn’t necessarily the standout on this soundtrack, considering the Springsteen opener “Streets of Philadelphia”. But god damn if these vocals aren’t worth a press of the repeat button. At her subtlest troughs here, Sade can be buried by the swat of a brush on a snare drum. It almost turns the song’s original yearning sentiment around, making her sound resigned, to the point she’s accepted there’s no one worth her time. –Dale Eisinger


    38. “Everybody’s Talkin”

    Midnight Cowboy (1969)

    Performed By: Harry Nilsson

    Originally By: Fred Neil

    By 1967, Harry Nilsson had written dozens of excellent pop songs that were under-appreciated or totally ignored by commercial audiences. It wasn’t until his cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” was chosen as the theme song to Midnight Cowboy that Nilsson became a household name. His graceful voice suits the song’s melody, and the way he mimes a harmonica during the wordless refrain is signature Nilsson. –Jon Hadusek


    37. “Superstar”

    Juno (2007)

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    Performed By: Sonic Youth

    Originally By: The Carpenters

    Sonic Youth contributed a soft cover of The Carpenters’ “Superstar” for Juno, which was a little shift from the textured white noise they’ve been known to produce over the past 30 years. Compare Thurston Moore’s rasp to the clarity of Karen Carpenter’s belt on the original. This is the introduction to Sonic Youth for both Juno and many real-life teenagers who are watching Juno. Juno and the soon-to-be adoptive father of her child, Mark, share a moment while the bass-heady “Superstar” is cranked up to full ear-shattering volume, reminiscent of many of our own first experiences listening to Thurston and Kim. I assume Mark and Juno later went out and bought Goo, as did everyone who saw this movie. –Paula Mejia


    36. “Hotel California”

    The Big Lebowski (1998)

    Performed By: The Gipsy Kings

    Originally By: The Eagles

    An unusual thing about The Big Lebowski is that its protagonist, The Dude, (or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) explicitly voices his own unwavering hatred for The Eagles. So it’s fitting that Jesus Quintana, one of the film’s more colorful villains (and known pederast), is introduced with a high-tempo, bilingual, flamenco version of “Hotel California”. The Gipsy Kings’ take on the sometimes lovely, often bizarre trappings of an inescapable Los Angeles lifestyle sets the tone for The Dude’s off-kilter odyssey through La La Land. The movie’s hero may have never located his missing rug, but the Coen Brothers managed to find the perfect tune to enlighten their audience of the strange journey that lies ahead. Then again, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, my opinion, man. –Dan Pfleegor


    35. “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

    The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009)

    Performed By: Broken Social Scene

    Originally By: Joy Division

    Some may have seen The Time Traveler’s Wife in the theater (hi mom), while others might have needed a 102-degree fever and a suspended Netflix account (cough), but either way, it’s totally not weird to point out the emotion involved when the time traveling guy lands at his own wedding just in time to dance with Rachel McAdams. Combining this with the realization that Broken Social Scene is the wedding band, and it’s all enough to make any guy spill his Campbell’s Chunky. Covering Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” makes partial sense (really, it was time traveling that was tearing love apart and Ween never wrote that song), but BSS deliver it as a heart-on-their-sleeve piano ballad that stands on its own merits, complete with horns, strings, and Kevin Drew’s spot-on Dracula impression. Let’s agree, though, that Broken Social Scene is the only wedding band ever allowed to play “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, at least if you want to receive your full night’s pay. –Philip Cosores


    34. “Mrs. Robinson”

    Wayne’s World 2 (1993)

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    Performed By: The Lemonheads

    Originally By: Simon & Garfunkel

    Simon & Garfunkel’s version in The Graduate is about as iconic as a song/movie relationship can get. And though it became one of The Lemonheads’ few alternative radio hits, the 1992 cover of “Mrs. Robinson” may be best remembered for its role in Wayne’s World 2. In the movie, both versions are featured side by side in a climax that spoofs The Graduate, with The Lemonheads’ take somehow standing up to a former No. 1 single and Record of the Year Grammy winner. The song does little to change the original’s core, and is surprisingly tasteful in its addition of crunchy distortion, up-tempo rock drumming, and occasional loose guitar noodling. Decades later, the song is as much a part of The Lemonheads’ legacy as Evan Dando’s greasy hair, but many will simply remember it as the moment where Wayne and Cassandra live happily ever after. –Philip Cosores


    33. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”

    Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

    Performed By: Santa Esmarelda

    Originally By: The Animals

    The Latin backbone of The Animals’ version made it ripe for disco-fying by Santa Esmeralda, but only Tarantino could use those claps and horns to build Hattori-Hanzo-sharp tension for a Samurai sword fight. Sure, the soundtrack version is a full 10 minutes, but those two used during that final showdown between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii are enough to get the blood pumping through your aorta. –Ben Kaye


    32. “Hey Jude”

    The Royal Tenenbams (2001)

    Performed By: Mutato Muzika Orchestra

    Originally By: The Beatles

    If Alec Baldwin’s stoic narration doesn’t pull you into Wes Anderson’s star-studded signature film, the Mutato Muzika Orchestra’s (of L.A.’s Mutato Muzika music production company, with which the director frequently works) largely instrumental take on The Beatles’ 1968 ballad is sure to do the job. The aesthetic and cast of characters is so absorbing that the sheer awesomeness of the song’s presence in this sequence doesn’t fully materialize until the “na-na-na na”s of this orchestral take on the Lennon-McCartney gem finally erupt, easily extracting emotion, despite only using two of the song’s actual lyrics: “Hey Jude”. –Amanda Koellner

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    31. “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”

    American Beauty (1999)

    Performed By: Annie Lennox

    Originally By: Neil Young

    Annie Lennox turns Neil Young’s cathartic song into a seductive slow-burn — perfect for American Beauty’s equally seductive climax during which 16-year-old Angela Hayes and 42-year-old Lester Burnham finally embrace. The down side: After watching this scene, “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” will forever remind you of Kevin Spacey committing statutory rape. –Jon Hadusek


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