Top 20 Greatest Movie Love Songs

RELATED VIDEOS

Share

Top 20 Greatest Movie Love Songs

VOICE OVER: Kirsten Ria Squibb WRITTEN BY: B Stevenson & Tiffany Ezuma
We'll always associate these love songs with cinema. For this list, we'll be looking at romantic songs used in films that make for iconic moments and pull at our heartstrings. Our countdown includes “She's All That,” “Pretty Woman," “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” and more!
Transcript

Top 20 Love Songs in Movies


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Love Songs in Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at romantic songs used in films that make for iconic moments and pull at our heartstrings. However, the song must be in the movie itself and not just the soundtrack. Also, we’ll be excluding Disney movies and scenes where one character plays the song themselves in a direct serenade.

Which of these tunes is your one and only? Let us know in the comments below!

#20: “When You Say Nothing at All” by Ronan Keating
“Notting Hill” (1999)


The Irish singer-songwriter recorded a version of this song for the film soundtrack, and later released it as part of his first solo album. It highlights a particularly swoon-worthy moment when Anna and Will hop a fence and enjoy a romantic nighttime stroll. The scene has particular importance, since it introduces us to the spot that the reunited couple will return to at the end of the movie. But this isn’t the only iconic musical moment from this charming rom-com. A cover of Charles Azvanour’s “She” by Elvis Costello is heard over both the opening credits and the film’s very last scene.

#19: “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer
“She’s All That” (1999)


Performed by the American pop rock band, this song functions as the theme for the teen romantic comedy “She’s All That.” Partly because of this, it reached number two on the U.S. charts. The song highlights two important, though very different, scenes in the movie. The first is Laney’s dramatic visual transformation from social outcast to prom queen in training. We get to hear the song once again in the film’s final moments, when Zack honors his embarrassing bet at their graduation ceremony. With romantic lyrics about sharing a moonlit smooch, the tender tune perfectly captures the burgeoning feelings between the pair. Plus, it carries some serious ‘90s nostalgia.

#18: “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows
“Shrek 2” (2004)


Written for this animated comedy’s second sequence, this song makes for an incredibly uplifting introduction. To boot, it provides an effective summary of Shrek and Fiona’s unconventional love story since the first movie. Soundtracking a montage of the couple’s honeymoon, the tune manages to suit moments as diverse as casting wedding rings and fighting angry villagers. Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz struggled with writer’s block while coming up with the track, but used his own life experience to shape the angle. It clearly worked out, with “Accidentally in Love” nabbing an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

#17: “Kissing You” by Des’ree
“Romeo + Juliet” (1996)


This song was written by British singer Des’ree and Timothy Atack for this retelling of Shakespeare’s classic tale. It features unforgettably in a pivotal and beautiful scene in Baz Luhrmann’s romantic crime tragedy. While attending a Capulet party on a mind-altering substance, Romeo becomes transfixed by an aquarium full of fish. Des’ree herself actually appears in the film, performing the tune as Romeo’s eyes meet Juliet’s through the glass. The R&B ballad features sparse instrumentation, but its dramatic strings convey plenty of emotion. The love theme fits the film’s romantic tone, but also its characteristic, epic scale.

#16: “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” by Iron & Wine
“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” (2011)


It’s the moment that “Twilight” fans and the characters alike had been eagerly awaiting — Bella and Edward’s wedding in the first part of the “Breaking Dawn” film adaptation. There’s no better soundtrack for the moment that our heroine weds her one true love than Iron & Wine’s tender acoustic ballad. The moment is particularly powerful, since attentive fans will remember this song from before. In fact, it plays during the couple’s prom dance at the end of “Twilight.” For setting a gentle and heartwarming tone but also bringing thematic continuity to the series, this song is an indelible part of the franchise.

#15: “I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers
“Benny & Joon” (1993)


This song is instantly recognizable for its unique lyrics and catchy hook. Given its popularity, it’s remarkable that “Benny & Joon” actually had a significant role in introducing the song to U.S. audiences. In fact, some five years after its initial release, the tune rose to number 3 on the “Billboard” Hot 100. With lyrics about an epic display of love, it foreshadows the touching love that will grow between Johnny Depp’s Sam and Mary Stuart Masterson’s Joon. On top of that, the rowdy song playing while Joon paints a huge canvas is an unforgettable marriage of image and sound.

#14: “Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship
“Mannequin” (1987)


This song was co-written by the hugely prolific songwriter Diane Warren. Unsurprisingly, it topped the U.S. charts and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. The power ballad is the theme to “Mannequin,” and plays during the final scene and into the end credits. With an epic and triumphant tone, it perfectly suits the film’s finale. Emmy the mannequin had previously been alive only to the artistically-minded window dresser Jonathan. Finally, though, she’s granted permanent life as she finds true love. And fittingly, the happy couple’s wedding takes place in the store window.

#13: “It Must've Been Love” by Roxette
“Pretty Woman” (1990)


Heartbreak has never looked so good or sounded as sweet as it does with this romantic song and scene. Touchstone Pictures asked the duo to contribute a song to the film’s soundtrack. Despite the fact that it was originally written as a Christmas song and released as such in Roxette’s native Sweden, we’re glad they picked this one to redo and re-release. The new version became the mournful tune we hear when Vivian, played by a young Julia Roberts, leaves Edward, played by the dashing Richard Gere. Beautifully acted and shot, we’re able to feel the characters’ regrets as the heartbreaking lyrics wash over the scene. Meanwhile, the sense of longing is powerful, making viewers root even harder for the couple’s reunion.

#12: “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey
“The Great Gatsby” (2013)


This song was written by Lana Del Rey and Rick Nowels for the 2013 film interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s much-loved novel. The pop star delivers almost ghostly vocals, with the lyrics both affirming her romantic commitment and wondering how long her love will last. The tune plays during a particularly happy sequence between Gatsby and Daisy, but its tone doesn’t necessarily suggest a happily ever after for the lovers. The track was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media, and if you ask us, it would’ve been a worthy recipient.

#11: “Secret Garden” by Bruce Springsteen
“Jerry Maguire” (1996)


It’s not one moment in “Jerry Maguire” that makes this song stand out, but it’s the song’s gentle and steady presence throughout the majority of the film that makes the soft rock tune so memorable. Just like Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics, Jerry Maguire, played by Tom Cruise, is a closed-off character that is afraid of love. But that changes as he falls in love with Dorothy Boyd, played by a vulnerable Renée Zellweger. The song first came out in 1995, but director Cameron Crowe knew it was perfect for the film once he heard it on one of Springsteen’s greatest hits CDs. Due to the popularity of the film and soundtrack, the tune found itself back into the top 20 of the music charts the next year.

#10: “I Don't Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith
“Armageddon” (1998)


Sometimes it takes a cataclysmic event to bring two lovers together. Grace and A.J., portrayed by Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck, share one of the film’s sweetest moments as the driller operator uses an animal cracker to express his feelings for her. His actions are somehow both sexy and silly as he slides the biscuit down her abdomen. And coupled with the earnest and raw emotion of Steven Tyler’s voice, the scene more than works. The power ballad captures the themes of the film, of wanting to see all of life’s moments with loved ones, no matter how small they may be. The love tune debuted at number one on Billboard Hot 100, and remains Aerosmith’s biggest hit to date.

#9: “(I've Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
“Dirty Dancing” (1987)


Who hasn’t tried to recreate the iconic lift from this scene? We almost didn’t get to dance to this version of the song or even to this song at all, since a Lionel Richie tune was originally meant to close the film. But lucky for us, the film’s choreographer, Kenny Ortega, chose this now iconic version for Baby and Johnny to dance to. And so at this romantic drama’s end, we find the duo expressing their love through dance to the infectious vocals of Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, which creates the jubilant feeling of love captured on-screen. It’s the exact opposite feeling that came with the couple’s earlier split to Swayze’s ballad, “She’s Like the Wind,” which rips them apart. We’re glad things ended this way instead.

#8: “As Time Goes By” by Dooley Wilson
“Casablanca” (1942)


It’s one of the most famous love themes from one of the most acclaimed movies of all time. Dooley Wilson performs the song in “Casablanca” as Sam, the pianist at Rick’s Café Américain, after Ilsa, a passionate young woman played by Ingrid Bergman, requests it. Upon hearing the forbidden song, Humphrey Bogart’s Rick is stunned to find his former lover in his bar. Originally written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931, the song takes on a deeper meaning with the scene’s twist, and we’re instantly swept up into the couple’s love story. With lyrics as fundamental and true as “a kiss is just a kiss/a sigh is just a sigh,” it’s no surprise this song has stood the test of time.

#7: “Moon River” by Audrey Hepburn
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)


This may not be a love song in the most traditional sense of the term. However, the ode to wanderlust boasts a wistful, romantic tone and paints a picture of “two drifters off to see the world.” The number won the Academy Award for Best Original Song as well as two Grammys following its performance in the film by Hepburn. It’s placed during an intimate moment, as Holly Golightly’s neighbor Paul finds her on the fire escape, quietly strumming a guitar and singing to herself. Given the song’s themes, it’s not only suited to Holly’s character arc, but also to the chemistry brewing between the pair.

#6: “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers
“Ghost” (1990)


Perhaps one of the sexiest scenes in cinema ever, the on-screen action here would be severely lacking without the Righteous Brothers’ version of this song playing in the background. Recorded by the musical duo in 1965, “Unchained Melody” probably wasn’t playing on every radio station in 1990 when the movie came out. But thanks the perfect pairing of the pottery-making-turned-steamy-sex-session between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore’s characters, this blue-eyed soul number saw its popularity increase once more. With the yearning of the lyrics and the soaring vocals, it perfectly complements the undeniable emotional and sexual connection between the two characters.

#5: “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
“An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982)


In the final scene of this romantic drama, an instrumental rendition of this song transitions seamlessly into the version with vocals as the end credits roll. Even though we don’t hear the words during the film’s final moments, we don’t need to. The soaring melody does all the talking, with Richard Gere’s Zack Mayo and Debra Winger’s Paula Pokrifki in a celebratory mood. With Zack finally having earned the respect of his tough-as-nails Navy superior, he has a romantic surprise for Paula at her factory job. He scoops her up and carries her out, with her colleagues applauding in support. It’s an iconic movie moment, and it wouldn’t be the same without this song.

#4: “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls
“City of Angels” (1998)


This band’s signature song was originally written for this romantic fantasy film. The movie follows an angel named Seth, played by Nicolas Cage, who falls for a compassionate and hardworking surgeon. After he willingly falls from grace to be a part of her mortal life, he’s stuck trying to track her down, and “Iris” plays as he finally nears his destination. Songwriter John Rzeznik based the lyrics on Cage’s character and the idea of giving up eternal life to be truly loved. The emotional power ballad provides the perfect lead-up to the characters’ reunion at a Lake Tahoe cabin.

#3: “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel
“Say Anything…” (1989)


This was the moment etched into every teen girl’s memory: John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler standing underneath Diane’s window, holding his boombox above his head with this song playing. Lloyd uses the beautiful song to make the grand “I want you back” gesture - and to remind her of their first time. The scene is simple and understated, with uncertainty on Lloyd’s face as he waits for Diane’s response. You can almost feel his heart breaking as he waits in anticipation while we simultaneously watch how conflicted Diane is as she listens to the song while lying in bed. Peter Gabriel first released the song in 1986, but its use in this Cameron Crowe film took it to new heights, allowing it to become one of the ultimate declarations of love.

#2: “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin
“Top Gun” (1986)


Tom Cruise’s Maverick met his match when he fell in love with Charlie, the flight school instructor played by Kelly McGillis. Brash and somewhat reckless, Maverick and Charlie bumped heads throughout the movie as they fell in love. But eventually, both threw away their pride as they consummated their relationship to this breathless power ballad, which is a love theme as vivid and bold as their relationship. The film made the song a number one hit on multiple charts around the world, and won both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. You can always count on Berlin to take your breath away.

#1: “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
“The Bodyguard” (1992)


This romantic classic plays during the final scene in the film, during which Whitney Houston’s Rachel, a high-profile pop star, is saying her final goodbyes to Kevin Costner’s Frank, her bodyguard, only to stop the plane and give him one final kiss. Their last embrace is nothing short of epic and feels like the bittersweet, but appropriate ending for these two. The song starts off soft and gentle, but just like the couple’s love for one another, it gets deeper and stronger as it goes on. Houston’s soaring vocals helped make this one of the best-selling film soundtracks of all-time with more than 45 million records sold. “The Bodyguard” might have been Houston’s debut role, but this musical theme on love will remain the performance of a lifetime.
Comments