10 of the best tracks brought back to life by movies and TV shows

Peaky Blinders
(Image credit: BBC)

Music has always been inexorably linked with the world of movies and TV, so much so that it's almost impossible to imagine your favourite films or series without hearing the accompanying tracks or composed score that go with them. Could you really imagine The Lord of the Rings without Howard Shore's peerless accompaniment, or any Tarantino flick without the endlessly enjoyable raft of esoteric needle drops peppered along the way?

As Tarantino himself has shown, a great movie or series can do wonders for the fortunes of a given tune, pulling songs from obscurity or introducing a brand new generation of listeners to the great tracks of old. From Stranger Things and Kate Bush to The Batman and Nirvana, these are the tunes given a new lease of life thanks to the small and big screens.         

  • Check out the full list on Tidal

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird (Kingsman: The Secret Service, 2014) 

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE Movie Clip - Church Massacre |4K ULTRA HD| Colin Firth Action 2014 - YouTube KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE Movie Clip - Church Massacre |4K ULTRA HD| Colin Firth Action 2014 - YouTube
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"Play Freebird" is very much the US's equivalent of encouraging a local pub band to knock out a rendition of Wonderwall in the UK, so it's hardly a song that ever really escaped the collective American consciousness. 

It was, oddly enough, English director Matthew Vaughan who brought the track screeching back into the cultural zeitgeist, introducing a whole new wave of listeners to (some of) the nine-minute epic as, for various exciting reasons, Colin Firth loses his cool and ends up dispatching a church full of worshippers with all the efficiency and brutality of a lawnmower let loose in a miniature petting zoo. 

Once seen, never forgotten, the two will be forever intertwined once you've seen Mr. Darcy going to town on some psychotic churchgoers with a pistol and a big old fire axe. 

By Harry McKerrell

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son (Forrest Gump, 1994)

Forrest Gump Fortunate Son Vietnam Intro [HD] - YouTube Forrest Gump Fortunate Son Vietnam Intro [HD] - YouTube
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The idea that CCR's Fortunate Son has become synonymous with every Vietnam movie ever made has become something of a self-fulfilling parodic prophecy, in that TV and media referencing the track's overuse far outnumber any sincere or down-the-line instances of its use. Fortunate Son is the Vietnam tune within movie lore, and that's just the way it is. 

Perhaps somewhat ironically, it wasn't even a massively Vietnam-centric movie that started the ball rolling in the first place, with the first major use of the CCR banger – complete with shots of impregnable Asian forests and swarms of fluttering US Hueys – coming courtesy of Spielberg's Forrest Gump, before knowing references in media as diverse as American Dad! and Call of Duty: Black Ops tethered the two eternally. 

By Harry McKerrell

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand (Peaky Blinders, 2013-2022)

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Red Right Hand (Peaky Blinders OST) - YouTube Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Red Right Hand (Peaky Blinders OST) - YouTube
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Playing Red Right Hand in the first few seconds of episode one of Peaky Blinders was a stroke of genius. The ominous, brooding, alluring track immediately set the tone for this excellent, stylish and violent period drama about the Shelby crime family and their rising ambitions, complementing the grim, smoke-filled post-war Birmingham setting beautifully. The lyrics accompanying our first glimpse of the respected and feared Tommy Shelby (a terrific Cilliam Murphy) as he rides his horse through the town, being greeted by all manner of people – beggars, preachers and coppers – also hint at his ruthless, calculated nature as he changes his family’s fortunes over the next six seasons.

The BBC TV show’s soaring popularity saw this 1994 track re-released in 2014 and it remains remains one of the most-performed songs whenever the great Aussie bard performs live. As a way to set the tone for the show and characters (not to mention helm a ridiculously cool soundtrack featuring The White Stripes, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Arctic Monkeys and more), Red Right Hand is a killer theme song that’s as much a fabric of the show as the flat caps.

By Kashfia Kabir

Nirvana – Something in the Way (The Batman, 2022)

The Batman 4K HDR | Bruce Wayne's Monologue - Something In the Way - YouTube The Batman 4K HDR | Bruce Wayne's Monologue - Something In the Way - YouTube
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2021’s The Batman is the edgy and gothic interpretation of the character we'd been waiting for since Nolan’s iconic trilogy ended in 2012, and what better way to capitalise on the grungy emo-tastic vibe than to feature a (heavily reworked) Nirvana song throughout; especially as a backing track to Bruce Wayne’s brooding monologue. 

According to the actor himself, Robert Pattinson’s interpretation of the titular hero was even inspired by Kurt Cobain, something which is certainly evident when you watch the film. While it may not be up there with Smells Like Teen Spirit or Come As You Are in terms of exposure and acclaim, Something in The Way was jettisoned back into popularity because of Matt Reeves' brooding superhero flick, quickly becoming synonymous with the caped crusader and perfectly embodying the crime-riddled streets of Gotham and the movie's heavy, dark atmosphere.   

By Lewis Empson

Spacehog – In The Meantime (Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3, 2023)

The Guardians franchise is great for many reasons and one of them is its soundtrack. Quill’s Mixtape which, *spoiler alert*, switches to a Microsoft Zune playlist part way through the series, serves up some absolute bangers from years gone by.

But it’s the third instalment that gives me the full-on nostalgia feels, as our band of intrepid heroes exits their spaceship and floats through space towards Orgocorp to retrieve Rocket’s file. I could barely contain my glee when I heard the ring tone from the few seconds of In the Meantime by Spacehog (which is actually a sample of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra song Telephone and Rubber Band) together with its epic bassline.

I was immediately teleported back to my teens and the mid 90s when the song first burst onto the scene. Think of the track as David Bowie meets 90s grunge and you’re pretty much there. I just wished the scene went on for longer and you could bathe in the song’s drum-thwacking, guitar-slaying crescendo.

A slower, more stripped-back classical sample was also used on the trailer, but you can’t beat the original and the CD single still takes pride of place in my collection.

By Andy Madden

Jim Croce – Time In A Bottle (X-Men: Days of Future Past, 2014) 

There are two superb 'slow-mo' Quicksilver scenes from the modern X-Men franchise and they're both outstandingly well-executed and accompanied by a pair of absolutely belting tunes. While I was tempted to go for the much-viewed Sweet Dreams scene from X-Men: Apocalypse, I've opted for the speedster's slow-mo antics from its predecessor, Days of Future Past.

There are good reasons for doing so. Firstly, it's a better movie overall, and we'd much rather endorse DOFP than the relative mediocrity of Apocalypse. Secondly, it's arguably a more interesting musical choice, a lovely number that deserves to be heard by listeners both as part of a superhero flick and in its own regard. Thirdly, because Eurythmics' biggest hit was already an established classic by the time Apocalypse arrived, whereas Days of Future Past introduced a whole new audience to the world of Jim Croce. No bad thing. 

By Harry McKerrell

Pixies – Where Is My Mind? (Fight Club, 1999)

Best Movie Scene Fight Club Ending Pixies Where is My Mind? - YouTube Best Movie Scene Fight Club Ending Pixies Where is My Mind? - YouTube
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While this Pixies track has been flogged to death in recent times (multiple covers, an AirPods commercial, wrestling entrance theme, countless films and TV shows), it was really its use in David Fincher’s late-90s cult noir film that’s to blame. 

From their 1988 debut album produced by the late, great Steve Albini, this brash, insouciant alternative/surfer rock track with its lazy but melodic guitar hook is now instantly recognisable. Its use in the final scene of Fight Club as the soundtrack to the 'theatre of mass destruction' and over the end credits is an oddly irreverent but upbeat juxtaposition to the explosive mayhem around the two lead characters as they hold hands, the promise of a possible happy ending on the horizon. 

The band has been an inspiration to countless grunge and alt-rock musicians, from Billy Corgan and PJ Harvey to Nirvana, so even if this song now feels overplayed, let’s not forget its genre-defining roots. And let’s be honest, it’s still a banger.

By Kashfia Kabir

Iggy Pop – Lust for Life (Trainspotting, 1996)

Trainspotting | 'Lust for Life' (HD) - Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller | MIRAMAX - YouTube Trainspotting | 'Lust for Life' (HD) - Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller | MIRAMAX - YouTube
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Is there a more recognisable opening in all of British cinema? We won't bore you with the overused 'choose X, Y and Z' spiel (if you're of a certain generation, you'll know it off by heart anyway), but we will say that Trainspotting's gritty yet pulsating opening owes a great deal of its rough, kinetic energy to the stripped-down tones of Iggy Pop's Lust for Life. 

It's a bit of an ironic in-joke considering Renton's philosophy revolves more around injecting Class A drugs than it does about having an irrepressible sense of joie de vivre, but that's all part of the charm. Either way, there's unquestionably a whole generation of viewers who can't hear those opening drum hits without thinking of some skinny Scottish lads gleefully trying to evade the rozzers.       

By Harry McKerrell

Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill (Stranger Things, 2016-)

Max’s Song (Full Scene) | Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill | Stranger Things | Netflix - YouTube Max’s Song (Full Scene) | Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill | Stranger Things | Netflix - YouTube
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We just couldn't avoid putting it in. When you think of tunes revived by popular culture and dragged back into the cultural consciousness by virtue of a brand new generational audience, Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill is the very first track that springs to mind. There's nothing wrong with that, especially from the perspective of a publication that literally devoted a whole playlist to the British icon.

Its recurring use in Stranger Things season four – as Max Mayfield's lifeline and in a heart-stopping battle – brought about a resurgence like no other, with the 1985 song rising to No.1 in the UK and other countries in 2022 as it became a hit with fans of the Netflix show.

In an era where Millennial and Gen Z tastes can be a little questionable (Drake, anyone?), it's been a joy to see the baroque pop excellence of Kate Bush find favour with a whole new audience. Just wait until they get to hear Björk...

By Harry McKerrell and Kashfia Kabir

Smash Mouth – All Star (Shrek, 2001)

Shrek (2001) - Now I'm a Believer Scene (10/10) | Movieclips - YouTube Shrek (2001) - Now I'm a Believer Scene (10/10) | Movieclips - YouTube
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Shrek! Smash Mouth! Early 2000s pop cultural references! It's pure meme heaven. 

Being a DreamWorks production, Shrek veered away from Disney's use of specially penned tunes and opted in the majority for a needle-drop soundtrack – a decision rather in keeping with the movie's proclivity for dropping contemporary pop cultural references into a more traditional fairy tale setting. 

You can't deny that it works, especially in exposing kiddies (and their grateful parents) to fare slightly beyond nursery rhymes and anything they happened to hear on the car radio on the way to school. Beyond Smash Mouth's rendition of The Monkees' classic, Shrek also gave Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah a reworking courtesy of John Cale and, on the official OST, Rufus Wainwright. As if you needed another reason to rewatch it for the 42nd time...

By Harry McKerrell


Discover all of our coverage for this year's Home Cinema Week

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My top tip to test-drive your home cinema system? Put away the movies

18 of the best movies of the 1990s to test your home cinema

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. During his time at the publication, he has written countless news stories alongside features, advice and reviews of products ranging from floorstanding speakers and music streamers to over-ear headphones, wireless earbuds and portable DACs. He has covered launches from hi-fi and consumer tech brands, and major industry events including IFA, High End Munich and, of course, the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or trying to pet strangers' dogs. 

With contributions from
  • Dr-G
    Great article: surely this will also make a great thread!
    I would offer
    Juice Newton - Angel of the morning - Deadpool opening credits
    Francois Hardy - Il Voyage - Killing Eve ep.1
    Gheorghe Zamfir with James Last- Lonely Shepherd - Kill Bill final duel