56. “Never Let Me Go,” from Never Let Me Go
I love this song. I’ve been listening to it for a decade. It’s the title track from the film. It’s meant to be a song from the 50s that Carey Mulligan’s character buys on cassette and listens to over and over. And man, did they get that right. You could swear this is a song that was from the 50s. It’s a beautiful love ballad with just achingly poignant lyrics, especially given the unrequited love her character feels for Andrew Garfield. It’s a really terrific song, one that’s gone very much ignored in the decade since it came out. I think because the movie is so underrated and because people just kind of assume the song actually did exist in the 50s and they just repurposed it for the movie.
57. “Hearts Beat Loud,” from Hearts Beat Loud
In the movie, this is the first song the band (brilliantly titled “We Are Not a Band”) plays, and it becomes sort of the perfect theme for the film. It’s a beautiful song that has shades of the major emotional themes of the film while also just being a really nice moment where a father and daughter make music together.
58. “From Now On,” from The Greatest Showman
I love this song for a lot of reasons. The least of which is that it’s the big song where he realizes, “I’ve been an asshole, and I need to change, and now I’m gonna be better!” And you realize, this dude did some fucked up things in real life. The movie portrays him as a dreamer, but his famous quote is basically how stupid the public is and how willing they are to be conned. So it’s funny to hear this song as some triumphant moment where he finally changes. But anyway, the song is really good. It’s big, it’s catchy, and it’s uplifting. Everyone’s dancing, you get your big finale. It fits the part of the movie it’s meant to be in very well. Plus I love that, in the movie, the song just kind of peters out because everyone got shitfaced and gradually dozed off while singing. That’s pretty awesome.
59. “Suspirium,” from Suspiria
That hypnotic piano riff is just amazing, and then Yorke’s voice is just perfect for this song. Somehow this fits the tone of the film (and that finale) perfectly.
60. “Mighty River,” from Mudbound
It’s just a great song. I’m a sucker for any song that brings a gospel choir into the mix in the final verse.
61. “Happy,” from Despicable Me 2
I mean, of course. How could you not put this song on a list of the best original songs of the past decade? The problem is separating the fact that this song was a #1 hit on like, every radio station for about a year but also technically is an original song from a movie. It was written for Despicable Me 2 and is more memorable than literally everything in that entire movie and its sequel (and the Minions spinoffs, for that matter). It was nominated for an Oscar! It’s hard to rank this higher just because it feels like it fully crossed over into just ‘music’ and isn’t just a ‘film’ song, but I still need to show it the proper respect. It’s a really likable song and just so infectious. It’s hard not to want to groove along with it and it’s hard not to feel better whenever it comes on.
62. “Glasgow (No Place Like Home),” from Wild Rose
This is our most recent song on this list. I mention that only because we’re coming off this year and it’s fresh in my head. And I remember lamenting just a few months ago how weak the crop of songs from 2019 were. And now, having some time to reflect, this song towers above the rest as clearly the best thing written during it. So of course it’s fitting that the song got no Oscar nominations and the film got relegated to the scrap heap, really only getting notice in the UK.
For those who haven’t seen it (and you should, because it turns Jessie Buckley into an immediate star. So when you see her in something in the next two years and think that’s what did it, you’re wrong. It was this), it’s about a Scottish woman who dreams of being a country singer and going to Nashville. So the film is about her trying to be a mother to her kids and also fulfill her dream. And this is the song she sings at the end, when (as the song indicates) she realizes that she’s happy right where she is. And it’s just a beautifully-written song (written by Mary Steenburgen!), and Jessie Buckley absolutely destroys it. That vocal performance really puts it over the top, if you had any doubt that it was a terrific song.
63. “Who Did That to You?” from Django Unchained
This is the best of all the Django songs. And you know it within two notes. It also shows up at the best possible spot within the movie, right as Django blows up the mining company guys and escapes so he can go back and take care of everyone else back on the Candie estate. It’s just a perfect song for that moment and just a great song in general. I heard this before I really knew who John Legend was. I’d heard him as guest vocals on a couple of other tracks I liked, but never really knew who he was (keep in mind I’m like 3-8 years behind on just about all current music). But aside from that, I just loved the song. This was the one of all the Django songs I’d have nominated that year. And I think they submitted four of them.
Mike’s Favorite Original Songs of the Decade: #64 – “Start a Riot,” from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
64. “Start a Riot,” from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Aww yeah. This is my absolute favorite song from this movie. This song is straight fire. The ultimate club ‘get the fuck up’ song. You could play this at any party when it’s really hopping and get everyone totally on board. This song is perfect. You can put this on to get hyped for a workout, or to get your energy up for the day, or if you just wanna go nuts in your car. It’s just an amazing all around song. To me, this is the best thing the Spider-Verse soundtrack’s produced.
65. “Buddy’s Business,” from Brawl in Cell Block 99
Yeah, Buddy. I was all over this song from the minute I heard it over the end credits of this movie. First off… it’s the fucking O’Jays! How amazing is that? Craig Zahler is friends with the O’Jays and just makes music with them. It’s just a wonderful throwback 70s tune that perfectly encapsulates the kind of grindhouse/B-movie type experience the film tries to give you. Not everyone knows about this movie, though anyone who’s been around me the past few years has definitely heard me recommend this. I’ve personally shown this to like five people, all of whom at the end went, “Oh my god, I loved that.” Because it’s just a badass, fun movie. Basically it’s a prison movie. Vince Vaughn ends up in jail, and basically things start to get worse and worse over the course of the film. What’s great about it is that it doesn’t start where you expect, doesn’t always go the route you’d expect, and doesn’t really put him in the ‘prison’ type situation you’d expect him to be in until really the last hour of the movie. But trust me, it’s worth it. The film gets further away from reality as it goes along, and by the time you get to that third act, you’re just all in.
Plus, it’s the only film I’ve seen that fully utilizes Vince Vaughn’s 6’5” frame. They shoot him full frame in this movie, like Fred Astaire, and trust me when I tell you this — you believe he’s going to kick the shit out of anyone he gets his hands on. I can’t say enough great things about this movie, and this song is just an amazing companion piece to it that I love to listen to on its own. But the kicker is when other people hear it, like it, and then I get to talk about how great the movie is on top of it. That’s the total package for me.
66. “I See the Light,” from Tangled
The songs from Tangled are like, good-plus, but nothing all-time memorable. However, this is the closest song that approaches the level of all the other great Disney stuff from all-time. Still not totally as memorable as the others, but in terms of pure songwriting, it can be in that discussion. It’s Alan Menken, so of course it’s well-written. But this is just a beautiful song. This is a song that, for a few years, I kept forgetting how good it was until I went back and heard it again. It’s the best song from Tangled by far, and is really the best song of this entire Disney era of movies, until Frozen (and then Moana). But really, the songs from Tangled are really the only Disney songs worth mentioning since like, Tarazan. (I know Princess and the Frog had songs, but they’re just kind of okay to me.)
67. “Music to My Eyes,” from A Star Is Born
Another Star Is Born. I’m telling you. Get comfy. There’s a lot of them coming. This one I really like because it matches the progression of the narrative. It starts with Bradley Cooper singing the first verse and singing this beautiful love song. And then Gaga just takes over in the second verse, and it’s just perfect. And then they sing together at the end — it’s so good.
Mike’s Favorite Original Songs of the Decade: #68 – “Sunflower,” from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
68. “Sunflower,” from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This is the big hit from the movie. I saw it got nominated for like, legitimate music awards. It’s a great song. Amazing beat, good lyrical flow. It’s just a really nice song. NOT my personal favorite from all the ones in the film, but it’s near the top.
69. “Tightrope,” from The Greatest Showman
The sneaky thing about The Greatest Showman is that most of its best songs are not ones sung by Hugh Jackman. Not that he doesn’t have some good ones, but typically you don’t think of the non-Hugh ones as being any good. Every musical always gives the other characters a number or two, and they always slow everything down and no one really cares. And that’s what I figured I was getting with this one, when they decide to finally pay some attention to Michelle Williams’ character in the latter half of the film. But then you realize, oh no, this song is great. Maybe you don’t necessarily realize it in the moment, but when you hear the song apart from the film, you get it. This song is terrific. It’s kind of separate from the rest of the film, as she is as a character, but it’s a really great song that is much better than you might think it is at first listen.
Mike’s Favorite Original Songs of the Decade: #70 – “I Don’t Know What Love Is,” from A Star Is Born
70. “I Don’t Know What Love Is,” from A Star Is Born
More Star Is Born. This soundtrack just produces amazing song after amazing song. This one is just a beautiful duet between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. She pretty much carries the vocals, but he harmonizes with her really well. It’s just a beautiful song, and the only negative thing I can say about it… there’s almost a dozen songs in this movie that are somehow better than this one.
71. “Visions of Gideon,” from Call Me By Your Name
This movie has two amazing Sufjan Stevens songs. This is the one that plays over the end credits… over that crazy long take of Timothée Chalamet staring into the fire, which is one of the more stunning shots of the entire decade. This song just perfectly encapsulates that entire moment and that feeling of him having someone he loved leave and having that first love end. It’s a really beautiful song for a really beautiful moment.
72. “Shiny,” from Moana
How fun is this song? What a great moment within the film, when you have this giant crab, voiced by Jemaine Clement of all people, sing this great villain song, it’s just wonderful. I love how they break the song up, too. He’s all cocky and basically monologuing, and then Maui shows up and the song stops. But then Maui can’t fully control his hook, so the song just starts back up. It’s so much fun. It’s impressive to have both a fun song that also somehow also captures just how dangerous a villain this dude is in the moment.
73. “Freedom,” from Django Unchained
Django’s back. The songs are all over the map from the movie, but there are a few that stand out as particularly good. This is the first of two. This one’s very good, and has the great female vocals in the first part, before Anthony Hamilton takes over. He’s someone I first knew about when I heard him perform “Do You Feel Me” on the American Gangster soundtrack (and actually in the movie). The song just totally stood out to me, as did his voice, and remains one of my favorite songs of that decade. So hearing him pop up on the Django soundtrack was pretty wonderful. This song is really good.
Mike’s Favorite Original Songs of the Decade: #74 – “Christmas Means Nothing Without You,” from Anna and the Apocalypse
74. “Christmas Means Nothing Without You,” from Anna and the Apocalypse
This is my favorite Anna and the Apocalypse song. And it’s not even a song that’s a part of the movie, per se. It’s not performed by the characters the way the others are. But it is an original song that appears within the film. Therefore it counts. And honestly, the reason this is my favorite is because it’s really difficult to write a good Christmas song. And honestly, if I presented this to you completely separate from the film as its own Christmas song… you’d think it was good. You could put this on an album with other recent Christmas songs (I mean, ones written in the past twenty years), and it would fit right in. If someone took this song and rearranged it and made it to sound more like a ‘classic’ Christmas tune, Wall of Sound, Darlene Love style, this would 100% just be assumed to have been a great Christmas song written fifty years ago.
75. “Rewrite the Stars,” from The Greatest Showman
This is probably the second most overlooked song from The Greatest Showman, second only to the Michelle Williams solo number. This is the Zac Efron/Zendaya song, and it’s overlooked because their entire romantic subplot gets overlooked in the film and just kind of gets tacked in there the way old movies have the young couple in love to break up from the older married couple that lead the proceedings. Any circus movie is gonna have the young couple in love. But it’s actually a really good song. The movie gives it short shrift, but the song is really well done. A bit too Garage Band-y in the production, but the lyrics are good and the vocal performances are good too. I particularly like the latter half of the song when it really goes all out with the two of them harmonizing. I do really like this one.
76. “The Keeper,” from Machine Gun Preacher
This is just a great song. It just happens to have been written for Machine Gun Preacher. I love that Chris Cornell wrote a bunch of these songs for the end credits of movies (or opening credits, in the case of Casino Royale, which has become one of the best Bond themes of all of them since its release). The song is just beautiful and it’s a great one to listen to. Another one that’s hard to rank just because it straddles the line between song I just listen to and song that technically also is a movie song. It’s like when you’re trying to rank the Bond songs (speaking of Bond) and get to “Live and Let Die.” And it’s like, what do you do? Because that’s the one I’ve heard on terrestrial radio all my life. Shirley Bassey sure as hell wasn’t on radio. So it’s hard to separate the two. That’s kind of how I feel about this song.
77. “Out of Time,” from A Star Is Born
This is the first of twelve Star Is Born songs left on this list, so you’re gonna get one of these about every five or so songs, so be prepared for that. That’s how good they all are. This one’s purely instrumental, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s an original song for a movie. Bradley Cooper performs it. And in a way, the way he plays his guitar, which almost feels like an improvisation the way he plays it within the scene, those are the lyrics. That’s him getting that primal energy inside himself out on the stage. Everything he’s feeling, all the pain and anger, it all comes out through the guitar. And that’s just as good as lyrics to me.
78. “A Lovely Night,” from La La Land
And look who enters the fray. Almost forgot about this one, didn’t you? On the one hand, I feel weird having this as the lowest ranked song from the movie, but on the other hand, all the songs from this movie are in the top 80 of the list. That’s immense respect in and of itself.
This is the weakest of the songs in the movie, to me, because it’s not really about the lyrics so much as it’s about the gorgeous pre-dawn setting and the dancing. This is the Fred and Ginger song. And if only they set up this part of the relationship a bit better (the meet-cute and the initial ‘dislike’), then the song lyrics that talk about how the lovely night is wasted on the two of them, who aren’t in love, might work a bit better. But like I said, it’s not really about the lyrics so much as it’s about the two of them performing the song, doing the tap dancing and the gorgeous view behind them. It’s one of the most memorable film music moments of the decade, but on a pure song level… this spot feels about right for it.
79. “Faith,” from Sing
Ah, yes, another stealth entry to this list. Sing. The Illumination movie that’s basically just American Idol for animals. But, while there are a lot of covers all throughout the film, there are two distinct original songs in it that are quite good. This one’s the end credits song, and it’s done by Stevie Wonder with a feature by Ariana Grande. And I remember hearing this and thinking, “Well that’s gonna be bad.” Just on principle. Because it’s for an animated movie that’s not Disney, and it’s an end credits pop song, and you just sort of offhandedly dismiss those things. But you also forget… Stevie knows how to write a good song. And you sort of know it immediately, once that bass line kicks up. That really draws you in and then Stevie uses that first verse to get you all in with it. It’s just a feel-good kinda song with a funky beat. This is one of those that, when I first started figuring out this list, had about thirty spots lower than this, and it slowly kept creeping up little by little each time I heard it as I started liking it more and more.