The 20 Most Overused Songs in Movies and TV


Last week, the good folks over at Vulture made a bold statement: that Mazzy Star’s languid, moody “Fade Into You” is, in fact, the most overused song in film and television. There’s certainly a case to be made there (and they make it convincingly in their supercut, which you’ll find after the jump), but it’s also one hell of a competitive race — film directors and music supervisors can be might lazy, letting an obvious music cue with its own built-in subtext do their narrative heavy lifting for them. We’ve perused the Academy of the Ubiquitous and come up with several pop songs that we’d be just fine never hearing again as cinematic and television scene-and-mood setters.

“Fade Into You”

Artist: Mazzy Star

Heard in: Chasing Mavericks, End of Watch, Fringe, Burlesque, CSI: NY, Lord of War, Cold Case, Swept Away, Roswell, Starship Troopers, Daria, Angus, Gilmore Girls, Alias, Desperate Housewives.

Indicates: As you can see above, any number of things. But mostly adolescent longing or facing Important Truths about oneself.

“Carmina Burana”

Artist: Carl Orff

Heard in: Just Go With It, Glee, The Simpsons, Capitalism: A Love Story, Over Her Dead Body, The Office, Cheaper by the Dozen, Jackass: The Movie, Friends, The Bachelor, Detroit Rock City, That ‘70s Show, The General’s Daughter, Natural Born Killers, The Doors, Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom

Indicates: Shit is about to go down.

“Gimme Shelter”

Artist: The Rolling Stones

Heard in: Hawaii Five-O, Flight, Covert Affairs, Big Love, Dexter, CSI: NY, The Departed, Layer Cake, The Fan, Casino, The War, Goodfellas, Air America, Adventures in Babysitting, Knight Rider, Gimme Shelter (duh)

Indicates: Shit is about to get intense. (Or: Scorsese needed a song.)

“Wolly Bully”

Artist: Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs

Heard in: Monsters vs. Aliens, Megamind, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, The Rookie, The Simpsons, Happy Gilmore, Encino Man, Scrooged, Moonlighting, Back to the Beach, Full Metal Jacket, The Chipmunk Adventure, Splash, Heaven Help Us, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, More American Graffiti

Indicates: Shit is about to get WACKY!!!

“London Calling”

Artist: The Clash

Heard in: The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Get Him to the Greek, What a Girl Wants, Gilmore Girls, My Wife is an Actress, Billy Elliot

Indicates: We’re in London! (Or: Somebody’s British!)

“Sweet Home Alabama”

Artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd

Heard in: Despicable Me, The Simpsons, My Name Is Earl, An American Carol, Sahara, NASCAR: The IMAX Experience, The Girl Next Door, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), 8 Mile, Six Feet Under, Joe Dirt, Outside Providence, That ‘70s Show, Excess Baggage, Con Air, To Die For, Crimson Tide, Forrest Gump, Mask

Indicates: We’re in Alabama! (Or: Somebody’s a hillbilly!)

“For What It’s Worth”

Artist: Buffalo Springfield

Heard in: Tropic Thunder, Lord of War, Breakfast on Pluto, The ‘60s, Forrest Gump, The Wonder Years, Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam, Made in Heaven, Coming Home

Indicates: It’s the ‘60s, and we’re introspective about it.

“All Along the Watchtower”

Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Heard in: Land of the Lost, Watchmen, The Simpsons, Private Parts, Forrest Gump, Rush, Flashback, 1969, Withnail & I

Indicates: It’s the ‘60s, and we’re gonna do some drugs.

“Bad Moon Rising”

Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival

Heard in: Transylmania, Dexter, Mr. Woodcock, Man of the House, The Simpsons, Gilmore Girls, Blade, From the Earth to the Moon, My Fellow Americans, My Girl, Designing Women, Distant Thunder, American Flyers, The Big Chill, An American Werewolf in London

Indicates: Literal lyrical interpretation alert: Trouble on the way! (Or, even more literal lyrical interpretation alert: Werewolves on the way!)


Artist: Sarah McLachlan

Heard in: Cold Case, Tru Calling, Saint Ralph, Dawson’s Creek, The Pretender, Early Edition, Felicity, City of Angels, those ASPCA commercials

Indicates: A soul too pure for us mere mortals has left us. (Or: save these goddamn dogs.)

“Have a Little Faith in Me”

Artist: John Hiatt

Heard in: Love Happens, My Best Friend’s Girl, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Alias, Dawson’s Creek, The Theory of Flight, Phenomenon, Look Who’s Talking Now, Benny & Joon

Indicates: Our protagonist may be full of seemingly unfixable problems, but dammit, there’s a good heart under there.


Artist: Spandau Ballet

Heard in: Hot Tub Time Machine, Modern Family, I Love You Beth Cooper, Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Duplex, Grind, I’m with Lucy, Not Another Teen Movie, The Office, Charlie’s Angels, The Simpsons, The Wedding Singer

Indicates: Laughable romantic earnestness. (Or: It’s the ‘80s!)

“What a Wonderful World”

Artist: Louie Armstrong/Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Heard in: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, New Year’s Eve, An Idiot Abroad, The Mentalist, W., How to Lose Friends and Influence People, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Fred Claus, ER, Scrubs, Madagascar, House, Without a Paddle, Freaky Friday (2003), Bowling for Columbine, Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, Madeline, Michael, 12 Monkeys, Good Morning Vietnam

Indicates: When it’s the Louie Armstrong version, either a genuine or ironic commentary on the world’s loveliness; when it’s the Kamakawiwo’ole ukulele mash-up with “Over the Rainbow,” a quirky commentary on the world’s loveliness.

“You Make My Dreams”

Artist: Hall & Oates

Heard in: Glee, Middle Men, (500) Days of Summer, Step Brothers, My Date with Drew, Door to Door, Lucky Numbers, The Wedding Singer, I Love You To Death

Indicates: I’m so happy, I’m enjoying a cheeseball ‘80s pop song!

“Oh Yeah”

Artist: Yello

Heard in: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, The Office, The Simpsons, Nip/Tuck, Chuck, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, South Park, American Dad!, Soul Plane, Not Another Teen Movie, K-9, She’s Out of Control, The Secret of My Success, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Indicates: “I wanna fuck that girl/guy/car/dog/chipmunk.”

“Born to Be Wild”

Artist: Steppenwolf

Heard in: Hotel for Dogs, Las Vegas, Borat, My Name is earl, Sleepover, Connie and Carla, Six Feet Under, The Simpsons, Recess: School’s Out, Dudley Do-Right, Wild America, Born to Be Wild (obviously), Speechless, Problem Child, Flashback, The Wonder Years, One Crazy Summer, Lost In America, Fandago, The Wild Life, Coming Home, and, of course, Easy Rider


“Bad to the Bone”

Artist: George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Heard in: Hawaii Five-O, The Muppets, Megamind, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Transylmania, Firehouse Dog, Joe Dirt, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Early Edition, The Parent Trap (1998), Major Payne, Flesh and Bone, Problem Child, Problem Child 2, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Talk Radio

Indicates: Somebody is a certified, card-carrying, no-questions-asked, ass-kicking badass. Or, is comically not one.

“Low Rider”

Artist: War

Heard in: George Lopez: Tall Dark & Chicano, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Robots, 21 Grams, Gone in Sixty Seconds, A Knight’s Tale, Beverly Hills Ninja, Friday, Dazed and Confused, Blood In Blood out, Love Potion #9, Colors, Up in Smoke

Indicates: Somebody is a certified, card-carrying, no-questions-asked, ass-kicking badass, and is a Latino.

“Kung Fu Fighting”

Artist: Carl Douglas

Heard in: Horrible Bosses, Hoowinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, Kung Fu Panda, Rush Hour 3, Epic Movie, My Name is Earl, Roll Bounce, Daddy Day Care, Bowfinger, That ‘70s Show, Beverly Hills Ninja, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, The Nutt House, Supercop, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka

Indicates: Somebody — maybe not everybody, but somebody — is, in fact, kung fu fighting, and probably not terribly well.

“Stayin’ Alive”

Artist: The Bee Gees

Heard in: Glee, the Simpsons, Sherlock, The Bounty Hunter, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Meet Dave, CSI: NY, Arthur and the Invisibles, Chicken Little, Madagascar, Baby Geniuses, A Night at the Roxbury, Full Tilt Boogie, Swingers, Grumpier Old Men, Virtuosity, Bushwhacked, A Goofy movie, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Mr. Saturday Night, Honey I Blew Up the Kid, Supercop, Look Who’s Talking, Airplane, Foul Play, Staying Alive (obviously), and, of course, Saturday Night Fever

Indicates: Isn’t it great how we all saw Saturday Night Fever?

Those are just a few of the songs we’re tired of hearing in TV and movies; how about you?