100 Greatest Songs in American Movies
100 YEARS...100 SONGS

by American Film Institute (AFI)

The American Film Institute in Los Angeles conducted their seventh polling, 100 Years...100 Songs that highlighted "America's Greatest Music in the Movies." AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs revealed the 100 greatest songs in American films, as chosen by leaders of the entertainment community, in a three-hour television event, that aired on the CBS Television Network in June 2004.

See also this site's informative sections on Entertainment Weekly's 100 Best Film Soundtracks, Film Comment's 101 Film Score Milestones (1933-2001), and Greatest Musical Song/Dance Movie Moments and Scenes (illustrated).

Judging Criteria for Selection of Films and Songs:

A ballot was distributed in 2003 with 400 nominated films and songs to a jury of 1,500 leaders from the film community, including film artists (directors, screenwriters, actors, editors, composers, cinematographers, etc.) critics and historians.

Only songs from feature-length American films released before January 1, 2003, were considered. [AFI defined an American film as an English language film with significant creative and/or financial production elements from the United States, and a feature-length film as a motion picture of narrative format that is typically over 60 minutes in length.] Voters could submit up to five write-in choices not included among the 400 nominees. The jurors were asked to consider the following criteria in their selections of greatest songs:

  • Song - Music and lyrics (that must be part of the film) featured in an American film that set a tone of mood, define character, advance plot and/or express the film's themes in a manner that elevates the moving image art form. Songs may have been written and/or recorded specifically for the film or previously written and/or recorded and selected by the filmmaker to achieve the above goals.
  • Cultural Impact - Songs that have captured the nation's heart, echoed beyond the walls of a movie theater and, ultimately, stand in our collective memory for the film itself.
  • Legacy - Songs that resonate across the century, enriching America's film heritage and captivating artists and audiences today.


  • Tunes with no lyrics -- "The Colonel Bogey March" from The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and the themes from Gone With the Wind (1939), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and The Godfather (1972) were not eligible.

  • Film scores were not eligible. Soundtrack or score songs were also not eligible (i.e., 9 to 5, performed by Dolly Parton in 9 to 5 (1980), even though Parton was a character in the film). Film themes were not eligible (i.e., Jaws, Tara's Theme, Arthur's Theme, The Theme from Shaft, etc.).

  • These well-known songs were considered ineligible because they were not sung by the characters, among many others: "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin)" from High Noon (1952), "Born to Be Wild" from Easy Rider (1969), "Goldfinger" from Goldfinger (1964), "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969), "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky (1976), "Everybody's Talkin'" from Midnight Cowboy (1969), "Up Where We Belong" from An Officer And A Gentleman (1982), "Born Free" from Born Free (1966), "Wind Beneath My Wings" in Beaches (1988), "Unchained Melody" in Ghost (1990), "In Your Eyes" in Say Anything... (1989), "The Power of Love" in Back to the Future (1985), and "My Heart Will Go On" in Titanic (1997).

  • "Laura" - the theme from the Oscar-nominated drama of the same name Laura (1944), "A Summer's Place" and [The Theme from] "Picnic" were not eligible because the lyrics did not appear in the film and were written for the song after the film's release.

  • For clarification's sake, a song need not have been written especially for a movie to be eligible. Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" was eligible even though it was not written specifically for the film Risky Business (1983). Animated films (or puppet films, such as the Muppets) with songs/dances, and dance sequences with memorable music, such as the iconic Bee Gee's songs in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Flashdance - What A Feeling in Flashdance (1983) were exceptions to the general rule.

The Top 10 Songs
Song Film (and Year) Film Performer
1. "Over The Rainbow" The Wizard of Oz (1939) Judy Garland
2. "As Time Goes By" Casablanca (1942) Dooley Wilson
3. "Singin' in the Rain" Singin' In The Rain (1952) Gene Kelly
4. "Moon River" Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) Audrey Hepburn
5. "White Christmas" Holiday Inn (1942) Bing Crosby
6. "Mrs. Robinson" The Graduate (1967) Simon & Garfunkel
7. "When You Wish Upon A Star" Pinocchio (1940) Cliff Richards
8. "The Way We Were" The Way We Were (1973) Barbra Streisand
9. "Stayin' Alive" Saturday Night Fever (1977) The Bee Gees
10. "The Sound Of Music" The Sound Of Music (1965) Julie Andrews

Facts (and Commentary) About the 100 Greatest American Movie Songs Chosen:
  • Comparing Decades (descending order):
    • The 1960s had 20 songs in the top 100
    • The 1950s had 17 songs in the top 100
    • The 1970s had 16 songs in the top 100
    • The 1940s had 14 songs in the top 100
    • The 1980s had 13 songs in the top 100
    • The 1930s had 11 songs in the top 100
    • The 1990s had 6 songs in the top 100
    • The 2000s had 3 songs in the top 100
    • There were no songs from the 1920s

  • The earliest song on the top 100 list was "Isn't It Romantic" from Love Me Tonight (1932) at # 73.

  • The newest songs on the top 100 list were "All That Jazz" from Chicago (2002) at # 98, and "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile (2002) at # 93.

  • Two seasonal songs placed in the top 100: "White Christmas" from Holiday Inn (1942) at # 5, and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" at # 76.

  • Two counter-cultural films featured these honored songs: "Born to Be Wild" from Easy Rider (1969) at # 29, and "Aquarius" from Hair (1979) at # 33.

  • There were no Beatles songs among the nominees -- and obviously, in the winners list.

  • Dubious 'winners' included: "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" from The Wizard of Oz (1939) at # 82, "Fight the Power" from Do the Right Thing (1989) at # 40, "Let The River Run" from Working Girl (1988) at # 91, and "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile (2002) at # 93.

  • "Puttin' On The Ritz" at # 89 was attributed to Young Frankenstein (1974) but was originally sung in Blue Skies (1946)

  • Three musicals succeeded in having their three nominees honored in the top 100:

  • Two unrelated versions of "New York, New York" made the top 100:

    • "Theme From New York, New York" from New York, New York (1977) at # 31
    • "New York, New York" from On The Town (1949) at # 41.

  • There were two Burt Bacharach compositions in the top 100:

  • Two individuals were represented five times on the list:

  • Three individuals were represented four times on the list:

    • Barbra Streisand: "The Way We Were" from The Way We Were (1973) at # 8, "Evergreen (Love Theme From A Star Is Born)" from A Star is Born (1976) at # 16, "People" from Funny Girl (1968) at # 13, and "Don't Rain On My Parade" from Funny Girl (1968) at # 46.
    • Fred Astaire: "Cheek to Cheek" from Top Hat (1935) at # 15, "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" from Shall We Dance (1937) at # 34, "The Way You Look Tonight" from Swing Time (1936) at # 43, and "That's Entertainment" from The Band Wagon (1953) at # 45.
    • Julie Andrews: "The Sound of Music" from The Sound Of Music (1965) at # 10, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins (1964) at # 36, "My Favorite Things" from The Sound Of Music (1965) at # 64, and "Do Re Mi" from The Sound Of Music (1965) at # 88.

  • Popular title songs from many musicals or other films failed to make the top 100: "Three Coins In The Fountain" from Three Coins In The Fountain (1954), "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing" from Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing (1955), "An Affair To Remember" from An Affair To Remember (1957), "Charade" from Charade (1964), "Born Free" from Born Free (1966), and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" from Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), to name a few.

  • Nominees from rock musicals that surprisingly didn't make the top 100: "The Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and "Big Bottom" from This Is Spinal Tap (1984).

  • Winners included four Disney animations:

  • Other animation/live-action and puppetry winners included: "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" at # 36 from the live-action/animated Mary Poppins (1964), "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" at # 47 from Disney's live-action/animated Song of the South (1947), and puppetry in "Rainbow Connection" at # 74 from The Muppet Movie (1979).

  • Although "That's Entertainment" from The Band Wagon (1953) ranked at # 45, nominee "There's No Business Like Show Business" from Annie Get Your Gun (1950) didn't make the cut.

  • Other classic standard songs that were nominated but didn't appear in the final list: "That Old Black Magic" from Bus Stop (1956), "I've Got You Under My Skin" from Born To Dance (1936), "Silver Bells" from The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), and "If I Loved You" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel (1956).

  • Other surprising omissions in the top 100 from the 400 nominees: "Hello, Dolly!" from Hello, Dolly! (1969), "Seventy-Six Trombones" from The Music Man (1962), "The Candy Man" from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971), and "Consider Yourself" from Oliver! (1968).

  • Twenty-two songs in the top 100 list were from Broadway productions, many of which were merely adaptations from their Broadway stage musical versions, such as "The Sound Of Music" from The Sound Of Music (1965) at # 10, "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady (1964) at # 17, "Cabaret" from Cabaret (1972) at # 18, "Aquarius" from Hair (1979) at # 33, "America" from West Side Story (1961) at # 35, "Shall We Dance?" from The King And I (1956) at # 54, "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" from Gigi (1958) at # 56, "Tonight" from West Side Story (1961) at # 59, and "All That Jazz" from Chicago (2002) at # 98.

  • One of the songs in the top 100 list was originally from an opera: "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, at # 52 from Porgy and Bess (1959)

  • Marnie Nixon dubbed (or partially dubbed) the singing of actresses in four instances:

    • Marilyn Monroe (partial), "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) at # 12
    • Audrey Hepburn, "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady (1964) at # 17
    • Deborah Kerr, "Shall We Dance?" from The King and I (1956) at # 54
    • Natalie Wood, "Tonight" from West Side Story (1961) at # 59

Go to the 400 Greatest American Songs (Nominees)

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