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The Most Overused Songs in Movies and TV

As much as we love "Gimme Shelter," the classic Stones song is always "just a shot away" from being overplayed in films and TV shows.EXPAND
As much as we love "Gimme Shelter," the classic Stones song is always "just a shot away" from being overplayed in films and TV shows.
Rich Fury / Getty Images
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Sure, we all love “Gimme Shelter.” The Rolling Stones classic about the perils of the Vietnam era is one of the band's signature tunes, and it’s always been a favorite of filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who incorporated it into some of his best films, including Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed.

Unfortunately, Scorsese isn’t the only one who managed to get the rights to the song. It pops up frequently in movies such as Layer Cake, Adventures in Babysitting and Flight, as well as episodes of Dexter, Big Love, Entourage, Parenthood, Person of Interest, Masters of Sex and Supernatural. Scorsese always does the Stones justice, but the excellent “Gimme Shelter” still remains one of the most overplayed songs across film and TV.

Blame it on uncreative filmmaking or a reluctance to use lesser-known tracks, but many songs tend to pop up too frequently, and now we’ve gotten sick of them. Much of a song’s effectiveness in a story is also dependent on the context in which it's used; for example, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was used brilliantly in Wayne’s World, but embarrassingly in Suicide Squad.

We like these songs, and we like these artists, but we really don’t need to hear them all the time. Check out our picks for the most overplayed songs in movies and TV shows.

“Bohemian Like You,” The Dandy Warhols
Although they’re no longer the name they once were, The Dandy Warhols dominated the early 21st century by appearing in virtually every movie or show trying to emphasize the bohemian lifestyle. This was never that clever of a soundtrack drop, let's be honest.

Appears in: Welcome to Marwen, If I Stay, Chuck, Flushed Away, Foolproof, Six Feet Under, The Replacements, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Igby Goes Down.

“For What It’s Worth,” Buffalo Springfield
It wouldn’t be a Vietnam movie without “For What It’s Worth,” now would it?

Appears in: Coming Home, Forrest Gump, The West Wing, Legally Blonde 2, Breakfast on Pluto, Lord of War, Ice Age: The Meltdown, American Pastoral, Tropic Thunder (ironically, at least).

“Hallelujah,” Leonard Cohen
If the cringe-inducing trailer for the extended version of Justice League is any indication, there has got to be a better background song with which characters can mope in misery, because we can’t stop thinking about when it was used in Shrek.

Appears in: Justice League, Shrek, I Can Only Imagine, Sense8, The Young Pope, Sing, Longmire, Criminal Minds, Watchmen, Lord of War.

“Bad to the Bone,” George Thorogood
Initially intended to be the ultimate personification of masculinity and self-confident swagger, “Bad to the Bone” has been parodied and overused to the point that it became a staple of early-2000s family films.

Appears in: Man Up, Shaun the Sheep Movie, Megamind, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Firehouse Dog, My Name Is Earl, Joe Dirt, 3000 Miles to Graceland, The Parent Trap.

“Stayin’ Alive,” The Bee Gees
Here’s an example of a song that originated on a film soundtrack, only to be isolated as a hit and then repurposed into different contexts through film and TV. Few moments in cinema are quite as cool as John Travolta dancing to “Stayin’ Alive” in Saturday Night Fever, but it has inspired an unfortunate number of parodies over the years.

Appears in: Saturday Night Fever, Happy Death Day 2U, Ready Player One, The Secret Life of Pets, Gray’s Anatomy, Ted, Sherlock, The Bounty Hunter, Arthur and the Invisibles, Chicken Little, A Night At The Roxbury.

“Back in Black,” AC/DC
Popularized as the mantra of Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies, this AC/DC classic is perhaps best buried alongside the now deceased superhero, because there are a lot of other AC/DC songs we’d rather hear repeated constantly.

Appears in: Cobra Kai, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Death Wish, Grudge Match, Family Guy, The Smurfs, Megamind, The Karate Kid, The Sopranos, School of Rock, Alias.

“Sweet Home Alabama,” Lynyrd Skynyrd
There’s actually a good number of Lynyrd Skynyrd songs that keep popping up to annoy us, notably “Freebird,” “Tuesday’s Gone” and “Simple Man,” but “Sweet Home Alabama” is a frequent tool used by filmmakers to inject some Southern sensibilities into a story.

Appears in: Dark Matter, Despicable Me, King of the Hill, My Name Is Earl, How I Met Your Mother, Sahara, The Girl Next Door, Joe Dirt, Con Air, To Die For, Crimson Tide, Forrest Gump.

“Born to be Wild,” Steppenwolf
Appearing in Easy Rider as an anthem for the rebellious outlaw spirit of counterculture, “Born to be Wild” has now become a staple of commercialism thanks to its overuse in movies, TV shows and at least one Super Bowl commercial each year.

Appears in: The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Supernatural, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, Paddington, Nymphomaniac, Alpha and Omega, Hotel for Dogs, Borat, Herbie Fully Loaded, The King of Queens, Lost in America.

“Fortunate Son,” Creedence Clearwater Revival
Like “For What It’s Worth,” the significance of “Fortunate Son” and its commentary on the dehumanization within the Vietnam era was very significant for films in the 1970s. That context is pretty much lost now when it appears in nonsense like Battleship and Suicide Squad.

Appears in: Space Force, Suicide Squad, American Horror Story, War Dogs, Operation Avalanche, Moonwalkers, Battleship, Little White Lies, and (with a surprisingly good use) in Live Free or Die Hard.

“Spirit in the Sky,” Norman Greenbaum
Quick rule of thumb: If any song appears on the soundtrack of Suicide Squad, we’re already sick of it, even this Norman Greenbaum classic.

Appears in: Suicide Squad; Guardians of the Galaxy; Little Fires Everywhere; Life; I, Tonya; Shameless; The Founder; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows; Mr. Right; This Is The End; Lovelace; Friday Night Lights; W; Sunshine Cleaning; House; The Longest Yard; The Sandlot 2; Ocean’s Eleven; Remember the Titans; Contact; Michael; Apollo 13; Wayne’s World 2 and many, many more.

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