Rock music is not necessarily the genre that’s the most associated with movie soundtracks, but when looking carefully into it, one finds that some of the greatest rock bands in the world have been responsible for the big hits in blockbuster soundtracks.
On this list, readers will discover which of their favorite bands have collaborated into making some great films even better, and maybe they will even discover new songs they didn’t know about. Here are a few amazing rock songs written specifically for movies.
10 Queen, “Flash” – Flash Gordon
Directed by Mike Hodges, this 1980 movie has, without a doubt, achieved the status of legendary. Flash Gordon follows the title character, who is a quarterback for the New York Jets, and his adventure on the alien planet Mongo. There he finds agent Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov, and the three of them join forces to save Earth from Emperor Ming the Merciless.
Flash Gordon is undoubtedly an entertaining and dynamic story, but the soundtrack certainly helps keep things compelling. It would be, since it was composed by Queen. Freddie Mercury’s band is responsible, among others, for the iconic opening theme song, “Flash,” that readers might remember from its startling beginning “Flash! Ah-ahhh! Savior of the Universe.”
Even decades after its release, Flash Gordon still has devoted fans, and has become enough of a classic to gain new viewers each year. That is largely thanks to the rock band’s amazing contribution to the soundtrack. As always, the power of Queen’s music is a great companion to all dramatic stories, and can turn everything it touches into a timeless piece of art.
9 Tina Turner, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” – Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome should be called “All About Tina Turner.” Granted, the movie features amazing acting skills by Mel Gibson, but between her incredible performance as Aunty Entity and her work in the soundtrack, the Queen of Rock & Roll really outdid herself. As Aunty Entity, she portrayed a force to be reckoned with. She commanded the screen with her imposing presence, and really captured the strength of her character. She played the ruler of Bartertown, a town in post-apocalyptic Australia. Aunty Entity controls the city’s resources, and can become a great ally or a dangerous enemy, depending on which side you’re on.
Aside from her stunning on-screen presence, she also performed an iconic theme song for this movie, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome).” The lyrics and music were composed by Graham Lyle and Terry Britten, but it was Tina that brought the song to life, and to this day it remains one of her greatest hits.
It might surprise some people to find Metallica in this list, but believe it or not, this legendary rock band has contributed to this blockbuster. Mission: Impossible 2 stars Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, as does the whole franchise. This time, he is tasked with stopping a rogue IMF agent who plans to unleash a deadly virus that could doom humanity forever. Along the way, he encounters a professional thief named Nyah Nordoff-Hall (played by Thandiwe Newton), who, aside from helping him in his mission, will add a layer of romance to the mix, making it all the more interesting.
When it comes to the soundtrack, Metallica really gave it their all. They wrote the song “I Disappear” for the movie, which was a gem in the soundtrack. It was not without its complications, though, since it was leaked in the file-sharing service Napster and caused the band to sue, but it all worked out in the end.
7 Pearl Jam, “State Of Love And Trust” – Singles
Singles was one of the many projects Pearl Jam took on in their first couple of years as a band. This movie was film written, co-produced, and directed by Cameron Crowe, music filmmaker, and starring Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, and Matt Dillon. It was a romantic comedy set in Seattle in the 1990s, at the height of the grunge movement, so it featured members of some of the iconic bands of the scene. Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and of course, Pearl Jam. The latter’s debut album Ten had come out the year before, and it only took months for them to be catapulted into fame. The song State of Love and Trust didn’t make it into it, but the band thought it’d be great for the movie and added it to the soundtrack. And good thing they did, because decades later, it’s still one of their most popular songs.
6 Incubus, “Make A Move” – Stealth
Stealth is a 2005 action movie. Set in the not-so-distant future, the U.S. Navy develops the F/A-37 Talon, a fighter-bomber with advanced payload, range, speed, and stealth capabilities. Three talented pilots, Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx), are selected to man it, and together they embark on a top-secret mission to stop a dangerous terrorist plot.
Any great movie has a great soundtrack, and in Stealth‘s case it includes the renowned alternative rock band Incubus. They wrote the song “Make a Move” for it, and it was the perfect track for the story.
5 Kenny Loggins, “Danger Zone” – Top Gun
Kenny Loggins has been a big part of the timeless hit Top Gun. So much that, for the long-awaited 2022 sequel Top Gun: Maverick, they used his music again, original recordings and everything. For those whose memory is foggy, the 1986 movie we meet Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and follow him in his many interesting adventures and relationships.
When it comes to the music, Kenny Loggins’ work helped to make this movie into the classic that it is. His song “Danger Zone” became iconic and a hit all on its own, although it certainly works better as a package deal with the fantastic action scenes.
4 Soundgarden, “Live to Rise” – The Avengers
The Avengers signified the beginning of a new era in more than one way. The 2012 release was the first time we saw the six original Avengers assemble for the battle of New York and protect the Earth from Loki’s evil plans to conquer it. After that, the franchise would grow in ways no one could have ever imagined, and while the original six are no longer around, they have paved the way for practically everything Marvel has put out since then.
The movie would also mark another new era. Lots of readers will remember the legendary grunge band Soundgarden. In 1997, the group released the album Down on the Upside and then went on hiatus for 12 years the following year. In 2010, they started doing live shows again, but it wasn’t until late 2012 that they would release their long-awaited album King Animal. As a little preview for the fans, they worked on the theme song for The Avengers, “Live to Rise”. It was the first new track fans heard from them in 15 years, and it set the tone for the kind of music that was to come.
3 Prince, “Purple Rain” – Purple Rain
In 1984, Prince made his onscreen debut in the cinematic gem Purple Rain. He wrote a story and made the perfect album to tell it. This rock musical, directed by Albert Magnoli, follows the story of “The Kid,” a troubled musician played by Prince himself, as he navigates the complexities of love, family, and the pursuit of his artistic dreams.
The movie shows viewers an intense and emotional journey, delving into the Kid’s difficult relationship with his family and his deep traumas that affect him throughout his life, and how he finds comfort in music.
The title track, “Purple Rain”, probably one of the greatest rock songs ever written, almost met a very different fate. It was originally meant to be a country song, and he wanted Stevie Nicks to write the lyrics, but at the time she couldn’t make it work. As incredible as that would have been, that project not working meant Prince could tailor the song for the movie and make it the legendary piece that it is.
2 Jonathan Davis, “Not Meant for Me” – Queen Of The Damned
An amazingly dark and enthralling thriller, based on the third novel of Anna Rice’s book series The Vampire Chronicles, Queen of the Damned delves into the dark and seductive world of vampires, especially the ancient vampire queen, Akasha, as told by our protagonist, rock musician Lestat. She had been trapped in a centuries-long slumber, but it was his music that woke her from it. Which was perhaps not a great thing, since she decided right there and then to use her newfound freedom to create chaos in both the normal and the supernatural world.
Reading this, everyone will understand how Jonathan Davis’ music would fit into this story. He wrote several songs for the soundtrack, starting with “Not Meant for Me,” and this was his first solo project away from his band Korn, so it was a pretty special thing.
1 Paul McCartney, “Live And Let Die” – Live And Let Die
To finish off this list, we have the greatest rock star of his time. Paul McCartney wrote the song “Live and Let Die” with his band Wings, which he created with his wife Linda. This was the theme song for the eighth film in the James Bond series by the same name. Like most 007 movies, it was a great success, but for the McCartneys, the song became a classic that endured the test of time, and even now, exactly 50 years since its release, and long after Linda passed, it’s still one of their most acclaimed hits.