Not only is it vital to load up on greeting cards, roses and those little candy hearts that taste like chalk yet are oddly addicting for Valentine’s Day, but the right song selection is just as important. Musicals, animated features, thrillers, you name it; the movies have warmed our hearts (and gotten us on the dance floor) with iconic tunes for years. Put these on your Valentine’s Day playlist to feel the love this holiday.
Grease – “You’re the One That I Want”
The odds of wrapping up your high school career by bopping through an amusement park while professing your love to your significant other through song and dance are slim to none, but that’s what Grease’s “You’re the One That I Want” is for.
City of Angels – “Iris”
It’s easy to forget that the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” was written specifically for City of Angels. But when you make the connection, it makes the lyrics all the more powerful. When asked about coming up with the song, frontman Johnny Rzeznik once explained, “This guy is completely willing to give up his own immortality, just to be able to feel something very human. And I think, Wow! What an amazing thing it must be like to love someone so much that you give up everything to be with them. That's a pretty heavy thought.”
Ghost – “Unchained Melody”
After being paired with one of the most unforgettable displays of affection on the big screen, it’s absolutely impossible to listen to it without picturing Molly and Sam’s (Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze) sensual pottery time. In fact, the scene garnered the song so much hype that the year Ghost was released, a reissue of the 1965 original and the 1990 rerecording cracked the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Say Anything – “In Your Eyes”
Saturday Night Live might have gotten a good laugh at Lloyd Dobler’s (John Cusack) expense, but if someone showed up outside your window with a boom box blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” wouldn't your heart melt? Now just try to picture that same scene with Billy Idol’s “To Be a Lover,” which Cameron Crowe originally considered using instead.
Titanic – “My Heart Will Go On”
Even though Kate Winslet once told MTV that 16 years after Titanic was released “My Heart Will Go On” still haunts her, the song earned the 1997 Academy Award for Best Original Song, won Song and Record of the Year at the Grammys, is the theme of the second highest grossing film in history and is undeniably beautiful.
Coyote Ugly – “But I Do Love”
Anyone who ever thought it might be fun to work in a bar because of the movie Coyote Ugly undoubtedly has a soft spot for the Violet Sanford ditty “But I Do Love,” especially in context. Violet (Piper Perabo) is a talented singer-songwriter, but stage fright keeps her from making something of herself. Then in comes supercute Kevin O’Donnell (Adam Garcia) who tries to help her overcome the fear in the most romantic way possible.
Dirty Dancing – “Hungry Eyes”
Need some motivation to get out of that corner and give dancing a go? The montage in Dirty Dancing set to the tune of Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes” offers all the inspiration in the world. “Time of My Life” may feature the apex of Baby’s (Jennifer Grey) work with Johnny (Patrick Swayze), but the combination of Baby’s passion, some fleshy imagery and the tangible connection between the two paired with a song in which the singer fervently declares his love makes the sequence particularly hot.
She’s All That – “Kiss Me”
Oh, come on; you know there was a time in your life when you dreamed of having the glasses plucked from your face and being swept off your feet by Zack Siler (Freddie Prinze Jr.). Get all dressed up and take a slow walk down the stairs and out the door to the tune of this one and there’s no doubt you’ll be on your way to a very special evening with your man. (Just don’t trip and fall on your way down.)
Top Gun – “Take My Breath Away”
It isn’t easy striking the necessary balance between action and romance so that a film appeals to both those eager for a thrill and those looking for some love, but Top Gun nails it with a soundtrack that intensifies the suspense and the romance while boasting Top 40 appeal. Berlin's “Take My Breath Away” still does just that today.
Once – “Falling Slowly”
Movie, Broadway show or nothing at all, “Falling Slowly” is such a sincere, visceral song that it could both stand on its own or significantly amplify a heartfelt narrative. But considering John Carney developed Once around the songs he got from Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, it makes sense that the tune is so well woven into the budding romance.
The Lion King – “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”
Apparently “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” was originally supposed to be sung by Timon and Pumbaa alone. Thankfully the filmmakers opted to have the majority of the song sung offscreen (with a few exceptions) because the combination of that type of performance paired with Simba and Nala’s romantic romp achieves the effect Elton John intended for the piece to have
Aladdin – “A Whole New World”
It’d be easy to make this just one big list of Disney charmers, but if we’re going with the best of the best, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “A Whole New World” from Aladdin are perhaps two of the most moving, remarkable and timeless of the bunch, and it makes sense because Tim Rice wrote the lyrics for both of them. This one also goes above and beyond the lovebirds just talking about sharing a “whole new world” together by letting you share in their high-flying romantic bliss.
Pretty Woman – “La Traviata”
You thought we’d go for “It Must Have Been Love,” didn’t you? But this is a time for celebrating love, not lamenting loss, and considering that song was originally titled “It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted),” you’re probably better off keeping it off the Valentine’s Day playlist. Unless you’re an opera fan, “La Traviata” probably shouldn’t be on it either, but thankfully we live in a YouTube world and can listen to it as Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) makes the ultimate romantic sacrifice, overcoming his fear of heights to climb “the tower” and rescue Vivian (Julia Roberts).
Armageddon – “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
In the context of the Armageddon narrative this one’s a heartbreaker, but ultimately, the song is about valuing every moment you have with those you love. Songwriter Diane Warren once joked about having never been in love and noted, “It's like when I wrote for Aerosmith, 'I could stay awake just to hear you breathing ... . [Makes a disgusted face] If someone was listening to me breathing all night, I'd throw them out the window. Preferably a high-rise. Why would I want someone to listen to me breathe?"
The Wedding Singer – “Grow Old with You”
There are lots of memorable songs, scenes and lines of dialogue in his 1998 release The Wedding Singer, but it’s his midair serenade that’ll have you totally head over heels for Robbie Hart.
The Bodyguard – “I Will Always Love You”
It was originally written and performed by Dolly Parton, but in 1992 Whitney Houston took over the vocals to do a recording for the soundtrack for The Bodyguard, and that rendition went on to win Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year at the Grammys in 1994 and, just last year, earned the 49th spot on Billboard’s 55th Anniversary: The All-Time Top 100 list.
Moulin Rouge - “Come What May”
Christian (Ewan McGregor) writes the song so that he and Satine (Nicole Kidman) can profess their love for one another without the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) knowing, but as a part of Christian’s musical for the Moulin Rouge, there’s just so long their feelings can stay hidden.
Pearl Harbor – “There You’ll Be”
Pearl Harbor may not have been the Titanic-esque war epic Michael Bay probably intended, but the film still scored an Oscar for Best Sound Editing and snagged three other nominations -- one for Best Sound, one for Best Effects and then another for Best Original Song thanks to none other than “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” songwriter Diane Warren.
An Officer and a Gentleman – “Up Where We Belong”
You’d think a Platinum track with an Academy Award to its name would have been a challenge to pull together. According to Song Facts, just 30 days after Will Jennings was approached to pen the song for An Officer and a Gentleman, he had “Up Where We Belong” ready to go. And it’s a good thing too because Richard Gere himself called the ending “dopey” until he saw it cut together with the final version of the song.
Tarzan – “You’ll Be in My Heart”
OK, just one more Disney song. It marked Phil Collins's third Academy Award nomination and his very first win, something the folks behind South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut didn’t appreciate. After “You’ll Be in My Heart” stole the Oscar from “Blame Canada,” Collins popped up in the “Timmy 2000” episode of South Park with his Oscar in hand.
What's your favorite movie love song?