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7 old songs that became popular after appearing in new movies and TV shows

A man stands on a balcony in Saltburn.
Amazon Prime Video

If you’re a fan of Stranger Things or Saltburn, you know how a great movie or series can reignite your love of certain songs – whether you’re singing Murder on the Dancefloor while you dance around naked or are shouting the lyrics, “And if I only could, I’d make a deal with God,” while you wear your old-school Walkman.

Sometimes, movies and shows release their own original songs that become mega hits, like Barbie with What Was I Made For by Billie Eilish and I’m Just Ken by Ryan Gosling, but it’s way more fun to rediscover an older song that’s found new life thanks its appearance in pop culture. From ’70s disco hits to deep cuts from grunge icons, let’s take a look at some older songs that found new levels of success thanks to their starring roles in popular movies and series.

Something in the Way by Nirvana (The Batman)

Nirvana - Something in the Way | The Batman Soundtrack

Originally released in 1991 on Nirvana’s hit album Nevermind, Something in the Way is a slow and haunting song in which Kurt Cobain envisions a life mired by homelessness and disease, as the sufferer feels total desperation before death. It was the final track on the album and was never released as a single and never charted. But that all changed 30 years later.

In The Batman, the song is played after the brutal murder of Gotham’s mayor by the Riddler. Melancholic and filled with angst, Cobain’s grungy Seattle sound fit perfectly with the bleak atmosphere in The Batman, and Something in the Way became an unexpected hit. The song first gained traction in 2020 when it was featured in the teaser trailer for the movie, and for the first time ever, it appeared on the Billboard charts. After the film’s premiere, the song saw even more fame, eventually getting over 1 million streams per day. Something in the Way eventually peaked at No.46 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush (Stranger Things)

Max’s Song (Full Scene) | Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill | Stranger Things | Netflix

Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill is a song she says is about the inability of men and women to understand each other, especially when it comes to how they view romantic relationships. When the song debuted in 1985, it became a hit, reaching No.30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. But in 2022, the song found even more success when it became an integral part of the fourth season of Stranger Things.

Throughout the season, the song was used numerous times to help Max escape the grasp of Vecna. Its prominent role throughout the season propelled Running Up That Hill to new levels of fame, eventually peaking at No.1 on Billboard’s Global 200 and No.3 on the Billboard Hot 100, beating its original peak position in the 80s. The song has also amassed over 1 billion streams on Spotify and more than 248 million views on YouTube.

Lady Marmalade by Labelle (Moulin Rouge!)

Moulin Rouge - (lady marmalade) scene

The disco hit Lady Marmalade debuted in 1975 and became the biggest single of Labelle’s career. The song was inspired by New Orleans and the vivacious ladies who worked the streets of the French Quarter. Most notably, the song’s French chorus, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” literally translates to “Do you want to sleep with me tonight?” Lady Marmalade became a hit and reached No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1975.

The song topped the chart again in 2001 after being sung by P!nk, Mya, Christina Aguilera, and Lil’ Kim for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. The song is also featured in a mash-up sequence early in the film when audiences get their first glimpse inside the notorious Parisian brothel. The combination of an incredibly catchy song with all four ladies dressed in skimpy burlesque outfits has kept Lady Marmalade and its music video popular throughout the years. The song has more than 543 million views on YouTube and over 411 million streams on Spotify.

Murder on the Dancefloor by Sophie Ellis-Bextor (Saltburn)

Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Murder On The Dancefloor (as featured in Saltburn)

In 2001, Sophie Ellis-Bextor had a global hit with Murder on the Dancefloor, a song about winning over a man at a club – through the music video takes a much more nefarious (and hilarious) approach and features Bextor actually murdering on the dancefloor to win a dance competition. Initially released in the U.K., the song became a huge hit across Europe and Australia while also finding some success in North America.

But it wasn’t until 2023 when Barry Keoghan danced fully nude in the mansion he finally owns in the finale of Saltburn, that the song really became a mega-hit. In the now-iconic finale of the movie, Keoghan strips completely naked and plays Murder on the Dancefloor while he dances around an empty mansion he now owns, which helped turn Saltburn into a viral hit and gave Bextor’s song newfound fame. Bextor spoke to The Guardian about the song’s refreshed success, saying, “My 14-year-old is seeing it on TikTok, my eldest is seeing his friends play it in clubs in the U.S..” Thanks to Saltburn, Murder on the Dancefloor hit the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time, peaking at No.51 in early 2024.

I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard)

The Bodyguard • I Will Always Love You [Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston Movie HD]

A lot of people have no idea that I Will Always Love You is actually a Dolly Parton song – and a very successful one that charted twice for Parton, first in 1974 and then again in 1982 when she sang it in the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. While the song was a success for Parton, it became a huge hit for Whitney Houston.

Houston starred in the 1992 blockbuster The Bodyguard alongside Kevin Costner and sings I Will Always Love You in the movie which, 30 years later, is what people remember most about the movie. Houston won a Grammy for the song, and the movie’s soundtrack took home the Album of the Year award, fully cementing I Will Always Love You as the singer’s biggest hit. It also topped the Billboard Hot 100 for a whopping 14 weeks in 1992, and the music video has amassed more than 1.5 billion views on YouTube. Houston’s rendition was also a great success for Parton, whole told Oprah that she earned millions in royalties, saying, “I made enough money to buy Graceland.”

Love Is All Around by The Troggs (Love Actually)

Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) - Christmas is all Around 16:9 - 2003 Original Musik Video

The song Love Is All Around debuted in 1967 and became a hit. Though the song wasn’t the band’s most popular single, it received a good amount of airtime across the globe. In 1994, the song found new life after it was covered by the band Wet Wet Wet for the Four Weddings and a Funeral soundtrack. The cover found its biggest success in the U.K., where it topped the charts for 15 weeks.

In 2003, the rom-com holiday hit Love Actually revived the song yet again, this time sung by Bill Nighy’s character Billy Mack. In the film, he plays a washed-up rocker who is forced to re-release one of his classic songs for the holidays, changing the lyrics from “Love is all around me” to the more holiday-appropriate “Christmas is all around me.”

For years, the song was a fun joke for movie fans, but throughout the last few years, Christmas Is All Around has taken on a life of its own and has started getting played on the radio and Sirius XM during the holiday season. It’s also racked up 10 million views on YouTube and more than 8 million streams on Spotify.

Feel It All Around by Washed Out (Portlandia)

Portlandia - Opening sequence

The song Feel It All Around was released on a 2009 EP by Washed Out. At the time, the EP gained some traction within the emerging “chillwave” crowd but was completely unknown to anyone outside of that niche. That all changed in 2011 when the song was used as the theme for the satirical sketch show Portlandia.

While Portlandia was a hipster-bashing parody of Portland culture (which was booming during the 2010s), it also served as a love letter to the city and its grungy, quirky vibes. Thanks to the show, Washed Out’s little-known song became a cult hit, and Feel It All Around has since amassed almost 134 million streams on Spotify.  “I think being on Portlandia helped tip the fanbase in favor of Washed Out,” the band told Willamette Week in 2017. “That opened up a lot of windows for us.”

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