There are plenty of songs that modest chart success when they were originally released but got a significant boost later when they were featured on a TV show or in a movie. “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush was in the top 30 of Billboard’s Hot 100 when released in 1985, but thanks to Stranger Things the song is currently No. 3 on the charts. (Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard’s Global 200 as of Aug. 1.)
Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a success when it was initially released and has seen multiple boosts in the years since after being featured in Wayne’s World and the Queen biopic named after the track. In fact, it’s one of a very small list of songs to take a spot on the charts in three different decades.
When hearing the songs below, you can’t help but picture the opening credits or the scene in the TV show or movie in which they were used in. For example, once you hear the opening notes of “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” by Bob Seger, the Risky Business scene with Tom Cruise sliding across the floor in his socks, underwear and a dress shirt might is forever emblazoned in your mind. Or when new fans now hear Metallica‘s “Master of Puppets,” they probably can picture Eddie Munson’s epic performance in the Upside Down from Stranger Things.
Here’s a list of rock songs that became popular (or popular again) after being on TV shows and movies.
Metallica‘s “Master of Puppets” landed a spot on the Spotify Top 50 Global Chart after the Stranger Things Season 4 finale aired. The character Eddie Munson played the song in the Upside Down in an attempt to help defeat Vecna, the Netflix show’s villain. The song saw a 5,000 percent search surge on Google the day the Stranger Things finale was released.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
Used In: ‘Wayne’s World’
Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” revisited the charts 16 years after it was initially released when it appeared in a scene in Wayne’s World where Mike Myers and Dana Carvey are singing and head banging along with their friends in their “mirth mobile.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of just a few songs to ever take a spot on the chart in three different decades.. The third appearance came with 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody Freddie Mercury biopic.
Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll” re-entered the charts five years after it was released when it was featured in the movie Risky Business. In the famous scene Tom Cruise sings and dances along to the song in his underwear, a button-down shirt and socks after his parents leave him by himself for the weekend.
“L.A. Woman” – The Doors
Used In: ‘The Doors’
“L.A. Woman” by The Doors was already seeing a bit of a resurgence after Billy Idol covered the song in 1990 on his Charmed Life album. But Doors-mania was kicked into overdrive just a few months later in March 1991 with the Oliver Stone-directed The Doors biopic arrived. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the ’90s movie “created an almost ’60s-like frenzy around the group for a few months.”
“Where Is My Mind?” – Pixies
Used In: ‘Fight Club’
For whatever reason the Pixies never released “Where Is My Mind?” as a single, but when it was used in the closing scene of Fight Club, the song’s popularity soared. The track has also been featured on Veronica Mars, The Leftovers and Mr. Robot. The song’s haunting nature seems to resonate with film audiences. Pixies frontman Black Francis receives licensing requests for “Where Is My Mind?” every “eight or nine days,” according to ABC News Radio.
“Do Ya Wanna Taste It?” – Wig Wam
Used In: ‘Peacemaker’
Although Wig Wam was dropped by their agency just days before Peacemaker was released, their song/intro went viral after the show starring John Cena came out. “Do Ya Wanna Taste?” took the No. 1 spot on the iTunes Rock chart just after the Season 1 finale.
Blue Oyster Cult‘s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was a part of a now classic Saturday Night Live sketch based off VH1’s Behind the Music series. In it, Will Ferrell was the band’s prominent cowbell player, with Christopher Walken starring as the band’s producer, who became increasingly passionate about the use of the instrument in the song. The catchphrase “more cowbell” lives on forever because of the song’s role in the hilarious skit, and for a period after the sketch aired, there was a bump in the song’s prominence in pop culture.
“Iron Man” – Black Sabbath
Used In: ‘Iron Man’
“Iron Man” by Black Sabbath was featured in the 2008 movie Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. Though already legendary, the song “received another boost” after it was included in the blockbuster, something that Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler was reportedly stoked about according to Louder Sound.
“Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey
Used In: ‘The Sopranos’
Journey‘s “Don’t Stop Believin'” was already a classic, but it’s now hard to think of the song without remembering the classic closing moments of HBO’s The Sopranos. Tony Soprano picks the song on a jukebox in a diner, he then hears someone enter the diner, looks up and the screen goes black. Downloads increased 482 percent after the series finale aired.
Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You,” a Top 10 hit in the ’70s, was forever immortalized in the ’90s movie Reservoir Dogs during a scene in which Mr. Blonde gleefully tortures a cop while dancing to the song. The track’s popularity kept growing as singer Louise then covered the song and it landed the No. 4 spot on the U.K. Singles Chart in 2001. Yet another cover of the song serves as the theme song for the Netflix show Grace and Frankie.
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” – The Who
Used In: ‘CSI: Miami’
The Who‘s songs have been used in all five of the CSI series and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was the theme song for CSI: Miami. The importance of the television song queues was not lost on singer-guitarist Pete Townshend, who told Rolling Stone, “With the use in CSI, fuck!…These were some of the best songs that the Who had ever recorded. They were on TV over and over and over again. It just reminded people that we were still there. I think it probably helped us to come back.”
“My Sharona” – The Knack
Used In: ‘Reality Bites’
The Knack’s “My Sharona” was featured in the movie Reality Bites, a film directed by Ben Stiller starring Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke. In a memorable scene from the film, the characters ask the clerk at a mini-mart to turn the song up and then break out in dance. The soundtrack for the movie was one of the most popular of the ’90s, with “My Sharona” playing a big part in that success, according to Ultimate Classic Rock.
“Lust for Life” – Iggy Pop
Used In: ‘Trainspotting’
Iggy Pop‘s “Lust for Life” became popular after it was featured in the movie Trainspotting starring Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller. The song was written by Iggy Pop and David Bowie, and although it was released in 1977 it didn’t reach a chart peak of No. 26 in the U.K. until 1996, which is when Trainspotting came out.
“How Soon Is Now?” by the Smiths was oringally released in 1984 but gained popularity after a cover version of the song was used in the TV show Charmed starring Alyssa Milano, Shannen Doherty, Rose McGowan and Holly Marie Combs. It landed a spot on the US Billboard Top Soundtracks chart and was also used in the movies The Craft and Cruel Intentions.
“Something in the Way” – Nirvana
Used In: ‘The Batman’
Nirvana’s “Something in the Way,” which was released in 1991 landed the No. 2 spot on the U.S. Digital Rock Songs Sales chart in 2022 after it was featured in the movie promotion for The Batman starring Robert Pattinson.
“Secret Garden” – Bruce Springsteen
Used In: ‘Jerry Maguire’
“Secret Garden” by Bruce Springsteen charted for seven weeks in 1994 and re-entered the charts about two years later peaking at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart after it was featured in the movie Jerry Maguire. The song was even released with dialogue from the movie.
“In Your Eyes” – Peter Gabriel
Used In: ‘Say Anything’
Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” added to its popularity by re-entered the charts after it was used in the iconic scene in Say Anything where John Cusack plays the song on a boombox he’s holding up outside of his ex-girlfriend’s window. The song, which hit No. 26 after initially appearing on Gabriel’s 1986 album, So, then returned to hit No. 41 in 1989 after Say Anything was released in theaters..
“We Used to Be Friends” – The Dandy Warhols
Used In: ‘Veronica Mars’
The Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends” didn’t chart in the U.S. after being the lead single from the group’s 2003 album Welcome to The Monkey House. But the track got a second life once it was used as the theme song for the TV show Veronica Mars starring Kristen Bell. It’s also been used in an episode of The O.C. and in the video game FIFA Football 2004.
“Good Riddance” – Green Day
Used In: ‘Seinfeld’
Green Day‘s “Good Riddance” was already a success, landing at No. 11 on the charts after it was released, but Seinfeld gave the track its second wind. The song was used for a series highlights episode of Seinfeld as the series approached its finale. It was also later used in the show ER and during the PGA golf tour and the World Cup according to Louder Sound. The track also gained traction as a popular prom and graduation song in the late ’90s.