Movie Songs

3 Classic Rock Songs that Are Overused in Movie Soundtracks

May 28, 20243 Mins Read

Some songs are just too appealing to neglect. When it comes to movies and television, there are a certain section of tunes that seem to pop up all the time. And while those songs are terrific (indeed, there’s a reason film directors and music execs keep turning to them), there can be a saturation point. For every obscure gem, there seems to be a dozen times a given Rolling Stones track is used.

Below, we wanted to dive into a trio of such songs. Not to denigrate the songs themselves, but just to point out to any musical directors who might be reading that they should maybe dig a little deeper! So, here are three classic rock songs that are (at least a bit) overused on screen.

[RELATED: The Stories Behind 4 Distinctly Different Versions of Devo’s “Beautiful World”]

“Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones

From the 1969 album, Let It Bleed, this song has not just been overused in movies but it has been overused by one of the world’s greatest film directors, Martin Scorsese. The auteur who directed the Rolling Stones doc Shine A Light, knows a thing or two about classic rock (he also directed the Bob Dylan doc No Direction Home) and yet he often returns to the same songs for his hectic, heart-pumping films. For example, “Gimme Shelter” has appeared in the Scorsese movies The Departed, Casino and Goodfellas (and probably his next film not yet written). It has also been in the terrific Denzel Washington movie Flight, among others. When is enough enough!?

“All Along the Watchtower” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

We get it—if there’s one song that brings listeners to the frenetic, dangerous era of the Vietnam War, it’s the buzzing, electric guitar-driven song “All Along the Watchtower,” performed by Jimi Hendrix. Written and released originally in 1967 by Bob Dylan, Hendrix made the song his in 1968. But since then, it’s become the go-to for just about every Vietnam War scene in movie history. The tune has been used in movies like Forrest Gump, A Bronx Tale, Rush, Watchmen, Withnail and I, and more. It’s an all-time classic, but overuse may strip it from its power one day.

“Low Rider,” WAR

Want to create a scene with teenagers in a car? Then score it with the song “Low Rider” from WAR. Released on the band’s 1975 album Why Can’t We Be Friends?, this song also often finds itself a part of movie scenes having to do with marijuana use. Whether heard in movies like Dazed and Confused or Gone in 60 Seconds or Friday or Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke, the tune is a stand-in for the bleary-eyed stoner or the road trip laugher (or both). And it’s a great song (just like the others on this list) but it’s getting out of hand!

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Photo by Joe Bangay/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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