Summer has never been a peak time for prestige film — these are the optimal months of catchphrases and car chases, broad punchlines and eye-popping special effects.
As “blockbusters” have become the theatrical norm, so has the tricked-out soundtrack song — that extra dash of salt and fake butter topping one’s overpriced popcorn.
In the below list of Rock’s Best Summer Soundtrack Songs, we survey everything from a Rocky movie (the one that featured Survivor‘s “Eye of the Tiger”) to Disney’s original The Lion King (which included some Elton John songs, like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”) and Tarzan (featuring Phil Collins).
We also take a look at No. 1 hits by Paul McCartney and Wings, Bob Seger and Aerosmith, who scored their first and only chart topper thanks to a summer soundtrack song that has divided the band’s longtime fans since its appearance in an end-of-the-world movie in 1998.
Along the way we cover songs from venerable film franchises like James Bond and the Back to the Future trilogy to forgettable fantasy musicals and an ’80s western starring Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips and Charlie Sheen.
Some of these tracks are cheesy. Some of them have been so overplayed that they border on irritating. Every last one of them is fun. A few, in all their overblown balladry, are even moving.
Take a look below as we run down Rock’s Best Summer Soundtrack Songs.