The Best Songs You Didn’t Know Were From Disney Movies
Walt Disney Studios churn out incredible movies year after year, from feel-good rom-coms to touching family animation. At the heart of every good motion picture is a great soundtrack. While some songs are synonymous with the House of Mouse (like “Bare Necessities” or “Let it Go”) others fly under the radar. Join us as we take a look at the best songs you didn’t know were from Disney movies. You’ll be surprised at what we’ve found!
Rob Thomas: “Little Wonders” (Meet the Robinsons)
Rob Thomas has the kind of voice that makes moms swoon, there’s just no denying it. Remember when he teamed up with Santana to release “Smooth” back in the day? That was a song for the ages. Thomas is still busy doing his thing with his band, Matchbox Twenty, but he also opts for a few solo projects.
In 2007, he created “Little Wonders”, which was a staple track for Meet the Robinsons. The sweet and sentimental ditty peaked at number 58 on the charts and can be heard during the end credits of the movie. It might not be a particularly well-known song, but it’s a brilliant tune from the Grammy Award-winning musician.
Celine Dion: “Because You Loved Me” (Up Close and Personal)
Despite what some people think, Disney has a lot going on outside of animation and family-friendly movies. Back in the day, the brand name Buena Vista was often used for divisions and subsidiaries of Disney.
1996’s Up Close and Personal was a Buena Vista creation, starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer as the romantic leads. Nearly everyone in the world knows Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me”. It’s one of the diva’s best hits, reaching number one in three different countries and top ten in countless more. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture or Television.
Mick Jagger: “Ruthless People” (Ruthless People)
Rock legend Mick Jagger isn’t someone that most people would associate with Disney by any stretch of the imagination. The hip thrusting singer is about as far away from family-friendly as you can get. That didn’t stop his song, “Ruthless People” from the 1986 movie of the same name from hitting the charts.
Jagger’s efforts reached a very respectable number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it wasn’t a solo effort. Daryl Hall (of Hall & Oates) and Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics) co-wrote the ditty with Jagger. The movie starred Danny DeVito and Bette Midler alongside Anita Morris and Bill Pullman.
Elton John: “Hello, Hello” (Gnomeo and Juliet)
Elton John is the bee’s knees of Disney hit-makers. Alongside Phil Collins, John has provided the music to many an animated number, perhaps most notably, The Lion King. “Hello, Hello” was created for Gnomeo and Juliet, featuring a duet version between John and Lady Gaga.
Elton John released a solo version in 2011, and while it wasn’t a breakout hit it did get a Grammy nomination, which isn’t to be sniffed at. The snub didn’t hurt Lady Gaga’s career either, as the songstress went on to win an Oscar for her work on A Star Is Born’s “Shallow”.
LeAnn Rimes: “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” (Coyote Ugly)
Now, most movie fans who grew up in the nineties and early noughties might remember this one, but let’s assume the rest of you don’t. In fact, if you’ve never seen Coyote Ugly before, then you’d have no clue whatsoever.
Throughout the flick, struggling songwriter Violet Stanford creates “Can’t Fight the Moonlight.” By the end of the movie, country starlet LeAnn Rimes performs the catchy tune while standing on top of a bar. It’s all very kitsch (or trashy if you read the reviews). The song was a smash hit, reaching the top 20 in every country that it charted in. It still gains a lot of radio play today.
Owl City: “When Can I See You Again?” (Wreck-It Ralph)
Owl City are best known for their chart-topping song “Fireflies”, released in 2009. Formed in 2007 by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Adam Young, Owl City continues to churn out new music. One of the songs, “When Can I See You Again”, was a catchy, bubbly tune that lent itself to Wreck-It Ralph in 2012.
“I felt like it was really challenging to try to live up to the Disney legacy,” Owl City’s Adam Young said about the process. “I had a blast.” The pop melody and simple lyrics were a hit with kids, so Disneyland used it during the Paint the Night Parade.
Go West: “King of Wishful Thinking” (Pretty Woman)
You’ve probably got the hook stuck in your head already, haven’t you? This up-beat 90’s number was a spectacular hit for Go West, who had already enjoyed some success with “We Close Our Eyes.” Penned by the bandmates for Pretty Woman, the song peaked at number 8 on the US charts.
It was also named the most played song of the year. Despite appearing in the popular rom-com starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, the song was a standalone success. Sadly for Go West, they never managed to achieve that level of notoriety again and soon faded into obscurity.
Fall Out Boy: “Immortals” (Big Hero 6)
Fall Out Boy has been on our radar for a really long time. So long in fact, that Pete Wentz played the love interest of Peyton Sawyer in everyone’s favorite noughties teen drama, One Tree Hill. The band has continued to top the charts, releasing smash hit after smash hit.
“Immortals” featured on the band’s sixth album, American Beauty/American Psycho released in 2015. Some fans might not realize that it was originally created as part of Big Hero 6‘s soundtrack. “The idea of this kid stepping up on behalf of his brother is what inspired the song’s title, ‘Immortals'”, explains lead singer Patrick Stump.
Madonna: “Sooner or Later” (Dick Tracy)
Madonna is many things, but one thing she most definitely isn’t is a Disney princess. Disney’s 1990 outing Dick Tracy saw her star as Breathless Mahoney, an entertainer with a soul wish: to get the detective into her lovin’ arms and away from his girlfriend.
In the movie, she sang a sultry version of “Sooner or Later” and later repeated this at the 1991 Oscars when the song won an Academy Award. Many people assumed that it was just another hit from the blonde powerhouse, but it was in fact written by famed composer Stephen Sondheim. Madge created an entire album to coincide with the movie release, titled I’m Breathless.
Aerosmith: “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” (Armageddon)
“Don’t want to close my eyes, I don’t want to fall asleep, cause I’d miss you babe, and I don’t want to miss a thing.” Those are the sweet musing of Aerosmith’s 1998 smash hit, which soon became the first dance for millions of newlywed couples across the globe.
Written by Diane Warren, the ballad was actually a key part of the Armageddon soundtrack. The movie featured Steven’s daughter Liv in one of her early movie roles, alongside Ben Affleck. The track has since become one of Aerosmith’s best-known hits, selling hundreds of millions of copies worldwide. Country artist Mark Chesnutt also reached number one with his version of the song.
Stevie Wonder and 98 Degrees: “True to Your Heart” (Mulan)
Everything Stevie Wonder touches becomes musical gold, regardless of whether it reaches the top of the charts or not. Wonder teamed up with boy band of the moment 98 Degrees in 1998 for “True to Your Heart”, a song featured in the closing credits of Mulan.
It’s the kind of song that gets aunts on the dance floor at christening parties. Although the song didn’t break any records, it’s still a meeting of two huge names in the music industry. Fun fact: Christina Aguilera sang another tune on the soundtrack, called “Reflection.” It became Aguilera’s debut single, kick-starting her career.
Miley Cyrus: “The Climb” (Hannah Montana: The Movie)
Miley Cyrus made her career start being a Disney starlet, although those days are long gone. In 2009’s Hannah Montana: The Movie Disney made sure that it was released with an incredible song to match.
“The Climb” was the end result, a sugary sweet pop snippet that soared to the top of the charts. Since then, the song has been performed numerous times on talent shows like AGT and the X-Factor. Miley has made a big effort to distance herself from her Hannah Montana persona over the last few years, but she just can’t escape that song. It’s synonymous with her!
John Rzeznik: “I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)” (Treasure Planet)
John Rzeznik is best known as the lead singer of alt-rockers the Goo Goo Dolls. Their biggest hit was 1998’s “Iris” which was written for the movie City of Angels, starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. We’re not here to talk about that song though, but Rzeznik’s solo venture “I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)”.
The 2002 rock number peaked at No.10 on the Adult Pop Songs chart. “It was easy to relate to Jim, you know?” said Rzeznik about the writing process. “I felt a lot like that when I was his age.” The 53-year-old musician is still busy making magic with his band.
Kelly Clarkson: “Breakaway” (Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement)
Ah, imagine waking up one day to discover that you’re the secret princess of a country you’ve never even heard of. Suddenly, your life is steeped in opulence. Princess Diaries franchise made a star of Anne Hathaway, while also featuring some iconic songs.
Kelly Clarkson is known for her emotional bangers, including “Breakaway”. Avril Lavigne was supposed to record the song for Princess Diaries 2, but changed her mind and passed it off to Clarkson, who was just at the start of her career. The song held the US chart top spot for 21 weeks in a row, something that only Adele and Celine Dion have done.
Ne-Yo: “Never Knew I Needed” (The Princess and the Frog)
The Princess and the Frog was released in 2009, making Tiana one of the later Disney princesses introduced in the canon. The animated spectacle had some great songs littered throughout, including “Almost There.”
R&B sensation Ne-Yo was responsible for the end credits number, “Never Knew I Needed”, which he both wrote and performed for the movie. It peaked at number 56 in the digital download chart but remains a favorite among Ne-Yo fans for its love-struck sentiment. The music video was also centered around the movie, featuring Ne-Yo in locations similar to those we see in the movie. There are even two frogs in it!
Sheryl Crow: “Real Gone” (Cars)
Sheryl Crow has delighted music fans for decades with her unique blend of country and pop. The decorated artist lent her expertise to “Real Gone” for the original Cars in 2006. It was so well-liked by audiences that it was nominated for a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Song in a Movie, although it didn’t win.
Billy Ray Cyrus covered it for Disneymania 6, while Honor Society gave it a whirl for Disneymania 7. “Real Gone” peaked at number 76 on the Billboard Pop 100 as well as number one on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 singles chart.
Kirk Douglas: “Whale of a Tale” (2,000 Leagues Under the Sea)
When most people think of Kirk Douglas, they think of an accomplished actor, father to another great accomplished actor, Michael. What they don’t necessarily think of is a singer, but Douglas did dabble.
The 1954 song “Whale of a Tale” was performed by Douglas for his 1954 movie, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The song was co-written by Al Hoffman, who was the brains behind other Disney hits such as “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from Cinderella and “The Unbirthday Song” from Alice in Wonderland. Douglas is one of the last remaining stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, having celebrated his 102nd birthday last December.
Soundgarden: “Live to Rise” (The Avengers)
The Avengers was a huge movie for Disney, so it’s only natural that they chose a band big enough to take on the anthem. Soundgarden came up with “Live to Rise”, but it wasn’t an easy process.
“Writing a song for The Avengers film, it has to be lyrically not specific to the movie or the story, but it has to work with it,” said the band’s late singer, Chris Cornell. “It wasn’t so easy. But it turned out absolutely a Soundgarden song.” Fans love it, helping it get to the top of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.
Faith Hill: “There You’ll Be” (Pearl Harbor)
Faith Hill’s beautifully haunting country melody “There You’ll Be” is written by songwriter extraordinaire Diane Warren. Celine Dion was offered the opportunity first, but when she refused, it was passed down to Hill, who embraced it with open arms. It hit number one in Canada and Sweden, number 10 in the US and number three in the UK.
Those who don’t spend their lives watching Ben Affleck movies would have missed out on Pearl Harbor, the wartime drama. “There You’ll Be” is the backbone of the soundtrack, but it surpassed the movie and quickly gained a life of its own. The ballad is featured on Hill’s greatest hits album of the same title and The Hits.
Bryan Adams, Rod Steward, Sting: “All for Love” (Three Musketeers)
What do you get when you combine three of the most iconic men in pop/rock? The answer is “All for Love.” Their three unique voices work surprisingly well together, making it a staple choice among fans.
Adams still performs the song regularly in concerts, but it was created for an entirely different purpose altogether. The 1993 movie Three Musketeers needed a song that was both cheesy and upbeat, resulting in this power grabbing tune. The song soared to peak positions in charts across the world, cementing it as a hit in multiple countries. The following year, Adams did a live version featuring Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, and Nancy Gustafson.