Top 10 Uses of Music in 2023 Movies

If it’s not a movie musical, it can be easy to write off the use of song in film as just “background music.” But most of the time, it’s much more than that. Directors and music supervisors have very particular visions for a song choice within a scene – whether it’s to evoke a specific emotion in a viewer, further a plot point or provide subtle cues about what will happen next in the story.

From needle drops to original songs, music has served as the heart of many iconic movies for decades. It’s hard to imagine The Breakfast Club without Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” or Rocky without Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” or Shrek without Smash Mouth’s “All-Star.”

The same can be said for a number of box office smashes and beloved indie films released in 2023. With a soundtrack spearheaded by Grammy-winning producer Mark Ronson, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is undoubtedly the most obvious example, becoming the first film to have two best original song Oscar nominees (Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” and Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?”) since La La Land seven years ago. Plus, Sophie Ellis-Bexor’s “Murder on the Dance Floor” found new life over two decades after its release thanks to its unforgettable sync in Saltburn. Although these music moments were probably the year’s most viral, sometimes the most impactful scenes are the ones that could have easily gone unnoticed.

To celebrate another year of great movies with great music, Billboard rounds up our favorite uses of song in film in no particular order (not spoiler free) — including needle drops, original songs, covers and everything in between.

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