Music that is featured in a certain movie scene can really define the film, and there are iconic soundtracks that are sometimes even more popular than the movie itself. We previously showcased the best soundtracks from the 1980s and 1990s, but here are some of the most famous songs found in 1970s films. You can also check out our Spotify page to hear others that we didn’t get a chance to include below.
Best Film Soundtracks of the 1970s
Saturday Night Fever – Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees
“Stayin’ Alive” was released in 1977 as the second single for the film Saturday Night Fever and has since become one of The Bee Gees’ signature tunes. Upon its release, the song climbed to the Billboard charts and hit the #1 spot in February of 1978, remaining there for four straight weeks. Over the years, the band, consisting of brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, have had mixed feelings about the song. Even though it brought them fame, it also led them to be pigeonholed as a strictly disco group. Nonetheless, the song came in at #189 in the 2004 edition of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Also in 2004, it ranked #9 on AFI’s “100 Years…100 Songs” survey. The Bee Gees provided several other tracks for the movie, including “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Night Fever,” “More Than a Woman,” and “You Should Be Dancing.” Other featured tracks are “Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band and “Disco Inferno,” performed by The Trammps.
Rocky - Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky) by Bill Conti, Carol Connors, and Ayn Robbins
The Rocky movie theme song is performed by DeEtta West and Nelson Pigford, although there aren’t many lyrics (only thirty words!) Released in 1977, the tune has since become embedded in pop culture and is often played at sporting events, or in other films that feature a scene with a character who is trying to “get into shape” for a physical competition. In Rocky, the song is heard when the main character, Rocky Balboa, runs up 72 steps as part of his training regimen. “Gonna Fly Now” was nominated for Best Original Song at the 49th Academy Awards, although it lost out to “Evergreen” from A Star is Born.
Shaft - Theme from Shaft by Isaac Hayes
This tune from 1971 was released as a single two months after the movie’s soundtrack but was shortened and edited from a longer album version. Soon after, it shot up the Billboard Soul Singles chart to #2, just behind Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” but reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is considered one of the first disco songs and won Hayes an Academy Award for Best Original Song, making him the first African American with that honor. He also recorded the rest of the songs on the soundtrack, mostly instrumentals used as the score of the film. He released the music as a double album, with only two other vocal tracks: “Soulsville” and “Do Your Thing.” The soundtrack became Hayes’ best-known work.
James Bond: Live and Let Die – Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney and Wings
Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney wrote “Live and Let Die” as the theme song for the 1973 James Bond film of the same name. Upon release, it was the most successful Bond theme up until that point and was the first rock song to open a Bond film and first song from the movie franchise to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. However, it ended up losing to Barbara Streisand’s “The Way We Were.” Despite the loss, it still received positive reviews from music critics and reached #1 on two of the three major U.S. charts (it only reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100).
Other notable James Bond theme songs from the 1970s: “Nobody Does it Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and “Diamonds Are Forever” from the film of the same name (1971).
Super Fly – Freddie’s Dead/Theme From Superfly by Curtis Mayfield
“Freddie’s Dead” was the first single off the soundtrack to the film Super Fly and was released before it premiered. It peaked at #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #2 on the R&B charts, and #82 for the year 1972. Although the song has lyrics, it’s the instrumental version that appears in the movie. Because it’s played throughout the film, it was subtitled “Theme from Superfly” on its single release but not on the album. The song tells the story of Fat Freddie’s death, who is run over by a car in one scene. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Song but lost to “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” by The Undisputed Truth. Unfortunately, “Freddie’s Dead” was ineligible for a Best Original Song Academy Award because the lyrics aren’t sung in the film. Mayfield composed all of the other songs on the soundtrack as well, and it became one of the pioneering soul concept albums and actually outgrossed the film it was compiled for.