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23 Times Movie Characters Sang A Song Better Than The Actual Artist

Spoiler alert: Shrek has two songs on this list, and no, I will not be taking criticism at this time.

As a music lover, I truly appreciate when a film chooses the perfect song for a moment.

Universal Pictures

But I like it even BETTER when the characters sing the songs themselves. Especially when they cover popular songs!

Sony Pictures Releasing

So with that in mind, here are my favorite examples of movie characters covering popular songs!

1. "Holding Out for a Hero" from Shrek 2 (originally by Bonnie Tyler)

The fairy godmother onstage singing

Y'ALL KNEW I HAD TO PUT THIS ONE FIRST. This is the absolute best movie cover of ALL TIME. It's better than the original. I need the Fairy Godmother to perform at all my future functions.

2. "Your Song" from Moulin Rouge (originally by Elton John)

20th Century Fox

Moulin Rouge has a ton of amazing covers, but this one feels like the purest. No mashups, no change in tempo, no big group dance scene — just Ewan McGregor's AMAZING VOICE (who knew?!) and a beautiful, romantic, magical scene with Nicole Kidman. I actually far prefer this version to the Elton John one — it has a lot more heart and soul (don't hate me).

3. "Just the Two of Us" from Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me (originally by Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers)

New Line Cinema

Okay, so TECHNICALLY these aren't the same lyrics as in the original (or in Will Smith's cover), but I'm still including it because it is one of my favorite movie music moments of all time.

4. "Somebody to Love" from Ella Enchanted (originally by Queen)

Ella singing
Miramax Films

I did not know Anne Hathaway could sing before this. It's such a random (YET PERFECT) moment in one of the best films from our childhoods. While nothing can beat Queen, this cover comes pretty close.

5. "Respect" from Are We There Yet? (originally by Otis Redding but made famous by Aretha Franklin)

Lindsey singing onstage
Sony Pictures Releasing

I feel like nobody but me remembers Are We There Yet? and that's a damn shame. It is a fine movie, and this absolutely LEGENDARY "Respect" cover by then–14-year-old Aleisha Allen is one for the books.

6. "Goofy Goober Rock" from The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (originally by Twisted Sister)

Spongebob floating with his wizard costume and peanut electric guitar singing
Paramount Pictures

Again, the lyrics are different from "I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister, but it's the same song. I remember I was SHOCKED to learn this was a cover, and immediately became obsessed with the original (which is what a good cover should do!). This is an absolutely iconic moment in the first SpongeBob film, and the song slaps — what more could you want?

7. "You Oughta Know" from Booksmart (originally by Alanis Morissette)

United Artists Releasing

The only problem with this scene is that IT WASN'T LONGER!!! Both George and Amy KILL this song, and I need full versions released on Spotify, please and thank you.

8. "Somebody to Love" from Happy Feet (originally by Queen)

the penguins dancing under the stars
Warner Bros. Pictures

Okay, sorry, I know this song was already included, but it's just so cover-able! Brittany Murphy covering a Queen song was something I didn't know I needed in my life. Her vocals are amazing, and this scene is just so beautifully animated and large scale that it instantly became the most iconic moment of the movie.

9. "I Like to Move It" from Madagascar (originally by Reel 2 Real)

King Julien dancing

Either you remember being SUPER annoyed by this song, or you remember loving it — either way, I'm sure it was stuck in your head after seeing the film. It's a solid cover, and you have to admit it's catchy!

10. "Rocket Man" from Rocketman (originally by Elton John)

Elton on Stage in his bedazzled Dodgers outfit
Paramount Pictures

This scene is so heartbreaking and amazing, and the performance of the song is legendary. Taron Egerton did an amazing job living up to Elton John's vocals in the film, and this song is one of the best examples of that.

11. "Roxanne" from Moulin Rouge (originally by the Police)

20th Century Fox

Okay, sorry, I HAD to include another Moulin Rouge song (it's my favorite movie!). It's not an exact cover, but it's pretty close. The song perfectly matches the tone of the film at that point, and the dancing is dark, sexy, and impressive. Intercutting the song with Christian darkly lamenting Satine's choice elevates this cover to being even better than the original, IMO.

12. "Don't Stop Believing" from Rock of Ages (originally by Journey)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Rock of Ages may not be the best film in the world, but it's silly and fun, and this is the silliest and funnest cover of the film. It brings everything and everyone together — plus, the vocals are decent. Who knew Tom Cruise could sing?

13. "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" from School of Rock (originally by AC/DC)

Dewey singing onstage for the encore of Battle of the Bands
Paramount Pictures

I need Jack Black to be in more musicals!! Also, can we have a School of Rock reunion concert while we're at it? I prefer "Teacher's Pet," but this cover works perfectly to close out the movie.

14. "I'm a Believer" from Shrek (originally by the Monkees)


Okay, so it's no "Holding Out for a Hero," but it's still an excellent song to close out the first Shrek film. It may have been hard to stomach Eddie Murphy's Donkey falling for the Dragon, but this song made even me a believer.

15. "Somebody to Love" The Cable Guy (originally by the Great Society)

Sony Pictures Releasing

Yes, Sorry, ANOTHER "Somebody to Love" — but this time I'm not talking about the Queen song, but the song by the Great Society. Carrey's acting, singing, and dancing are hilarious, yet also really?? good?? in this scene, and it's one of the most karaoke scenes from any film.

16. "Jingle Bell Rock" from Mean Girls (originally by Bobby Helms)

Paramount Pictures

Again, WHO KNEW LINDSAY LOHAN COULD SING? Her voice is actually really pretty, and though it doesn't last song, the entire school singing "Jingle Bell Rock" is the one sweet moment of unity in the entire film. It's an iconic movie scene, and again, I need the full version on Spotify.

17. "Lay All Your Love on Me" from Mamma Mia (originally by ABBA)

Universal Pictures

I'm not sure if this is a controversial opinion or not, but "Lay All Your Love on Me" is the best cover in this movie. Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper both have great voices, and their chemistry in this scene in palpable. But the best part comes when Sky is abducted for his bachelor party by a ton of men dancing in flippers.

18. "Words I Couldn't Say" from Country Strong (originally by Rascal Flatts)

Screen Gems

Country Strong is another example from this list where the movie wasn't the best, but there were some great songs on the soundtrack. Leighton Meester shines in this scene — she did Rascal Flatts' "Words I Couldn't Say" justice.

19. "We Belong" from Pitch Perfect 2 (originally by Pat Benatar)

Universal Pictures

Like Moulin Rouge, the Pitch Perfect film series has some great covers, but so many of them are mashups. This song is just a cover of one song, though it's turned into a duet for Rebel Wilson and Adam Devine. It's just silly and ridiculous, and it's so fun to finally watch Buster and Amy get together.

20. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" from Across the Universe (originally by the Beatles)

Prudence sings from the bleachers
Sony Pictures Releasing

This might be another controversial opinion, but "I Want to Hold Your Hand" is my favorite cover in Across the Universe. It's so sweet and heartbreaking, and it feels different from the original while still paying homage to it, much like "Your Song" earlier on this list.

21. "Mamma Mia" from Mamma Mia (originally by ABBA)

Donna pleading to the skies on the roof where Harry, Bill, and Sam are staying
Universal Pictures

Sorry, I HAD to include another Mamma Mia song, and this is the most iconic. Meryl Streep's voice works perfectly here, and it's so much fun to watch her have fun.

22. "Help!" from Yesterday (originally by the Beatles)

Jack sings onstage
Universal Pictures

Himesh Patel excels vocally at all the Beatles songs, but there is a certain level of detachment as someone who knows he's just covering songs. "Help!" is where he truly seems to feel the song and relate to it most, and his performance has a lot of soul. This is where he truly starts to feel deserving of the Beatles fame, just as his lie is about to unravel.

23. And finally, "Hard Knock Life" from Austin Powers 3: Goldmember (originally by Jay-Z, whose version samples "It's the Hard Knock Life" from Annie)

New Line Cinema

Okay, I know this is another example where the lyrics don't match, but oh well. It's not AS iconic as "Just the Two of Us," but it's another hilariously random moment where we hear Dr. Evil badly rap. Honestly, it's one of the few good parts of Goldmember.

That’s my list — what about yours? What do you think are some of the best song covers featured in movies? Let me know in the comments below!


"I'm a Believer" was written by Neil Diamond and originally performed by the Monkees. An earlier version of this post stated that it was originally by Smash Mouth, who covered the song for Shrek.


"Respect" was originally by Otis Redding, and "Just the Two of Us" was originally by Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers. A previous version of this post stated that "Respect" was by Aretha Franklin and "Just the Two of Us" was by Will Smith.