Through each generation, music has changed and adapted as the world grew and people’s tastes changed. Through each decade and generation, it seems that there are a few music artists who are just above what other people are doing. Selling out huge stadiums back-to-back, topping the charts, and having multiple #1 singles. Taylor Swift fits into this category of the musical elite.
Update September 21, 2023: This article has been updated with even more great Taylor Swift needle drops in honor of the upcoming release of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.
Her ballads are legendary and deeply personal, and when used in a movie or a show, they can elevate the scene that much more. Like any good needle drop, Taylor Swift’s songs are usually more than welcome in a scene and end up making it that much more memorable. With the cinematic version of the singer’s Eras Tour soon to be showing in theaters now seems like the perfect time to take a look at the best uses of Taylor Swift songs in film and TV.
16 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
FX comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia doesn’t make use of pop songs very often, but when it does, you can bet it’ll be done in a typically humorous way. In the season nine episode, “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award,” the main characters visit a popular bar to check out the competition. The bar is called “Sudz” and is filled with young and overly friendly staff and customers who are looking to have a good time. So, what better song is there to illustrate this point than Swift’s 2012 hit, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. The song plays in the bar as the gang begins to warm to the setting and works excellently at conveying the vibe of the place.
15 Killing Eve – Look What You Made Me Do
Throughout its four-season run, BBC thriller Killing Eve made use of lots of great music to get the tone and create atmosphere. One of the most memorable instances of this was in the season 3 episode, “Beautiful Monster”. Playing during the end of the first scene and into an extended opening credits is a cover of Taylor Swift’s 2017 chart-topper, “Look What You Made Me Do” performed by Jack Leopards and the Dolphin Club. No band of this name existed prior to the Killing Eve episode, and many fans believe that the vocals on the song were performed by Swift’s brother, Austin. Furthermore, the pop singer is said to have produced the cover version herself under the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg.
14 Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
In 2015, Taylor Swift received the Pitch Perfect treatment. That is to say, one of her songs was covered by Anna Kendrick and her a cappella singing co-stars in Pitch Perfect 2. The song in question is “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, the lead single from Swift’s fourth album, Red. It was performed by the Bellas during a riff-off with other competing a cappella groups in the film’s third act. With the riff-off’s theme being “Dated John Mayer”, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was certainly the perfect choice of song.
13 True Blood – Haunted
The lesser known Taylor Swift song “Haunted” can be found on the singer’s underrated third album, Speak Now. With lyrics about the pain of someone leaving, the song is a dramatic anthem with a rock-inspired guitar riff and strings over the chorus. It’s over-the-top-ness and hints of rock mean it fits nicely within the world of HBO’s vampire-themed hit series, True Blood. It’s used during the season four episode “Let’s Get Out of Here”, providing the soundtrack to a particularly racy scene between the characters of Jason and Jessica.
12 You – Exile
Swift’s music can be used in joyous and happy scenes, but with such a large back catalog of songs, she’s even got ones for darker sequences as well. Featuring American indie band Bon Iver, “Exile” is song that appeared on Swift’s 2020 album, Folklore. Like many of the other tracks on the album, it’s a slow and stripped-back number with a distinctively bleak atmosphere, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to Netflix’s equally gloom TV series, You. It plays during the final episode of the show’s third season after serial killer Joe Goldberg has just murdered his lover, Love Quinn. It’s a grim watch, but the music does a good job of helping the audience to understand Joe’s conflict; he cares about Love but feels like he has no choice but to kill her, thus continuing the cycle.
11 The Hannah Montana Movie (2009) – Crazier
Over a decade ago, it was a huge deal when it was announced that Hannah Montana was getting a movie. If that wasn’t good enough, a young Taylor Swift makes an appearance in the film, and her song “Crazier” is featured. It’s a very pure and lighthearted movie about finding yourself and coming back home, and “Crazier” perfectly sets the tone. The young love shown between Miley and Travis was fast but innocent, and “Crazier” is all the emotions between them wrapped up in a perfect, heartfelt song.
10 The Hunger Games (2012) – Safe and Sound
Even if songs aren’t included in the film itself, when it’s featured in the credits, it’s still just as good. For The Hunger Games, Swift wrote two songs, “Safe and Sound” and “Eyes Open” for the film, and only the former was used for the credits, and it’s a bit of a doozy. It’s dark, dreamy, and essentially a lullaby for Prim that Katniss sings to her when she’s scared about the impending games and the reaping. The lyrics and the melody tell you everything you need to know, and after watching twenty-four kids kill each other in the name of the government, “Safe and Sound” will haunt you even more as the credits roll.
9 New Girl – 22
In New Girl, Taylor Swift actually made an appearance in the show, and it really was a great scene, although slightly confusing for future plot lines. In the scene where her song is featured is when Jess is grieving her relationship with Sam, and Nick takes it upon himself to try and cheer Jess up since she’s so sad and not her usual self. “22” plays as he dances and jumps around, trying to make her feel better, but genuinely just looking a mess as Jess stares at him blankly.
After he’s done giving the performance of a lifetime, Jess informs him that she’d rather listen to the songs by herself, and Nick gives up.
8 Fifty Shades Darker (2017) – I Don’t Wanna Live Forever
In Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, the scene in which “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Taylor Swift and Zayn play could be considered one of the most pure scenes in the franchise. It’s more domestic and lighthearted as Anastasia and Christian are on his huge boat, and he has her steer it back home, which she’s nervous about.
It’s a great scene that shows more than just the physical attraction between the two individuals, and they’re able to have these sweet moments together before things get crazy further on in the film.
7 Bridgerton – Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)
Bridgerton is very well known for taking modern songs and turning them into instrumental versions that mostly consist of beautiful violins, and Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” got that treatment. It’s a great scene between Daphne and Simon as they celebrate their honeymoon and actually seem to be enjoying each other instead of arguing. It’s very dreamy, and the song is perfectly matched with the scene even if the words aren’t included, you know it works perfectly by the swell of violins and the implications.
6 Greys Anatomy – White Horse
Throughout the very popular medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, there have been several great needle drop moments and even musical episodes where members of the cast sing, which either receive the meme treatment or high praise for their vocals. In season 5, Taylor Swift’s song “White Horse” had its debut within the first episode of that season, and fans at the time were quick to take to social media to boast about the usage of the song.
As the song plays out, a lot of things happen, such as Bailey telling Alex to reset the O.R. clock as well as Owen Hunt kissing Christina Yang for the first time. You could perceive the usage of that song in different ways since it might seem out of place, but when you look at the big decision that Bailey took on in the operating room, it makes more sense.
5 Where the Crawdads Sing (2022) – Carolina
When Where the Crawdads Sing came out in theaters, audiences praised it for how well it was adapted from the novel of the same name by Delia Owens. Taylor Swift seemed to be a big fan of the books and wrote an original song for the film that perfectly captured North Carolina and the Marsh Girl. The instrumental version of the song plays a bit early and is beautifully haunting, but the full song plays while the credits roll.
You’re still in shock at the truth of what Kya did, and suddenly, you’re completely wrapped up in this absolute beast of a song. “Carolina” by Taylor Swift is the perfect song for a movie like this and perfectly ends the film.
4 The Summer I Turned Pretty – Lover
The Summer I Turned Pretty utilized plenty of Taylor Swift songs throughout the series, and the scene where “Lover” is played is absolutely iconic. If you read the books, then you know prior to this scene that Belly is fully infatuated with Conrad, a boy she grew up with in the summer. In the series, this scene is the first one between Conrad and Belly, and with “Lover” playing in the background, it makes it that much more whimsical and sweet.
Belly loves Conrad and wants this summer to be the one where everything changes. The lyrics to this song perfectly capture the innocence and emotion that Belly feels towards Conrad in the first episode.
3 The Summer I Turned Pretty – This Love (Taylor’s Version)
How could we only include one entry from The Summer I Turned Pretty series when Taylor Swift’s influence is all over it? At the end of season one, it all comes together as Conrad and Belly finally kiss. They’re on the beach, which we love, and “This Love” is playing in the background, which really seals the deal for this scene. If you really listen to the lyrics, and you know what to expect in season two, then you’re aware that the song strongly contradicts their relationship. It’s like a beautiful disaster as you watch them finally kiss, but know what’s going to happen in the long run.
2 The Summer I Turned Pretty – Bigger Than the Whole Sky
The second season of The Summer I Turned Pretty, like the first, didn’t hold back on the Taylor Swift need drops and, once again, the pop singer’s extensive repertoire proved to be the perfect soundtrack to the coming-of-age romantic drama. There are many examples throughout season two of Swift’s songs being used in effective ways, but none of them compare to the ambient ballad “Bigger Than the Whole Sky” being used in one particularly emotional scene. Said scene involves Belly visiting Susannah who is losing her battle with cancer, but still takes the time to talk Belly’s break-up through with her. It’s an emotional gut-punch of a scene that is only made more weighty by Swift’s hauntingly beautiful song about losing someone, but assuring them that they were important to you.
1 The Bear – Love Story (Taylor’s Version)
Coming in at number one has to be the most recent needle drop in season two of The Bear. In Richie Jerimovich’s episode entitled “Forks”, we watch as his character has a fantastic redemption arc and quickly becomes the MVP of the season. Throughout the season, we’re aware of Richie’s love/hate relationship with the singer due to his daughter loving her songs, as well as his ex.
It all comes to a head, though, in “Forks” when, after a great day of staging, we see him whipping through the streets of Chicago belting out the lyrics to “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)”. He can’t harmonize for the life of him, and he gets some of the words wrong, but honestly, it’s a very empowering scene that’ll have you cheering for Richie as he grows into his best self.