The 25 Best Taylor Swift Needle Drops 

18 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

The best Taylor Swift needle drops will make you think about her music a little differently. A show like You might play with tone, turning an emotional ballad into comic relief, while The Buccaneers might help christen a new Swiftie classic with one pivotal scene. Some music syncs feel so seamless you may start to believe they were written specifically for a movie, while others, like Swift’s Valentine’s Day sweetheart anthem “Today Was a Fairytale,” actually was. But the most fun needle drops might be those that sound so bonkers in theory that you can’t help but tip your cap to them for making it work. (Looking at you, True Blood!)

For this list we stuck to a few rules. The most important being: no song shall be repeated. “Welcome to New York” may pop up in lots of productions, but we narrowed it down to the one movie or TV show that we believe made best use of the 1989 single. There are TV shows that have licensed more than one Swift song throughout their seasons-long run, but we decided to narrow it down to one song per show. We did manage to choose only one needle drop from the Swift-fueled The Summer I Turned Pretty, which, we’ll admit, wasn’t easy. (Though, if you believe The Bear’s music supervisor, it’s actually not as hard to clear Swift’s discography as one may think.) We also expanded our search to include commercials and trailers that used Swift’s music to perfection. Here’s to hoping that one of our picks will keep M3gan off our back—quite literally. 

From New Girl to The Fall Guy, these are the 25 best uses of Swift’s music in pop culture.

“Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” in The Bear Season 2, Episode 7

Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) may be more of a Dick Head—thanks to his love of sci-fi author Philip K. Dick—than a Swiftie. But for one glorious night, when he nails his staging gig at a three Michelin star restaurant, he finds himself driving through the streets of Chicago belting out his young daughter’s favorite artist in celebration. Richie’s joyride turns last year’s re-recorded version of the original Fearless track into a bighearted anthem for a local boy who finally makes good.

“Today Was a Fairytale” in Valentine’s Day (2010)

Valentine’s Day not only marked Swift’s big screen debut, but the first film she ever wrote an original song for. (“Today Was a Fairytale” also appears on Fearless (Taylor’s Version).) The track can be heard in a montage that features her character Felicia, a sweet and flighty cheerleader, getting a goodnight kiss from her onscreen boyfriend (played by Taylor Lautner, who she dated offscreen after making the film). The happily ever after song is as sugary sweet as a box of chocolates, which makes it the perfect complement to the mid-aughts rom-com set on Feb. 14. 

“Look What You Made Me Do” in Killing Eve Season 3, Ep. 7

With this episode, Killing Eve’s high-fashion psychopath Villanelle (Jodi Comer) officially enters her Reputation era. Episode 7 begins with the calm, cool, and collected contract killer sitting in a room full of medieval weapons looking a bit nervous as Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” plays. But it might take a minute to register the tune, which sounds totally different than it does on 2017’s Reputation. For one thing, it’s not Swift singing the song, but her brother Austin, taking lead on this slow and sinister cover of the track. Here’s, he’s credited as the frontman of the (fake) band Jack Leopards & The Dolphin Club, of which his older sister and her long-time producer, Jack Antonoff, are members. Look what you made her do, indeed. 

“All Too Well” in The Fall Guy (2024)

Early in the action-packed romance, stuntman Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) finds himself nursing a few bumps and bruises to his ego after his old love interest and new boss, director Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), puts him through the ringer on the set of her new film. Sitting in his car, he turns on the radio, hears Swift’s expert kiss-off anthem, and finds himself getting in his feelings. Gosling, who recently parodied the Red track on Saturday Night Live, admitted that shooting the scene was “very cathartic” for him. “I think I cried a little too hard,” he told UK’s Digital Spy. Gosling once again proves that he’s not just Ken, he’s a man who can do both. 

“Wildest Dreams” in Bridgerton Season 1, Ep. 6

Swift’s 1989 stunner is given an orchestral makeover to soundtrack the honeymoon of Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon (Regé-Jean Page). The new Duke and Duchess of Hastings make good on the song’s title, engaging in passionate love-making whenever and wherever they can—much to the delight of the maids. It’s safe to say, no Swift song has ever felt so climactic.

“Safe & Sound” feat. The Civil Wars in The Hunger Games (2012)

If you don’t stay to the very end of The Hunger Games credits, you’ll miss “Safe & Sound,” the futuristic folk ballad Swift co-wrote with alt-country duo The Civil Wars. After reading Suzanne Collins’ book of the same name, Swift was inspired to write a song for the Jennifer Lawrence blockbuster. She wrote the bittersweet lullaby from the perspective of protagonist Katniss Everdean (played by Lawrence) after learning that her friend Rue has died in the titular competition. “Safe & Sound” showed off Swift’s skills as a storyteller who didn’t have to rely on her own life for material, eight years before she would drop Folklore

“22” in New Girl Season 2, Ep. 16

After a devastating breakup, all Jess (Zooey Deschanel) wants to do is listen to Taylor Swift alone. But Nick (Jake Johnson) believes that he can make her feel better if he joins in on her rosé-fueled pity party. Oh, how wrong he is. The Red banger for the slightly over 21 set, however, feels like the right choice for Nick’s hilariously bad dance routine that doesn’t help Jess with her depression, but is sure to get everyone else out of their funk. 

“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” feat. Zayn in Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

Whatever your opinion may be of the Fifty Shades films, there’s one thing that undeniably works: Swift and Zayn’s duet in the trilogy’s second film Fifty Shades Darker. The electropop ballad drops in just as BDSM businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) lets his less experienced lover Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) take the wheel of his boat. (And no, that’s not a euphemism—this scene is very much G-rated.) But with Swift and Zayn’s help, the couple (and the viewers) experience a stretch of smooth sailing in the mostly turbulent film. 

“This Love (Taylor’s Version)” in The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 1, Ep. 7 & Season 2, Ep. 1

Author Jenny Han has not been shy about how much Swift’s Fearless inspired her while writing her 2009 novel The Summer I Turned Pretty. She has said it was her “number one dream” to feature Swift’s music on the Amazon series of the same name and even wrote the pop star a letter to get her approval. So it’s only fitting that Swift’s music has become like another character on the highly emotional teen show that adults can’t help but love, too. TSITP has already featured 13 Swift songs, with nine of them appearing in season 2. 

A bittersweet flashback between a bracefaced Isabel “Belly” Conklin (Lola Tung) and her lifelong crush Conrad (Christopher Briney) in season 2 features “Sweet Nothing” off Midnights. “Hey Stephen” becomes Belly’s brother Steven’s theme song. (It also happens to be the character’s ringtone in the books.) “Delicate,” Han’s favorite Swift track, popped up in a lovey-dovey scene between Belly and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno), Conrad’s little brother and her other crush. A choice that left members of Team Conrad shaking in their boots. But the best of TSITP’s Swift syncs has to be “This Love (Taylor’s Version),” which has become the unofficial anthem of Belly and Conrad’s tortured romance. 

The 1989 (Taylor’s Version) track first showed up in the season 1 finale, before it was even officially released, in the scene in which Belly and Conrad share their first kiss. It’s a moment of euphoria for Belly who almost can’t believe her wildest dreams are coming true. When it pops back up again in the season 2 premiere, the song takes on a more somber tone. Now broken up, Belly finds herself going back to the moment when they kissed with fresh eyes. This particular needledrop shows how Swift's music has the uncanny ability to capture life’s highest highs and lowest lows—often all within the same song. 

“Lover” in The Bold Type Season 4, Ep. 2

For the moment in which lawyer Richard (Samuel Page) proposes to his younger stylist girlfriend Sutton (Meghann Fahy), The Bold Type music supervisors chose “Lover,” one of the most romantic songs in Swift’s discography. The co-workers-turned-lovers are in the boardroom at the Scarlet magazine offices where they first locked eyes when suddenly Richard gets down on one knee. The title track off Swift’s 2019 album comes swooning in—but not before Sutton makes a bawdy joke about why he’s going down there. Sure, “Lover” may feel a little on the nose for The Bold Type couple most likely to keep the Christmas lights up way past January. But it’s hard not to feel all lovey-dovey inside when Swift is out here writing lyrics that sound more like wedding vows. 

“Seven” in Heartstopper Season 2, Ep. 8

Heartstopper manages to flip the script on the sorrowful “Seven,” which Swift wrote about a childhood friend’s troubled home life. The season 2 finale of the queer teen Netflix series uses the tender Folklore track to score a moment in which Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) finally tells her girlfriend Tara (Corinna Brown) about her own family problems. Like Swift’s friend, Darcy’s issues are too deep to be solved by her peers. But their exchange shows how nice it is to have a friend who is there for you no matter what. The episode’s sweet scene, which ends with Tara and Darcy saying “I love you” for the first time, embraces the innocence that Swift sings of. While Swift sounds embarrassed of her youthful naïveté on “Seven,” Heartstopper shows why being too young to know any better isn’t always such a bad thing. 

“Out of the Woods (Taylor’s Version)” in Migration (2023) Trailer

The trailer for Migration begins with a flock of ducks (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, and Danny DeVito) making their way out of the woods in hopes of finding an adventure all to the sounds of, well, what else, “Out of the Woods.” Taylor’s version of the 1989 track doesn’t appear in the animated film, but whoever came up with the idea to feature it in the trailer deserves a raise — a big one. 

“Exile” feat. Bon Iver in You Season 3, Ep. 10

Just as sociopath Joe (Penn Badgley) drags the lifeless body of Love (Victoria Pedretti), his equally deranged wife, across the floor of their Nancy Meyers-esque kitchen, the evocative Folklore track starts to play. It’s undoubtedly a chilling moment; Joe is willing to do anything, even chop off a couple of toes, to get away with Love’s murder. Yet the “Exile” needledrop plays like comedy. Seriously, try not to giggle as Swift and her duet partner Bon Iver unload their anguish on one another while Joe rolls out pie dough with the intention of baking his little piggies into it. It’s not the only time that You has used Swift’s music for a bit of comic relief—the “Anti-Hero” sync in season 4 will surely make you LOL. But it’s hard to deny the brilliance of this needledrop, which will make a viewer laugh, cry, and, quite possibly, lose their lunch. 

“Ivy” in Dickinson Season 3, Ep. 9 

The Evermore track plays over the credits of the penultimate episode of Dickinson, the Apple TV+ series loosely based on the life of tortured poet (and Swift cousin) Emily Dickinson. It’s an apt soundtrack since fans have long believed that the folk song about a woman longing for someone who is not her husband was inspired by Dickinson’s letters to her secret lover Sue Gilbert, who was married to Dickinson’s brother. Knowing Swift’s penchant for Easter eggs, it’s hard not to wonder if the song’s appearance in this particular episode, which ends with a steamy sex scene between Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) and Sue (Ella Hunt), is her way of finally confirming the fan theory. Dickinson creator Alena Smith would sure like to think so. 

“Carolina” in Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)

“Carolina” is a murder ballad fit for the marshes of North Carolina where the film based on Delia Owens’ controversial novel of the same name takes place. Swift wrote the end credits theme for Where the Crawdads Sing from the perspective of protagonist Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a “marsh girl” obsessed with ecology who becomes the lead suspect in the murder of her ex-boyfriend. The haunting and ethereal Folklore-esque track provides a bit of closure for shocked viewers, and acts as a Cliff’s Notes for anyone who didn’t read the best-seller. 

“White Horse” in Grey’s Anatomy Season 5, Ep. 2

From The Fray’s “How To Save a Life” to Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” Grey’s Anatomy has always had the power to turn songs into hits. That is why, in 2008, Swift was brought to tears when she found out the medical series was going to feature “White Horse,” off her then soon to be released 2008 album, Fearless, on that same year’s two-part season premiere. Even better, it was the soundtrack for the steamy first makeout session between Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) and Dr. Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd), which happens shortly after he gallantly removes a gigantic icicle from her abdomen. Just another day at Seattle Grace, right?

“Haunted” in True Blood Season 4 , Ep. 9

As the Speak Now track plays, vampire and noted Swifie Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) gets it on with Deputy Sheriff and werepanther Jason (Ryan Kwanten) in the back of a pickup truck. “Haunted” is a surprisingly chaste musical cue for such a racy scene, which is why Swift’s team initially said no to the sync in 2011. (The funny thing is, this episode’s sex scene is rather tame compared to most of the things in the kinky HBO series inspired by Charlaine Harris’s book series of the same name.) The fact that it was Swift, then on the brink of 22, who pushed for the angst-ridden song to appear on the show is what makes this needle drop so noteworthy. 

“It’s Nice to Have a Friend” in M3gan (2023) Trailer

Sure, it’s nice to have a friend, unless that new buddy is M3gan, an incredibly life-like humanoid robot programmed to sing, dance, and, unfortunately, kill. Swift’s Lover track offers a welcome bit of kitsch to the trailer for the 2023 campy horror film that is Frankenstein for the Internet age. An army of M3gans even showed their Swift allegiance by performing a viral dance routine to the song at the film’s L.A. premiere. It’s almost as mesmerizing and terrifying as the movie itself.

“Epiphany” in The Wilds Season 2, Ep. 1

Amazon’s teen survival drama The Wilds opens its second season with several teenage girls recounting the horrors of a plane crash that left them stranded on what they thought was a deserted island. The haunting “Epiphany” plays over shots of the young women cauterizing an open bloody wound. It’s a ghastly sight, but Swift’s soothing vocals, which sound almost hymn-like, highlight their resilience to endure what life has thrown at them.

“Shake If Off” in Ballers Season 1, Ep. 8

Just like Dwayne Johnson himself, his Ballers character, retired NFL player-turned-financial manager Spencer Strasmore, gets down with the sick beat of “Shake It Off.” Spencer’s ride to work turns into an episode of Carpool Karaoke, which leaves onlookers stunned by his choice of hype song. But as Swift once said, the haters gonna hate and you just have to shake it off, shake it off. 

“We Are Never Getting Back Together” in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 9, Ep. 3

With hopes of making Paddy’s Irish Pub Philly’s newest drinking destination, the Always Sunny gang find themselves doing some reconnaissance work at the city’s most popular watering hole Sudz. This bar is well-lit, well-stocked, and playing a playlist full of pop favorites, including Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” at full volume. After a few fishbowl drinks, the breakup anthem sounds pretty good to even the most legendary dirtbags, Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and Dennis (Glenn Howerton).

“Nothing New” feat. Phoebe Bridgers in The Buccaneers Season 1, Ep. 1

Swift opened the vault to give fans “Nothing New,” the Red (Taylor’s Version) track in which she, with help from Boygenius singer Phoebe Bridgers, calls out the music industry’s unfair treatment of women. When the song shows up in the premiere of The Buccaneers, the historical drama based on Edith Wharton’s unfinished posthumously published novel of the same name, it becomes a condemnation of the debutante balls of the 1890s. Hearing Swift sing about mistreated ingenues over shots of pretty girls all dressed in white anxiously hoping to be plucked out of the crowd by a worthy suitor, will leave you wondering how far society has actually come in 150 years. 

“This Is Me Trying” in Gossip Girl Season 1, Ep. 7 

The Folklore ballad, which Swift wrote about fighting one’s demons to little avail, feels as if it was written specifically for this episode of the Gossip Girl reboot. Wealthy do-gooder Obie (Eli Brown) finally lets his classmate, manipulative queen bee Julien (Jordan Alexander), know that he’s been doing her bidding because he’s in love with her. Of course, everyone, including Julien, already knew this, but him finally saying it out loud somehow makes it real for her. She leans in for a kiss as “This Is Me Trying” swells in the background. Unfortunately, keeping with the song’s message, trying isn’t enough to make her stay. But the despondent track feels like what Obie needs to hear as he watches her walk away. 

“Mine” in Glee Season 4, Ep. 4

Swift’s “Mine” is a love song about the one you just couldn’t let get away. But on Glee the song becomes a forlorn ballad that soundtracks the break-up of Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany (Heather Morris). Recent William McKinley High School graduate Santana returns to the choir room to let Brittany down gently with a tear-filled performance of the Speak Now song that will leave you reaching for a box of tissues. 

“Welcome to New York” in NBC Sunday Night Football Commercial (2023)

Days after Swift showed up at a Kansas City Chiefs game to root on her then rumored boyfriend, NFL player Travis Kelce, NBC used the Big Apple anthem to tease an upcoming game between Kelce’s team and the New York Jets. “Taylor made for Sunday night,” the official Sunday Night Football account tweeted in anticipation of the game. No surprise, the commercial featured plenty of shots of Kelce as Swift sings about the lights never blinding her. It appears that “Welcome to New York” might have helped the Chiefs take Manhattan; they won the match-up 23 to 20.

Correction, May 7

The original version of this story misstated which album "Love Story" appears on. It is Fearless, not Speak Now.

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