The song was not initially scheduled for release on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, with “How Deep Is Your Love” selected as lead single, but fans called radio stations and RSO Records requesting the song immediately after seeing trailers for the movie, featuring the track over the aforementioned introductory scene. The single was eventually released in mid-December, a month after the album, and moved to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in February, where it would stay for four weeks. Soon after, it would slide to number two, locking in a solid one-two punch with the Bee Gees’ third smash hit from the album, “Night Fever”. In the United Kingdom, “Stayin’ Alive” was a solid seller but not as popular as it was in the United States, topping out at number four.
Further demonstrating the Bee Gees’ US chart domination in 1978, “Stayin’ Alive” was replaced at number one with the group’s younger brother Andy Gibb’s single, “Love Is Thicker Than Water”, followed by the Bee Gees’ “Night Fever” for their longest run, seven weeks. This was then replaced by Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You”. Barry Gibb had a hand in writing all four of these songs, becoming the only person in history to write four successive US number-one singles.