The Nine Best Uses of Songs in Movies

I’ve been watching too much “Prime Nine” on the MLB Network. In reality, my list of candidates for this entry amounted to something like 25 songs in various movies. Note that when I say “Best”, I really mean “my favorite”. So if you don’t see “I Like Changing Myself For the Woman I Love” from “Love is Nice” starring Julia Roberts or whatever, well… it’s because I don’t watch that shit. Feel free to add ’em in the comments section, though.

1. The Pixies’ “Where is My Mind”, Fight Club
When the twist has hit you and you’ve reached an amazing catharsis via Edward Norton’s insanity, what better song could be used as building after building explodes?

2. Derek and the Dominoes, “Layla”, Goodfellas
This is made even better by the rumor (fact?) that Scorsese replayed part of the piano solo to make it sync up better with the scene. The grisly image of Frankie Carbone hanging in a meat locker is one of my favorite images in any Scorsese movie.

3. Stealer’s Wheel, “Stuck in the Middle With You”, Reservoir Dogs
I could’ve picked just about a billion uses of music in Tarantino  movies but I went with this one. You’ll never hear that song without thinking of Michael Madsen torturing the crap out of some poor schmuck.

4. Jefferson Airplane, “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love”, A Serious Man
I can’t explain how or why it’s so perfect but the way it’s used several times in the film damn near gives me goosebumps, particularly at the very end of the movie (though the movie is sandwiched by it during the opening and closing credits). DO NOT WATCH if you haven’t seen it. Spoiler alert. The song shows up at the very end of this clip.

5. “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, 2001: A Space Odyssey

It’s so iconic that even though I’m not a huge fan of the movie, I’m including it.

6. Wagner, “The Ride of the Valkyries”, Apocalypse Now
Also iconic. Like Stealer’s Wheel and Reservoir Dogs, you’ll never unlink this song and this movie in your brain.

7. Simon and Garfunkel, “The Sound of Silence”, The Graduate
Spoofed a billion times in a million pop culture mediums. Mrs. Robinson also would’ve worked.

8. The Ramones, “Judy is a Punk”, The Royal Tenenbaums
The montage of Margot Tenebaum’s soul-searching which effectively breaks The Baumer’s heart is perfectly paired with The Ramones. Again, there were several candidates from this film alone.

9. The piano intro, Shoot the Piano Player
In fact, this is what inspired me to make this list. The disjointed view of the inside of the piano with the almost disturbingly whimsical tune playing over the credits sets the tone for a French New Wave classic.

There’s the list. It’s a little modern, to be sure. Probably the only reason that Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” from Boogie Nights didn’t make the cut is that I couldn’t find an appropriate youtube clip. Wes Anderson, the Coen Brothers (specifically, The Big Lebowski), and Tarantino’s films all could’ve easily dominated this list. But in the interest of not letting them cannibalize it, I left it open for multiple other entries from other directors.


Filed under Movies

8 responses to “The Nine Best Uses of Songs in Movies

  1. Martini

    Great List. But what about “Lascia ch’io pianga” from the beginning of Von Trier’s uplifting, lighthearted “Antichrist”..

  2. Dude

    Believe it or not, Voodoo Chile(Hendrix) from Blackhawk Down, when they are taking off in the helicopters to go on the mission. Makes even my pacifist ass want to blow shit up. On the flip side, The roof is on fire (bloodhound Gang), from Farenheit 911, when they are blasting it through Baghdad and blowing up stuff for real, makes me sad.

  3. Good list, I agree with the 6 out of 9 that I’ve seen! A guilty pleasure, I love the opening scene in Blade when he kills like 500 people while a techno version of New Order’s “Confusion” blares, it’s a great pairing.

  4. heyzeus

    Excellent list. I’d like to add Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” from the overdose/coffin scene in Trainspotting. Altogether, it may be the most spectacularly depressing song of all time.

  5. Pingback: Battle of the (Fake) Bands: The 10 Best TV/Movie Musicians «

  6. Vodkatz

    I think Wes Anderson has one of the best ears when it comes to pairing music with image:

    Sigur Ros – “Staralfur” when the Leopard Shark comes in to view and the crew sits in awe. I got chills and teared up a little.
    Fantastic Mr Fox – “Street Fighting Man” as Mr. Fox starts to dig.

    Also some another moment I flipped out about:
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “East Hastings” in 28 Days Later when Murphy is running around the city. Perfect eerie pace that takes off running just as fast as Mr. Murphy.

  7. Hannah

    I googled “best uses of a song in a movie” after watching Fight Club for the first time last night, just to make sure that “Where is My Mind?” was on the lists. What a coincidence that it was number one on yours!

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