Simon Says: The 9 Best Cinematic Uses of Paul Simon Songs


Paul Simon is a musical icon, the kind of artist whose career has garnered fame, critical acclaim, and numerous awards. His appeal is not limited to music fans. Simon’s music also holds a special place in the heart of cinephiles. Simon’s music, performed solo or with Art Garfunkel, possesses just the right blend of introspection, cryptic meaning, and melodic charm that it fits perfectly every time it’s used in a film. Here are the nine best examples.

Almost Famous (2000), America
Anita (Zooey Deschanel), the protagonist’s sister, leaves home to become a stewardess. Rather than explaining her actions, she lets Paul Simon’s words do the work. The song, America, could be a movie in its own right.

Coneheads (1993), Kodachrome
To bridge the gap between the backstory of the coneheads’ arrival on earth and modern day, their life is shown in montage. Simon’s Kodachrome is perfect for the homespun recap, particularly in juxtaposition with their alien highjinx.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
Through the years, filmmakers have latched on to Me and Julio as the official anthem of Pals Doing Stuff Together. One of the most memorable sequences featuring the song happened in Tenenbaums, when the estranged Royal tries to light a fire under his grandsons.

Forrest Gump (1994), Mrs. Robinson
The vast soundtrack for the 1994 Best Picture Oscar winner featured Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson. It played during one of the film’s more memorable scenes- when Forrest showed LBJ his scar.

Garden State (2004), The Only Living Boy in New York
The Simon scene in Zach Braff’s film was presented as the centerpiece of the film. The moment that Andrew, Sam, and Mark scream into the “abyss” was the protagonist’s cathartic moment, memorialized in the film’s marketing. The use of a rarely-used Paul Simon song added considerable weight.

Watchmen (2009), The Sound of Silence
One of the ways Watchmen excelled was its use of music to wrap historical context around its alternate-universe history. And few songs would have worked as well at the Comedian’s funeral as Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence.

The Muppets (2011), Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
This is the second example of “Pals Doing Stuff Together” on the list, set to Me and Julio. In this case, it was used during the film’s early, endearing, humorous montage showing Walter and Gary growing up together. Or at least Gary grew up, even if Walter didn’t. The bad news is that I can’t find a video clip. The good news is that my lack of a video clip means you should  go watch The Muppets to see the scene featuring Paul Simon’s song.

The Graduate (1967), The Sound of Silence
The song is used several times in the film, most notably as bookends for the opening and closing scenes. When director Mike Nichols and the studio asked Simon and Garfunkel to create a soundtrack for their film, little did they know they’d be fusing cinema and soundtrack in such an iconic fashion.

The Graduate (1967), Mrs. Robinson
The song was originally supposed to be about “Mrs. Roosevelt”, but Nichols convinced Simon to make it about Mrs. Robinson instead. And it became movie history, easily the best use of a Paul Simon song in a movie.


Filed under Movies

13 responses to “Simon Says: The 9 Best Cinematic Uses of Paul Simon Songs

  1. Awesome list, John! I love the Muppets choice (I basically love everything about that movie). I was actually thinking you’d include the opening credits of Dawn of the Dead 2004 with Johnny Cash’s ‘The Man Comes Around’ but it seems like you stayed away from opening credits.

    • Oooh… Honestly, I stuck more with Simon or Simon and Garfunkel songs. I didn’t even think of doing covers, which would’ve opened up a whole new world. I wish I would’ve included those.

  2. mettemk

    The soundtrack of The Graduate was definitely one of the things that made me fall head over heels for the film… and thus film in general. So The Sound of Silence has become my favourite song of all time.
    Thanks for this groovy post 🙂

  3. For me, nothing will ever top The Graduate’s use of his songs.

  4. You forget April come she will,from the Graduate! Anyway I love the Graduate’s soundtrack-it is just too perfect. It actually rekindled my love of my favourite song-Sound of Silence. I love how Wes used that song in Royal Tenebeaums to show the mischeviousness of Royal,and of course Gene Hackman is awesome here.

  5. The guy who met Kevin Meany

    Paul Simon (and Garfunkel) cannot go wrong on a soundtrack. I still remember watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 singing along to Scarborough Fair as Leatherface took the chainsaw to another victim. Also, you would think Graceland would have been used in something.

  6. Pingback: Sometimes I Forget To Look | Country Woman's Musings and Deviant Art

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