Movie Tunes: The Top 40 music moments in film history: 1-10
“Try a Little Tenderness,” Otis Redding – Pretty in Pink
How do you tell a girl you love her when you can’t just tell her that you love her? If you’re Duckie Dale (Jon Cryer), you say it with a dance. Tricked out in vintage low-income hipster gear – the gym socks with the white leather Capezio shoes are a particularly nice touch – the Duckman infuses his every motion with the passion he feels for Andie (Molly Ringwald) as he thrashes his way through the song, lip-synching every word. He collapses to the floor. He gets right back up...just as he has done every time Andie has rebuffed his advances in the past. Only this time, things are different. He’s losing her to someone else. “Do I offend?” he asks as the girl he “lives to like” flees the room. No, Duckie, you don’t offend. Quite the opposite, in fact. You may have lost the girl, but you won our hearts in the process. (review) – Deb Medsker
“The End,” The Doors – Apocalypse Now
Although “Apocalypse Now” was released in 1979, I didn’t catch it until the summer of 1980. Like Willard, this was my summer to go up the river; I spent a great deal of time listening to my uncle’s record collection, entranced by the sixties-era psychedelia pumping from the speakers. Standing out of the pack were the Doors; it’s at this time when young weirdoes and introverted extroverts start knocking at the doors of perception. A friend and I watched a Betamax copy of the film while his parents were away. The final scene of the movie – Willard’s mental preparation for and assassination (by machete) of Kurtz – unravels over “The End.” The entire movie, all three hours, leads up to the scene of Willard rising from the river, methodically making his way to Kurtz, and taking him out. Both Kurtz and the beast being sacrificially slaughtered seem not only to be aware of their fate but to embrace it as part of their destiny. Having already started to question reality and perception through listening to psychedelic music and reading far too many books, the closing scene was a perfect introduction to reflection, duty…and yes, “the horror.” – Sergio T. Ruiz
“Moving in Stereo,” The Cars – Fast Times at Ridgemont High
“Hi, Brad. You know how cute I always thought you were.” Yep, that’s the sort of thing chicks only say in porn and in masturbatory fantasies. Well, this might not have been legitimate pornography, but it’s surely one of the most rewound scenes in home video history. The spooky beginning of this Ric Ocasek/Greg Hawkes composition sets the perfect tone for the transition from reality to fantasy as Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) emerges from the pool and begins her slow-motion, dripping-wet strut into the arms of Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold). Has an audience ever cheered more for a pair of bare breasts than when Linda opened that red bikini top? Although it originally only took place in Brad’s very creative mind, rest assured, it’s probably been adapted for use in the heads of every red-blooded American teenager who’s come of age since 1982…and rest assured that when it did, they had the common sense to lock the door first. (review)
Watch It: See the entire clip at YouTube (R-rated).
“Shout,” Otis Day & the Knights, Animal House
It is quite possible that without this scene, this tune from the Isley Brothers vanishes in the mists of time altogether, never to be heard again. But thanks to the visual performance by Otis Day & the Knights (but, like the C&C Music Factory, the song was actually sung by Lloyd Williams) during the toga party scene in “Animal House,” the song, and this scene, will bury us all. The editing back and forth between Otis Day and the packed dance floor of toga-wearing, wavin’-‘em-like-they-just-don’t-care partygoers is thrilling, laying the groundwork for the first wave of prominent music video directors. The plot doesn’t advance an inch throughout the entire song (save for Pinto making out with his jailbait girlfriend), but comes crashing back at song’s end – quite literally, in fact – when Dean Wormer’s wife, drunk and wookin’ pa nub from Otter (Rush Chairman, damn glad to meet ya), slams her car into someone else's back fender. “Shout,” “Animal House” and toga parties: they are bound together (seen that recent Aquafina commercial?), and let no man tear them asunder. Not that anyone could if they tried. – David Medsker
“Stuck in the Middle with You,” Stealer’s Wheel – Reservoir Dogs
It’s strange to think that Quentin Tarantino was actually considering another song (“Ballroom Blitz”) for the infamous “ear” scene in “Reservoir Dogs.” We should all be thankful that he didn’t. The pacing behind the popular Sweet tune is far too fast for the events that transpire – Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) tortures a kidnapped police officer, including slicing off his ear and dousing him in gasoline, while singing and dancing along to the radio – and the “Dylanesque pop bubblegum favorite” by Gerry Rafferty and his band, Stealer’s Wheel, is far more effective. The song also has a theoretical meaning in that the on-looking Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) has a crucial decision to make: does he blow his cover and save the poor rookie, or does he let him die? Either way, no one who's seen the film has ever been able to hear the song the same way again. – JZ
“Tiny Dancer,” Elton John – Almost Famous
The lead character in “Almost Famous” is named William Miller (Patrick Fugit), but when the story’s about a young guy who, even in his mid-teens, knows he wants to be a music journalist…well, as far as I was concerned, his last name might as well have been Harris, because that was my story, too. Of course, unlike young Mr. Miller, I didn’t spend part of the ‘70s touring the country with the band Stillwater…dammit. Sounds like an awesome time to me, but it wasn’t so much for William; by this point in the movie, tensions were running mighty high. The dividing line had been drawn not only between William and the band (journalists are the enemy, you know) but also between various members of the band, what with guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) suddenly getting more media attention than the others…and on top of that, William’s majorly stressed out about how his extended time on the road is upsetting his mother. But when “Tiny Dancer” emerges from the radio of the tour bus, a group sing-along ensues and, just like that, all is forgiven. William remains skittish, however, telling his fellow passenger on the tour bus, band aide Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), that he has to get home. Her response? She assures him, “You are home,” and puts her head on his shoulder. Hey, I would’ve been sold. – WH
“Damn It Feels Good 2 Be A Gangsta,” The Geto Boys – Office Space
Anyone who’s ever spent time working in a cube farm can relate to the frustration that Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) feels on a daily basis. After being caught in a perpetual state of hypnosis, Peter decides that he simply doesn’t care about work anymore and begins a subdued rebellion. This soulful groove serves as the soundtrack to a terrific montage where Peter commits small acts of vandalism: parking in his boss’ space, removing a door handle that shocks him almost every time he grabs it, gutting a dead fish on his desk (substituting the infamous “TPS reports” for newspaper), and removing a wall from his cube, which gives him a view of the great outdoors. Of course, everyone who works with him thinks he’s nuts, except the two consultants – “The Bobs” – who only want to promote him. The montage is hilarious for both its content and its context. After all, here’s a white-bred office worker quietly rebelling with a Geto Boys gangsta rap anthem playing in the background. The two worlds couldn’t be any more different…or any more alike. (review)
“Twist and Shout,” The Beatles – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Matthew Broderick was the King of Cool in 1986. Slacker teenagers everywhere watched his title character in John Hughes’ classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” thwart one authority figure after another on his way to the most memorable day of hooky in movie history. Along for the ride were girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and depressed pal Cameron (Alan Ruck), who, on the whole, would’ve preferred to stay in bed all day. But Ferris was so damned likeable that he could talk Cameron into just about anything…including taking his dad’s prized 1961 Ferrari 250 GT out for a joyride. That magnetic personality was on full display when Ferris hopped onto a float in the middle of the Von Steuben Day Parade and got everyone in downtown Chicago to join in as he lip-synched the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout.” Even Ferris’ own dad, watching from a nearby office building, couldn’t help but twist along. Poor Cameron. He never had a chance. – JC
“In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel – Say Anything
He gave her his heart. She gave him a pen. No matter how many lofty claims Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) made about how he was over Diane Court (Ione Skye) – like, say, “the rain on my car is a baptism, the new me, Ice Man, Power Lloyd, my assault on the world begins now” – no one believed him. It was only inevitable that he’d have to go after the woman he loved…and the moment he does so is one of the most iconic in all of filmdom. In fact, it’s such a perfect moment that you don’t even need to see the scene anymore; you can close your eyes and picture it in your mind. It’s the break of dawn and Lloyd’s standing next to his car, wearing his omnipresent trench coat and Clash t-shirt and holding aloft a boom box playing…Fishbone’s “Turn the Other Way”?!? Well…yeah, actually, that is what was playing at the time, and according to director Cameron Crowe in the audio commentary on the “Say Anything” DVD, the original script had Billy Idol’s “To Be a Lover” playing. But when it came time to compile the proper song for the actual soundtrack of the film, nothing seemed to match the intensity of Lloyd’s expression on the screen…until Crowe found “In Your Eyes” on a tape he’d made for his own wedding day. Suddenly, it clicked. The moment’s been parodied in countless TV shows and movies (not to mention referenced in the lyrics of the Hawthorne Heights song, “Niki FM”), but they can’t taint the pure romantic power of the original. – WH
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen – Wayne’s World
To this day, anyone who’s in a car with their friends when Queen’s bombastic mini-symphony comes on the radio will instantly bang their heads in unison when the big guitar riff comes. They won’t even think about why; they’ll just do it. And, ironically, it won’t be because of the unforgettable scene in “Wayne’s World,” where Wayne, Garth, and their buddies rock that AMC Pacer like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, this may be the textbook definition of art imitating life, since the head-banging moment happened millions of times all over the world in the 15 years between the release of Queen’s A Night at the Opera and the release of the movie. The scene in “Wayne’s World” is simply paying tribute to that. If anything, we banged our heads even harder after the movie’s release, laughing that Hollywood, for once, gave us characters we could relate to, for Wayne, Garth and their buddies (even the drunk one…especially the drunk one) are truly us.
One of the funniest parts of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” sequence, however, is the most overlooked. Sure, the “Galileo” bit is great, as is the head-banging sequence, but our favorite moment comes when the song slows down, and they cut to Wayne (Mike Myers) wistfully lip-synching “Nothing really matters.” Then they cut to Garth (Dana Carvey) to do the next line…and he doesn’t know the words. He’s heard this song a million times, and while the group is singing along, Garth is fine. But the second Garth is on his own, boom, he clams up. That tiny clip speaks volumes in terms of establishing his character, which makes the scene even funnier…and a little heartbreaking as well. – David Medsker
Our writers submit their favorite moments that missed the final cut
Jamey Codding: “The Waiting Line" Zero 7 – Garden State
There are several memorable music-in-movies moments in Zach Braff's "Garden State" (the soundtrack, by the way, is phenomenal), but while most people talk about the scene where Sam (Natalie Portman) lends her headphones to Large (Braff) so he can hear a song that she promises will change his life (the Shins' "New Slang"), it's a fleeting moment in the film that doesn't pack much of a punch. This ultra-smooth groove from Zero 7, though, flows through the background as Large sits on a couch, stoned out of his mind, and watches a bunch of high school buddies he hasn't seen in years play a game of Spin the Bottle. The scene randomly shifts gears, from slow-mo to fast and back to slow, and Large -- wide-eyed, grinning and loopy -- enjoys his ride. All the while, Zero 7's Sia Furler asks, "Do you believe in what you see?" It's an inspired song choice and a brilliant piece of editing, and it leads to one of the movie's funniest moments: At the breakfast table the next day, someone nonchalantly points out that Large has "BALLS" written across his forehead. Seems those long-lost pals had a bit of fun with Large after he passed out.
Mike Connolly: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want," The Rolling Stones – The Big Chill
This is the song that Alex, the dead guy we never see, loved best, so it’s played at his funeral. It starts with one of his friends playing it on the church organ, but quickly shifts into The Stones’ version as the funeral party leaves the church and heads toward the parking lot. The movie is about what a generation feels it lost along the way, how they had to leave the idealism of youth behind to become functioning, responsible adults; their lives start simple enough but, as the years go by, become bigger and more complicated. The song mirrors that growth, starting with a simple a cappella children’s choir and ending with a full orchestra behind the band…but, in the end, the song title alone tells you everything you need to know about life.
Will Harris: “Bad to the Bone,” George Thorogood and the Destroyers – Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Words can’t adequately do justice to how completely over this song I am. I didn’t like it all that much when it first came out – although I always dug the fact that Bo Diddley was in the video – and time has only served to increase my dislike of it. Nonetheless, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that “Bad to the Bone” worked perfectly when it was used in “Terminator 2.” When a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger walks into a bar, people tend to notice…and the patrons and employees of the Corral are no exception. The Terminator casually strolls through the redneck hangout (and, boy, is he hanging out), quickly assesses which biker in the joint matches his approximate size, and announces, “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.” He doesn’t take kindly to the instant ridicule he receives, so he quickly breaks a few arms, stabs a few people, and, funnily enough, the biker decides to toss Ahnold the keys. (Being thrown across a bar and onto a smoking-hot grill does tend to change one’s tune.) Cue the Thorogood tune as the Terminator steps out of the bar wearing the biker’s outfit and straddles the poor bastard’s ‘cycle…but just to confirm the level of his bone badness, before hitting the road, he runs back, snatches the bartender’s shotgun, and steals his sunglasses. Now that’s bad.
David Medsker: “Happy Heart,” Andy Williams – Shallow Grave
Sure, Danny Boyle put Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” on ghoulish display in “Trainspotting,” but there is none more black than the ending of “Shallow Grave,” his 1994 feature film debut. The story begins with three roommates discovering their fourth roommate dead, and in possession of a ton of cash. It ends with David (Christopher Eccleston) dead, Alex (a very young Ewan McGregor) pinned to the apartment floor by a large knife, and Juliet (Kerry Fox) is shrieking her lungs out at the airport when she discovers that the suitcase full of cash…contains nothing but newspaper. What could possibly serve as a musical score for this moment? Why, ‘50s and ‘60s crooner Andy Williams, of course. “It’s my happy heart you hear / Singing loud and singing clear / And it’s all because you’re near me, my love.” Never has such an unabashed love song been so utterly devastating.
Deb Medsker: “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” Marilyn Monroe – Moulin Rouge
Who knew Nicole Kidman could sing?! In one of the greatest entrances in cinematic history, Kidman’s Satine descends from the ceiling on a swing, dressed in a glittering gown, dazzling diamonds, long black gloves and a top hat…and every man in the audience is mesmerized. Cold and aloof one moment; boldly flirtatious the next, Satine can have any man in the room she wants – and all of them want her. She gleefully sings about material things (and works in a delightfully anachronistic reference to the original Material Girl), but the costly courtesan is in for a surprise when she mistakenly gives her heart to the one man in the room without a penny to his name.
John Paulsen: “Goodbye Horses,” Q. Lazzarus – The Silence of the Lambs
This song serves as the soundtrack for one of the creepiest scenes ever. While serial killer “Buffalo Bill” (played by Ted Levine, a.k.a. Leland Stottlemeyer from “Monk”; I know, I couldn’t believe it, either) applies makeup in front of a mirror, his prisoner, Catherine, is trapped at the bottom of a well, trying to lure the killer’s dog into a basket. In the shots of Bill, the new wave groove is loud; in the shots of Catherine, it’s slightly quieter, giving the audience an idea of just how close the two rooms are. As he’s primping, Bill asks himself, “Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me. I’d fuck me so hard.” In the other room, as Catherine is unable to trap the dog, her desperation becomes palpable. To top it all off, Bill dances around a bit, tucks his twig and berries away, and exposes his pubic hairs to the camera, appearing disconcertingly woman-like. The scene manages to be both incredibly unpleasant and utterly unforgettable.
Jason Thompson: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” The Rolling Stones – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Though it doesn’t appear on the official soundtrack for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (probably due to licensing issues), the Rolling Stones’ classic and arguably best song ever gets to close out the movie as Hunter S. Thompson (Johnny Depp) blasts out of the decadent city with an American flag hitched to the back seat, waving out across the trunk wildly. It’s a great ending visual to a great movie, at once both celebrating the freedom of self-indulgent decadence and the American Dream. And while the Stones may not be American, their own brand of trashy and cranked individualism only further underline the point being made as the credits roll.
Jason Zingale: "Hip to Be Square,” Huey Lewis and the News – American Psycho
There's a pretty good explanation as to why this song didn't make the final cut: Most people haven't seen "American Psycho." Even fewer have read the book, but those that are familiar with author Bret Easton Ellis' satirical use of pop music as commentary on society would no doubt point to this film as a source of several classic music-in-movies moments. In this particular sequence, yuppie protagonist Patrick Bateman returns to his lavish apartment with colleague Paul Allen after a night of wining and dining. Little does poor Mr. Allen know that, as Bateman goes on a tirade about the evolution of Huey Lewis and the News, he's actually prepping for his next murder. With "Hip to Be Square" blasting from the radio, a long plastic raincoat protecting his thousand dollar suit, and shiny axe in hand, Bateman begins to chop up his guest with maniacal delight as the bubblegum pop hit fills the air. It's hilarious, it's disturbing… heck, it's the '80s.