Music in Film
We love music. We love film. We love music in film. We love it when a song reminds you so specifically of a moment in movies for years to come. Music and film are so intrinsically linked. They always have been, and they always will be. A debate that we seem to have quite regularly at Damson HQ is about the best use of original music in a movie, so naturally, a list needed to be made. Got to keep everybody happy, haven’t we…
There are almost too many to list, so as to not put anyone’s nose out of joint, the following get an honourable mention….
American Psycho – Huey Lewis & The News, Hip To Be Square
Pulp Fiction – Chuck Berry, You Never Can Tell
Romeo & Juliet – Radiohead, Talk Show Host
Reservoir Dogs – Stealers Wheel, Stuck In The Middle With You
The Departed – The Dropkick Murphy’s, Shipping Up To Boston
Here is our top 10 in no particular order….
WAYNE’S WORLD – QUEEN, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
Let’s start with an obvious one shall we? Daft film, daft scene, but a rollicking good ride all the same. After the success of transferring Blues Brothers from a Saturday Night Live sketch to a feature-length film, Paramount pictures attempted to repeat the trick. It worked. Very, very well. A lot of the music in the film is top class, especially if you are a fan of 80’s Rock and Metal, but it is this iconic scene that gets my pick. Why? Just watch it…. I dare anyone to not want to headbang along next time they hear Bohemian Rhapsody in the car.
FIGHT CLUB – PIXIES, WHERE IS MY MIND?
Where indeed! Fight Club is a lot of different things, but primarily is Edward Norton’s Character’s slow descent into madness. A dark, funny, sometimes touching film that really captured the imagination when it was released nearly 20 years ago. Without giving too much away, just in case you haven’t seen it, this song is the climax of a madly confusing and fast-paced last 30 minutes of the film. As Black Francis sings “Where is my mind?”, Norton’s character must have surely been thinking the same as things come crashing, literally and metaphorically, down around him.
ALMOST FAMOUS – ELTON JOHN, TINY DANCER
Personally, this is my favourite scene in my favourite film. Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical tale of finding your place in the world is exquisite. Based, loosely, on Crowe’s real-life teen years, the film follows an aspiring music journalist around as he tried to get a good story out of a car-crash of a Rock & Roll band. Of course, things don’t go to plan, and the characters find themselves in all sorts of sticky situations. This scene is just as the band have reached breaking point, due to the lead guitarist’s reckless behaviour and inflated ego. After picking him up from a house party that he has crashed and proceed to take all sorts of mind-altering substances, the band are sat in silence, when one by one they spontaneously break out into Elton John’s absolute classic. What a scene, one that really can’t help but make you smile. The same can’t be said for a lot of songs on this list….
127 HOURS – SIGUR ROS, FESTIVAL
After days spent trapped beneath a boulder in an isolated Utah cave, our hero, James Franco, playing mostly against type, has finally found the guts to sever his own arm and stumble toward civilization. Needing a piece that was both triumphant and cautionary, director Danny Boyle unleashed Sigur Rós. The Icelandic band of musical geniuses have seen their songs frequently featured in the trailers of important films such as Children of Men, and adverts of all types, Planet Earth for example—but few filmmakers have found successful ways to incorporate their ambient dreamscapes into the narrative mix. Danny Boyle gets this, because he’s Danny Boyle, and turns an already emotional moment into something sublime and spine-tingling
THE BOAT THAT ROCKED – LORRAINE ELLISON, STAY WITH ME BABY
Chris O’Dowd is great. Really great. From starring in the hilarious IT Crowd, he made the jump to Hollywood, via this British comedy by the legendary Richard Curtis. Here he plays “Simple” Simon, a good-natured, but Naïve Pirate DJ, working out in the North Sea to bring Rock & Pop music that the BBC at that time wouldn’t play, to the masses. When Simon’s new wife shows her true colours, he carries on with his Radio show regardless of heartbreak and breaks out in to a spontaneous lip-sync of the Lorraine Ellison classic. Funny and sweet, what you would come to expect from Richard Curtis, to be honest!
BACK TO THE FUTURE – CHUCK BERRY, JOHNNY B. GOODE
To be blunt, if you don’t like Back to the Future, are you even a film fan?? This time travelling comedy is sublime. Surely one of the most popular films ever made. Michael J. Fox learned to play this on the guitar himself, or so rumour has it. Transported back to 1955, Marty McFly, still, one of the greatest names in film has to help his Parents fall in love. At the School Disco, Marty joins the house band on stage and proceeds to blow everyone away with an amazing cover of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode. This scene will never, EVER get old. Robert Zemeckis crafted a timeless film, and 1950’s Rock N Roll has never been used better.
FORREST GUMP – CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, FORTUNATE SON
I could have chosen anything from Forrest Gump. The soundtrack is THAT DAMN GOOD. However, the bit that really stands out for me is this. Robert Zemeckis really knows how to put a soundtrack together. This is played as an introduction to Forrest arriving for his tour in Vietnam after joining the army. It’s not the first film centering around the Vietnam War that CCR has been used in, and I am pretty sure it won’t be the last, but I doubt it will be as effective. Plus you get introduced to 2 of Cinema’s great characters, Lieutenant Dan and Bubba. What. A. Movie.
TRAINSPOTTING – LOU REED, PERFECT DAY
So a disclaimer first. This is a disturbing part of a mostly disturbing film. But, Danny Boyle’s use of music in film again creates an incredibly memorable scene. The soundtrack as a whole to Trainspotting is beyond iconic, but this for me is the highlight. Ewan McGregor’s character is descending into a drug-induced stupor and starts to hallucinate the room around him. It makes for very uncomfortable viewing, but is also very affecting which is the whole point, not to glamorize that side of life, like some critics stated when the film was released. “Oh it’s such a perfect day” has never been so ironic. Calming, disturbing, nostalgic and scary all at once. A bit like Lou himself to be fair.
JACKIE BROWN – THE BROTHERS JOHNSON, STRAWBERRY LETTER 23
This film is a Tarantino masterclass and is criminally underrated. The use of this slinky, laidback funk-soul number is perfectly juxtaposed against the obvious and growing tension that something bad is going to happen very soon. And it does. Plenty of times. The quietening of the track as the car drives into the distance simply adds to the brilliant effect. It really is one of those songs that makes you think of nothing else but this film when you hear it. Also, Samuel L. Jackson is pretty cool isn’t he….
A KNIGHTS TALE – DAVID BOWIE, GOLDEN YEARS
A Knight’s Tale is an odd film. Incredibly difficult to pigeonhole, which is no bad thing, this 2001 Medieval-Romantic-Comedy-Action-Adventure film was one of the movies that really launched the late, great Heath Ledger’s profile to the moon in Hollywood. The scene in question is an odd one. A medieval banquet starts, and Ledger’s character starts to tentatively, and awkwardly, dance with his love interest after being egged on by the Villain of the piece, played by Rufus Sewell. The traditional music gets faster and faster, until it changes, into Golden Years, which was an unexpected but welcome surprise. Watching it back now, it is such a shame that the 2 greats of Film and Music that are involved with this scene are no longer with us