Top 10 Best Movie Singalongs

by Andrew Reed on September 1, 2015

in Top 10s

We’ve arrived at our fourth and final installment of our series dealing with the best and worst music and movie collaborations. We have already taken on Movies that Stole the Song, Songs that Overwhelmed the Movie, and the Worst Movies Named via Song Title. While all of these have been fun, this may prove the most meaningful. Let’s be clear about what kind of singalongs we’re looking for here. The idea is not to get the viewing audience to sing along with the actors. In fact, we want the opposite: a moment so captivating that we wouldn’t dare interrupt the experience of characters onscreen.

top10-movie-singalong-list

Our requirements are as follows: singalong scenes not from musicals, with at least three characters singing, that are relevant to the story, and feel very natural. This last point removes a lot of contrived, awful scenes designed to pander to simple-minded audience members while crushing all verisimilitude underfoot. One of the clearest examples of this is the inane “Say A Little Prayer” scene from My Best Friend’s Wedding. I won’t even link to it because I value your time and your ears and your integrity.

So, without further ado, let’s end this series on the highest of notes, whether our actors are able to hit them or not. Warning that many of these are at the end of the film and all could be considered spoilers.

Honorable Mention to the Michael Cera-led rendition of “These Eyes” in Superbad, various Gremlins caroling at old Mrs. Deagle’s house, and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” celebration announcement from Almost Famous.

10. Full Metal Jacket – “Mickey Mouse March”

The past and present come full circle with this solemn ending. In basic training, the marines were broken down to their barest, combat-ready essentials. They were forced to sing juvenile lyrics in a serious manner at the behest of their drill sergeant. The same drill sergeant made it crystal clear he would not tolerate any “Mickey Mouse shit.” Graduating into the chaos of war has not made Joker’s battalion any more human. They are left to mix all they’ve experienced into their own, feasible format of Mickey Mouse. They remain in a world of shit, albeit in perfect military lock-step. Without this coda, we would feel like we have watched two disjointed movies. Instead we see that, aside from being alive, the unity of their troop is all the soldiers have left.


(Audio NSFW)

9. Dumb and Dumber – “Mockingbird”

For various reasons this one just barely qualifies, but stands out all the same. It is one of the most telling scenes about Harry and Lloyd’s relationship in this overtly ridiculous movie. After merrily generating “the most annoying sound in the world,” they find an even more severe way to torture their would-be assassin through song. Viewing their friendship from a high level, there is no clear reason that these two should even maintain contact as they cause each other so much damage. But their harmonious approach to all the strangers involved in this scene show why they are perfect for each other. Furthermore it saves their life. Carly Simon would probably prefer the offering from Vacation, but we’ll stick with this bilingual version.

8. It’s a Wonderful Life – “Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Auld Lange Syne”

Sure, the scene is as sappy as they come. But so is the movie itself. The community of Bedford Falls warbling together is really the rightful capper on this most Capraesque of holiday classics. Maybe there were never communities like these, and maybe this many people would never chime in together at Christmas in this way. But in the movie setting of Bedford Falls, there’s no better way to show the strength of unity the townspeople derive from being together. They don’t even know that they’ve saved a man’s life and gotten an angel his wings in the process. They’re simply grateful to be together.

7. Top Gun – “You’ve Lost that Love and Feeling”

In his portrayal of Maverick, Tom Cruise’s inability to carry a tune is what makes the scene work. We already knew he was a brash, overconfident ace, but the fact that he would look to amplify his off-key voice shows that he doesn’t worry about any personal limitations. Indeed he soon confesses that the only other time he has tried such a stunt, he “crashed and burned.” But the barful of flyboys first give him the needed support and then pick up the melody like the good soldiers they are. This allows him to get back on solid footing with a less musical chamuyo. It doesn’t faze him in the least that he must pursue Kelly McGillis into the ladies room to do so. That he says that the plan is “looking good so far” begs the question, just how badly did he sing the first time?

6. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – “Smile Darn Ya Smile”

How else could this have ended? We’d already seen a little bit of everything during this cheekiest of Los Angeles noire mysteries. Belying the film’s overarching slaphappy tone, the demise of Judge Doom paints a gruesome scene. Something had to be done to move past the violent climax and remind us why we were watching in the first place. The only way to truly put things right was to leave it up to the toons of Toontown to provide the perfect finish.

5. Platoon – “The Tracks of my Tears”

Oliver Stone’s Oscar winning Vietnam picture gives us a series of glimpses to what life in a quagmire is like, largely seen through the eyes of the idealistic soldier Chris played by Charlie Sheen. At first drawn to the aggressive competence of Tom Berenger’s Sergeant Barnes, he soon realizes he fits better with the more progressive-minded crew led by Willem Dafoe. Amid the nightmare of war, their only escape is smoking pot and blasting tunes in an underground bunker. Their brotherhood is best on display during this Smokey Robinson classic. And of course it doesn’t hurt to have Living Colour’s Corey Glover singing lead.

4. Life of Brian – “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”

Despite all Brian Cohen has been through, it seems he may finally get out of his harrowing situation. But in the end he is not spared crucifixion thanks to the buffoonery and chicanery of those around him. He never wanted to be the center of attention and certainly didn’t expect to wind up on a cross. Left for dead, even his mother and girlfriend tell him they’re moving on. Only a slow, painful demise awaits. So how can the Monty Python crew possibly finish up a silly, blasphemous comedy ending in pitiful tragedy? Enter Eric Idle, one cross over, who leads all the condemned in some Disney-inspired joviality. Initially this only seems to make Brian suffer all the more, but eventually even he gives into the undeniable catchiness of the tune.

3. Jaws – “Show Me the Way to Go Home”

After several days of macho posturing accompanied by many glowers, Quint, Brody, and Hooper are finally beginning to build some camaraderie in their pursuit of the great white shark that has been hunting and haunting Amity Island. Between the close quarters, alcohol, and the horrific story of the USS Indianapolis they have begun to bond. Forgetting their mission for a moment, they build to a raucous shout of the old English tune, banging on the table for percussion. It all seems like great fun until the shark chimes in with darker harmonies.

2. Casablanca – “Die Wacht am Rhein”, “La Marseillaise”

The movie could have been much so longer. With the Germans comfortably in charge, even Victor Lazlo could spend his time without worry as long as Rick’s American Café remained the center for all political movement. Nobody was really in a rush to rock the boat. Perhaps because of concern about Rick and Ilsa’s obvious connection or simply due to his passion for the resistance, Victor can’t stand idly while the German generals sing their war anthem. Their song, long related to battles with France, is clearly not acceptable to him. With Rick’s nod of approval, he demands that the band disrupts the scene, knowing that blowback will certainly come swiftly. This strike of musical rebellion sets the third act in motion and forces Rick and Isla to a quick decision. And it doesn’t hurt Victor’s cause that Ilsa is undeniably moved by his bold patriotism. No song in this list has more impact on the story than “La Marseillaise.”

1. Paths of Glory – “Der Treue Husar”

Number one is from yet another war movie, and the second entry by Stanley Kubrick. A German prisoner is forced to sing to entertain French soldiers. She chooses a German folksong about a young man off to war who leaves his love at home. Do the French soldiers understand the lyrics? Do they quickly realize that war is war and they’re all caught up in the same mess? Is her voice simply that enchanting? They immediately stop hooting and hollering to hum along with her tearful rendition. Then they cry along with it. Sensing that this wistful moment is one of the least bleak events of their wartime lives, Colonel Kirk Douglas allows them more time to commiserate. All know what is coming. Their song is soon drowned out by the military snare drum. Back to war again.

Andrew Reed has an exciting day job in market research, but still tries to make time for reading, writing, and rock n’ roll. He currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland. His hibernating blogs on the following subjects can be found sleeping here: music and movies, , college football, , personal miscellany.

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