Top 10 Songs That Should Be Used in a Movie

by Eric Melin on November 17, 2009

in Top 10s

Bill Heinen from Leavenworth, KS contributed the much-debated Top 10 Best Horror Remakes list for Scene-Stealers back in September, and now he’s back with a list of songs he’d like to see used in movies. Here’s Bill:

Let’s face it: Movie lovers are usually individuals who appreciate, analyze, love, or at the very least, listen to a decent amount of music. It makes perfect sense, after all; both mediums are often focused on making people think, making people feel, helping one to enjoy or admonish life in all its complexities, while of course providing a sense of escapism or emotional catharsis. How many times have you seen a movie that may have sucked but you still enjoyed the soundtrack? (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” comes to mind.) The honorable mentions are listed after #1 below.

Occasionally, there is a song that fits a scene so perfectly (“Burn” by The Cure in the film “The Crow”) that you wonder if the director and the artists were drawing up both at the same time, conspiring to provide something truly amazing and captivating for the audience. Then there are films that are so good, and have such a perfect soundtrack, it’s hard to separate the two (for me, this has to be “Adventureland.” Love the movie; love the music just a little bit more). Every now and again as I listen to music, I imagine what I think would be happening if it were in a movie, and I doubt I’m the only person who does this. So I decided to come up with a list of ten songs that I think should be featured in a film, not only because they are excellent songs to begin with, but because so much can be done when using them as a backdrop as part of a narrative.

10. “Get It Faster” by Jimmy Eat World

Though the songs “The Middle” and “Hear You Me” star in a combined six films, another song from the same album, “Bleed American,” seems to get overlooked. “Get It Faster” does appear in a tour video called Riding in Vans With Boys, but has yet to be featured in an actual film. It’s a great song with several layers, starting out slow and quiet until suddenly Jim Adkins breaks the subdued static with his catchy vocal melodies. The overall theme of the song is one of survival, particularly emotional survival; getting through a tough patch in the face of adversity and not succumbing or taking the easy way out. Therefore we could take the literal word “cheating” from the lyrics and throw this into a scene in which a protagonist finds out his or her lover has been unfaithful and is in the process of storming out of a room, tearing things from the walls and running into the night outside; surviving, albeit chaotically, a violent break-up of a doomed relationship. This song could also work for a very physical sporting event, particularly hockey or football, and the fast, harmonic breakdown towards the middle of the song could be used in a car-chase scene or some kind of getaway.

“I’m finding out…that cheating gets it faster”

9. “Later” by The Dead Girls

After winning a Pitch award two years in a row as well as securing their first Deadwood Derby in Lawrence, it’s safe to say The Dead Girls are one of the best bands in the Midwest, and in my opinion they are set to explode onto the national scene any day now. (Ed. note: This is Eric’s band.) All sucking up aside, this is a fantastic song, and easily my favorite that the band has ever written. It has various components to it that could all work at different points in different kinds of movies; the happy, upbeat intro could be set behind a house party going on in some kind of teenage comedy, and then as we break the first verse with JoJo Longbottom’s jagged, delayed guitar-crunch there could (and should) be a fight going on. There are some wonderful mini-solos echoing throughout this song, but the real meat and bones is in the powerful chorus, particularly the second chorus leading into the finale. As the song picks up in the end, starting with the chorus, I can see a bunch of flashes of twenty-somethings partying, making out with hot girls, getting hammered, driving all over the road, and finally, piling out of a smoked-out van to see a great band live at some sticky, overcrowded venue. This song gets intense at the end, especially the drums, so the scene should as well. (The version here is unmixed and unmastered. The album comes out in January 2010.)

“I might have to go away…to a place where we can’t stay.”

8. “Freak Out” by Stellastarr*

This song probably would have ended up on the aforementioned soundtrack to “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” had the band released “Civilized” just a year or two earlier. As it stands, Stellastarr* is something of an enigma, claiming to be indie rock but never really proving that they should be categorized as such. Though there are many other songs by this group that could work in a vast amount of various scenes (my favorite being “Somewhere Across Forever” from their self-titled debut), this song is one of two “credit” songs that I’m including. Why? Because the credits and the music behind it can easily set the pace for a film, and the intro to this track possesses a haunting, ominous quality to it that slowly intensifies throughout the verse until the chorus as bassist Amanda Tamen utters her distinctively Kim Deal-esque coos behind the bellicose sing-shouting of vocalist Shawn Christensen. This is an art-house band (or art school, for that matter, as that is where they originally met), so when I hear “Freak Out,” I visualize opening credits interspersed with a bird’s eye view of a large, bustling city that with every frame gets closer to the frantic lives of its occupants. Perhaps as the song continues, the camera could follow a group of young hipsters going in and out of bars, clubs, house-parties, looking to hook up, do a ton of drugs, and appear as apathetic as possible. In other words, I see this song working really well in the next Bret Easton Ellis film adaptation.

“And we can freak out, freak out, come on and hit me with the streetlights tonight. I always hear you when you’re gone.”

7. “Can’t Make a Sound” by Elliott Smith

Yes, he’s featured in a fair amount of films already, and I’ll never forget the first time I saw Richie attempt suicide in “The Royal Tenenbaums” as “Needle in the Hay” rolled along (such a fantastic song choice), but Elliott Smith has so many great songs that would work so well in films that I had to include him, not to mention the first line of this song is, “I have become a silent movie…” So after a lot of thinking and listening, I chose this one primarily because its melancholic, nearly-nihilistic tone just seems to fit so well into a break-up scene. Or better yet, the aftermath of a break-up; a lonely guy not noticing that he’s walking through ankle-deep puddles in the middle of the street as it rains, not giving a shit that he’s soaking wet and blocking traffic. As Smith continually sings, “Why should you want any other?” in the background, the character could be looking through old photos, maybe burning each one after he gives a last, longing glance, drinking whiskey straight from the bottle and chain-smoking cigarettes.

“Standing up to sit back down…lose the one thing found.”

6. “Blankest Year” by Nada Surf

How or why this song hasn’t been used yet for a party scene, or a scene in which the characters are getting ready for a party, I have no idea. It’s upbeat, pitch-perfect, and would fit so well into a comedy or coming-of-age story. I’m thinking something along the lines of a person quitting their job and putting up fliers all over town inviting both friends and random people alike to give up their worries for one insane night of debauchery and self-expression. As lead singer Matthew Caws chants over and over again throughout the song behind the simple, straightforward fuzzed guitar strums, “Aw fuck it, I’m gonna have a party,” I think the crowd of people in the film should sing right along with him. On a side-note, the first chance I get to participate in an Aireoke event, I am totally airing to this song.

“I had the blankest year, outside life turned into a tv show.”

5. “Tame” by Pixies

It’s kind of a shame that most of my generation only knows who this band is because “Where is my Mind” was featured in the final scene of “Fight Club,” but if it got people to buy or burn a copy of “Surfer Rosa,” I can’t complain too much. Needless to say, the band that inspired Kurt Cobain and countless others, myself included, have a great deal of fantastic songs. Most of Black Francis’ lyrics are perfect for sci-fi and horror films, mainly because the weird and bizarre is his bread and butter, but this is the second “credit” song I have on the list. Every time I hear this song I think of a girl getting out of school and running home, looking determined, maybe a little frazzled or perplexed, but with a sense of conviction and purpose. Don’t ask me why, maybe it’s that first line, “hips like Cinderella,” but that’s just what I see. And then she gets home and sheds the good-girl uniform onto the floor and slips into something dingier, something that expresses how she feels inside, and as the song ends, her staring into the camera. Maybe she’s a serial killer, maybe she just has some serious daddy-issues, but as Kim Deal and Black Francis chant in unison during the breakdown, the gloves come off, so to speak, and the real lady begins to shine through.

“Fall on your face in those bad shoes, lying there like you’re tame.”

4. “Friday Night” by House of Heroes

I think this band has a LOT going for them, and if you haven’t heard ‘em yet, check out their self-titled album. Or just this song. At any rate, it has an early Weezer vibe to it, kind of a blend between the blue album and a little bit of “Pinkerton” thrown in, but not enough to make it sound like they are blatantly ripping anyone off. This song in particular is about someone trying to stay out of trouble, trying to avoid the same situations that end in the same ways, namely, with this individual losing a piece of themselves in fighting all the time. And as with a few other entries on this list, this song should be the backdrop for a party, or some kind of fun gathering, in which people are mingling, looking for trouble, looking for an escape from their otherwise dull lives. This song would fit most nicely in a teenage dark comedy. A nice little touch would be for two people who notice each other from across the room slowly come together and smile at one another as the song progresses.

“all day cigarettes, all day entertain the void, there are so many things I should be doin’ but I don’t and I don’t change.”

3. “Marquee Moon” by Television

To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this song was in a movie, but to the best of my ability I’ve looked it up and still can’t find any proof that it is. And that is fucking insane. We hear Ramones songs all the time in films, and yet these guys were the very first group to perform at CBGB’s in New York City! This song is pretty damn long, so while listening to it I thought only a few pieces here and there would work in the context of being behind a developing scene. That being said, the initial guitar licks would be used in a film while a group of badasses (set sometime in the late 70s) are walking down a busy sidewalk, flashing evil glances at those that dare to stare for too long. As the verse kicks in, it should flash to these same guys at night, playing pool in a rowdy, dirty bar and smoking cigars, checking out girls, talking shit, etc, and the camera might even be Super 8 here and there, just to look as grainy and seedy as the characters. This song is completely open to interpretation so I’d love to see in the comments section what everyone envisions as they hear this song. It can work in so many different contexts, but this is just what seems to stick out in my head most often when I listen to it.

“Life in the hive puckered up my night, the kiss of death, the embrace of life.”

2. “She” by Misfits

It’s kind of baffling that despite the fact that this band is named after a movie (Marilyn Monroe’s last film, “The Misfits”) and about 75 percent, if not more, of their songs are about horror and sci-fi films (particularly of the grade-B variety), The Misfits are only featured in a handful of films (the most recent being “Jackass: The Movie” with “Hybrid Moments”). As with my previous entry of “Tame,” to me this is a song about an evil, intelligent, manipulative, yet beautiful woman. The song is said to be originally inspired by the life of Patty Hearst, so I’d like to stick with that theme and imagine a woman on a vicious rampage, mowing down anyone in her way, robbing banks, stealing cars, killing her numerous lovers, confounding police officers, and never looking back. I always envision a lovely yet insane woman driving an old convertible with the top down and her hair blowing wildly in the wind as Danzig screams, “She is on the run!” at the end of the song.

“She walked in in silence, never spoke a word.”

1. “Arcarsenal” by At The Drive-In

OK, so I was actually going to put “any and every song” by At the Drive-In, but considering I went song-specific on everything else, I had to with this one as well. Truly though, for some reason, At the Drive-In’s music doesn’t appear in a single film, not even their most famous song “One-Armed Scissor.’ I don’t think At the Drive-In ever made a bad album, and though I like some songs more than others, they are all excellent in their own warped ways. This song is just so in-your-fucking-face that it had to be number one. It can go along with anything involving action, although a modern-day gun battle would probably work best, especially with the vociferous words “Beware!” being blasted every other second in the pre-chorus. A very fast, very violent, very bloody and gory shootout fits the mood of this track, with our hero (or antihero) taking everyone out, showing absolutely no mercy. For some reason I see it happening in a parking garage, or the rooftop of a parking garage, with people ducking behind cars in an attempt to get shelter from the hundreds of bullets coming straight for them. Lots of action, lots of intensity, lots of stimulation for the viewer, just like I imagine lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala would want.

“Soft white glow in the cranium, a bull’s eye made sedated”

Honorable Mentions:

“We Killed the American Dream” – Josephine Collective

“Silver & Cold” – AFI

“Real Drums” – Ultimate Fakebook

“All Ears” – Kill Creek

“Antsinjapants” – Cinemechanica

“You Wouldn’t Like Me” – Tegan & Sara

“Dead” – Pixies

“So Contagious” – Acceptance

“Waiting” – Over It

“Maybe I’ll Catch Fire” – Alkaline Trio

“Complete Control” – The Clash

“Existentialism on Prom Night” – Straylight Run

“Flesh Into Gear” – CKY

“Hate to See You Go” – The Color Fred

“Gasoline” – The Airborne Toxic Event

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Xavier November 17, 2009 at 5:08 am

listen to the kings of convenience’s version of Badly Drawn Boy’s Once Around the Block I think that would be amazing in a film

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2 Josh November 17, 2009 at 9:53 am

This was a great idea for a list, even if i’m not totally convinced of some of your song choices.

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3 Bill Heinen November 17, 2009 at 10:14 am

I will check it out. Thanks! I am hoping a lot of scene-stealer readers put up suggestions for songs they feel should be included in any kind of movie. Obviously most of the great songs by classic rock acts have already been used, and I really wanted to put in some Rolling Stones but I just didn’t have any luck. I thought I was onto something with “Shattered” only to learn it’s actually in a couple films already.

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4 travis November 17, 2009 at 12:08 pm

My addition to the comments is not a specific song but an album that i feel should be made into a movie. The album is Deltron 3030 which is Dan “The Automator” and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien together and the album runs like a movie building an entire space opera set in the year 3030 complete with scratchy intro from Blur frontman Damon Albarn.

Added Scene Stealer bonus: There is a track on there that is a movie review of Strange Brew, played very straight.

This is along the same vein as DJ Q-Berts Wave Twisters which was an album that was made into a very trippy animated movie.

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5 TS November 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Great idea!

I’ve always wanted to hear “Little Trouble Girl” by Sonic Youth in a movie. Kim Gordon and Kim Deal have this 60′s girl group, Shang-ri Las thing going on… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2seZKQ0kQGg

Teenage Fanclub, “What You Do To Me” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWtcAZ2IMNY

King Khan & BBQ Show, “Fish Fight” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNAknZVzBRM

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6 Bill Heinen November 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Travis, Deltron 3030 is fantastic, I have been enjoying Del ever since Gorillaz introduced me to his MC abilities.

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7 travis November 17, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I can’t believe i forgot to mention this one earlier, but there is a CD out there called Bombay 2: Electric Vindaloo which is a DJ collection of mixes using only Bollywood Soundtracks.

So i guess a soundtrack song made of other soundtracks makes this a meta-soundtrack song.

The track i’m referring to is by Kid Koala and Dynamite D called, “Third World Lover”.

It has virtually no lyrics but it’s sonic imagery just screams soundtrack to me.

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8 J. November 17, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Flesh Into Gear was actually on the Jackass official soundtrack, and had been used in at least one episode of the TV show. You probably knew that.

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9 Bill Heinen November 17, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I didn’t know it was on the official soundtrack, though that doesn’t surprise me considering Bam Margera’s brother plays drums for cky. It’s also on a few of Bam’s cky movies and I think it appears on his original movie / skate video / pranks caught on tape whatever you want to call it “Haggard” along with a plethora of HIM songs.

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10 Ross McG November 18, 2009 at 8:07 am

frankly, this is a cracking list, really great stuff – lots of bands ive not heard of but it doesnt matter, the songs sound like they belong in movies. great number one and great reasons for it.
when i finally get round to making my movie, im gonna have this in it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-0fb-DhYh0

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11 the don November 19, 2009 at 10:26 am

Love the At the Drive In. On a related note, there are lots of Mars Volta songs that would work really well in movies also (the good members of AtDI’s band. Not crappy Sparta). Very spastic but epic. Also, Kid Koala’s stuff is auditorily strange and would make neat scenes (as evidenced by his music videos). I miss Bullfrog.

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12 hellohawk December 2, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Nice list, dude! Thanks again for the DG shout out! Also, I wonder if “Marquee Moon” has never been in a movie because it costs too much to get the rights, maybe? Those type of songs that are seen as iconic can be very expensive to attain for movies and stuff. Good call on “Tame” too, that should totally be in a movie!

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13 dvdrip November 30, 2010 at 7:14 am

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14 me December 14, 2010 at 10:35 pm

These are great, but i’d like to add two more suggestions:
Atlantic by Keane – great in an action movie
She’ll Never Tell by The Daylights – really dramatic, can see with a girl silently crying in her room, then breaking free from her grief somehow

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