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Top 10 Uses of Pop Songs in Movies

by Eric Melin on October 7, 2008

in Top 10s

This week’s user-submitted Top 10 comes from a guy I know very well. Cameron Hawk, from Lawrence, KS, is a singer/guitarist in  The Dead Girls. It’s only appropriate then that he rings in on the ongoing debate in our Top 10s about music in movies. If you have a Top 10 idea you’d like to submit, email me at I know the sitegoers here are movie-obsessed freaks because I’ve seen the comments we get on these Top 10s and we’ve had lots of great user-submitted Top 10s recently. Now it’s your turn to weigh in. If you have a Halloween-themed list, I’d be especially interested. We’ve already done overlooked scary movies, movie monsters, and movie-inspired Halloween costumes, but anything else is up for grabs! meanwhile, here’s Cameron’s fantastic list:

I know Eric and J.D. both did their Top 10 favorite soundtracks, and both of those lists were stellar. This is not what I’m doing here, however. I took 10 movie moments that stick out in my mind specifically because of the songs used in those moments. I had only had one rule in making this list—NO MUSICALS. I wanted to focus on non-musical motion pictures that have the ability to make us take more from a song than we originally would. In short, films that make the most of their music—films that use their music well.

10. “Super Freak” by Rick James, as used in Little Miss Sunshine

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So maybe this movie was a little cutesy for some people … that is, until the scene in which this song is used. Not only do we finally get to see Olive (Abigail Breslin) perform the routine that she and her “open-minded” grandfather (Alan Arkin, in an Oscar-winning role) spend much of the movie preparing for the Little Miss Sunshine youth beauty pageant, but it ends up being a striptease to this song, which Rick James wrote as an ode to sadomasochism. Appropriately, the reaction of the bearded audience member in the biker jacket who obviously doesn’t have a daughter in the competition (if you know what I mean) is priceless.

9. “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes, as used in Goodfellas

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I’ve never been a fan of Eric Clapton, but I will say that director Martin Scorsese’s classic mob epic actually helped me to appreciate him a little. It’s one of the many situations in several Scorsese movies where he takes an extremely well-known classic rock tune and gives us a new way to imagine it (he’s still doing it today—they are all over the place in “The Departed”). As bodies are discovered in some of the most unlikely of places—a garbage truck, a meat locker, etc.—during one of the best montages in film, the second half of “Layla,” with its beautiful piano melody and soaring slide guitar, becomes the perfect eulogy for these dead mobsters. Though no words are sung, the section of the song captures a beauty that can’t be verbally described. Granted, Scorsese uses the half that Clapton didn’t write. What can I say, the man has taste.

8. “Wise Up” by Aimee Mann, as used in Magnolia

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It is not unknown that much of writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s inspiration for “Magnolia” came from Aimee Mann’s music, and though it is my least favorite PT Anderson picture, there is much to fall in love with—some stellar performances, truly original moments, and (as usual) an amazing soundtrack. But probably the most memorable thing about “Magnolia” is this scene in particular, where the film’s central characters stop to participate in a little sing-along to one of Mann’s best songs. “It’s not going to stop until you wise up/It’s not going to stop, so just give up.” In studying all of these characters—two dying celebrities with crippling regret, a kid genius under pressure, a former kid genius trying to regain happiness, a male nurse trying to fulfill a dying wish, a chauvinist motivational speaker with daddy issues, a young woman who drowns her pain in drugs, and a buffoon cop who strives to be a badass one—this line seems to offer not the answer they are looking for, but the only one they can find.

7. “Stuck In The Middle” by Stealers Wheel, as used in Reservoir Dogs

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Thanks to this scene, Michael Madsen will always creep me out. Anyone who can turn a moment with a happy-go-lucky song like “Stuck In The Middle” into an utter nightmare ought to have that effect. As Madsen assures a bound and gagged police officer of his imminent death, he prepares his tools of torture and, as many would do while they are working, flips on the radio. “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,” Madsen sings, as he dances mockingly in front of the pleading policeman. This scene is brilliantly directed—Tarantino makes sure that Madsen makes every word and every motion count, building squeamishly to that first moment of contact, and it’s all set to the backdrop of one of America’s favorite cruising tunes. Did I mention the word “ear” yet?

6. “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger, as used in Boogie Nights

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After Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) and his buddy Chest Rockwell (John C. Rielly) quit the porn industry, they quickly spiral downward into an abyss of drug abuse and nostalgia. At the suggestion of a friend, they visit the home of big-time coke dealer Rahad Jackson with the intention of robbing him. Jackson (a hilarious Alfred Molina) snorts cocaine, plays “Sister Christian” repeatedly as he geeks out about the drum fills, and is followed around by a younger-looking boy who hops around, setting off firecrackers. Night Ranger’s classic power ballad about a good girl gone bad is perfect for heightening tension in this scene, thanks to the famous drum buildup that helps the killer chorus to blast off. Of course, the Black Cats exploding every 15 seconds don’t necessarily ease things. As the song progresses, our heroes get to sweatin’ more and more until the inevitable coke-fueled gunfight ensues. Another memorable Paul Thomas Anderson moment.

5. “Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies, as used in Fight Club

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Perhaps at least partially responsible for The Pixies much-deserved resurgence, director David Fincher’s “Fight Club” uses the track in the most appropriate way possible—(SPOILER ALERT) after Tyler Durden (Edward Norton) shoots himself in the head just in time to kill his other personality (Brad Pitt) before it completely takes over his mind, but not in time to stop the destruction of several skyscrapers that house most of the major credit-card businesses. Thus, as the fire explodes into the night sky and the buildings come crashing down, the first few jarring guitar lines of “Where Is My Mind” ring out as if triggered by the bombs themselves. Durden watches the show in slow motion from several stories up with his girlfriend Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), and as the self-inflicted bullet hole on the side of his face oozes the dark blood of his former other self, The Pixies’ Black Francis sings “Your head’ll collapse/cuz there’s nothing in it/and you’ll ask yourself/where is my mind?” Yeah, I’d say that’s appropriate.

4. “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John, as used in Almost Famous

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Now time for a personal question: Have you ever taken a bunch of acid and told your friends to fuck off, only to be forgiven, taken in, and serenaded by them? Russell Hammond of Stillwater (Billy Crudup) has. Now a classic movie moment from writer/director Cameron Crowe, the sing-along to “Tiny Dancer” on Stillwater’s tour bus (kicked off by none other than Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, who plays Stillwater’s bassist) feels so rooted in reality because—like much of “Almost Famous”—it actually happened. This whole movie is a testament to the healing power of music. The characters do some pretty messed up stuff to each other, but it seems that no matter what happens, they find some way back to rocking out and enjoying life. The real question is: Was it the drugs, or was it Elton John? One of them will save the world.

3. “The End” by The Doors, as used in Apocalypse Now

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Earlier I spoke of my dislike for Eric Clapton. Well, take that, multiply it by a thousand times, and you still wouldn’t have as much hatred as I reserve for The Doors. So if you’re going to get me to like something by these guys, it had better be one hell of a presentation—and that’s exactly what director Francis Ford Coppola gives us in the opening moments of “Apocalypse Now.” As the eerie guitar line begins to creep in, we are given a slow motion long shot of a rainforest in Vietnam. The chop of helicopter blades can be heard slightly, and we can see shadows of them flying overhead. All of a sudden, right as Jim Morrison sings the opening line, “This is the end,” the canopy explodes in flames. It’s one of the most amazing shots ever recorded on film, but the use of the 10-minute song doesn’t end there. As it progresses into a brain-quelling mash of organ, tambourine and tribal drums, we are treated to a few glimpses into the mental state of Captain Ben Willard (Martin Sheen). Based on what we see from him, it certainly feels like the end, but it’s really only the beginning.

2. “A Quick One, While He’s Away” by The Who, as used in Rushmore

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In a simple explanation, Pete Townshend’s mini-opera about a lonely wife who cheats on her husband while he is away for a long period does not seem that it would help to enhance this scene from “Rushmore,” where two friends do terrible things to each other in the name of love. However, writer/director Wes Anderson has a real talent for using music that helps moviegoers feel what they should feel instead of just telling them what they should know. That’s why it’s funny when Mr. Blume (Bill Murray) realizes Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) has disabled the brakes on his car. Though it is quite a serious situation, as Blume vainly stomps on the useless pedal and plows through the Rushmore campus with kids diving out of the way and people gasping in terror, every time I hear Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend sing “You are forgiven” over and over again with the Who’s legendary rhythm section wailing all the while, I cheer with laughter. It’s base-level irony, but it’s still a hoot!

1. “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy, as used in Do The Right Thing

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During the opening credits of “Do the Right Thing,” Rosie Perez can be found dancing her ass off to “Fight the Power” in front of brightly-colored red and orange buildings. Right off the bat, we get the feeling that this is not necessarily a “quiet” neighborhood. Writer/director Spike Lee uses Public Enemy’s classic anthem—abrasive yet relentlessly truthful—as more than a theme song to his movie. Sure, lyrically it matches the themes of the story, but it becomes more of a weapon. Throughout the film, Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) walks up and down his Brooklyn street playing “Fight the Power” from an enormous boom box. At one point, he brings it to Sal’s Famous Pizzeria and Italian owner Sal (Danny Aiello) does not appreciate it. “No music,” Sal explains. “No rap, no music, no music, no music!” As tensions mount in the neighborhood, Raheem’s boom box seems to get louder and louder. It may be hip-hop, but Public Enemy’s music is just like rock and roll—it gets LOUD. Before long, everyone is just screaming over it, as if they are trying to keep the message of the song out of their minds. In the end, this tactic, which real people utilize everyday, proves to be fatal. So what’s the lesson here? Shut the fuck up and listen, people!

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of and writes for The Pitch. He’s former President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls, Ultimate Fakebook, and Truck Stop Love . He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Reed October 7, 2008 at 8:31 am

Perfect list.


2 Aaron October 7, 2008 at 10:54 am

Could not have picked a better list. Perfect. Cheers!


3 RCM October 7, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Really good! The music does stand out in each of the moments you picked


4 Kenny October 7, 2008 at 10:11 pm

I agree, it’s a very thoughtful list. The Anderson Boys (P.T. and Wes) have developed a penchant for inserting great music into their films. They are two of my favorite directors. Music/score is such an integral aspect to films. It can make a good film great, and make great films timeless (especilly movies with an overall superb soundtrack). In this case, one single song can transform movies into something special.


5 TonySams October 8, 2008 at 7:46 am

Great list Cameron! I busted up when I read about your distaste for the Doors; I too loathe the “Lizard King.” My hell soundtrack is the Doors vs. the Eagles in a battle for my soul. Anyway, excellent picks and great commentary. Thanks


6 Josh October 8, 2008 at 7:52 am

love this list!


7 cleavy October 8, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Great list Cam – Excellent choices, and really well written! Cheers! Anybody think about those cheesy movie/pop song moments that just get stuck in your head, either making you feel secretly sentimental, hate the song, or hate yourself? Ghost/Unchained Melody, Top Gun/Danger Zone, Say Anything/In Your Eyes… Haha!


8 Cameron October 8, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Thanks for the great comments, everyone. Tony, I hear you man–my Hell soundtrack would be somewhat close to that. I’d have to say The Eagles would probably win the prize for sheer badness, though. Even all of the solo projects from all their members a horrendous! Cass, come on, you know you like “In Your Eyes”…I almost picked that one, but it can’t really hold a candle to any of these.


9 cleavy October 8, 2008 at 9:32 pm

“…secretly sentimental” *wink*


10 Alex October 9, 2008 at 1:04 am

Cam,this is brilliant, and I agree with the whole list 🙂


11 Kim October 9, 2008 at 1:22 am

A very accure, great list — my first time to the site and this was a perfect introduciton to hopefully more things to come. And very well written…and you can feel the moment as you recall the movie.


12 Shaun October 10, 2008 at 8:39 am

Wow! Best. List. Ever. You nailed every single one that I would have picked!


13 Inigo October 10, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Why do you loathe the Doors? I can imagine people not being interested in their music, but hating them sounds weird.


14 Greg October 13, 2008 at 2:34 am

just a terrific list.
i knew it would be there somewhere but i was half thinking reservoir dogs deserved to be there twice. little green bag aswell.
the other songs i wanted to see were “twist and shout” in ferris buellers day off. and “johnny be good” in back to the future.
but im not at all disappointed.
i need to see Goodfellas again!


15 E!Rock October 13, 2008 at 2:43 am

Love the Doors, hate the Eagles.

Don’t know if I agree with the order, but every movie here is perfect. I can’t honestly think of one that is missing


16 horia October 13, 2008 at 3:46 am

How about “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond from “Beautiful Girls” or “Play with Fire” by The Rolling Stones from “The Darjeeling Limited”


17 Oops October 13, 2008 at 4:24 am

Sorry to rain on the praise parade, but um, guys, ever heard of a fucking movie called Goodfellas? Eric fucking Clapton? Layla? Yeah, now go ge yer fucking shinebox!


18 Kamikaze Feminist October 13, 2008 at 5:37 am

Great choices, but still, there were some personal favorites that were omitted, such as Just Like Honey by The Jesus and Mary Chain at the end of Lost in Translation. I could not have come up with a better way to both end the movie and immortalize it. And of course the beautiful and haunting usage of the song (Samskeyti) at the end of Mysterious Skin.(I do love my obscure movies) Then there’s the entire film soundtrack of both Harold and Maude and The Graduate which use an artist to tell their story and it works perfectly.
I’d mention the last six minutes of Six Feet Under and Sia’s Breathe Me, but it’s technically TV. Which is a shame because it makes the ending even more hard hitting. All in all, it mentioned Fight Club, so it had to be a great list.


19 Katia October 13, 2008 at 6:48 am

You missed ‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin, used in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’.


20 Alan October 13, 2008 at 7:30 am

Very good choices – tough to find just 10. I’d have #11 be De Niro’s intro via “Jumpin Jack Flash” in “Mean Streets”


21 scott October 13, 2008 at 7:43 am

uhhh. Layla it’s just as much duane allman’s song as it is eric clapton’s–if not more so. especially since you mention the slide guitar work. then you go onto say that the movie uses the part clapton “didnt write” so why bother mentioning clapton at all?



22 Wayne October 13, 2008 at 7:58 am

It’s Hip to be Square, Hewey Lewis and the News,
American Psycho.


23 Samantha October 13, 2008 at 8:08 am

Actually, I saw a posting on IMDB by the guy who played the biker in “Little Miss Sunshine” and he said he was told the guy had a kid in the contest and usually had little patience for it. It was “relevance” that was all – nothing deeper or nastier. Thank heavens.


24 fernando October 13, 2008 at 8:21 am

Good list. I would add the following:

Back To The Future:

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (performed at the end)


Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues (Time Lapse Shot Transamerica Building)


Moby – God Moving Over The Face of Waters (Final Scene @ Airport)

Blue Velvet:

Bobby Vinton – Blue Velvet (I think it’s near the beginning)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:

Beck – Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes (Final 2 minutes; very moving)

The Game:

Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit (Michael Douglas comes to find his mansion destroyed)

Jackie Brown:

Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street (Pam Grier intro – cool shot with her in the passenger ramp at the airport)


25 James October 13, 2008 at 8:27 am

‘Fight The Power’ is “relentlessly truthful,” eh? Well, if you can find any documented instances of Elvis Presley’s “straight-up” racism, I’d sure like to see it. Until then, I’ll call it what it is: slander.

And nothing but rednecks on stamps, eh? Maybe Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King Jr. don’t qualify as heroes to Chuck and the crew, but they were all on stamps, and they certainly weren’t rednecks.


26 Lynz October 13, 2008 at 8:46 am

What about ‘Just dropped in’ from Big Lebowski?


27 jack October 13, 2008 at 9:03 am

RE: “You missed ‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin, used in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary”

Ahem, no, no he did not


28 Kevin October 13, 2008 at 10:12 am

Simple Minds in The Breakfast Club?


29 Joel Lillo October 13, 2008 at 10:17 am

Great list.

I’d like to offer for your consideration the dance stylings of Mr. Pee Wee Herman to the strains of “Tequila” from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure


30 Peter D October 13, 2008 at 10:32 am

Tiny Dancer? Really? You stipulated the list could have no music from musicals. I would have added that the list could have no sing-alongs either. They’re cheesy, force-fed feel-goodness. They’re so “on purpose” and unspontaneous they feel like a commercial. Not that Crowe isn’t afraid to employ hackneyed shorthand (i.e. Jerry Maguire), but he leans too much on his soundtracks carrying his movies (so much so as to inspire the following Onion headline: Cameron Crowe to Release Only Soundtracks), a fact P.T. Anderson appears to be emulating.

Good call on the “The End” and “Where is My Mind”.

Interesting decision regarding Rushmore. In my opinion, any slow-mo sequence from Wes Anderson would do just as well–Van Morrison’s “Everyone” from Tenenbaums or David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” from the Life Aquatic would do fine, as would the Rolling Stones “2000 Man” or “Over and Done With” from the Proclaimers.


31 Woods October 13, 2008 at 10:33 am

James….you’re a douchebag. But it looks like Fight The Power really gets you all moist, so I guess it is still serving its purpose all these years later. Slander? lol…you’re precious.


32 Cameron October 13, 2008 at 10:39 am


I only mentioned Clapton because 99% of people think of Clapton when they think of “Layla”, and I wanted to use that to point out that it was in fact NOT Clapton who wrote the cool half of the song. Moronic? That’s a bit harsh!


“Oops” yourself. Look at #9.


33 Kyle October 13, 2008 at 11:34 am

Good list, but what about “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen from Shaun Of The Dead. Sure the scene is a little cheesy in premise, but it’s also hilarious and perfectly fits in with the absurdity of the whole movie, and I can no longer listen to that song without thinking about fighting a horde of zombies.


34 Mike October 13, 2008 at 11:37 am

What about “Old Time Rock n Roll” from Risky Business?

“Shout” from Animal House???

“Werewolves of London” from The Color of Money??!


35 Kelly October 13, 2008 at 11:51 am

Good list. However in Little Miss Sunshine, the audience member in the biker jacket is a bored dad. Not a pervert like you suggest. It states in the credits that he’s a “Biker Dad”, who is clearly bored with the competition.


36 James October 13, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Woods: Outright lies canonized by white tools like yourself tend to get me a bit wound up, sure.

Slander? Yeah, slander. They call the guy a racist with no basis whatsoever. Who’s being precious?


37 Brent October 13, 2008 at 12:12 pm

I can’t believe you didn’t pick a moment from a John Hughes movie.


38 Evil Foo October 13, 2008 at 12:16 pm

If we’re going to allow ‘sing-alongs’ then how about a ‘dance-along’ too? The Fifth Dimension’s Age of Aquarius at the end of 40 Year old Virgin was bizarre and totally awesome!


39 Marie-Claire October 13, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Great list, but I couldn’t help but remember, as I was reading it, “In Your Eyes” as used in “Say Anything” [John Cusack holding the boom box up in silent plea is an iconic image], and “Wild Thing” as used in “Major League” [culminating in a great singalong at the climax of the deciding game, and Margaret Whitton’s immortal “I hate that f***ing song”].


40 Jeremiah October 13, 2008 at 2:39 pm



41 Digger October 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

I’d go with “Rawhide” as performed by The Good Ol’ Blues Brothers Boys Band.


42 Dave M October 13, 2008 at 2:47 pm

I would only respectfully add Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” in “Good Morning, Vietnam.” The graceful serenity of the song vs. the montage of violent imagery was disturbing and quite memorable. Or at least, I thought so!

And Peter D @ #30: have you never been in a vehicle with other people and you’re all singing along with the stereo? I found that scene quite organic and natural.


43 Robert October 13, 2008 at 2:54 pm

I was totally creeping down the list waiting to see Tears for Fears “Head Over Heels” as used in Donnie Darko. It should have been on there. It’s my favorite part of a great, if not overly bandwagoned, movie.


44 Betsy October 13, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Good testosterone choices but need to be balanced with some female hormones.


45 fernando October 13, 2008 at 3:20 pm

What about:

Guess Who – These Eyes (in Superbad)

Smokey Robinson – Tracks of My Tears (in Platoon)


46 Greg October 13, 2008 at 3:28 pm

I think “Ten Commandments Of Love” in A Bronx Tale should at least get an honorable mention.


47 Willis October 13, 2008 at 3:34 pm

One GLARING omission:
In Your Eyes by Peter Gaberial- Say Anything


48 Eric October 13, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Great list. I agree with almost all of it, maybe not all in the top ten, but all worthy of note. My one addition is “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Franki Valli from The Deer Hunter. It just perfected the pre-Vietnam half of the film.


49 Joseph Coppola October 13, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Hmmmm, how about a major chunk of the soundtrack from EASY RIDER! For starters!

Wow what an OBVIOUS omission!


50 S.D. October 13, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Very good list. I completely agree with “Layla” in “Good Fellas”, though I’d put that one at number two, with “Fight the Power” solid at number 1. I’m in the minority that hated the scene where they used “Sister Christian” in the other excellent “Boogie Nights”. I also think “The End” was used perfectly in “Apocalypse Now”. The others I’d add would be “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” in “Casino”, “Jessica” in “Field of Dreams”, “Jump into the Fire” in “Good Fellas” and “Little Green Bag” in “Reservoir Dogs”. Honorable mentions to the cover of TFF’s “Mad World” at the end of “Donnie Darko” (I don’t really consider music played over non-story-related credits the same as music used in the body of the film), the Sex Pistols’ version of “My Way” at the end of “Good Fellas”, the original “Unchained Melody” in “Unchained” (the song, after all, isn’t called “Ghost Melody”), and the theme music in the original “Rocky” (the film launched it as a pop hit, so also doesn’t count as already popular music used in a film).


51 sonny October 13, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Great list… how about…
– venus as a boy by bjork in the profesional
– gimme shelter by rolling stones in goodfellas or the departed
– lets get it on by jack black in high fielity
– lucha de gigantes by nacha pop in amores perros
– lovers spit by broken social scene in half nelson
– can we still be friends by todd rundgren in vanilla sky


52 Juliana October 13, 2008 at 4:29 pm

I’m glad you mentioned Fight Club. Where is my Mind was a no brainer (no pun intended) for the closing theme. 😀 One of my all time favorite movies…and books.


53 Colin October 13, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Brillant list!
would have added “lust for life” by Iggy pop during the opening to Trainspotting and probably placed layla up a little higher, but i’ll give you bonus points for “where is my mind?”…keep up the good listin’


54 Zach October 13, 2008 at 4:56 pm

This is a really great list. I agree with most if not all the selections.

This might a minor contribution, but I can’t imagine “The Bourne Identity” and its sequels without Moby’s beautiful song “Strange Ways.” When filmmakers can so effortlessly marry a song to an image in a way that enhances the filmmaking instead of distracting the viewer, you’re in good hands.


55 Rob October 13, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Love the list. Honorable mention for me would be “Lucky Star” by Madonna in Snatch. One of my favorite scenes in that movie when BTT drags the guy down the road.


56 Ritchie October 13, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Don’t wish to nit pick but its Townshend & Entwistle that sing the “You Are Forgiven” part in ‘A Quick One’. Great list though!!!


57 sonny October 13, 2008 at 5:49 pm

sorry, how could i forget
– Angel by massive attack in Snatch


58 MJK October 13, 2008 at 6:45 pm

How is “In Your Eyes” from Say Anything not mentioned?


59 Eric Robert Wilkinson October 13, 2008 at 6:57 pm

TERRIFIC list! I’d add…

Spike Lee’s SUMMER OF SAM (1999):

The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” are played over two violent but brilliant montages – the first is of Adrien Brody performing in a gay strip club (of sorts) – the second is over the final beat-down sustained by Brody when his friends want to believe he’s David Berkowitz (or Son of Sam). Great cinema!

Martin Scorsese’s CASINO (1995):

The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” plays over the final montage of deaths – including Sharon Stone’s drug overdose, several hits conducted by mobsters, and even Joe Pesci (and his brother) getting beaten to death with metal bats!

Quentin Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE – DEATH PROOF (2007):

April March’s “Chick Habit” is played over the end credits just after Kurt Russell is killed by the final trio of girls (including Rosario Dawson) and if you watch the DVD of his extended cut, the chorus is sung in French!

Paul Thomas Anderson’s BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997):

Melanie’s “Brand New Key” is played over the first time that Mark Wahlberg and Heather Graham (begin to) have sex! Genius!

David Fincher’s SE7EN (1995):

Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” plays over the opening credits. The right blend of electronica and Goth!

That’s all I can think of for now…


60 eb October 13, 2008 at 7:28 pm

#1 has to be “Layla” in “Goodfellas”


61 dto1984 October 13, 2008 at 8:20 pm

“Jaan Pehechaan Ho” (Mohammed Rafi) from the titles in Ghost World. “Chick Habit” (April March) from the credits in Death Proof. “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (Nancy Sinatra) from the titles in Kill Bill (one of many tracks perfectly used in the movie).


62 Timothy October 13, 2008 at 8:35 pm

There are plenty of things I could name, but I’ll stick with the list. I just wanted to point out that I really quite honestly think taht “Jessie’s Girl” is a much better choice from Boogie Nights. It is such a vital element to what is really the turning point of the entire film. And, besides, isn’t Jessie’s Girl such an incredibly better song than anything by Night Ranger? And yes, I do agree that Head Over Heels or, especially, The Killing Moon, from Donnie Darko deserves to be here. If you are familiar with the movie and the lyrical content of every song used in DD, you cannot help but admit it is the finest soundtrack ever.


63 shiva tinlin October 13, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Not sure if anyone else has mentioned it – but the end song in ‘Matador’ just blew me away – don’t know who sang it – but it matched the scene pefectly


64 Dee October 13, 2008 at 9:36 pm

I’d add “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult at the beginning of The Stand. Whenever I hear the song, I can’t help but see the dead bodies all over inside the compound, especially the guy with his face stuck to the grill in the cafeteria. Also, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House later in the movie. Actually, the whole movie is full of music moments like that.


65 sonny October 13, 2008 at 10:14 pm

that would be “all these things i’ve done” by the killers, awesome song…


66 Phil Collins October 13, 2008 at 11:21 pm

What about “Sussudio” and “In Too Deep” in the three-way sex scene in American Psycho?


67 Cameron October 14, 2008 at 1:22 am

Okay, the Say Anything omission was a judgement call, and I made it…I guess I went with tunes that were a little less obviously used in their scenes/movies. And after watching Boogie Nights again, I realize I should have at least included “Jessie’s Girl” along with “Sister Christian”–two songs that bookend an amazing scene. And Easy Rider…yes, it was an obvious omission, as in everyone always talks about the music in Easy Rider! What do you want on there exactly, “Born To Be Wild”? If I have to hear that song one more time I might have to stand next to a tornado siren and deafen myself. I’ll admit, “Wasn’t Born To Follow” by The Byrds could have made it here, but in the end it just didn’t. And that is that.


68 Cameron October 14, 2008 at 1:26 am

Oh yeah, and Donnie Darko could have made it on here a thousand times as well. I was really close to putting “Head Over Heels” on the list, and briefly considered “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS and “Under The Milky Way” by The Church. After thinking on them, though, I found the scenes that went along with most of these songs were mainly set-ups to more important happenings later in the film, with the exception of “Mad World” by Tears For Fears, and I always thought that song was a piece of…cheese.


69 Bobman October 14, 2008 at 1:53 am

Moondance/American Werewolf in London (along with a zillion other harmless sounding, boppy mon-themed songs)

I like the Wild Thing and What a Wonderful World posts above–never woulda thought of them.


70 Tammi October 14, 2008 at 10:59 am

What a great list! Of course your chose the songs-scenes that created the most edginess, out of synch and unexpected mix of audio-vis combinations. I absolutely love the choices of Resorvoir Dogs and Layla in Goodfellas, which pretty much typifies what you are trying to describe in this blog. Not just any good music in any good movie makes the list.


71 mitchell October 17, 2008 at 3:18 pm

No “Miss Misery” for Good Will Hunting?


72 David October 20, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Awesome list, I am impressed. But my favorite pop song moment in a movie would have to be “Scarborough Fair” by Simon & Garfunkel in The Graduate. Gives me chills every time.


73 Manoj October 21, 2008 at 7:01 am

Perfect list and very happyness.


74 K.G. November 15, 2008 at 1:35 am

I think the use of King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King” during the slow drive scene in Children of Men couldn’t have been more seamlessly in tune with the film if they had written the story around it. “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan in Zodiac was pretty affective as well.


75 JH November 18, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Jungle Booge in Pulp Fiction didnt make the list,
seems strange to me.


76 Martin Z. March 20, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Very nice list. “The End” in Apocalypse Now was definitely one of the great movie-music moments, and as others have noted, the “Wild Thing” selection was truly inspired (out of left field, so to speak).

Here’s two I would’ve had to find room for:

“Mirror in the Bathroom” during the fight sequence in Grosse Pointe Blank. I watch the movie just for that scene.

“These Boots Were Made for Walking” in Full Metal Jacket, when the action transitions from stateside to in-country. The song + the Vietnamese hooker’s ass swaying under that miniskirt is sheer movie-music perfection.

And now for a stupid question. I knew Duane Allman played a lot (not all) of the slide guitar on the Layla album. But who did write the second half of the song “Layla?” I thought Clapton wrote it.


77 hellohawk March 22, 2009 at 1:29 am


I totally agree with both of those picks. That moment in “Children” was a defining one for the film. Actually, that movie is one of the best examples of recent kickass uses of prog-rock in motion pictures. Don’t forget the Pink Floyd “Animals” still outside the window of that factory in that one scene…pig and all!

And Zodiac…I should say that “Inner City Blues” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man” both went into consideration when making this list. It’s kind of surprising saying that now, because when I got the idea to make the list, I didn’t initially think “Zodiac” would be one of the main contenders; but soon I began to realize how many great moments it contains. Someone else called me out on “Inner CIty Blues” earlier in the comments…can’t remember who it was, but good show!

Martin Z–

Sadly, I am not familiar enough with either of those movies to have an opinion. I know, I probably seem like a charlatan for having never seen “Full Metal Jacket” all the way through, and maybe I am…I think I actually have seen the whole thing, but only in fragments, you know? I fucking love Kubrick, there’s no excuse…my girfriend, whom I live with, owns “Gross Pointe”, but I have yet to watch it either.

As for “Layla”, I don’t know enough to add to a Wikipedia page or anything, but it’s my understanding that the main melody for the second half of “Layla”, which that portion of the song is built around, was the brainchild of Duane Allman.

Thanks for all the comments! You guys rock…


78 hellohawk March 22, 2009 at 1:39 am

Also, I have to comment on various mentions of “The Graduate”. There is a reason none of those songs ended up on this list, and it’s not because they aren’t part of some of the best movie moments in history.

I probably should have prefaced this top 10 with something like this:

Mike Nichols’ 1966 film “The Graduate”, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, was the first motion picture in history to utilize music entirely of the pop varitey. In all honesty, it was the first movie with a soundtrack–not the first movie with a score, obviously, but the first movie that contained songs that we would normally hear on the radio, or at home from our record collection. In a way, this use of pop music brought audiences even more into the movie, made it a more personal experience–and it was the first film to do this. So, let’s not mince words here–the people who are constants here at are “movie lovers”, to say the very least. There’s a good chance we all not only know about or have seen “The Graduate”, but that we have all read something about someone saying that it has one of the most important soundtracks in film history. So, without saying that this is not true (because it most certainly is), let’s take a step back and honor some of the other great moments in film that were no doubt inspired by Mike Nchols’ pioneering “Graduate”.

In other words, I was never attempting to say any of these moments were better or more important that what “The Graduate” introduced, I was simply saying, “Let’s step back and honor some things that all to often get overlooked.” Cheers!


79 hellohawk March 22, 2009 at 2:02 am

OK, one more…


I know you posted your comment awhile ago and you may never read this response, but I hope you do. It seems that you are completely missing the point Public Enemy is presenting with their lyrics about Elvis Presley.

First of all, let’s talk about the name–they say “Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me. He was straight out racist…” They don’t say Elvis Presley, they just say Elvis. Maybe it’s nit-picking, but right off the bat, I am led to belive that it is not the man himself Public Enemy is attacking, but rather the idea of him, or, Elvis as a symbol. Obviously, they can’t really know for sure if the “real” Elvis was racist, as they claim in the song; but if you know anything about Elvis Presley’s career, I’m sure you will recall that much of his success was garnished from imitating the performance styles of black artists and (to take it a step further) performing their material as well. I take Chuck D’s lyric here as more of a comment on the irony of the fact that there are plenty of racist Elvis fans who either don’t realize this or try to forget it.

And as far as the stamp line goes, yeah, obviously there have been some great black heroes on stamps, but put yourself in the shoes of a black person for two seconds and you may realize how intimidating a few black heroes will look up against the thousands and thousands of white people that have been on stamps in our history. Sure, some great African Americans have been recognized in this way, but not nearly the amount that should and hopefully will be eventually.


80 Tammi Hawk March 22, 2009 at 7:51 am

I cannot believe you haven’t seen Gross Pointe! One of my fav John Cusack films. You need a movie night!


81 Palm90 May 13, 2009 at 9:39 pm

I thought the use of The Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat” in Fast Times at Ridgemont High over the begining credits and the tour around the local mall really set the stage for movie that followed.


82 Bradley September 20, 2015 at 9:08 pm

I can’t believe no one has mentioned That scene from
The Movie RUSH where they play the Jimi
Hendrix song All Along The Watch Tower playing in the car
On the ride home after that
Guy makes her take pills with him after she buys a bunch,
And he says “Come on, let’s get fucked up”
The slide guitar with the red brake light tracers was a
Perfect way to recreate a drug high or acid trip…. Ahem so I’ve Heard.


83 Gloria November 14, 2015 at 12:46 pm

I understand promoting an album or a soundtrack but I don’t like it when a movie has a song throughout every scene. I find that distracting. ‘The Clique’ is a great movie. Very fun to watch. And I get they’re promoting ‘The Clique Girls’ singing groups album but I didn’t need to hear the entire album throughout the movie. A song here and there is fine, but some of those songs sent the wrong message to young girls. I’d have preferred not to hear the entire album. One or two good songs with good messages is all you need.


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