Top 15 Uses of Song in a Movie


January 9, 2009 by MK

EDIT: Also, check out the bonus picks in the Alternate Universe.

15. Johnny B. Goode from Back to the Future – Michael J. Fox “sings” and “shreds” his way through the 50’s.  “You know that new sound you’re looking for?  Well listen to this!”

14. Blinded By The Light from Blow – a synthesizer soundtracks the raking in of money.  Thank you cocaine!

13. Sweet Emotion from Dazed & Confused – tone setter.  A car circa ’76 circles the school parking lot in the baked sunlit morning.  School’s almost out.

12. Sweet Caroline from Beautiful Girls – nothing like dudes in a bar reconnecting for a singalong.

11. Where Is My Mind from Fight Cluba match for the WTF? feeling of the ending as buildings and Jack/Tyler collapse.

10. Go Daddy-O from Swingers – Mikey finally becomes a big bear with claws and goes after the bunny.

9. Everything In Its Right Place from Vanilla Sky – Waking up to Radiohead and a world in which nothing is in its right place except this eerie, lonely song.

8. Let’s Get It On from High FidelityBarry Jive & The Uptown Five bring it home and Jack Black caps off his breakthrough role.

7. Bohemian Rhapsody from Wayne’s World – The funniest use of song in a movie.  Ever.

6. Twist & Shout from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Everyone wanted to be Ferris Bueller because of this scene.

5. Sussudio from American Psycho – Mr. Bale scarily deconstructs the genius of Phil Collins.  “But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist.”

4. A Change Is Gonna Come from Malcolm X – masterful filmmaking (that dolly shot) by Spike Lee during this scene leading up to the final speech of Malcolm X.  The dreary wait for overdue change.

3. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head from Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid – the summation of “carefree.”  And Paul Newman being Paul Newman to boot.  Bonus points for being a cool part of Spider-Man 2.

2. Wise Up from Magnolia – The actors sing along and the audacious earnestness of Magnolia knocks down another wall.

1. Tiny Dancer from Almost Famous – THE blend of music and movie.  All the emotions that Cameron Crowe is so good at capturing on film through music – warm memory, community, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, reconciliation, romanticism and rock & roll.


20 thoughts on “Top 15 Uses of Song in a Movie

  1. Anne D says:

    #1 & #2 are definitely the #1 & #2 but what about:

    Sunshine of My Love/Layla in Goodfellas
    Freefallin in Jerry Maguire (again Tom Cruise singing in a car)
    Puttin on the Ritz in Young Frankenstein
    Ain’t Too Proud to Beg in The Big Chill (post dinner clean up dance)
    There’ll be days like This in As Good As It Gets

  2. T. Slow says:

    I admittedly forgot several. I shall now give up my blogging license.

    If I could do it over again, I’d definitely add, “Layla” from Goodfellas, “The End” from Apocalypse Now and “Fire and Rain” from Running on Empty.

  3. Nancy says:

    Great list, especially the three late additions…
    Another one: Deer Hunter/Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You

  4. Joe Leydon says:

    Great list. I can think of many I would add — like, “In a Gadda-Da-Vida” from “Manhunter” and “I Started a Joke” from “Penn and Teller Get Killed” — but none I would subtract. I remember reading a review of “Magnolia” in which the critic opined that the movie jumped the shark when everyone started singing “Wise Up” (in a scene that, I am not ashamed to admit, brought me to tears). It was at that point that I stopped reading the review. Hell, it was the point when I stopped reading that critic, period.

  5. Anne D says:

    Love the Deer Hunter! Also even better from Jerry Maguire, Rod Tidwell’s walk through the lobby to The Who’s Magic Bus from Live at Leeds

  6. themiget says:

    Loving the list although I was sad not to ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ from Reservoir Dogs not on there.

  7. […] January 10, 2009 Great list via The Mental Defective League about Top 15 Uses of Song in a Movie […]

  8. coffee fiend says:

    Paul Newman is a legend for his work in movies, and he’s a stud for all his work outside of movies

  9. Mark says:

    That Malcolm X clip…amazing.

  10. Aidan says:

    Hellboy 2: Beautiful Freak, Eels. Hellboy is sadly contemplating his relationship with the fiery selma blair. Perfect timing

  11. Ben says:

    Girl You’ll be a Woman Soon in Pulp Fiction!!!

  12. Jack says:

    Singin’ in the Rain – from A Clockwork Orange should be on this list

  13. tino says:

    Very good list.


    “I wanna know what love is” in “Fucking Amal!”. “I feel pretty” (?) in “Anger Management”, “More than this” in Lost in Translation

  14. JerseyCynic says:

    Great post – lots of memories – thank you!

    Midnight Cowboy and Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talking at Me” affected me for life!

    A toss up as to which song I like best…

    Everybody’s Talking At Me – (movie version) Nilsson


    John Barry- The Midnight Cowboy Theme

    both are just so so fitting.

  15. JerseyCynic says:


    my other OTHER favorite

    the dance scene….(Uma and Travolta)
    You Never Can Tell

  16. tino says:

    “We’ll meet again” in Dr. Strangelove. And I remember falling in love with chloe sevigny when she sang “Bluest eys in Texas” in Boys don’t cry. “california dreamin” in chungking express and “Do not forsake me” in High Noon.

    A bit conservative but also good was “Wonderful world” in Witness.

    Ah, and I thought the Barry Menilow song was more impressive (funny , tasteless and very emotional) in Hellboy II…

    O.K and to feed my childhood demon “You’ ve lost that loving feeling” in Top Gun and “Hearts on fire” in Rocky IV…sorry.

  17. […] Top 15 Worst Uses of Song in a Movie 12 01 2009 What goes up [and up], must come […]

  18. mikey d says:

    Tim, love this list! A few thoughts about interesting uses I’ve noticed over the years:
    1. For All We Know (soon to be made popular by The Carpenters) from Lovers and Other Strangers, an overlooked 1970 comedy starring Bonnie Bedelia & Gig Young.
    2. Van the Man’s Crazy Love in Phenomenon while Kyra Sedgwick shaves John Travolta because he saw a bright light and became too smart to shave himself
    3. A second use of Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head from Spiderman II–who would have thought it could be used again after Newman & George Roy Hill immortalized it in Butch & Sundance?–Toby McGuire pulls it off.
    4. Paul Newman strumming the banjo and singing Plastic Jesus after his mother dies in Cool Hand Luke.

  19. Kar says:

    I guess too many of these are clichés by now:

    “Sister Christian” in Boogie Nights
    “Stuck in the Middle” from Reservoir Dogs
    “Red Right Hand” was obvious but fit in Hellboy
    It was a kid’s movie, but
    “Hallelujah” in Shrek introduced a new generation to that old chestnut
    “Tupelo Honey” from “Ulee’s Gold”
    “Crying Game” from uh, “the Crying Game.”

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