Hey gang! It’s Andy Larson, back again for the 7th in a series top 10 list battles we started around the GotS offices to help boost morale and get us all talking about something other than comic books once in a while. I’m not going to beat around the bush too much with my intro given most of my previous entries have been close to 4000+ words so I’m sure I want to save some of my BS for later.
However it is important to note that this month’s particular topic came from our good friend and frequent podcast guest over at Pint O’ Comics, Johnny Ganache, who got his crew to talk about the same thing on this week’s episode of their show. So if you like this series of articles over the next few days, make sure to check out their podcast so you can hear more great entries.
Of course, music in movies is extremely important. Ever since the days when they used to play the piano to heighten scenes in silent pictures, the ability to meld both visual and audio stimuli together for cinematic enjoyment has been paramount to making or breaking a film.
Of course, some movies had songs specifically made for them and that’s somewhat cheating in my mind. I feel it’s much more creative to have to go digging for just the right song among millions to fit the scene in your head, than to have the song delivered on a silver platter as it were, baked fresh just for your movie. So with that idea in mind, this list of most iconic songs in certain movie scenes had to be songs that weren’t created soley for that particular movie. They could eventually show up on the soundtrack of that movie, but they existed long before the movie ever graced our screens.
So without further ado, I’m in this to win this in March so let’s get to the best of best in that regard…
10.) “Father & Son” by Cat Stevens from Guardians of Galaxy Volume 2
I feel like at times you could probably fill up an entire list of just the Top 10 songs that were included in these incredible James Gunn directed Marvel vehicles. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if several others from either the first or second movie start appearing on my fellow GotS members lists over the next couple of days. I mean, the main hero pretty much listens to a soundtrack while fighting the evil forces of the universe, so it’s pretty apparent music has been designed to play a huge role in these scenes.
In fact, in coming up with just one to include on this list, I was torn between the one I ultimately chose and the bad ass Yondo scene set to Jay & The Americans “Come A Little Bit Closer” where he exacts his revenge on his mutinous crew.
But in the end, I had to pick the touching funeral scene set to Cat Stevens “Father & Son” as one of the best movie scenes set to a song. The fireworks, the raw emotion of Kraglin at the thought that his captain has been forgiven, the acknowledgment by Rocket about the batteries and what a terrible friend he’s been, even the Sam/Diane moment between Quinn and Gamora with their unspoken thing.
It doesn’t hurt that I saw this movie only weeks after the passing of my own father, and so the scene where all the Ravagers come together to pay tribute to the passing of one of their own was extra cathartic for me. The Feels and tears were flowing that day, especially that moment were Quinn sits on the bed with Groot in a touching father/son affirmation that life continues. Life always continues…
9.) “Tequila” by The Champs from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
The first of several songs on this list that I feel became so synonymous with a particular movie or character, that often times now people have a hard time separating the two.
The Champs little Mexican-flavored rock and roll instrumental from 1958 was always a pretty big hit for them. A fun little diddy you’d hear at Tiki lounges and beach front bars throughout the years served with margaritas and/or the occasional wedding reception with that strange uncle yelling Tequila way too loud.
But Paul Rubens and his breakout character of Pee Wee Herman took this song and made it something truly special when he dances to it to escape the wrath of a bunch of angry bikers after accidentally knocking over their row of choppers.
I dare you to put on this song around anyone that grew up in the 80s and see if they don’t immediately start doing the “Pee Wee” dance with the lunged leg and the gyrating hands.
It’s inevitable as water from rain clouds.
8.) “Still” by Geto Boys from Office Space
Office Space was a breath of fresh air for anyone that has been tied to a corporate cubicle for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Mike Judge’s magnum opus took all of our frustrations about the often times meaningless bureaucracy controlled “junk” work that dominated the vast majority of white collar jobs in America, especially in the 80s and 90s and gave them a voice, with a style and irreverence that fit how tragically comical it all was.
How this movie was initially a box office bomb, before soaring to the great heights it now has as a genuine cult classic, just shows that most people can’t appreciate nice things when they are handed them on a silver platter. They’d rather just pine for their red staplers of life, slowly building up that pent up passive aggressive rage before it causes them to set fire to their office building in some sort of Purge like fit of rage.
Regardless, I originally was going to include the “Damn, It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta” montage in with Peter knocks down his cubicle wall, skips work to go fishing, and then proceeds to gut said fish on a stack of his TCP reports because I genuinely like that song and who doesn’t dream of going to work in flip flops after spending the evening snuggled up watching Kung Fu reruns with Jennifer Aniston.
However, there’s no question that if you are going to pick one scene from this movie that includes music, it’s gotta be the now heavily parodied scene where Peter, Michael, and Samir steal a dysfunctional office printer and systematically destroy the thing in one of the most brutal displays of “man on office equipment” abuse ever committed to celluloid.
My personal favorite part is where Michael starts punching it with his bare hands. That’s what I call working out your emotions.
7.) “The End” by the Doors from Apocalypse Now
Sometimes it’s difficult to decide what is actually the better movie. Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s stunning exploration of the darkest parts of human nature set within the backdrop of the insanity that was the Vietnam War. Or Heart of Darkness, the 1991 documentary that told the story of the absolute shit show that was the making of Apocalypse Now and how it nearly destroyed Coppola’s entire life as well as nearly killing Martin Sheen.
I can say that if you are a film buff and you haven’t seen either of these movies, you definitely need to sit your fanny down and watch them if for no other reason than they truly are a visual sight to behold.
However, when it comes to this movie, there were actually two scenes tied to particular songs I could have chosen for this list. The obvious one would have been the “Flight of the Valkyries” scene in which a squadron of Bell Hueys rain fiery armageddon down on a patch of South Vietnamese jungle in a napalm fueled fever dream of American Jingoism.
But instead I went with the opening sequence with the Doors informing you in no uncertain terms that you have just past the point of no return. You are about to enter a living nightmare from which you will not awake. It is the Vestibule of Hell, and this song pretty much lays it bare for you just as Dante did in his Inferno poem: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here“.
6.) “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel from Say Anything
You wanna get the girl? You wanna show your devotion? Go stand outside her house with a boombox playing “In your Eyes”, and it will get the job done.
Unlike some of the other movies on this list, I’m not going to spend a lot of time hashing out this entry. Simply put, Cameron Crowe really does make pretty damn good movies, and Say Anything is another example of that.
The classic love affair between the underachiever with a heart of gold, Lloyd Dobler and the straight “A” student who is afriad to really live, Diane Court is one for the ages. It’s no wonder Entertainment Weekly ranked this movie as the greatest modern movie romance back in one of their previous polls.
But yeah, get a boombox and go standout her house. That will do it.
Although I will say it wouldn’t hurt if her dad is also a slimeball stealing money from retirement homes…just saying…
5.) “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkle from The Graduate
I know some might call foul for including any Simon & Garfunkle song from the Graduate given a lot of folks think that the songs were written specifically for the movie. And it’s hard not to think that given one of the main characters in the movie is named Mrs. Robinson and Simon & Garfunkle have a song with that same title. Which appeared in the movie. Yeah, that’s some pretty strong evidence.
That’s why I stayed as far away from that song as possible in picking my selection from this terrific coming of age story from director Mike Nichols. Instead I picked closing song from this movie which plays after Ben Braddock breaks up his former lover Elaine’s wedding, stealing her away from the altar in dramatic fashion before boarding frantically a bus bound for nowhere.
As the two sit there and the initial adrenaline of doing something wild and reckless begins to die down, they have a sobering moment. They have made some major choices in their lives and for better or worse are stuck with them. Then those beautiful chords from Paul Simon kick in and one of the best lines in all popular music is heard:
“Hello Darkness, My Old Friend. I’ve come to talk with you, again.”
There’s an innate sadness in that scene about the insecurity and uncertainty of youth, and how the unknown is really the only constant in life. It’s always out there, just waiting in the shadows, like the darkness in the verse. You can attempt to talk to it, understand it, engage it so that it becomes known to you and then you can deal with it. But at this time in any young person’s life, more questions lurk around the next corner, perhaps more complex than the last.
It’s a wonderful scene/song match up that captures in my opinion the ongoing existential dilemma we all have about what is life’s true purpose? Am I making the right call? What is the right call? Where do I go from here? And why am I sitting in a wedding dress in the back of a commuter bus going God knows where?
4.) “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen from Wayne’s World
For some people, the movie Wayne’s World is some sort of cultural touchstone or something. Mainly the slightly older than me Gen-Xers that comprise folks like my sisters some 5 to 7 years my senior. To them, there’s a reason this became one of the highest grossing movies of 1992 and arguably still the most successful movie financially to ever come out of a Saturday Night Live skit. To them, all the “Schwing”s and “Hurl Chunks” and “A Sphincter says what” is still a laugh riot to them, a delightful trip back to their youth in the late 80s where hair metal and head banging was all the rage, and Wayne and Garth’s antics were relevant given they knew specific people that acted like this, only they did it way cooler.
For me, this movie hasn’t really aged well at all and I think Wayne’s World is a relic of a bygone era, where oogling all over bikini pictures of Tia Carrere was still something worth your time. In fact, the only scene I think is still worth a damn is probably it’s most famous one, which is why it made this list.
The Bohemian Rhapsody lip syncing scene in Garth’s tricked out AMC Pacer entitled the “The Mirthmobile” is still the reason why every time I get to the main guitar solo I still bang my head viciously. It’s super weird to think that originally the production staff wanted to use a Guns ‘n Roses song for this scene before Mike Myers insisted so much that the song be Bohemian Rhapsody that he threatened to walk off the set if they didn’t use it. That goes to prove that Mike really did know what he was doing and his finger on the pulse of what audiences would love.
Thanks to his efforts and the inclusion of this song, not only do we have this great piece of cinematic revelry, but the soundtrack propelled Bohemian Rhapsody back on to the Billboard singles chart peaking at number 2 nearly 20 years after it’s original release. It’s been said that Freddy Mercury who died shortly after the movie was released did get to see this scene before his passing and thought it was tremendous. A fitting book end to this wonderful operatic rock classic if I do say so myself.
3.) “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band from Risky Business
Wow! Do I really hate this song!
I mean there are few songs out there that I fully admit that I used to love when I was a kid that now I absolutely can not stand. It’s like nails on a chalk board. A baby boomer white trash anthem that isn’t even fit for wedding receptions any more. Perhaps its the years of hearing drunk toothless hillbilly hicks in my hometown trying desperately to karaoke this song badly despite the fact that its insanely easy to sing crushed my soul in such a way that there is no coming back from it. Regardless of the reason, it’s one of the few songs that is indeed cringe-worthy for me and I’ll go down swinging that nothing ever good comes from anyone deciding to play it.
That is except for this damn scene in Risky Business which has now become iconic thanks to Tom Cruise’s superstardom. It’s actually not even that long of a scene, but the pink dressshirt, no pants, and white socks look coupled with that vibrate youthful enthusiasm about having the house to yourself for the first time as an aggressive sexually charged young adult, it’s just so very relatable.
There’s a major reason the scene has been parodied so many times over the years by everyone from Kirk Cameron on the Growing Pains to the latest Domino’s Pizza ad. It’s a touchstone now, symbolic as an expression of independence and coming of age.
Oh and it doesn’t hurt that the rest of Risky Business is actually a pretty damn good movie, that unlike Wayne’s World seems to get even more relevant with every passing year.
2.) “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss from 2001: A Space Odyssey
For the longest time, this movie/song combo was on the top of my list when I thought of songs that immediately make you think of a particular scene. Some 2001 fans might say the “Blue Danube” scene is better, but I fart in their general direction.
Without this opening scene with the pounding timpani drums and the majestic crescendo as you peer out from deep space over the moon, then the Earth, then ultimately the sun, like some sort of holy trinity, this entire movie just doesn’t work. This scene sets the stage for the epic story which is to come.
The trippy exploration to the furthest reaches of human understanding within the guise of a pretty simple science fiction premise that ancient aliens have been manipulating our genetic progress all these years. This kind of story has been done to death elsewhere in other books, movies, and TV shows, but none have the insane amount of gravitas that Kubrick’s 2001 seems to distill on the screen. And it again starts with this opening, this beautifully sublime opening. It’s just perfect.
The only reason it got bumped out of the top spot is because some think 2001 is a fairly boring film and for as much grandeur as this scene relates to the viewer, it really isn’t as “sexy” as the one I ultimately picked for number 1.
By the way, for those of you that do love 2001, I recently was introduced to a super neat trick by my cousin and frequent podcast guest, J. Andrew Scott. It involves the final scene from the moment David leaves Discovery One in an EVA pod to investigate the monolith orbiting the planet.
Evidently, that sequence can be linked up with Pink Floyd music, in particular the song Echoes from their album Meddle, similar to the Dark Side of the Rainbow experience of from Wizard of Oz. Of course there are massive online theories that say Pink Floyd actually wrote the song for the movie but it was cut at the last second, however, there really aren’t any truth to them.
In the end it’s just a super cool little thing to try for yourself the next time you find yourself bored, intoxicated, or both.
1.) “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel from Reservoir Dogs
There are so many iconic songs that have been used in Quentin Tarantino movies over the years that it was super hard for me to just name one for this list. I thought about Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” in Pulp Fiction, The Human Beinz’s “Nobody But Me” in Kill Bill Vol. 1, and The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” in Jackie Brown all of which I feel could have made this particular list.
Hell, even the movie that I did pick in Reservoir Dogs, which is still my favorite Tarantino movie by the way, I could have easily picked “Little Green Bag” by George Baker for my selection. I won’t lie that I really wanted to as well, just to kind of thumb my nose at the more obvious selection.
However, in the end, I am in this thing to win this thing, so I’m going to pick the scenes and songs that will win me the praise and adoration of our massive Twitter following. So yeah, the nod goes to the torture scene between Michael Madsen and Kirk Baltz played out to the pop bubble gummy tones of Stealers Wheel.
The dichotomy between hip upbeat rhythm of that song and the vicious caged menace that is Mr. Blonde wielding a straight razor is unnerving, but at the same time so very, very cool. It’s like watching a shark circling prey, and your anticipation grows with ever beat of that song as Mr. Blonde dances around like a cut rate John Travolta. Even when it reaches a fever pitch when he cuts off the ear, the brutality of that act is cut by twisted dark humor in the fact that Mr. Blonde starts talking to it, all the while that “Stuck in the Middle with You” still can be heard playing in the background.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s also probably my favorite song of all the ones I’ve included on this list just from a song perspective. What can I say, I love Bob Dylan music, and this song is often mistaken as a Bob Dylan song because it sounds so similar. I agree with Mr. Blonde that it’s just a really great song to shake a little booty to, whether you are cooking eggs in your kitchen or trying to slowly kill a police officer who uncovered your diamond heist.