Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Top 100: Pop Music in Film



For my contribution to the Filmmusic Blog-a-Thon, I've assembled what started as a top ten list before ballooning to a 100 list - there was just no way to whittle it down. This list is ranked not only by the greatness of a song, but how perfectly it is used in a scene or moment from a film. Source music allows directors another form of total control, and directors like Kubrick and Scorsese that helped popularlize the concept of pop soundtracks are notorious perfectionists. In the hands of the right filmmaker, a great song (or even a not-so-great one) can become an extension of a characters' emotions, an ironic comment on a scene, or a distinct shade of meaning.

There are some original songs here, but the emphasis is on source music. Straight musicals and performance aren't on this list (with the borderline exception of, ironically, Performance), as they belong on another list completely. Also, I've limited myself to one cue per film - otherwise, half the list would be Goodfellas. Links to the corresponding scenes are provided when available. I hope you enjoy this more than another recent 100 list.

1. “Sister Christian,” Night Ranger – Boogie Nights
2. “The End,” The Doors – Apocalypse Now
3. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” The Rolling Stones – Mean Streets
4. “In Dreams,” Roy Orbison – Blue Velvet
5. “Singin’ In the Rain,” Gene Kelly – A Clockwork Orange
6. “Memo From Turner,” Mick Jagger – Performance
7. “Stuck In The Middle With You,” Stealer’s Wheel – Reservoir Dogs
8. “I Think I See The Light,” Cat Stevens – Harold and Maude
9. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” Bob Dylan – Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
10. “In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel – Say Anything
11. “These Days,” Nico – The Royal Tenenbaums
12. “Layla,” Derek and the Dominos - Goodfellas
13. “I Put a Spell On You,” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Stranger Than Paradise
14. “The Stranger Song,” Leonard Cohen – McCabe and Mrs. Miller
15. “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time,” The Delfonics – Jackie Brown
16. “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition – The Big Lebowski
17. “Mrs. Robinson,” Simon and Garfunkel – The Graduate
18. “Tiny Dancer,” Elton John – Almost Famous
19. “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” Donovan – Zodiac
20. “Fight the Power,” Public Enemy – Do the Right Thing
21. “Late for the Sky,” Jackson Browne – Taxi Driver
22. “Relax,” Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Body Double
23. “Theme From Shaft,” Issac Hayes – Shaft
24. “Wise Up,” Aimee Mann - Magnolia
25. “A Quick One While He’s Away,” The Who - Rushmore
26. “Nobody But Me," Human Beinz – Kill Bill vol. 1
27. “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” Chris Issak – Eyes Wide Shut
28. "Everybody's Talkin'," Harry Nilsson - Midnight Cowboy
29. “Moving In Stereo,” The Cars – Fast Times at Ridgemont High
30. “Sussudio,” Phil Collins – American Psycho
31. “An Invitation to the Blues,” Tom Waits – Bad Timing
32. “Amoreena,” Elton John – Dog Day Afternoon
33. "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," Dropkick Murphys - The Departed
34. “A Change is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke – Malcolm X
35. “The Court of the Crimson King,” King Crimson – Children of Men
36. "Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan and The Band - New York Stories
37. “Staggolee,” Pacific Gas & Electric - Grindhouse
38. “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime,” Beck – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
39. "Careful With That Axe Eugene," Pink Floyd - Zabriskie Point
40. "Goldfinger," Shirley Bassey - Goldfinger
41. “Staying Alive,” The Bee Gees – Saturday Night Fever
42. “Life on Mars,” David Bowie – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
43. “The Killing Moon,” Echo and the Bunnymen – Donnie Darko
44. “Natural’s Not In It,” Gang of Four – Marie Antoinette
45. “This Magic Moment,” Lou Reed – Lost Highway
46. “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon,” Urge Overkill – Pulp Fiction
47. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," B.J. Thomas - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
48. “Blue Moon,” Sam Cooke – An American Werewolf in London
49. “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” Simple Minds – The Breakfast Club
50. “Hurricane,” Bob Dylan – Dazed and Confused
51. "We'll Meet Again," Vera Lynn - Dr. Strangelove
52. “Janie Jones,” The Clash – Bringing Out the Dead
53. “The Old Main Drag,” The Pogues – My Own Private Idaho
54. “If You Wanna Be a Bird,” The Holy Modal Rounders – Easy Rider
55. "Surfin' Bird," The Trashmen – Full Metal Jacket
56. "Sinnerman," Nina Simone – Inland Empire
57. "From Her To Eternity," Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Wings of Desire
58. "Old Time Rock and Roll," Bob Seger - Risky Business
59. “Banana Boat Song,” Harry Belafonte - Beetlejuice
60. “Louie Louie,” The Kingsmen – Animal House
61. "Can We Still Be Friends," Todd Rundgren - Vanilla Sky
62. "Twist and Shout," The Beatles - Ferris Bueller's Day Off
63. “Freebird,” Lynyrd Skynyrd – The Devil’s Rejects
64. “Tequila,” The Champs – Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
65. "No One Lives Forever," Oingo Boingo - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
66. “Waterloo,” Abba – Muriel’s Wedding
67. "Let's Misbehave," Irving Aaronson and His Commanders - Pennies From Heaven
68. “I Want You Around,” The Ramones – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
69. “Numb/Encore” Jay-Z and Linkin Park, Miami Vice
70. “Daniel,” Elton John – Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
71. "Magic Man," Heart - The Virgin Suicides
72. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” Bauhaus – The Hunger
73. “All Out of Love,” Air Supply - Happiness
74. “Girls,” Death in Vegas – Lost in Translation
75. "The Seeker," The Who - American Beauty
76. “Goodbye Horses,” Q. Lazzarus – The Silence of the Lambs
77. “I’m Your Man,” Leonard Cohen - Secretary
78. “The Blower’s Daughter,” Damien Rice - Closer
79. “There Is An End,” The Greenhornes with Holly Golightly – Broken Flowers
80. “Who Made Who,” AC/DC – Maximum Overdrive
81. "Philadelphia," Neil Young – Philadelphia
82. "Hey You," Pink Floyd - The Squid and the Whale
83. "Venus in Furs," Velvet Underground - Last Days
84. "Just in Time," Nina Simone - Before Sunset
85. "Bad To The Bone," George Thorogood and The Destroyers – Christine
86. "Without You," Harry Nilsson - The Rules of Attraction
87. "Devil Got My Woman," Skip James - Ghost World
88. "Suzanne," Leonard Cohen - Breaking the Waves
89. "Everybody Wants Some," Van Halen - Better Off Dead
90. "Partyman,” Prince – Batman
91. "Midnight, the Stars and You," Roy Noble Orchestra - The Shining
92. "Young Americans," David Bowie – Dogville
93. "2000 Man," The Rolling Stones - Bottle Rocket
94. "Anthem," Leonard Cohen - Natural Born Killers
95. "Sax and Violins," Talking Heads - Until the End of the World
96. "Rock Around the Clock," Bill Haley and the Comets - Blackboard Jungle
97. "Tonight (We'll Make Love Until We Die)" - The Return of the Living Dead
98. "Stardust," Louis Armstrong - Stardust Memories
99. "Que Sera Sera," Doris Day - The Man Who Knew Too Much
100. "Eye of the Tiger," Survivor - Rocky III

9 comments:

Paul C. said...

Wow, talk about your exhaustive list.

That said, I came up with a few more off the top of my head. Some are good songs that enhance the scenes they're in. Others are not-so-good songs that are used so well that you can't think of the song without thinking of the scene.

"Everybody Knows," Leonard Cohen- Exotica ("what is it about a schoolgirl?")
"Moonchild," King Crimson OR "Heart of the Sunrise," Yes- Buffalo '66
"Rhythm of the Night," Countdown Dance Masters- Beau Travail
"Let's Go Get Stoned," Ray Charles- Beware of a Holy Whore (it's like a dance of the dead)
"Come Here," Kath Bloom- Before Sunrise
"Private Eyes," Hall and Oates- Cherish (music to stalk by)
"S.O.S.," ABBA- Together
"Cucurrucucu Paloma," Caetano Valoso- Talk to Her

Also a few alternate possibilities:
Bringing Out the Dead- nothing against "Janie Jones," but when I think of music in the film, I'm much more prone to thinking of "Rang Tang Ting Tong (I Am a Japanese Sandman)" by the Cellos or Van Morrison's "TB Sheets."
Royal Tenenbaums- too many good ones here to settle on one, but I'm partial to Anderson's perfect montage songs- "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" and "Judy Is a Punk." Or maybe "Christmastime Is Here," for Charlie Brown fans. But you really can't pick a wrong one from this movie.

Otherwise, pretty sweet list. Only a few objections spring to mind. I personally think that if you're going to use "The Seeker" it should be for THE LIMEY rather than AMERICAN BEAUTY, for the way Soderbergh turns it into a badass theme song for Terence Stamp. And I gotta take exception with your inclusion of "All Out of Love" from HAPPINESS. But maybe that's my urge to defend Air Supply talking, especially when it comes to my #1 favorite karaoke song.

Oh, and one nitpicky thing- #16 is by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition. Just FYI.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Wow. Great list there. Gonna go through and watch them all a bit later. Well done!

Nigoki: said...

Music instances such as these are one of those things in film that is a fine line between enhancing a moment, and just a scene that tries too hard

A few of my favorites from your list.
1, 18, 24, (are you noticing a trend?), 33, 51, 59, 61, 63.

I might have to borrow this idea if you don't mind.

Bemis said...

Thanks, all. Paul, I have yet to see the films you've listed, with the exception of Talk to Her, Buffalo '66, Before Sunrise and the ones already on the list (particularly ashamed about Exotica and The Limey). I love Talk to Her, and your alternates would have worked nicely(it was hard to pin down just one from Rushmore as well).

Buffalo 66 contains some great songs, but I sort of hate it. I sort of like The Brown Bunny (or I think about it a lot, at least), and almost included that film's use of "Beautiful" by Gordon Lightfoot. But ultimately I think Vincent Gallo is guilty of what Nigoki describes below, relying on the soundtrack to provide an emotional weight that the film itself can't carry (see also: Elizabethtown, SLC Punk).

Doug, I'd love to see what you could come up with on this subject.

Bemis said...

Oh, and correction made on #16. Thanks.

Paul C. said...

As great as the song selections in RUSHMORE are overall, I think you're right that "A Quick One While He's Away" is the keeper. I especially like the way Anderson pauses the song for a few seconds- as the police show up- just to restart it again for even better effect.

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This is perfect to get pop music in films because while we're watching a good movie we also can listen something really good during the while movie, I want to get some of those soundtracks.