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20 Famous Movie Scenes Made Better By Great Song Choices

05 April 2014 | Features, Other Lists | by Dan Torkel

best song movie

The music can sometimes MAKE the movie. Think about a film like Jaws, or for that matter any film scored by John Williams. Think about horror movies. Would anyone consider Psycho a classic if not for the music during the infamous shower scene? Imagine Halloween without John Carpenter’s creepy tune. We leave the theatres humming the tunes and they stay with us for years after.

But if a movie uses the right songs in it, it’s doubly effective as we sing the lyrics and always think of those movies and those scenes the songs were played during. Plus we need to run out and buy (or in today’s case download) the soundtrack. More important than the songs on the soundtrack is the placement of the song in the film.

This leaves a permanent mark on the film goer and could turn a normal theatre experience into an extremely memorable one. It is often the music or the songs that turn good scenes into classics. For this list we tried to keep it to lyrical songs and not scored music or themes.


20. Dazed & Confused (Richard Linklater – 1993)

Song – “Schools Out” by Alice Cooper

Hard to pick just one song from a movie with such an impressive soundtrack that they needed to release a Part 2, but we settle on the iconic song by Alice Cooper.

After all, in a film based on the wild night of the last day of school in a small Texas town, what better tune to come blaring through the screen when the bell rings? Kids come rushing out their respective schools, and it’s “no more teachers, no more books” for everyone. Bring on the booze, reefer, and crazy initiation traditions!


19. The Faculty (Robert Rodriguez – 1998)

Song – “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” by Class of 99 (Layne Staley, Tom Morello, Stephen Perkins, Martin Le Nobl and Matt Serlectic)

In Robert Rodriguez’s underpraised sci-fi horror flick, aliens have taken over a small town Ohio high school and in the tradition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, we quickly are trying to figure out who’s human and who’s alien. When only a motley crew of classmates are left they go to hunt down the “Queen” and where else to find her but at the football game on a Friday night.

As they pull up, Pink Floyd’s classic dystopian anthem begins to blare out (updated by a group of late-90s rockers). As the lyrics “we don’t need no thought control…” are sung the obviously alien infested football team lays brutal hits to their enemies as the crowd cheers holding signs of “Kill Kill Kill!” The song is both atmospheric and ironic, sending a not-so-subtle message about humans pack mentality.


18. Roger & Me/Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore – 1989/2002)

Songs – Roger & Me: “Wouldn’t it be nice” – Beach Boys

Bowling for Columbine: “What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong

Whether you agree or disagree with Michael Moore’s political stances, one cannot deny his success at making thought provoking and polarizing documentaries. One thing that allows his films to stand out is his perfect choices of music.

In his 1989 debut, Roger & Me, he shows his hometown, the now depleted Flint, Michigan and tries to find GM boss Roger Smith to ask why he outsourced nearly all the Michigan auto jobs and put so many people out of work. Moore marvelously juxtaposes the Beach Boys light and fluffy “Wouldn’t it be nice” while panning down a stretch of boarded up abandoned Flint homes.

In 2002’s Oscar winning documentary about America’s obsession with guns in the wake of the 1999 school shooting; Bowling for Columbine, Moore again juxtaposes music with imagery to make a compelling argument.

In a montage of historical footage depicting America’s involvement in violent foreign affairs, Moore plays Louis Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World” with the final note of the song ending as the second plane strikes the World Trade Center tower and you hear people’s horrified reaction.


17. A Clockwork Orange – (Stanley Kubrick – 1971)

Song – “Singin in the Rain” – Gene Kelly (as sung by Malcolm McDowell)

One of the most controversial and horrifying scenes on the list; Kubrick’s classic tale of a young psychopath and his droogs who want nothing more than a little ultra-violence.

After breaking into the home of a writer and his wife, Alex DeLarge and his friends beat the man and rape the wife all while Alex (Malcolm McDowell) sings and dances to Gene Kelly’s title classic Singin in the Rain. Thousands of movie fans had that song forever ruined for them thanks to this scene and cannot picture anything other than Kubrick’s film over 40 years later.


16. Fight Club (David Fincher – 1999)

Song – “Where is my mind” – The Pixies

Fight Club is one of the biggest mind trips in modern movie history. SPOILER ALERT!!! David Fincher’s somehow translated Chuck Palahniuk’s anti-establishment novel into a narrative film where an unnamed narrator meets a jack of all trades soap make named Tyler Durden. Together they turn boredom into an underground sensation for the disaffected; Fight Club.

Fight Club evolves from boredom killer for the working class to full blown terrorist organization designed to even the playing field between the classes. As the narrator and his on/off girlfriend Marla seem to finally have the situation settled, they stare out the window as Project Mayhem’s plan comes to fruition.

As they watch all the corporate buildings around crumble, the Pixies, Where is my mind starts playing. The song perfectly complements the tone and ideas of the story. His final line to Marla during the destruction: “You met me at a very strange time in my life.” The song echoes the final imagery into the end credits seamlessly… well except for the… well let’s just say, you know you saw it.


15. American Psycho – (Mary Harron – 2000)

Song – “Hip to be Square” – Huey Lewis and the News

Brett Easton Ellis’s tale of murder amongst the consumer-driven upper class is a phenomenal take on American consumerism and greed. Add Christian Bale as sociopathic lawyer/murderer Patrick Bateman and you have a recipe for a “killer” movie experience. When Patrick is offended by a rival’s more expensive business card he does the rationale thing: invites him up to his bachelor pad for some drinks and axe-murder.

Obsessed with “things” and pop-culture, he gleefully plays Paul Allen (a pre-Oscar, Jared Leto) some classic Huey Lewis on his hip CD player. The song “Hip to be Square” is as Patrick Bateman describes as, “A song so catchy most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. But they should; because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it’s also an important statement about the band itself!” He then proceeds to hack Paul to bits. It’s such a total leap into the twisted mind of a serial killer.



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  • donreplies

    Where is wong kar wai’s Chungking express?

    • Shahim Sheikh

      Exactly.Even Happy Together for that matter had such an amazing soundtrack alongwith iconic scenes.

  • Pingback: 20 Famous Movie Scenes Made Better By Great Song Choices | Vampoo()

  • FuchuBH

    It’s a bit disconcerting that a site which claims to love cinema somehow sees these scenes as separate from the music to begin with… but that being said, it’s crazy for Say Anything to be higher than Almost Famous, just on the Cameron Crowe list, alone!

  • Luis Arturo González

    “Layla” in “Goodfellas” was the first one that came to my mind, I also like “God Only Knows” in “Boogie Nights”

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  • Iam_Spartacus

    I always liked Voodoo Child: Slight Return in In the Name of the Father.

  • Siobhan Sugrue

    Eh Hello!! Don’t You (Forget About Me) The Breakfast Club
    How did you miss that one?

    • D.MR

      I was here for this comment!

  • gluis

    This list will never be completed if you don’t include 2001, a Space Odyssey once or twice.

  • LexMorris

    One’s I enjoyed: Harold & Maude + Cat Stevens (pick one), Midnight Cowboy + Harry Nilson’s Everybody’s Talkin, Last Days of Disco + O’Jays’ Love Train, The Graduate + Simon & Garfunkle (pick one), Shame + Carrie Mulligan NY, NY, Young Frankenstein + Irving Berlin’s Puttin on the Ritz, Magnolia + Aimee Mann’s Wise Up, Remember the Titans + Marvin Gaye’s Aint No Mountain High Enough, X-Men Days of Future Past + Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle, Ghost + The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody, Quadrophenia + The Who (pick one), Easy Rider + Steppenwolf Born to be Wild, Big Lebowski + Bob Dylan’s Man in Me, Mean Streets + Rollng Stones’ Jumpin Jack Flash, Clerks 2 + Jackson 5’s ABC, Reality Bites + The Knack’s My Sharona, 25th Hour + Cymande’s Bra, JUNO + Cat Power’s Sea of Love, Frances Ha + David Bowie’s Modern Love, Dangerous Minds + Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, 500 Days of Summer + Hall & Oates’ You Make My Dreams, Once + Glen Hansard’s Falling Slowly…I’m missing more, I know it haha

  • D.MR

    Please, just don’t forget “Freebird” on Rob Zombie’s “The devil’s rejects” fiml

  • carmen

    Hal Hartley’s Simple Men – with Sonic Youth’s Kool Thing

  • Daniel Maravilla Rodríguez

    How about the overdose scene in Trainspotting with “A Perfect Day”.

  • Naveen Haridas

    Terminator 2 Judgement Day : Bar Scene theme music:- “Bad to the bones” m/

    • Gines Velazquez

      or carpenter´s Christine with bad to the bones

  • Josh Stanley

    How the hell could you not include ‘Inna gadda da vida’ from the transformation scene in ‘Manhunter’

  • Klaus Dannick

    Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” from Blue Velvet is better than all of these.

  • Allister Cooper

    Concrete Blonde’s awesome ‘Still In Hollywood’ during the restaurant scene in The Hidden wasn’t so bad either :).

  • Definitely missing “Wise up” by Aimee Mann in “Magnolia”…

  • Sander

    Donnie Darko… Gary Jules – Mad World. Also powerfull stuff.

  • Peter Hennigan

    Sigur Ros – Festival in 127 Hours

  • Mate Bajka

    i would absolutely put in the list the casino’s ending with house of the rising sun soundtrack

  • Javier Salinas Barros

    Kavinski – Nightcall in DRIVE opening scene.

  • Mord

    “Sister Christian” in Boogie Nights.

  • Gines Velazquez

    Tarantino is the king on this matter. Rare no to find trainspotting first scene with Iggy pop Lust For Life or some scene from trainspotting.

    • Gines Velazquez

      and the last scene of adaptation, with happy toghether… or some wong kar wai´s scene

  • Jose Manuel Betancourt

    Wayne’s World – Foxy Lady

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  • Ania

    Whatever happened to Dirty Dancing big dance scene?

    • Cygnifier

      The TIme of My Life for the big dance scene is great — another perfect scene/song combo is Hungry Eyes as he is teaching her to dance. Sexy. Sexy.

  • allenmckee

    Living Out Loud: If You Love Me by Brownstone… Holly Hunter on an E high enters an all grrrls club, becomes the center of an impromptu dance routine and ends up embracing her younger self. Everything about this movie is right, but this scene was the center piece.

  • Mariana Tineo Blanco

    The restaurant scene ‘In The Mood for Love’ from Wong Kar Wai

  • DJB

    Honestly, for an article like this, you absolutely need to give a shout-out to the music supervisors. Seriously.

  • This magic moment by Lou Reed in Lost Highway, awesome scene

  • Heitor Vinícius

    Definetely the bowling scene with credits and “The man in me” in the beginning of The Big Lebowski deserves to be in this list.

  • fantail31

    Lust For Life – Trainspotting, Knockin On Heavens Door – Pat garrett And Billy The Kid,