The 15 Most Memorable Songs Used In Martin Scorsese Movies

8. “Like A Rolling Stone” (New York Stories “Life Lessons”)

New York Stories

Lionel returns to his main studio after just having an argument with Paulette, his young protege whom he is very attracted to. He is frustrated. He puts a tape into his boom box and plays it loud. It’s Bob Dylan and The Band playing “Like A Rolling Stone” at a concert. As the music plays, Lionel begins to paint.

The film cuts to Paulette in her room on her phone, crying to her mother, saying she wants to come home. She eventually marches downstairs to confront Lionel but stops when she sees what he’s doing. Lionel paints the canvass with such passion that Paulette gets swept up in it.

There are rapid cuts as Lionel paints quickly and without hesitation. All the time having Dylan’s electric “Like A Rolling Stone” blast away in the background. The song captures Lionel’s passion, creativity, and anger.


7. “Then He Kissed Me” (Goodfellas)

“Then He Kissed Me” plays through one of the most famous long, uninterrupted takes in cinema history. The camera follows Henry and Karen from the end of their cab ride through the back way into a restaurant.

As they walk, Henry shows he knows everybody in the joint and Karen is clearly impressed. She is being spoiled and she loves it.


6. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (New York Stories “Life Lessons”)

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” is used constantly throughout the film, including the very opening, the title sequence, and the closing sequence, but is used most effectively when we first meet Paulette. Extreme close-up on Lionel as he smokes a cigarette. Passengers walk off the plane.

The iris of the camera focuses on Paulette as she arrives in slow motion. She is the only thing Lionel sees (or cares about). Slowly the iris opens fully to reveal Paulette in her entirety. Lionel drops his cigarette to the ground and steps on it with a shoe smeared with blue paint. He walks toward her and the music fades. The song amplifies Lionel’s obsession with Paulette.


5. “Layla” (Goodfellas)

A couple of kids stop playing in the street find a pink car. “Layla” starts to play as the film cuts to two murdered victims inside the car.

The camera moves in for a closer look. Henry’s voice over begins as he describes how Jimmy is killing off anyone involved in the recent heist. A murder victim is found in a garbage dumpster and another in a meat truck. The song continues through the next scene, where Tommy is murdered.


4. “Love is Strange” (Casino)

Ace notices Ginger is cheating at the gambling tables. He watches as his security team tries to apprehend her. Instead of cooperating, she decides to make a scene and throw multiple money chips into the air, which causes casino members to scramble for the free chips. Ginger smiles at the chaos she has created around her. Ace watches from a distance.

At first he is annoyed, but then he sees the brilliance of her plan. The camera freeze frames on Ginger and “Love is Strange” begins to play. The camera dollies in on Ace. Ginger walks away with a grin on her face, ever so confident. Ace’s voice over kicks in. “What a move. I fell in love right there.”


3. “Be My Baby” (Mean Streets)

Charlie gets out of bed and looks at himself in the mirror. After a moment, he lies back down on his bed. As he does the film cuts with the opening beats of “Be My Baby”.

Scorsese then shows a whole bunch of 8mm films revolving around Charlie. Through these films, the audience sees his friends, family, values, and where he lives. The song is a catchy tune from the 1960s and makes the opening sequence entertaining.


2. “Sunshine of Your Love” (Goodfellas)

Jimmy has just pulled off an enormous heist and is now feeling nervous about loose ends, especially Morris, who keeps bugging him about his cut. “Sunshine of Your Love” begins to play and the camera slowly moves in on Jimmy. He smokes his cigarette and keeps his eyes fixed on Morris. The wheels in his head are turning.

The film cuts to Jimmy and Henry walking and talking about Morris. Henry’s voice over kicks in, “I could see for the first time that Jimmy was a nervous wreck”. He is planning on killing Morris.


1. “Jump’n Jack Flash” (Mean Streets)

The bar is drenched in classic Scorsese red lighting. “Jump’n Jack Flash” begins to play as the camera slowly dollies into Charlie, who watches Johnny Boy very seriously.

The camera cuts to Johnny Boy, who strolls into bar with his pants off and a girl on each arm. He is clearly feeling like a king, not having a care in the world. He is cool, and at the same time a bit crazy. It’s one of the best character entrances in cinema history. The film cuts back to Charlie who takes a sip of his drink and retreats to the end of the bar.

Author Bio: Born and bred in Portland, Oregon, Rollyn Stafford loves the city of roses and hopes to continue acting and directing films there in the future. He has appeared in numerous films such as Victoria’s Exorcism, Romance, and Poison, as well as appearing on NBC’s GRIMM. Besides directing short films, Mr. Stafford teaches chess and computer coding to after school kids.