8. Stand by Me – Stand By Me – Ben E. King
There aren’t many childhood stories as brutally honest as Stand By Me. A lot of that has to do with the four lead young actor’s chemistry. You wouldn’t care about each of their personal problems as deeply if you didn’t get a sense that these boys would die for one another, it’s a bond that only young naïveté can support.
The real gut-punch comes at the end of the movie, as Richard Dreyfuss’s narrator has grown up only to be separated from the best friends he ever knew. We can’t help but feel remorseful about youthful days long gone and good friends long gone as Ben E. King sing the emotional title song and Dreyfuss leaves us with “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
7. Reservoir Dogs – Coconut – Harry Nilsoon
It’s hard to pin down exactly what makes this song so perfect for the end of Reservoir Dogs. In Shakespearean fashion, all of our main characters are taken down within seconds, a secret is revealed, a character is horribly betrayed, everyone dies, and then a groovy, playful song about a coconut comes in and hilariously breaks the tension.
It’s almost like Tarantino is turning to you and asking, “Wasn’t that awesome?” It also continues the theme of the characters listening to the soulful hits of the 70’s throughout the film, creating a wonderful idea of these violent criminals grooving to 70’s soul.
You could also make an argument the story of the people being sickened by coconut juice and a doctor prescribing the thing that made them sick ties in to the story, but either way, it just feels right.
6. The Life Aquatic – Queen Bitch – David Bowie
This aquatic comedy directed by Wes Anderson not only ends with a Bowie song, but the music of David Bowie is a running theme throughout. Bill Murray is Steve Zissou, an ocean explorer on a quest to avenge his best friend who was eaten alive by a tiger shark. Unfortunately, in perfect Wes Anderson fashion, Steve is the laughing stock of his field.
The film has a strange sense of surrealism that perfectly lends itself to the quirky super-hero style curtain call that harkens Buckaroo Banzai and Jeff Goldblum wearing a cowboy outfit. Only an ending this offbeat is deserving of a kick in the head Bowie song. You will walk out of the film like our lead characters, with your head held high.
5. Watchmen – Desolation Row – My Chemical Romance
Zach Snyder’s adaptation of the most infamous graphical novel of all time was a miss for most critics and mass audiences, but the fans of the original novel were much nicer to the film, given that it was one of the most closely adapted works of fiction ever made. The film may not be perfect, but it came at a time when in a thick of comic book movies, it filled a need for a dark analysis of the concept.
The movie ends on a strange note with having seemingly the antagonist’s terrorist plot succeed, but for the greater good, killing millions to save billions. The film’s anti-hero known as Rorschach can only see the world in black and white, and while ultimately fails alert the world of the truth behind the world’s false peace, the camera lingers on his journal and the prospect that he will have the last laugh.
My Chemical Romance’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row then comes in to give new snark and wickedness to this ballad that almost sounds like a poem Rorschach would write himself.
4. Groundhog Day – Almost Like Being In Love – Nat King Cole
When the clouds part and Phil Connors finally wakes up to a new dawn after spending, possibly, years inside the same day, you’re not only elated that the curse is finally broken, but you feel you’ve come out the other side having learned something.
While Groundhog Day has its dark existential moments, it’s ultimately a journey that ends with the main character growing into the person he deep down always wanted to become. He is given chance after chance to change a single day and finally gets everything right.
There are few feel good movies that live up to the stigma as well as this Bill Murray/Harold Ramis gem. Bill Murray’s cynical and stubborn weatherman is trapped in the same day for what could be years, going through stages of panic, depression, insanity, and finally an epiphany that he can.
3. American Beauty – Because – Elliot Smith
Ending a movie with a Beatles track is risky. At worst it can come off as uninspired, and while another worthy contender for this list would have been David Fincher’s use of “Baby You’re a Rich Man” at the end of Social Network, this cover of Because by Elliot Smith does what few Beatles covers do, live up to the original.
American Beauty is very much a movie of its time. Before he was making Bond movies, director Sam Mendes’s debut feature deals with white suburban disillusionment and finding transcendent experiences in the mundane. Our main character is dead, but has found a sense of peace with his life. Because is a song that is almost a mantra.
2. Fight Club – Where Is My Mind – Pixies
At first glance, Where Is My Mind might be too on the nose, as you realize the end twist of David Fincher’s Fight Club. Our lead character is left in the movie wondering this very question. He’s realized his own mind has betrayed him and just when he thinks he has gained control of his own life once again, his world literally comes crumbling around him.
Pixies Where Is My Mind has become much associated with the film and is often associated as a stand out track for 90’s playlists, despite originally debuting in the 80’s.
The haunting chorus and grungy electric guitar riff send a chill up your spine as you realize that though Tyler Durden has been defeated, his will lives on. Even if the chorus didn’t ring true for our main character (Tyler? Jack? Narrator?) the song would still be perfect.
1. Goodfellas – I Did It My Way – Sid Vicious
Goodfellas is a tale of a reckless youth. One who all the American ambition, smarts of the street, and greed of one who does not care who he has to kill to get his own way. The movie ends with our main character, Henry Hill, haven fallen from his life of excess, violence, and addiction. Does he have any regrets? No. In fact, if he could he’d do it all again.
Poetic it is that Martin Scorsese chose Sid Vicious’ cover of Frank Sinatra’s I Did It My Way. Not only does the song present bold confidence that the artist has no regrets about his life, but it’s sung by someone who lived a very reckless and ultimately violent life.
The song inevitably propels the viewer out his seat with a high-octane feeling of being punched in the face. It’s punk rock in the same way that the movie’s punk rock and textbook for how to include a song that fits thematically.
Author Bio: Kristopher Pistole is an actor and video blogger at youtube.com/kriswatchesmovies and lives in Los Angeles, CA. You can visit his movie review Youtube channel here.