Best Usage of Music in Film

I have watched a lot of movies, probably too many. Music is completely ubiquitous and necessary in movies. Many movies have forgettable music that you don't even notice, and some movies have music that is conspicuously bad. Then some movies use music in a memorable way that increases how much we like the whole film. I've thought back on the movies I have seen, and tried to remember scenes like these.

say_anything.jpgFor the sake of narrowing down my selections, I have tried to only included scenes that are crucial to the plot development of the film. Otherwise, I would have to include scenes like the "Bohemian Rhapsody" one from Wayne's World or the "Johnny B Goode" scene from Back to the Future. Which are both pretty amazing for what they are.

Ferris Bueler's Day Off

Please, Please, Please, let me Get What I Want (Instrumental), Dream Academy
This was probably the first movie I watched too many times. This scene is about as heavy as John Hughes gets throughout his teen 80s flicks. I'm sure that as a kid I liked Ferris lip-syncing the Beatles more than this scene, but this song stuck with me more. This scene is where Cameron realizes that he is wasting his life being afraid. He doesn't know what to do about it yet, but he knows that things need to change.

Say Anything

In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel
Lloyd Dobler shows us that sometimes when women say 'no' that they just mean "try harder." Diane Court breaks up with him for good reason, she may be in love, but she has things to do. Lloyd could have been a forgotten boyfriend in a footnote of Ms. Court's autobiography, but he shows tenacity and that he knows what he wants. This scene is simple, not overplayed, and makes the whole movie much better.

When Harry Met Sally

It Had to be You, Frank Sinatra
This still is an amazing scene for me to watch. The song choice is perfect, and so is the ending of this movie. It is one of those happy endings that makes the movie great.

Last of the Mohicans

Top Of The World, Randy Edelman
Another movie ending that makes the film. I'm not sure that this final scene would be half as cool without this score. I can't think of many other movie scores that have added this much to such a crucial scene. It makes me wonder if they knew how awesome this was going to be when they filmed it.

Northern Exposure

Forever Night Shade Mary - Latin Playboys
I cheated here and threw in a TV show. This scene is Dr. Joel Fleishman's last on the show, and it comes halfway through the sixth season. I don't know if this was a logical exit for the character, but I think Rob Morrow was done with the show and they had to write him out somehow. After he left the show in the sixth season, it was canceled after a few episodes.
The first time I saw this scene, I watched it over and over again. Even though the plot of the episode is wild and doesn't fit in well with what has come before, Maggie and Joel make it a powerful scene. You can see that they want to be with each other, but there are other forces pulling them apart. Joel riding on the ferry, finally seeing Manhattan again is amazing.

Can't Hardly Wait

Paradise City - Guns 'N Roses
I watched this movie again recently and had almost forgotten this scene. It makes the movie immensely more memorable. Nick Papagiorgio may be the main character, but the nerd story arc is probably a little more interesting. Plus, William here gets to rock the party singing Paradise City and be fawned over by multiple women. The main character probably spends a lot of time talking about his feelings to someone who says things like: "Just call me Love."

High Fidelity

Let's Get it On - Jack Black
Just like John Cusack's character in the film, I didn't see this coming. I thought Barry Jive and the Uptown Five (on the verge of being called Kathleen Turner Overdrive) were going to ruin Cusack's release party. Instead he does an awesome rendition of Marvin Gaye's classic song and sends the movie out on the highest note possible.


Scotty Doesn't Know - Lustra
This movie probably would have been much more mediocre without this song and its running joke throughout the movie. Matt Damon is awesome here, just plain awesome. This movie isn't the greatest comedy ever, but it is definitely funny and worth watching.

The Office UK

Only You - Yazoo
So I snuck another TV show in here. The last episode of the Office UK really made the whole series better. Unlike so many american sit-coms, BBC sit-coms usually end more gracefully. This is a great scene, but you probably have to watch the whole series to get it.

Stranger Than Fiction

Whole Wide World - Wreckless Eric
Who knew that Will Ferrell could give a decent non-comedic performance? This scene helps you care about him, and of course helps Maggie Gyllenhaal's character care about him. Good song choice, brilliant execution.

Step Brothers

Por Ti Volare - Will Ferrell
Don't watch this if you haven't seen the movie yet because it will completely ruin the film for you. This has a different tone that the "Stranger than Fiction" scene. It is the same tone as the rest of "Step Brothers", but without this scene the movie would have just been above average. It makes the movie.

« Irradiance Caching | Home | Perspective Changing Books »