There are good uses of music and musical moments in films – and then there are great moments. It’s usually one scene that sticks with you long after the credits rolled – the one scene you can describe to a person and know immediately what movie it comes from. It can be serious or funny, but, most importantly, it’s memorable. Picking the right song is crucial – sometimes people sing, sometimes they just dance, lip-synch or hold a boombox. It’s the little moments that count, and these scenes help shape some of the best movies and make them just a little better.
5) Tiny Dancer – Almost Famous
One of my favorite movies, this scene is the emotional core of this film that follows a naive, young journalist as he travels along with a band on the cusp of fame – somehow posing a writer for Rolling Stone. After a rough night when the band is about as low as they get, perpetual (and professional) groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) starts singing this Elton John classic on the tour bus when it comes on the radio. Soon, entire bus is joining in – it’s a touching moment that brings the band back together and finally our erstwhile journalist William Miller (Patrick Fugit) feels like he belongs.
4) Johnny B. Goode – Back to the Future
In order to save his parents love life (and therefore, ensure his existence in the future), Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has to take the place of an injured guitar player at the Under the Sea dance. While at first launching into the era-specific Earth Angel – and after nearly fading away into non-existence, his parents kiss – his future is set and, because why not? He launches into Johnny B. Goode – an oldie – where he comes from. Suddenly everyone pulls out some fancy dance moves, the lead singer calls his cousin Chuck Berry and eventually the entire thing devolves into Marty pulling out some 80s moves that maybe the audience isn’t quite ready for (“But your kids are going to love it.”)
3) Old Time Rock N Roll – Risky Business
For anyone who has seen this movie I dare you to listen to the opening of this song and not picture Tom Cruise sliding in and dancing around in his underwear. Yes, this is one of the early films that helped launch the career of Cruise, and this short scene of a young man cutting loose while his parents are away just fits the concept of this movie. Look at that baby-faced actor and it’s no wonder women were enamored. A great scene with the perfect song to go along with it.
2) Duettino – Sull’aria from The Marriage of Figaro – The Shawshank Redemption
Many people consider this film one of the generations best. Somehow it hits all the right notes – story, character, direction, cinematography – it just resonates with audiences. In one of the more quiet moments of the film our protagonist Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins) – a wrongly-convicted man, revives the prison library. While going through a huge pile of donated material he comes across a record. Locking the door, he puts the record on, turns on the prison PA system and suddenly a beautiful opera comes on. Suddenly hardened criminals are transfixed as the voices flow – a bit of beauty and hope in this thoroughly hopeless place. Sure, it lands him in the hole – but I agree, it was worth it.
1) In Your Eyes – Say Anything…
I can’t think of a better use of a song in a movie. It is just so utterly timeless and perfect. So much so that I bet it’s been redone and copied by just about everyone because the image of Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) standing with that boombox over his head while Peter Gabriel sings is a quintessential moment not just for the 80s, but for films in general. Heck, I even used it for the basis of a movie-themed Halloween costume.
I’ve only scratched the surface here – I know there are literally hundreds of moments like these – from The Big Chill to Wayne’s World, you can find many moments where music plays an important role. These just happen to be some of my all-time favorites.
Chris Kavan is the Community Manager of FilmCrave.com and he takes his music in movies very seriously.