Sep 232014

Hey, did you see this?

I know that you all enjoy movies and film almost as much as you do your music, so here’s a perfect marriage of the two, thanks to our bearded, cycling, kale-eating friends at Pitchfork. Knock yourself out; I know I did.

I would agree with a number of these entries, and think the group of films/songs representing numbers 15-1 are pretty accurate (with the exception of The Lovers on the Bridge. What? If you’re going for a colossal failure, let’s revisit Ishtar. At least that’s about a couple of song writers.) I appreciate the inclusion of two of my favorite song/scenes from film, the use of “The Madison” in Band of Outsiders and “California Dreamin'” in Chungking Express (and snappy little films, to boot).

However, I’m guessing that you, like me, will also take umbrage at a few of the entries. What?!: These Days is rated higher than Saturday Night Fever? And if you’re going to include the great “Heart of the Sunrise” from Buffalo 66, why not include the trailer (which, IMHO, is one of the best film trailers ever spliced together)?!

There are some glaring omissions. How could you leave out these cheekbones? That attitude? Or those bees?

Members of Rock Town Hall! Put aside your remote controls! Take your fingers off that turn table arm! Rip off those headphones! We can do better than this! What are your quintessential movie pop music moments?


  51 Responses to “The Movies’ 50 Greatest Pop Music Moments?”

  1. I had visions of not looking at the Pitchfork piece (which I’ve still not done), jotting down 50 great pop music moments in film that sprang to my mind, then coming back here and typing out my list of 50 moments. Then I realized that would require a lot of jotting followed by a lot of typing all at once. Then I also realized that 2 of the first 4 moments that came to mind for me were not centered around “pop” songs (ie, the brief color “home movie” montage in Raging Bull that’s underscored by some amazing excerpt from an opera and the “Ride of the Valkyries” scene with Robert Duvall and company in Apocalypse Now). So…I’ll continue to not look at that list on Pitchfork while feeding a few moments that come to mind at a time over the coming days.

    Let me start with the moment I placed as the video to accompany this thread: the Rosie Perez dance to Public Enemy that kicks off Do the Right Thing followed by a scene that ladymiss probably had in mind, maybe an early contender for the greatest of these musical moments: the dance scene during “More Than a Woman” in Saturday Night Fever. I get chills just thinking about that scene, and you know by now I’m a “cement hips” kinda guy.

  2. misterioso

    Lists, lists, oh lists.

    LMKR, I am right with you on the omission of the “Making Time” sequence from Rushmore and the Cat People theme.

    Likewise, the sequence from Bande à Part is classic.

    Are these people aware, though, that pop music (“broadly defined,” as they say) was used in movies before the rock era? That this is also pop music?

  3. True dat (ie, your last point)!

  4. That movie Once (I think that’s the name – with the Irish singer-songwriter and the Czech woman singer/pianist) won me over. I had serious misgivings about it and really didn’t like the guy’s music, but there was some key scene where their musical (and more!) partnership comes together during the course of the performance of some beard-filtered song that’s really moving. I think it’s a solid and intimate rendering of how musicians collaborate and feel like they’re accomplishing something, even when it’s some overwrought folk-soul moaning. That scene goes on my list.

  5. Before I forget, maybe my LEAST favorite pop music moment in movies is John Cusack blasting that sappy Peter Gabriel song in the otherwise-excellent Say Anything while wearing a Clash shirt under a stinking longcoat. Ugh!

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    99% of “That Thing You Do.”

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    There were far too many movies in the last decade that relied on cheeseball 70s soundtrack music cues to liven up proceedings and make viewers somehow feel transported back to, you know, whatever. I found “Dazed and Confused” almost unwatchable for this reason. But! Stacey Peralta’s tasteful, thoughtful use of the 1970s classic rock canon in the extremely excellent “Dogtown and Z-boys” was moving. There’s a scene where we’re introduced to the early days of pool shredding, and Hendrix’s “Ezy Rider” gets cued up — or it may have been “Cat Scratch Fever,” I forget — anyhow it’s awesome.

  8. I should really be aiming this at Pitchfork, but:


    No “Where Is My Mind/Fight Club”?
    No “Just Like Honey/Lost In Translation”?
    No “Born Slippy/Trainspotting”?

  9. ladymisskirroyale

    Ah, Mod, Rosie et al are #1. Yet Saturday Night Fever’s iconic opening scene only gets #34? Mod, if you don’t look at the Pitchfork article, could could probably guess a few more. Or not, because it’s a pretty strange list.

    I thought about that Apocalypse Now scene, too. We could make an argument (a nod to you, misterioso) that Wagner was also the pop music of it’s time, too).

  10. ladymisskirroyale

    That scene also made the list 🙂 Plus one from your other favorite movie (hint, think Elton John).

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    Likewise, most Richard Linklater movies, especially “Dazed and Confused.”

  12. ladymisskirroyale

    Where are the scenes from John Hughes movies? I linked to “Ferris Bueller,” but you could easily reference “The Breakfast Club,” or for God’s sake as it’s named after a song, “Pretty in Pink.” Hmmph.

  13. misterioso

    Ah, sure. But it works in the movie. I mean, what’s he supposed to play in that moment, “Solsbury Hill”? Something from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway?

  14. misterioso

    God, I can’t possibly disagree more about Dazed and Confused. The music is perfect. Not perfect as in these are all great songs but perfect as in these are just the right songs for this movie. And it’s nuts that none made this Pitchfork list. I suspect that its use of these kinds of songs–in 1993, mind you–is now so imitated that if you have seen a lot of Dazed and Confused wannabe-type movies that have followed in its wake (and mostly, I have not) that it compromises the original. Which is beyond reproach.

  15. misterioso

    Actually, I was thinking of Bill Murray’s lovely rendition (really!) of “More Than This” in Lost in Translation.

  16. misterioso

    As much as I basically detest everything about John Hughes and his movies, I agree that it is surprising and strange.

  17. hrrundivbakshi

    You could be right there; I only saw this movie a few months ago.

  18. No, misterioso, if he’s going to wear a Clash shirt, don’t blast that cheesy Gabriel song. Why does he have to blast any Gabriel song? Why does anyone even like that song? I’d rather listen to Mike + the Mechanics’ big song about someone’s dead dad that “In Your Eyes.” It’s about MY tastes, and Rob Reiner (or whoever directed that) should have been sensitive to MY tastes.

  19. I love Dazed and Confused. I think the music is just right. It sets a tone just like the music in D&C’s obvious inspiration, American Graffiti, does. I don’t, however, recall a PERFECT movie moment that was directly driven by the music, must as I don’t for my incredibly beloved American Graffiti. In both movies I think the strength of the music works beneath the action, if that makes sense.

  20. I love the scene in Hal Hartley’s Simple Men, when the 3 main characters are in a bar and start doing choreographed dancing to some Sonic Youth song. (Many of my favorites, it seems, include not only music but dance.)

  21. YES!!! That scene made the movie come alive for me. I was barely hanging on until that point. Thereafter I was fully engrossed.

  22. Speaking of Saturday Night Fever’s opening scene, how about Staying Alive’s closing scene?

  23. For purposes of discussion, are we looking specifically at the use of known pop songs, or do songs written for use in a particular movie count? If not, then That Thing You Do, the song in Once, and anything from Nashville, which I was just about to propose, would not count. I still haven’t peeked at the Pitchfork piece for guidance, so feel free to fill me in on their parameters. I would hope that my blinded suggestions play by their parameters. Thanks.

  24. hrrundivbakshi

    Pee Wee Herman dancing to “Tequila.” I win!

  25. misterioso

    You understand he’s supposed to be a high school kid, right? Who’s trying to win this girl’s heart and all that stuff? And that “Complete Control” might not do the trick?

    But since you cracked me up with the line about the Mike + the Mechanics song, the name of which also escapes me, all is forgiven.

  26. misterioso

    That’s true, the music is inseparable from the movie in both cases, and not just a series of set pieces.

  27. Now you’ve got me thinking there were some holes in my game – I mean, the results (or lack thereof) spoke to the holes in my game, but now I see where I went wrong!

  28. cliff sovinsanity

    Get your tomatoes ready

    This scene from Magnolia –

    Let’s Go Crazy during the opening credits of Purple Rain.

    This scene from Donnie Darko -

  29. cherguevara

    I thought it was funny that the list had the Layla sequence from Goodfellas. My first thought was the “Jump In To The Fire” montage. I also really love the recording studio scene in Boogie Nights, with that cover of “The Touch” by Stan Busch.

    Speaking of covers, here’s my favorite version of a Mike + The Mechanics song, “The Living Years,” as driven into the ground by the parody group, “Big Daddy.”

  30. misterioso

    Took the words out of my mouth regarding “Jump Into the Fire” in Goodfellas.

  31. ladymisskirroyale

    misterioso, I’m a bit afraid as we are agreeing much too much.

  32. ladymisskirroyale

    My iconic scene from American Graffiti is to “Green Onions” when Harrison Ford and the gang are preparing to do the little drag racing. There are some moments without dialogue which perfectly match the instrumental song.

  33. ladymisskirroyale

    What, not the Peaches strip club scene?

  34. ladymisskirroyale

    I believe it’s to “Cool Thing,” which was my first exposure to that song.

  35. ladymisskirroyale

    It’s up there on the list, in the 40’s I believe.

  36. ladymisskirroyale

    I agree, cher, that song of the song choices aren’t the ones I associate with the film, either.

  37. ladymisskirroyale

    No guidance from the intro to the article: pop music “broadly defined.”

    I would think songs written for the film and then chart on their own would count.

  38. misterioso

    No we’re not.

  39. misterioso

    Not at all a fan of SY but that is memorable. Got me wondering: what has happened to Hal Hartley? I was a big fan of his movies–e.g., Trust, The Unbelievable Truth, Simple Men–and then the bottom seemed to drop out in the mid-late 90s. Or did it? Or has he gone on to make other good movies I haven’t seen? Can anyone report on his past 15 years or so of activity?

  40. misterioso


  41. I’m not sure what I would drop from the list to make room for the following, but I would find something:

    1. You Make My Dreams Come True – 500 Days of Summer. I don’t think I even saw this entire movie but this scene cracks me up.

    2. Jump in the Fire by Harry Nillson – Good Fellas. From the “drug induced paranoia before the bust” scene.

    3. The Man in Me by Bob Dylan – Big Lewbowski

  42. Oops! I posted before I read Cher’s suggestion for Jump into the fire.

  43. Like you, the use of that SY song in that scene helped a lot. Otherwise I have little interest in that band’s music.

    I’ve seen a couple of Hartley’s movies since the excellent trio of movies you list. The first one that sucked may have been right after Simple Men: Amateur, I believe was the title. It was…OK. It was a major disappointment, though, because it starred the Central European woman with the bangs from Simple Men and my favorite French squeeze, Isabelle Huppert. I’ve seen a couple more since then, including Henry Fool (I think that’s what it was called). They were barely watchable. I wish Hartley could make a comeback. I’ll watch those 3 early films any day of the week. Martin Donovan, the late Adrienne Shelley (was that her name), and the other actors who populated those movies were excellent!

    On a related note, Whit Stillman needs to make another great movie. I think I read he finally has a new one coming. I loved each of his first 3.

  44. I first associate “Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In)” with The Big Lebowski, which also psyches me up whenever that Beefheart song plays in the background of a scene.

  45. Browsed the list quickly and didn’t see this one…Will try to post the link……One of my all time fav movies with a perfect ending thanks to a great tune by President Joe!

    The Warriors-In The City-Joe Walsh

  46. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m in complete agreement about HH and WS. We did go to see Whit’s last movie, “Damsels in Distress” which was pretty bad if you like his other movies, and palatable if you don’t know his history. How about this seminal song/dance scene from “Barcelona”?

  47. ladymisskirroyale

    On the list, Mod.

  48. ladymisskirroyale

    Good one!

  49. ladymisskirroyale

    500 Days of Summer – excellent choice. Plus I Heart Joseph Gordon Leavitt.

  50. cliff sovinsanity

    I’m surprised there’s been no mention of Moving In Stereo from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. More for the Phoebe Cates part rather than the Judge Reinhold part.
    The wife mentioned she’s especially creeped out when she hears Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby” because it reminds her of Jennifer Jason Leigh statutory rape scene at “The Point”

  51. I think the music runs a distant second to the action, but a good entry nevertheless. It’s funny that I also associate that Browne song with the scene. Because I like the movie so much it’s helped me have some positive associations with one of his songs. That doesn’t happen often.

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