Music and film are inextricably linked. Use of a great song can elevate a scene or film to greater heights, but on the flip side poor song choice can really let a film down.
I've managed to whittle down a long list of my most loved uses of songs in film to five great examples, listed below. Which is your favourite?
Pixies - "Where Is My Mind?"
Pixies are one of my all time favourite bands, and "Where Is My Mind?" is one of their best and most well known songs - thanks in part to its use in the final scene of David Fincher's cult classic Fight Club.
The film's ending differs greatly from the one in Chuck Palanhiuk's original novel (and I won't spoil it for those who haven't read it) but I for one prefer Fincher's version. The amazing Pixies song is just perfect for this scene; the guitar riff kicks in and bassist Kim Deal coos as the skyline crumbles. "You met me at a very strange time in my life," Ed Norton's narrator says with characteristic understatement. The trademark strangeness of this Pixies song perfectly matches this ending.
The Royal Tenenbaums
Elliott Smith - "Needle In The Hay"
The Royal Tenenbaums is a real favourite of mine, and the Wes Anderson film was in fact a big inspiration to this article. This entry was originally going to be about Nico's version of "These Days" that plays when Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) sees his adopted sister Margo (Gwyneth Paltrow) step off the green line bus.
But then I remembered another extraordinary scene in the film that is set to music. This one also involved the tragic Richie; it's the scene where he resolves to kill himself after discovering that Margo (who he's in love with) has had many past relationships. The opening chords of "Needle In The Hay" play as he shut himself in the bathroom, cuts his hair and beard, and slices his wrists with a razor. It's a tense, shocking and heartbreaking scene, paired perfectly with a fitting song.
Huey Lewis & The News - "Hip To Be Square"
Christian Bale's chilling portrayal of mentally unstable yuppie psychopath Patrick Bateman in American Psycho has gone down in cinematic history. Bale's performance was allegedly inspired after he met a "dead behind the eyes" Tom Cruise, and throughout the film we see Bateman's mask slip.
In this (in)famous scene, Bateman appears normal on the surface by critically dissecting the career of Huey Lewis & The News before brutally murdering his Wall Street rival Paul Allen (Jared Leto). The scene is made all the more surreal by the backing track provided by the band's hit "Hip To Be Square".
Lou Reed - "Perfect Day"
Danny Boyle's Trainspotting is another film that makes brilliant use of songs throughout. But what stands out for me is the Renton's overdose scene, soundtracked by Lou Reed's "Perfect Day".
It's a song that's been misused and misunderstood plenty of times in the past (it is, after all, a song about heroin, but often taken literally as a song about having a "perfect day" with a loved one) but it's used perfectly in Trainspotting and really makes a scene about such a grim subject gorgeous (in an audio-visual sense, at least).
Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound Of Silence
The amazing final scene of The Graduate uses what is arguable the folk legend's best known song to undercut everything you would expect from the film.
When the leads Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) and Elaine (Katharine Ross) jump on that yellow bus to elope after escaping her wedding they are understandably elated. But, wordlessly, their euphoria gives way to uncertainty, and when "The Sound Of Silence" kicks in just as Benjamin's face drops, you have the same realisation they do - maybe that grand romantic gesture wasn't the best idea, after all.
What do you think is the best use of a song in a film? Do you agree with my choices or do you like one not on this list? Let me know in the comments below, or even better, join as a creator and write your own post about it!