Growing up I was always fascinated by films and the power that music had alongside it. Imagine Star Wars, Jaws or Indiana Jones without John Williams, really try and you’ll end up with a movie without much hope, suspense or adventure. Music helps the movie establish itself, it can create the environment where the characters live or simply just help introduce the character.
Below are 5 of my favorite scenes with (Lyric based) music that help make the scene. Mind you these are in no specific order, aside from the very last one which is my overall favorite of all time!!
Danny Boyle has made some great films set alongside great music, for example, you can check out Trainspotting if you haven’t seen it. But for me it is Slumdog Millionaire. Some people really liked the best picture winner while others loathed it. I am part of the latter, although as as a Best Picture winner I think there could be some arguments for the other nominees, which I’ll save for another post. Anways, my favorite music scene is when the two kids are “hustlin” on the train while MIA’s Paper Planes plays in the background. Maybe it’s the fact that MIA sampled The Clash classic Straight to Hell (My favorite track from Combat Rock), but it made the scene beyond memorable, at least for me.
“Bonafide Hustla, makin my name”
Saturday Night Fever
I remember growing up in Orange County, Ca and my brother who is older than me playing the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on the record player (we’re old school). I loathed the Beegee sound like you would not believe, always preferring the thrashing sound of punk, and then one day I finally watched the film Saturday Night Fever. I was hit by a semi truck as I watched the intro scene of John Travolta walking down 86th street in Bay Ridge while Saturday Night Fever played, the one song I loathed!! I was taken aback by the coolness of this guy from Brooklyn strutting down the street with a can of paint, no one but Travolta could have made it as cool as he did and the song made it soo much cooler. Oh and if you ever go to Lenny’s Pizza in Brooklyn make sure you order two slices and stack them up on top of another!!
Silence of the Lambs
Ok look this movie has a ton of great scenes but seriously my favorite scene is when Buffalo Bill is getting all “dolled” up while his hostage is yelling from what looks like an empty well, all the while the eerie sounds of Q Lazzarus “GoodBye, Horses” plays in the background which makes the scene soo much more eerie. To be honest I really like the song and the singer, but whenever i play the song some people get freaked out like as if I’m going to start cross dressing in someone else’s skin and then throw them in a well and yell, “it rubs the lotion on it’s skin or else it gets the hose again”. Seriously?!?!?! It’s a great song but perhaps that is why this scene and song make such a great combo. Perhaps one day you’ll be driving in your car and this song will start playing and you’ll catch yourself saying “I’d f*ck me”.
It’s so hard to choose a song and scene combo from Tarantino’s catalog. You have Ingloruous Basterds with the David Bowie song Cat People or Pulp Fiction with Neil Diamond’s song “Girl You Will be a Woman Soon”, but Reservoir Dogs’ ear cutting scene has them all beat at least in my book. The band Stealers’s Wheel’s song “Stuck in the Middle With You” is playing on K_Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70’s while Michael Madsen’s character is preparing to filet a cop who is tied up to a chair. I’ can’t tell you how many times I’ve played this song and started doing what I call the “Madsen Strut” while holding a make believe knife in hand. What an amazing song/scene combo!! “That as good for you as it was for me”
I don’t really remember the first time I saw Marty Scorsese’s Goodfellas but I was hooked from the get go, I mean this movie literally convinced me that it was always important to have a good pair of italian wingtips. Aside from this being the greets Scorsese film, this classic has the best tracking shots ever captured on film!! Larry McConkey who was the steadicam operator during the scene stated that they only took “eight takes and then went to lunch”. Wait, one of the best scenes in cinema history and it only took eight takes??? UNBELIEVABLE!!! (If you are interested in reading more about Larry McConkey here is a great interview) Aside from the legendary tracking shot, the best thing about this scene is the choice of music. Scorsese is a genius when it comes to choosing music for specific scenes, from the point when the character henry drops off the car then all the way to the inside of the club, you hear the sounds of the 1960’s girl group The Crystals with their hit song “And Then He Kiss Me” (produced by Phil Spector). I found a link HERE that shows the scene with and without the music, watch that and you’ll see how the music adds so much depth to the scene. It’s the perfect song choice to show how the character Henry played by Ray Liotta courts his future wife Karen played by Lorraine Bracco.
Karen-What do you do for a living?
Henry-I’m in construction.
Karen-(While rubbing his hands) You don’t feel like you’re in construction?
Henry- Ummm I’m a union delegate.