24 Songs That Made The Movie Better



Okay, let's lay down some ground rules: We did not include musical movies. That would be too hard, and changes up the landscape of the role that sound plays in the film. Secondly, we didn't pick any songs that were written for a movie, because then we would have loads of Disney contenders. Lastly, and most importantly, the way we picked each entry was by identifying films that wouldn't have been the same without the corresponding tune. What would Trainspotting have been without "Lust For Life"? Or how could Say Anything say something without Peter Gabriel? These films irrevocably changed our memory of the music — and the music, in turn, made the movie.



"Dry The Rain" in High Fidelity
"I will now sell five copies of the 3 E.P.s by The Beta Band." Yes, yes you will. In a movie about music, you've got to be on point with your soundtrack selection. And that sweet bass line and the trumpet is so groovy that you believe everyone's simultaneous head bob.

"Kissing You" in Romeo + Juliet
Great. Thanks. Nothing will ever be this romantic and filled with teenage brooding ever. We will never experience such passion. Leonardo DiCaprio will never be so young again.

"Girl Like Me" in Valley Girl
The soundtrack to Valley Girl has so much great new wave music, but the Bonnie Hayes song sums up the entire film perfectly. In fact, it is almost like she is affecting a Valley Girl accent. (We don't think she is.) This may have been the start of the great high school movie film score.

"Back To Life (A Capella)" in Belly
Hype Williams didn't quite direct a movie: He directed a very long music video starring Nas and DMX. And if you are going to have a long, slo-mo heavy film by a famed music video director, it is going to start amazingly. Never has an a capella sounded so hot.

"In Your Eyes" in Say Anything
As we were doing research for this story, someone suggested Peter Gabriel's sonic cameo in Say Anything, and everyone just responded, "Well...duh."

"Bohemian Rhapsody" in Wayne's World
Apparently, the Queen appearance in Wayne's World sent the band on a second renaissance and reignited interest in their bombastic discography. The best part of this is that everyone, everywhere has done this in their car. That is fact. We used science to figure it out.

"Where Is My Mind" in Fight Club
As those initial guitar strings are plucked and the buildings begin to explode, Fight Club wraps up its crazy assault on the senses by suggesting that, lo and behold, there is a love story packed somewhere in there. In order to end that movie with a punch, David Fincher needed one helluva song, and luckily, the Pixies delivered.

"Lust For Life" in Trainspotting
This may be revelatory of the author's age, and this may be problematic, but two things: First, you were really cool in high school if you could recite this entire monologue and secondly, both Ewan and Johnny were so, so cute in this film. By including "Lust For Life" in Trainspotting, Iggy Pop suddenly started crawling up the charts again, nearly 20 years after the song came out.

"Hip To Be Square" in American Psycho
Huey released this classic on Fore, the band's most accomplished album. The song is so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself.

"Banana Boat Song" in Beetlejuice
Watching this now, it's pretty hilarious. But when it first came out, those shrimp fingers were kind of scary. Not as scary, of course, as Catherine O'Hara's one-gloved look, but spooky nonetheless.

"Candy Colored Clown" in Blue Velvet
All of the hallmarks of a classic Lynch movie: dark highways, lip-synching, and Roy Orbison. One of the best moments in one of Lynch's best films: the happy-go-lucky nature of the song paired with the threatening, manic energy of Frank is absolutely unshakeable.

"Stuck In The Middle With You" in Reservoir Dogs
To be fair, no one is the master of soundtracks quite like Tarantino, who basically conceives of a film in order to make room for specific songs. This sweet, uplifting song brutally contrasts the horrifying on-screen violence inflicted on Nash by Michael Madsen. All in one painful take.

"Just Dropped In" in The Big Lebowski
One of the most frustrating things about The Big Lebowski is that it kind of deserves all of the fanboy attention it receives. This Kenny Rogers & The First Edition song about total stoner-dom, plus Jeff Bridges' flawless performance, ensures that this dream sequence isn't jarring or disruptive, but a hilarious summation of the entire movie.

"Night Call" in Drive
Kavinsky owes a lot to Drive. Had it not been for Ryan Gosling's brooding, silent allure, their names would have continued to circle the underground. Thank the film gods that Nicolas Winding Refn saw it fit to make "Night Call" the film's theme song. Its looming sense of disaster captures the menacing underbelly of the plot while hypnotizing the listener into a trance, ready to drop them at any moment.

"Oh Yeah" in Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Does this song perfectly summarize Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Oh yeah. More importantly, is Ferris Bueller's Day Off a perfect movie because of this song? Oh yeah.

"Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon" in Pulp Fiction
Mia Wallace, a role model of rebellion dressed to the nines. She was, after all, just a lost little girl and Tarantino found the perfect theme song for her and her poor little rich girl antics.

"Old Time Rock And Roll" in Risky Business
If you don't have the urge to strip down to your undies, don your man-friend's dress shirt, and play a mean air guitar when this song comes on, well, honey, you haven't lived.

"Mad World" in Donnie Darko
Gary Jules' cover of Tears For Fears' single has become the go-to emo song for the pre-MySpace generation. "I find it kind of funny / I find it kind of sad / The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had" sound even more haunting over a melancholy piano melody. There's no question why it's often dubbed "the Donnie Darko" song — it's as mysteriously unnerving and beautiful as the film itself.

"New Slang" in Garden State
Raise your hand if this song changed your life! Honestly, any song off this soundtrack could've gone here, but The Shins take the cake. (Hey, they were so influential they appear twice on the CD!) They're basically the sonic equivalent of Chicken Soup for the Indie Girl's Soul. Plus, the moment they're introduced on film has never captured the awkwardness of creepily watching someone listen to music more purely. Life changed, indeed.

"If You Leave" in Pretty In Pink
Has there ever been a song to better capture John Hughes' entire aesthetic? No, probably not. It is the song of youthful lust. It's hesitant while still being endearing. Ugh, our heartstrings, they ache for Duckie.

"Don't You Forget About Me" in The Breakfast Club
Alright, this is the John Hughes song; a song of growth and self-discovery. We are all The Breakfast Club. Let's raise a fist in its honor.

"These Days" in The Royal Tenenbaums
This song is almost as iconic as Margot Tenenbaum's fur coat and chain smoking. Almost.

"I Got You Babe" in Groundhog Day
It's 6 AM, do you know where Sonny And Cher are? Easing Bill Murray awake, that's where. If there's one way to make you really dislike a song, it's by making it your wakeup call. If there's one way to sum up this movie, it's this song.

"Layla" in Goodfellas
It's been said that Scorsese had "Layla" playing on set when he was filming the scenes of the dead bodies in the car, dumpster, and meat truck. Honestly, it's the least dramatic approach to narrating a mob job. In fact, it plum makes light of the whole situation. You can imagine De Niro sitting down to lunch with "Layla" playing in the background. When someone asks what he did today, he shrugs and says, "Eh, just some family business" before digging into his minestrone.