The 50 best uses of songs in movies

TONY ranks the coolest soundtrack moments of all time.

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30. "Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen, Wayne's World (1992)

Who can forget Wayne and Garth's headbanging downtown drive to this operatic power ballad? Director Penelope Spheeris was hesitant to use the song, but costar Mike Myers insisted, and its pop-cultural status soared. If a recent Muppets cover is any indication, this is the hit that keeps on giving.—Keith Uhlich

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Watch the video for "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen

29. "Perfect Day," Lou Reed, Trainspotting (1996)

Whether Reed's tune is a direct reference to heroin has been long debated, but what isn't arguable is how effectively Danny Boyle employs it—as an overdosing Ewan McGregor imagines he's in a shag-carpeted coffin. The song's blissful lyrics make this junkie nightmare even more disturbing; it's the "perfect" example of needle-drop irony.—David Fear

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Watch the video for "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed

28. "Old Time Rock and Roll," Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Risky Business (1983)

From 1983—a time when the whole world could love Tom Cruise unreservedly—comes this euphoric scene of geeked-out underwear dancing, set to the scratchy bar-band stylings of Bob Seger. Cruise even jumps on a couch and it's okay.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Watch the video for "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

27. "Oh Yeah," Yello, Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

John Hughes, that poet of teen-pop angst, was bound to appear on this list somewhere. Not so surprisingly, it's via this Swiss-recorded dance beat, a perfect complement to the Ferrari-stealing antics of the title character. Just try not smiling (devilishly) when you hear it.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Watch the video for "Oh Yeah" by Yello

26. "Blue Moon," Sam Cooke, An American Werewolf in London (1981)

David Naughton's lupine transformation is set to Cooke's crooning cover of the Rodgers and Hart standard, making it the most memorable (and jarring) of John Landis's wink-nudge musical choices. Rick Baker's groundbreaking makeup work may bring on the howling, but this lunar ballad adds a dark dose of levity.—David Fear

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Watch the video for "Blue Moon" by Sam Cooke

25. "Tiny Dancer," Elton John, Almost Famous (2000)

Never underestimate the healing power of Elton John: As the '70s rock band of Cameron Crowe's autobiographical drama piles into its tour bus, everyone's in a funk. Then this uplifting 1971 tribute to an L.A. lady comes on, and soon, everybody is singing along—including you.—David Fear

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Watch the video for "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John

24. "Rock Around the Clock," Bill Haley and the Comets, Blackboard Jungle (1955)

Rock & roll was the soundtrack to juvenile delinquency, so how better to kick off a film about high-school hoodlums than with a real poodle-skirt scorcher? Bill Haley's 1954 B-side turned on tons of teens to this raucous new sound—the first use of rock music in a movie, but far from the last, Daddy-o.—David Fear

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Watch the video for "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets

23. "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)," the Delfonics, Jackie Brown (1997)

This impassioned 1970s single is the soul of Quentin Tarantino's most romantic movie: Robert Forster's grizzled bail-bondsman hears the tune in the living room of beleaguered, beautiful client Pam Grier. It sends him from charmed to infatuated—and straight to the record store.—Keith Uhlich

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Watch the video for "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" by the Delfonics

22. "Hurdy Gurdy Man," Donovan, Zodiac (2007)

This near-primal scene starts with two young adults flirting in a Corvair at a lovers' lane, until the headlights of a mysterious car pull up behind them. Suddenly, the song on the radio can only signify evil. By the time David Fincher returns to Donovan's sinuous groove in his closing credits, the tune has been transformed. (A clearer clip of the scene is here.)—Joshua Rothkopf

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Watch the video for "Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan

21. "The Sound of Silence," Simon and Garfunkel, The Graduate (1967)

Hello darkness, my old friend: The signature track off the duo's 1966 album perfectly underscores Dustin Hoffman's descent into suburban bummersville, as the song's melody casts a melancholic pallor over his interchangeable lazy afternoons and numbing sexual trysts.—David Fear

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Watch the video for "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel



Users say

31 comments
Stigs M
Stigs M

"Gimme Some Lovin" by the Spencer Davis Group in "Days of Thunder" was a notable omission.

I now also think the climatic scene to Warrior and The National's 'About Today' live version absolutely blew my  mind. Perfect combination! 

Aaron
Aaron

Somewhere Over The Rainbow - during the shoot out in Face/Off. Violence through the eyes of an eight year old.

bill
bill

You've missed a few good ones from the last decade, which other people in the comments have suggested. Forbidden Friendship - How to Train Your Dragon

dn
dn

Come on, man !!!! Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Twist and Shout Back to the future - johnny b good The mission - gabriel's oboe matrix etc etc

William White
William White

My vote goes to Remember by Josh Groban (Troy) and Ordinary by Train (Spiderman 2)

Supermanfriday
Supermanfriday

Two Tribes ...Supergrass( Robbie Coltrane) .....Florida Fantasy ..Midnight Express. Wandering Star ..Paint your Wagon.. Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia...Way out West ....The Real Me ....Quadrophenia.

Mazorko
Mazorko

Donnie Darko (2001): The Church - Under the milky way http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-6UJigii8U Argo (2012): Van Halen - Dance the night away http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iyX_iy8F6M 21 (2008): Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks The Departed (2006): Dropkick Murphies - Shipping up to boston http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrc1prw96-Y Dirty Dancing (1987): Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes - The Time of My Life Performed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpmILPAcRQo Drive (2011): Kavinsky - Nightcall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIpXQS5gaAw Kelly's Heros (1970): The Mike Curb Congregation - Burning Bridges http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XA9581o27uA The Graduate (1967): Simon & Garfunkel - Scarborough Fair http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWxOTDYeWbU Drive (2011): College & Electric Youth - A Real Hero http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bKGu45zHxo

awesome one
awesome one

What about Tuesday's gone happy Gilmore,schools out dazed and confused. Where is all of that.

nicole
nicole

Bill Murray's Karaoke cover of Roxy Music's of 'More than This' should have definitely been placed in the top 50 not to mention Sinatra's 'it had to be you in when harry met sally

john
john

Song to the siren. Lost highway. Patricia arquette!!! Sooo hot

yaka
yaka

does answer my question

clara alfieri
clara alfieri

Did you forget - the movie The Deer Hunter Cant Take My Eyes Off Your - Frankie Valli - 4 Seasons

00
00

Drive college ft electric youth - "a real hero" drive kavinsky "nightcall" drive desire's "under your spell" drive instrumentals by cliff martinez drive drive drive dri....

Kevin Wilson
Kevin Wilson

Well, thought out list - Kudos. One that HAS to be in the top ten though - "Falling Slowly" in Once. Its use near the beginning of the film was fantastic, and set the entire tone for the movie. But its use in the ending was the best use of music in a movie ending ever.

PJA_Master
PJA_Master

Oh and of course white Christmas in home alone when he's shaving. Great scene!

PJA_Master
PJA_Master

Great list bit it's missing dont you forget about me - Simple Minds from the breakfast club. Perfect match of song to movie.

Db
Db

Did I miss Clockwork orange or was it forgotten as well?

Smurfe
Smurfe

I really expected to see something from Forrest Gump (the entire soundtrack) and Dazed and Confused (the entire soundtrack)

Eelnodrog
Eelnodrog

Have yourself a merry little Christmas from The Victors, as the young soldier faces the firing squad!

AJRN
AJRN

Great list. You included so many that I thought you would miss.

jaspreet
jaspreet

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Lisa Thompson
Lisa Thompson

a Lovely day in 127 hours - the entire soundtrack of Into the wild dueling banjos in Deliverance the "little train song Harry and Hermione dance to in HP&the DH the Doors in what?every Vietnam movie

Lisa Thompson
Lisa Thompson

good call, digga; the entire movie was a set up of that movie - You're gonna love me from Dreamgirls should be here, too and and where are streets of fire,feed me from Little shop of horrors; sister act? and sweeney todd?the proclaimers in Beny & Joon

Luke
Luke

Kubrick dominates these lists and i love it !

Mike
Mike

No Streets of Fire?

WC
WC

No "Little Green Bag" from Reservoir Dogs?

Brainslks
Brainslks

So a song from an Adam Sandler movie beats out "La Marseilles" AND "AsTime Goes By" from "Casablanca"? Who's making these f*ing lists, chimps with typewriters?

Liam
Liam

Bird is the Word - Trashmen this was brilliant in Full Metal Jacket

jason
jason

how about "memories are made of this" in Veronika Voss?

TONY 50 best songs in movies playlist on Spotify