Reader’s Choice: 10 More Definitive Cinematic Music Cues


Any time you have the gumption to pose a list of the ten definitive anything, you’re going to get some pushback. But because Flavorwire has the greatest readers in the world (/blatant sucking up), our post last week of The Most Definitive Music Cues in Film History prompted very little venom, and several excellent additions (including a few that had been on our first, wildly overambitious draft). The concept, once again, is that certain films use pop music cues so well that the movie and the song get inextricably bound together in your head; when you think of the movie, you hear the song, and when you hear the song, your see the film in your mind’s eye. We’ve picked our ten faves from the addendums offered by you, the reader, after the jump; feel free to add more of your favorites in the comments.

“This Time Tomorrow” by the Kinks in The Darjeeling Limited

Our most egregious oversight on the original list, as pointed out by reader CL, was the exclusion of Wes Anderson, who has made ingenious use of (mostly obscure) pop music cues throughout his career. “Pity to overlook Wes completely,” tsk-tsked CL, correctly. Reader Mojo suggested the Who’s “Quick One While He’s Away” from Rushmore, while CL noted, “There is at least one brilliant cue in every Wes Anderson film, but namely The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited.” We went with the latter, the 2007 effort that is widely considered “lesser Anderson,” but has some really wonderful moments — including this one. Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One is your author’s favorite Kinks album, and anytime I listen to “This Time Tomorrow,” I just want to run for a train in slow-motion.

“Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan in Zodiac

Though Zodiac was something of box-office disappointment when it was released in 2007, it remains this writer’s favorite David Fincher film — a chilling, restrained, and masterfully executed evocation of a city in fear. The opening sequence, dramatizing the title killer’s murder of two young people in a lover’s lane, is a tense, phenomenal sequence, made extra creepy by Fincher’s deployment of Donovan’s languid, trancelike 1968 hit “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” Thanks to reader HV for the suggestion. (Bonus trivia: Ione Skye, who plays a supporting role as a potential Zodiac victim, is Donovan’s daughter.)

“Everybody’s Talkin'” by Nilsson in Midnight Cowboy

Reader Leila is clearly a fan of the great Harry Nilsson, suggesting not only Goodfellas’s use of his “Jump Into the Fire” (we concur) but his most famous recording, “Everybody’s Talkin’,” the recurring theme song of John Schlesinger’s 1969 hit Midnight Cowboy. Leila’s right on; it’s impossible to hear Nilsson’s emotional vocal and not picture Joe Buck, his giant cowboy hat perched atop his head, carrying his cowskin suitcase to better days.

“Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton/”Twist and Shout” by the Beatles in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

APH suggested several good ones, including “I Melt with You” from Valley Girl and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” from The Deer Hunter, but realizing that we’d missed the parade scene in Ferris Bueller was a real face-palm for us. Matthew Broderick’s title character does two numbers for the assembled Chicagoans: Wayne Newton’s 1962 rendition of “Danke Schoen,” and the Beatles’ rousing 1963 cover of “Twist and Shout.” Purists may argue with how director John Hughes presented the tune (Sir Paul was apparently upset about those marching band horns), but it’s a great, memorable moment in the film.

“Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding in Pretty in Pink

Otis Redding’s soulful rendition of the 1932 (!) love song is one of his most enduring hits, but most people under 40 know it from this iconic scene from the 1986 teen romance Pretty in Pink (John Hughes again, this time as screenwriter; the film was directed by Howard Deutch). It’s a great song and a great scene, if a bit of a mixed blessing for the song — the movie introduced it to a new generation, but it’s pretty safe to bet that far more Gen-Xers have seen Jon Cryer perform it than Redding. (Thanks to Solaera for the suggestion.)

“Gloria” by Them in The Outsiders

Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s novel gets off to a thrilling start with a raising-hell sequence scored to the classic rock song by Them (fronted by Van Morrison). Coppola uses the song’s tough, muscular sound to introduce us to his early-’60s greasers, who get in fights, chase little kids, and generally cause trouble; the song’s power boosts the sequence, while the imagery seems a perfect fit. (Another great suggestion from APH.)

“Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty in Good Will Hunting

Here’s another fight sequence with some tough street guys, albeit one with a very different kind of musical accompaniment. “I love the contrast of ‘Baker Street’ with the fight scene in Good Will Hunting,” notes reader Tom, and we agree; the dreamy, sax-heavy sound of former Steeler’s Wheel frontman Rafferty’s 1978 pop hit is wonderfully incongruent with the scrappy, messy, slo-mo fight scene. Sorry about the lack of English in the clip, but you’ll get the idea — and it’s the song that matters. (Unrelated side note: if you’re a fan of the song — which I am, unapologetically — listen to the Foo Fighters’ cover post haste).

“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong in Good Morning, Vietnam

sxs writes: “The scene in Good Morning, Vietnam, during which Louis Armstrong’s version of ‘What a Wonderful World’ plays while bombs are being dropped and children are running from fire… Every time I hear the song, I see that. It wasn’t a brilliant movie, but holy cheese, that scene breaks my heart every.single.time I hear that song.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

“We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn in Dr. Strangelove

We’re pretty sure we can correctly guess reader bjpatch’s favorite filmmaker from these suggestions: “Kubrick’s use of ‘Blue Danube’ in 2001, ‘Ode to Joy’ in A Clockwork Orange, and ‘We’ll Meet Again’ in Dr. Strangelove.” Kubrick was, indeed, a master of the ironic music cue, and his use of Vera Lynn’s optimistic 1939 number as the soundtrack to nuclear annihilation is one of his most inspired choices in that very funny and very dark picture.

“These Eyes” by the Guess Who in Superbad

This one is a bit of a cheat, since all of the films on our lists have used the original recordings. But we can’t resist including this acapella cover of the Guess Who’s 1968 light-rock hit—and as commenter Adam points out, “A whole generation of young’ns get introduced to the song through the awkwardness of Michael Cera.”