The 10 Best Uses of Existing Song in Film (In Our Opinion, Not Yours)


We at love two things above and beyond pretty much anything else in this universe.  Film and Music.  The latter often complimenting the former like cold hand in a rather warm mitten on a bitter winter’s morning up’t north.  Which led us to thinking – What are the best uses of existing songs in film? Which tracks fit so snuggly into the silver screen pocket, that it’s as if they were written solely for that one dramatic cinematic moment? Guitars, drums and orchestras at the ready – Let musical battle commence…

#10 – ‘Lust For Life‘ by Iggy Pop
Trainspotting (1996)

Kicking the list with one of the greatest opening scenes ever, Danny Boyle’s drug induced masterpiece Trainspotting scores one for Britain, with the use of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust For Life’.  Stylishly cut, shot and immediately absorbing like taking the first drag of a cigarette; Ewan MacGregor’s Renton preaches you to “choose life“, running from the authorities and smoking himself to the point of collapse.  Being hit by a car has never looked so cool. Cheers Danny.

#9 – ‘In Your Eyes‘ by Peter Gabriel
Say Anything (1989)

Teens are an emotional bunch; and none as much as a 1980s Cameron Crowe flick with John Cusack in a long coat and tears in his heartbroken eye.  Deemed to many as the ultimate 80s teen movie, Say Anything comes armed with one of the most poignant in cult movie lovers encyclopedia of awesome.  Desperate to win back the girl who shuns him for her father, JC proves his love by waking her with Peter Gabriel’s brilliant ‘In Your Eyes‘ from a boombox held aloft by our dear protagonist’s head beneath her bedroom window.  Sweet, beautiful and the right side of twee, Shakespeare has never inspired a cooler scene in the whole of his school-boy-resented 400 year old life.

#8 – ‘Goodbye Horses’ by Q Lazzarus 
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me” – Words guaranteed to fail miserably in your local discotheque, unless your intended target is a film fan…enter Silence of the Lambs‘ Buffalo Bill and his creepy drag dance to camera.  Draped from pierced ear to painted toe, Bill seduces the camera; all hip rolling and shameless pouting, before unveiling (and in want of a better word) his magina.  It remains one of the oddest and haunting scenes in contemporary mainstream cinema, owing a lot to Q Lazzarus’ lingering 80s synth that seems to bounce and reverberate off his basement walls all the way into your, from there on, troubled memory.  Planning to tuck your penis between your legs and dance in front of the mirror this evening now? Don’t worry…you’re not the only one.

#7 – ‘Comfortably Numb‘ by Pink Floyd
The Departed (2006)

Usually a lover of all things Rolling and Stone shaped, Scorsese relied on Pink Floyd to provide the soundage for this scene in his 2006 Oscar winner The Departed. As Di Caprio’s undercover agent slowly loses his cool, Vera Famiga’s damaged police shrink gives him a place to settle, both physically and mentally. Floyd’s classic tiptoes along quietly until the opportune kiss filled moment, crossing the doctor/patient line and then shagging on it. Great movie, great soundtrack, great scene.

#6 – ‘Down In Mexico‘ by The Coasters
Death Proof (2007)

Let’s be honest…this isn’t going to be Tarantino’s only entry in the Top 10 but it might be a little less well-known. Following in the footsteps of Quentin’s usual “How the fuck does he find these amazing songs?” path, 2007’s Death Proof delighted with this little ditty from 1956. Not only is Kurt Russell back to his best and in a silver driving jacket. Not only is Vanessa Ferlito so hot it hurts. Not only is she LAP DANCING. Ney…all is carried out with The Coaster’s ultra cool, instantly loveable and ultra sexual track; that could quite frankly raise an erection in even the most tired of old people’s homes.

#5 – ‘A Real Hero‘ by College & Electric Youth
Drive (2011)

Certainly the most contemporary of the list, Nicholas Winding-Refn’s masterpiece is ripping the seams with soft electro that simmer’s beneath the surface as a musical personification of Ryan Gosling’s star turn.  Closing the piece is College & Electric Youth’s gorgeous tune that couldn’t settle itself more comfortably in the movie’s lump-in-throat climax.  If this track were a person it’d have short blonde hair, drink from the same bottle as McQueen, constantly bite a toothpick and wear a white scorpion jacket.  A perfect musically cinematic match-up, that defines cool.

#4 – ‘Oh My Children‘ by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) (2010)

Ok so you might not have naturally seen a Harry Potter scene in this list usually, but David Yates use of the ever fantastic Nick Cave is something that has stayed with us long after watching. Not a scene that was lifted from the book, the dance divided opinion like Moses and the Red Sea. What is a shame is that beyond that fact it’s not something that sprouted from J.K. Rowling’s pen, their short dance is one of the most poignant and grown up moments in HP history. Lost, alone and without their 3rd ginger appendage of the magical trio; the confused teens share a rare tender moment that not only adds romantic depth to the piece but reminds the viewer than they’re teenagers as well as world savers. Lovely stuff.

#3 – ‘You Always Hurt The Ones You Love‘ by Ryan Gosling
Blue Valentine (2010)

This should make most males hate Ryan Gosling in a tornado of jealous envy, but in reality it’s just too beautiful to feel that way.  Armed with a ukulele and one hell of a unique voice, despite his character’s insistence it’s “goofy”; Gosling flirts with Michelle Williams as the pair share a romantic moment playing music and tap dancing in a shop stoop.  It’s tender and wracked with remorse; spelling out what lies ahead for many a relationship despite the initial euphoric smack of giddy joy.  Quite how Mr Gosling didn’t get an Oscar nod is beyond us.  Just broken up with someone? Best not give it a listen friend…it’s too soon.

#2 – ‘Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon‘ by Urge Overkill
Pulp Fiction (1994)

As classic scenes go, this is a biggy.  Driving the dripping needle of originality and fresh approach to filmmaking right into the pulsing veins of the movie industry back in 1994, Tarantino stamped his name into the high heavens of all that is good and blasphemous.  Possibly the best soundtrack ever made, Urge Overkill’s cover of Neil Diamond’s classic stands astride its fellow tracks with pounding style and utter brilliance.  Without it, Uma Thurman’s overdose would’ve lacked that extra summin’ summin’ that the scene so positively rocks in concentrated doses of awesome.

#1 – ‘Hip To Be Square‘ by Huey Lewis & The News
American Psycho (2000)

This was always going to be a controversial shout, but it’s a scene that’ll has left a mark in this film lover’s brain like a shiny axe to the back of the head.  Hurtling the ridiculous with funny, Christian Bale is a one man whirlwind of what-the-fuck; bursting into exaggerated essay like explanations of Huey Lewis’ music, all whilst slow dancing with a weapon before smacking it into his poor guest’s face.  It is the epitome of shock cinema. It forcibly throws the audience into the uncomfortable realms of the unknown as the upbeat 80s hit bounces merrily along to Bateman’s crazed, blood soaked attack. “Try getting a fucking reservation at Dorsia now you stupid fucking bastard“.

Try indeed dear reader. Try indeed.

Words by Matt Hamm