When it comes to telling a story, there’s no better way to define a scene than with music. Movies will often use music throughout their story to set the tone of a particular scene and invoke an emotional response in the audience because sometimes the song can say all the words the screenwriters could not. Whether the song is being used for a serious moment, or for a lighthearted dance moment, the music still manages to evoke an emotion in the audience. This brings me to a new kind of post I want to start doing– looking at music moments in movies.
As an avid movie-watcher and music-listener, it’s always been a habit of mine to pick out and digest the soundtrack in a movie to figure out if I agree with the music chosen or if I would use something different. Sometimes I also like to sit back and enjoy whatever upbeat pop number the cast is about sing/dance along to. My first installment in this series of posts will be looking at my personal top five movie anthems, a.k.a the songs that were able to define an entire movie in one scene. The following songs may have only been used on screen for thirty seconds, but those thirty seconds left an impression on audiences. This list will only include songs that were written before the movie came out because anthems written specifically for movies is a whole other list entirely that I will go into later; however, most these songs are so impressionable that they are still associated with their movie moments. So without further to do, let’s start the countdown. Click on the titles to watch the scene!
*Spoiler Alert: throughout the rest of this post I will be discussing major plot points of these films; you have been warned*
This movie is one of my personal favorite movies of all time, and a huge reason behind that is its soundtrack. While the movie is filled with so many hits and memorable moments, Heath Ledger singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is probably the most iconic moment of the movie. The movie is your typical teen rom-com where they ultimately end up together after 90 minutes of flirting, banter, and pursuing each other which is why a song about how you want someone to love you, is perfect for expressing his feelings in a grand gesture to try and win her over, making audiences fall in love with him too.
If this were a movie blog, I could talk for hours about the masterpiece that is Donnie Darko, but this is a music blog so I’m only going to talk about the masterpiece that is it’s music choice. The dark twist on this Tears for Fears song has led to it being one of the most famous covers of all time, especially with its use in this film. The song plays as we see all the people in Donnie’s life wake up and continues as we see the police at his house, bringing his dead body out on a stretcher, and the audience sees the tearful faces of his family. The song sets the tone of this closing scene, making the audience feel for the family’s loss and mourning. You probably won’t smile for at least ten minutes after this scene.
Almost Famous is all about music, so it makes sense that they’d have one of the most memorable music moments in history. The song plays as the band is all on the bus together and still angry at each other, but one by one they join in together singing along to “Tiny Dancer”. In that moment, no one is mad at each other, and they all remember that they do what they do because they’re in love with the music. Something about the whole bus singing along, no longer angry with one another, adds a whole new emotional level to the movie that has touched audiences everywhere; Dave Grohl has even said that he “thanks Cameron Crowe for opening up a part of him that [he] never knew” before seeing the film and this scene. To top off the powerful emotions in this scene, Penny Lane telling Will, “you are home” gives me chills every time.
This movie alone is one of the most iconic coming of age films of all time. Whenever most people hear this song, they think of the final scene in The Breakfast Club and Judd Nelson walking off the football with his fist in the air. As the kids leave detention, knowing more about each other than they did before and with a new respect for one another and what they go through at home, the song starts to play. They say their goodbyes in the parking lot, knowing that once school comes again on Monday, they’ll act like nothing ever happened. The title of the song says it all and sets a feeling of nostalgia for what happened earlier that morning; they’re silently asking each other to not forget about the new friendships and everything they shared in detention together. This song alone makes listeners everywhere remember a better time.
Choosing between these two movies was too hard, so I decided to feature them both. These films have two very different audiences, but it’s amazing how one song can evoke similar emotions just by how it’s used- that’s the beauty of music. While they are two different films entirely, the song conveys the same “anything is possible” feeling to their audiences.
The Replacements, which is my favorite football movie of all time, uses a cover version of “Heroes” in its final scene where Shane Falco throws the ball, scoring the game-winning touch down. The team begins to storm the field, everyone is celebrating, the crowd is going wild, and the song begins to play. Just as the song says, the team has become heroes that day after winning the Championship, and the audience feels just as excited and proud of the Washington Sentinels as everyone in that stadium.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower uses the original version of “Heroes” in a scene where the teens are driving one night. Sam hears the song and falls in live with it, saying that they have to go through the tunnel. As they begin to go through the tunnel, she climbs out of the car and stands up in the back of the truck with her arms wide open. The song continues to play, and Charlie says that he feels infinite. Just like that with the song playing, the emotion of the scene increases; in that one moment, they are kings and queens and the audience feels infinite too.