14 times a movie made a song its own

Films matching popular music to a particular scene is far from uncommon, but it’s actually pretty rare for a film to do it so well that you can’t help but think of that particular scene every single time you hear the song in the future.

Here are 14 moments where a film took an already existing song, matched it with a great scene, and gave that song a completely new meaning.

The Doors – “The End” (Apocalypse Now)

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One of the better opening sequences in movie history. This song matched with the hellish scenes of the Vietnam War set the mood perfectly for Francis Ford Coppola’s sprawling, uncomfortable masterpiece.

Q Lazzarus – “Goodbye Horses” (The Silence of the Lambs)

The song that inspired this list. The post on the Rocknuts forums mentioning this song hammered home the fact that I’ll never be able to think of it without thinking of Buffalo Bill’s nude mirror dance, and it got me wondering what other songs had the same effect. No, I’m not going to post the actual scene here. You’ll have to seek that out yourself, if for some reason you want to.

Donovan – “Atlantis” (Goodfellas)

Martin Scorsese wrote the book on matching rock music to film. He does it so adeptly in so many of his movies, maybe none more than Goodfellas, which from start to finish is a perfect mix of music and filmmaking. Picking just one moment from the so many possible choices from Scorsese’s body of work is very difficult; Goodfellas alone has probably dozens of masterful moments where Scorsese chooses just the right song to accompany a scene. I’m going to pick “Atlantis,” which was played over a scene where Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci’s characters unleashed a brutal beating of another mobster. On paper it may seem like a peculiar choice, but it worked out perfectly. The peaceful pacifist Donovan responded to the usage of his music with such a brutal scene by saying, “When I first saw it, I was slightly horrified. It’s such a peaceful song and here’s Joe Pesci beating this poor guy to death. Then I decided that I liked the juxtaposition of it.”

Peter Gabriel – “In Your Eyes” (Say Anything)

This scene, where John Cusack serenades Ione Skye with Peter Gabriel’s classic, is iconic romantic movie moment. Cusack didn’t want to do this scene and had to be talked into it by director Cameron Crowe. It doesn’t seem like Cusack has ever really come around to liking the scene much either.

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition: “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” (The Big Lebowski)

The Dude’s trippy bizarro dream sequence matched to this song is one of the more memorable and crazy moments in a crazy movie. You probably don’t have much of a chance of understanding what’s going on here if you’ve never seen the movie; it’s weird enough even if you have. But that’s the movie in a nutshell — weird and wonderful. And you have to love the part where Saddam Hussein hands The Dude his bowling shoes.

The Isley Brothers – “Shout” – (Animal House)

Other than the scene where Bluto stops a painful love song by smashing a guitar to bits, this is Animal House’s best music moment. “Shout” is a classic in so many respects and has found use in so many ways, but it’s hard to think of this song and not think of the Delta’s dancing around in their togas.

Geto Boys – “Still” (Office Space)

Yeah, we’re going to sneak some gangsta rap in here… Sir Rocknuts might not like that, but I can’t leave this song out. You can hate rap to death and still love this scene though, which pretty much anyone who has lost their patience with technology can relate to.

Iggy Pop – “Lust For Life” (Trainspotting)

Trainspotting has quite a few strong musical moments, a couple of which are a bit depressing and disturbing as the film’s characters spiral down the black hole of heroin addiction. The movie’s opening scenes are particularly memorable though, as Iggy Pop’s classic plays while main character Renton runs through a list of things he could be doing with his life only to choose heroin instead.

Chuck Berry – “You Never Can Tell” (Pulp Fiction)

Pulp Fiction was a cultural phenomenon. The dialogue, the characters, the scenes, and the music quickly entered the pop culture lexicon and have remained ever since. The soundtrack was an instant classic and an example of Quentin Tarantino’s gift for matching music with film — perhaps only the aforementioned master of it, Martin Scorsese, does it better. There’s so many moments from Tarantino’s films as well as this film in general that you could single out here, but maybe the dance scene at Jack Rabbit Slims more than any other. Hearing “You Never Can Tell” now not only makes you think of this scene but makes you want to dance the same moves that Vincent and Mia did.

Stealers Wheel – “Stuck in the Middle With You” (Reservoir Dogs)

I didn’t want to include two scenes from the same director, but I can’t leave this off the list. The torture scene in Reservoir Dogs that this song accompanies is so disturbing and powerful that pretty much any song could have accompanied it and you would never have been able to hear that song the same way again. The choice Tarantino made here is undoubtedly a great one though, as it certainly adds impact to a tough scene for many to watch.

Roy Orbison – “In Dreams” (Blue Velvet)

My personal favorite Roy Orbison song was given a bizarre and intense treatment in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. The song is used in two different scenes — the weird, Lynchian “Beer at Ben’s” scene and then later when the movie’s villain confronts the protagonist. Orbison supposedly wasn’t cool at first with how the song was used in the movie but eventually came around.

Solomon Burke – “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” and Robert Johnson – “Sweet Home Chicago” (The Blues Brothers)

While running from the law, The Blues Brothers thankfully had time to stop and deliver a quick concert. These two songs were the ones they played, and it made for a great concert scene. Say what you want about The Blues Brothers, but the movie had some great musical moments and a wonderful appreciation for music.

The Champs – “Tequila” (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)

As demonstrated in the aforementioned Pulp Fiction scene, a memorable dance sequence goes a long way in a movie making a song its own. Pee Wee’s big shoe dance became a famous moment in movie history, and just like “You Never Can Tell”, hearing “Tequila” makes you want to get up and dance Pee-Wee style.

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Wayne’s World)

Who can forget Wayne and Garth singing along and headbanging to Queen’s classic? This scene caused a rebirth in popularity for the song and introduced it (and Queen) to a new generation. The video received heavy airplay on MTV, and the song went all the way up to No. 2 on the Billboard charts, higher than its 1976 peak at No. 9. Party on, Wayne.

Of course, there are so many more examples. What are some of your favorites?

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