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Top 15 Songs Redefined by their Films, Part II

by on November 21, 2009
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Music is, as you probably know, a powerful tool for a filmmaker hoping to add emotion and poignancy to a film. It’s a delicate balance to maintain: a poorly chosen song can ring false and fall flat, but sometimes, just sometimes, the planets align, and even a song long burned into the collective societal conscience can find new life, or even find itself a larger legacy in popular culture.

The songs in these films forever altered our perception of them, and in most cases it’s virtually impossible to hear the songs and not think of the scenes they were featured in.

With that in mind, here are the top 15 songs whose appearance in a film forever changed it.

Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry, “Back to the Future” (1985)

After getting his parents back together in 1955, and preserving his own existence, Marty McFly celebrates by prematurely introducing the teens of the day to Chuck Berry. In a great coincidence Chuck’s cousin Marvin happens to be there playing in the dance’s band and gives his cuz a call.

“Still”/”Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta,” The Geto Boys, “Office Space” (1999)

Two songs so well-placed and completely resurrected that I couldn’t pick one over the other. Both scenes are timeless representations of rebelling against corporate America, and what better music to rebel by than these two gangsta rap classics?

“The Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” Harry Belafonte, “Beetlejuice” (1988)

It’s a testament to Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) Maitlands’ nerdiness that they expected this prank to scare the Deetzes out of their house. Ghosts or not, if I get to do something this cool in my new house, I’m doing it. A classic scene that takes a silly forgotten Carribean-pop song and transforms it into something timeless.

“Old Time Rock and Roll,” Bob Seger, “Risky Business” (1983)

The slide that created a star, Tom Cruise as Joel Goodsen, experiencing his first taste of alone time in his parents house, rocks out to Seger in only a button-down shirt, his jockeys and a pair of socks. Everything about the scene is iconic, even down to the initial framing of the shot, and the song’s not bad either.

“Unchained Melody,” The Righteous Brothers, “Ghost” (1990)

One of the defining scenes of Patrick Swayze’s career (behind only the “Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner” from “Dirty Dancing,” the throat-ripping in “Road House,” and that one scene in “Black Dog”…well, two outta three ain’t bad), this still reigns as the sexiest use of pottery in Hollywood history. And that song…well, don’t even try to say this doesn’t pop in your head the second you hear the opening strains of this tune.

Be sure to check out Part III tomorrow, where we complete the Top 15 songs redefined by their movies!