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Top 15 Songs Redefined by their Films, Part II

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!

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9 Responses to “Top 15 Songs Redefined by their Films, Part II”

  1. Buddy Hurlock says:

    It’s fair to leave In Your Eyes off the list. Songs like In Your Eyes and even Fight The Power had no real history or presence until they were a part of those movies. But songs like Tequila and Unchained Melody were well established before being forever linked to a movie or movie moment. Having said that, I can deal with In Your Eyes being on the list and bumping The Banana Boat Song, or Don’t Stop Believin. Nine out of 10 will tell you the pop culture connection to that Journey song is either The Sopranos or countless ads. My pick for Big would have been Heart and Soul.

  2. Joe Shearer says:

    I thought about that one, of course, but I had to at some point trim them down and that one found its way out. Part of my point of doing this is that there are lots of them, and some are bigger than others to people on an individual basis.

    And BTW, these are ranked in no particular order, but my intention was for them to be ranked in fives–that is, Part I is 15-11, Part II is 10-6, Part III is 5-1, but in each individual section, they’re not ranked relative to each other.

    I’m not saying, then, that Tequila in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is the biggest of all time, but I am saying that it’s no lower than 5.

  3. Luci says:

    What about "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel from Say Anything??

  4. fugeela says:

    WAKE UP by Rage Against the Machine in the matrix

  5. smackmac says:

    "In Your Eyes" I figured that would be #1.

  6. lis says:

    We all sing along in the car, but when I catch myself belting it out to "American Girl" by Tom Petty, I’m always a little worried that some psycho is going to kidnap me and throw me in a pit to rub lotion on the skin. Thank you "Silence of the Lambs"….

  7. sarah18 says:

    completely agree with Brodie – Singin in the Rain!!

  8. Brodie1716 says:

    I can no believe that you left of Singing in the rain from Clockwork Orange, I mean really are you even trying?

  9. Steven Katzeff says:

    Mr Blue Skies-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind!!!1