Can You Picture That?

Ever watched a film and heard a song that so fits the scene that you forever associate it with the movie? The A.V. Club recently ran a list of the 15 Pop Songs Owned By Movie Scenes, which I found a link to over at Culture Kills. They both made lists – check ‘em out – but there were still a few songs that have gotten stuck in my mind over the years.

“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” Nancy Sinatra, Kill Bill, Vol. 1
A bloodied, beaten, quivering Uma Thurman as The Bride in the opening scene of director Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill will forever be connected to Nancy Sinatra’s song. It was such a perfect pairing that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t written for the scene. It also let me know there was more to her than “These Boot Were Made for Walking,” a song now ruined for me by Jessica Simpson and Pizza Hut.

“I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow,” The Soggy Bottom Boys, O Brother, Where Art Thou?
This wasn’t a song I’d ever heard before but it is now so inexorably tied to George Clooney’s spectacular lip-synching that I can’t imagine how any other film could ever use it. A film moment as unique as the Coen Bros. themselves.

“Miserlou,” Dick Dale, Pulp Fiction
Tarantino is clearly the master of the soundtrack, so even though his work was well represented by the A.V. Club and Culture Kills, there is always room for more. The opening guitar licks of Dick Dale was the beginning of a stunning film experience and opened me up to the world of surf guitar. “Everybody be cool, this is a robbery…”

“Perfect Day,” Lou Reed, Trainspotting
The outstanding song of Trainspotting is without a doubt Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life,” but that one’s been taken. The other, music-laden scene that has never left my head is of Renton sinking into the floor after overdosing on heroin and being dumped at the hospital. For a brief moment we thought of using this as the first dance at our wedding, but wisely thought the better of it.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen, Wayne’s World
The best head banging ever captured on film in a scene that just nails the exuberant goofiness of the characters. I’ve tried to recreate this moment at karaoke many times but have never quite gotten it right. Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.

“Singing in the Rain,” Gene Kelly, A Clockwork Orange
“You ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence?” I cannot hear this song without imagining somebody taking a brutal beating. I saw the Gene Kelly original years later, but even that could not erase the images from my mind.

“Sympathy for the Devil,” Rolling Stones, C.R.A.Z.Y.
It’s Christmas Eve in a Montreal cathedral in the ‘70s and a teenaged boy named Zac is getting though the service with the help of some psychotropic substances, when the choir begins singing “Ooo, who, who, Ooo, who, who” as he rises to the rafters with a Jesus Christ pose only to land back at his family’s home. A fantastic scene.

“Wise Up,” Aimee Mann, Magnolia
In the midst of the film all of the characters are alone, but they all begin singing Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up” wherever they were. Very powerful, but don’t take my word for it – watch it yourself.


  1. There's a dark side to all of this - movies that use songs and don't do as well owning them, but do a good enough job that you don't forget that the movie used them. Forrest Gump is littered with these songs. It annoys the ever-living hell out of me that I can't hear Dwanye Eddie's Rebel Rouser without picturing Tom Hanks running down a country road being chased by a pick-up truck.

  2. Singin' in the Rain is one of my favourite movies of all time--I've seen it over and over--but then so is A Clockwork Orange. And, perhaps sadly, it is the latter film that comes to mind when I hear the song. What does that say about me, I wonder....

    Anyway, I can also think of two TV shows that have used songs that fit scenes perfectly. The first is The X-Files in the episode "Betty," in which "Doesn't Somebody Want to be Wanted" by the Partridge Family was used as background for a murder (talk about a contrast... happy, upbeat song, ultraviolence...). The second is Lost, in the episode "Man of Science, Man of Faith," in which Jack enters the hatch and "Make Your Own Kind of Music" loads on the record player there. Again, a big contrast between the song and what is going on....

  3. reservoir dogs.....Stuck in the Middle With You...I still giggle and laugh every time I hear that song on the radio...

  4. you're so right on the aimee man song...

    don't forget that song from magnolia that William H. Macy is ALWAYS listening to everytime he get's in his cars...

    isn't it that one "dreams can come true."

  5. I'm sure there must be songs that I've heard ruined by movies but for the life of my I can't think of any. It's more commercials that do it for me - pretty much any song I like in an ad loses a little for me. I know it's just about the money, but there it is.

    As for a TV show, I immediately think of the Veronica Mars theme song "We Used to Be Friends" from The Dandy Warhols. It's not from a specific scene, but was perfect for the entire first season.

    RC, the song is Goodbye Stranger from Supertramp, but I try and forget that. I have an aunt and uncle who used to play it all the time so it's overdone for me.

  6. I was just watching Reservoir Dogs today and it totally made me think of this subject... the Stuck in the Middle with you song, man, what a great movie...

    Tarantino really is so good with the music in his movies.

  7. Great list and I saw all of the clips (in my head of course) as I read the song titles.

  8. I had a weird thing... a movie was wrecked by a song choice in the commercial.

    The movie: Flushed Away
    The Song: Bohemian Like You by the Dandy Warhols
    Why: I've seen the uncensored video... after that, well, I ain't thinking about a kid's oriented movie.

  9. Cant even think of the movie anymore, maybe it was called Shattered but everytime I hear Nights in White Satin I think of that movie.

    ahhh greta sachi