If manners maketh the man, then music definitely maketh the movie. A Music Supervisor is not often recognised outside of their own industry, but these are the people responsible for placing movie soundtracks. Believe it or not, that is an actual job. It’s actually my job – just on a smaller scale to these guys. So I am, effectively, a soundtrack geek, which is why we are bringing you a list of the top movie music moments. Great placements are not always memorable – unless you are a geek like me. A perfect soundtrack is often so in tune with the footage that you barely separate the audio from the visuals; because the whole experience is perfection. So here are some pretty perfect moments for you to enjoy…
Some great movies can be remembered by one iconic scene thanks to its soundtrack and these 8 unforgettable music moments are the proof
Snatch – ‘Golden Brown’ by The Stranglers
Guy Ritchie’s classic Snatch pretty much encapsulates the poetry within the roughest worlds. And this first fight scene, where an unintelligibly Irish Brad Pitt takes out ‘Gorgeous George’ in one hit, perfectly encapsulates a similar style of music placement. As the roar of the fight crowd fades out, The Stranglers’ Golden Brown dials in with it’s beautiful, swaying melody. Juxtaposing the violence with a track that is dreamy and a little like honey on the ears. Those opening lyrics, nearly describing the scenario even though the subject matter is totally different; “Golden Brown texture like sun / Lays me down with my mind she runs / Throughout the night / No need to fight / Never a frown with Golden Brown”. You’re almost KO’ed along with Gorgeous George.
The Breakfast Club – ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ by Simple Minds
A song that the band never really wanted to record, but which actually became one of their best known songs after it was used as the theme to the hit 80’s movie, The Breakfast Club. Used for both the opening and ending credits, Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me) has become synonymous with an era and the peculiarly rebellious yet sympathetic style of the movie’s protagonists. Now there’s a sentence… But the best moment is during the ending sequence, as Judd Nelson’s loner criminal ‘John Bender’ crosses the school playing fields, punching the air as that immortal chorus hits.
The Kids Are Alright – ‘Cousins’ by Vampire Weekend
This is a bit of a personal favourite, simply because the interaction of the visuals with the soundtrack is nearly perfect in my opinion. Soundtracking the opening credits to The Kids Are All Right, Vampire Weekend’s Cousins just ticks every box for the music supervisor in me. It’s a bit DIY in it’s instrumentation, which matches up to the handwritten credits. That and the upbeat feel matches the two skater style kids you’re watching, as they cruise through California streets. Also the speed of the track tallies with the kind of pace those kids are setting. It all feels sunny, pretty cool and I kind want to know what these kids are about. In fact, music supervisor Liza Richardson nails it throughout this whole movie, where she actually created mini soundtracks for each character using different artists.
Velvet Goldmine – ‘Gimme Danger’ by Iggy Pop & The Stooges
For a start, Velvet Goldmine is one movie every music lover should see. Hands down, I can never recommend this one enough. Placebo even make an appearance. Now, you probably saw Moulin Rouge, and thought “well that’s cute, Ewan McGregor does some funny little songs”. But until you’ve watched his rendition of Iggy Pop’s Gimme Danger, you don’t know Ewan. And not only is a leather trouser clad McGregor weirdly convincing as ‘Curt Wild’, but the guitar work on this version is just outstanding. Also Toni Colette is totally, and enviably, into the moment as Ewan loses his sh*t. You can’t but think that this would be one unforgettable show to be at. I’m actually jealous of fictional gig goers… so that probably means it was a job well done.
Into The Wild – ‘The Wolf’ by Eddie Vedder
In the beginning, movie’s had no words. Only music. There are very few films that have the opposite. Soundtracks are pretty much the emotional guidelines for a film; they tell us how a character feels, or how we should feel at that particular moment. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder is unquestionably an incredible songwriter, and an expert at evoking emotion. And one of my favourite works of his is the Into The Wild soundtrack. The whole listing is utterly beautiful, which mirrors the film. And this scene in particular takes my breath away. There is something primal, tribal and heartrending about Vedder’s vocals on The Wolf. Echoing around the mountain range that you’re looking at during the film, everything is expressed in the music for that scene. No words needed.
Reservoir Dogs – ‘Little Green Bag’ by The George Baker Selection
Quentin Tarantino’s long term collaborator and “fixer”, Mary Ramos is responsible for some of the best music placements I can think of. As a director, Tarantino is apparently possessed of a great deal of certainty as to what he wants. In terms of his soundtracks, Ramos’ job is as much about securing the music that Tarantino requests, as it is about creatively directing the soundtrack. Which is why she is often described as a “fixer”. Another king of juxtaposition, Tarantino understands the beauty of setting extreme violence or distress against music that expresses the exact opposite. Reservoir Dogs is of course a particularly violent film, so what could be better than The George Baker Selections’ Little Green Bag as an opener? It’s got swag, it’s got swing and also a jaunty Italian vibe that pushes a kind of mafia idea. There’s also something weirdly sick about such an upbeat track against the sounds of torture…
Pulp Fiction – ‘Girl, You’ll Be A Woman’ by Neil Diamond
Another Tarantino/Ramos piece of perfection. And again, Pulp Fiction could probably place all spots on this list and happily take top soundtrack of all time. But I’m going with this scene, as Uma Thurman dances and sings along to Neil Diamond’s Girl, You’ll Be A Woman before distressingly overdosing to that gentle, romantic music. Featuring Thurman’s iconic style of dancing as ‘Mia Wallace’, an endearing singalong, and John Travolta’s mirror chat as he gears up for a very different scenario to the one he walks out to. The track itself is a perfect fit for Mia’s wild but naive character, also the wild west riff has the distinctive Tarantino feel. Again, this one taps into a sordid kind of juxtaposition that is also brilliant.
Apocalypse Now – ‘The End’ by The Doors
A fitting finale for this listicle, the opening for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 classic Apocalypse Now is perhaps the most incredible music moment in movie history. Nothing could be more fitting than The Doors’ The End; the hypnotic melody and Morrison’s vocals telling us that “this is the end”, as the jungle scene in front of us bursts into flames. There is something utterly compelling about the combination of the footage set against the music, even the sync of helicopters with effects on the track. You’re already a little lost in The Doors’ psychedelic world, falling down the rabbit hole as the films draws you into the warped reality of the soldiers in the Vietnam War.
Check out our list of the best movie soundtracks of all time here too.