Music is such a central part of a movie whether it’s an instrumental score or a song used or written for a film. The music when used correctly can move the audience and make them feel how the director or writer intended them too. Think of the movie Titanic, is hard to deny the effect that the score had on the audience as the beautiful melody and the haunting voice sounded on the screen as the ship went down. For someone like me that both music and movies have an emotional effect, when both combine perfectly is just so great. With this post I would like to go through my favorite musical moments on film, it can be a score, a song used in a scene or a song written specifically for the film.
I want to start with a recent film and that is Jo Jo Rabbit and that one has two scenes that I absolutely loved. The film is about this kid who is being trained to be a Nazi. In the opening scene, we see him being taught by Hitler (in his imagination) to say the famous phrase Heil Hitler, and when he finally gets it he leaves the house in hysterics and goes running to the streets. For that scene how brilliant that they used the German version The Beatles did of their classic “I want to Hold Your hand”. Portraying the same hysterics that The Beatles produced at that time, we see the kid and footage of Germany screaming for Hitler. The second one in this film is the ending after the Nazi’s lose the war and the girl Jo Jo’s mother was protecting finally was free they both stand outside and just started to dance with David Bowie’s classic “Heroes” playing. With such a small thing as dance, the movie shows us just how similar we all.
In that example, it was the use of existing songs to help the scene. But there was a time where Brian Adams seemed to write great songs for films. Everything I do (I do it for you) was a smash hit for the movie Robin Hood: Prince of thieves. The song stands on its own as a love song, but it was a great companion piece for the movie. The lyrics blended perfectly with the story and the love that Robin felt for Marian. Brian Adams also wrote a beautiful song for the Don Juan DeMarco film called to really love a woman, another perfect song that reflected what the movie was about.
Another musical moment that I liked was in the film Wonder Boys starring Michael Douglas. The song used was the great Bob Dylan song “Not Dark Yet”. The song is about a man who is feeling low, recognizing it is not getting better. The scene, as told by the director in the commentaries, is a low point for the character as he goes upstairs in his house and sees his student James enter the bedroom with his gay publisher, another room a young girl is sleeping as she read his unpublished book and the scene ends with Grady outside smoking and the song fits perfectly both in mood and lyrics. Of course, Dylan won an Oscar for writing an original song for the movie, the brilliant “Things have changed”.
James Horner, who sadly passed away in an aircraft accident, was an amazing composer and I want to focus on two film scores he did. The obvious one is Titanic, he was brilliant and the use of a female singer to sing along gave an extra chilling factor to the score. The other was his work for the movie Braveheart. The ending score moved me to tears in Braveheart and in Titanic also.
There are even times when a scene involving a song is more memorable than the film itself. For that is the case for the film Pleasantville, the movie is not bad but I remember it more for their use at the end of the great Beatles classic “Across the Universe”. I am not one to like cover versions but Fiona Apple did a good version of the song. I remember getting home from seeing the movie and listening to the song over and over.
The soundtrack for the movie Young Guns II is one of my favorite soundtracks. A solo album for Jon Bon Jovi the album captures the spirit of the movie with both music and lyric.
The movie Mr. Holland’s Opus is an amazing film and music is all over that movie. The moment where Holland sings John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” as he reconciles with his son is moving even if Dreyfus’s voice is not the best.
This moment is so iconic and it must be included. The moment where Wayne and his friends sing along the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen is one of the most memorable moments in the movie.
Almost Famous is one of my favorite films and it a semi-autobiographical movie based on Cameron Crowe’s experience as he interviewed bands for Rolling Stone Magazine. In an important scene where the band reconciles after a big fight no words are said, they come together as they sing Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. It is such a beautiful scene.
These are just a few because there are so many, here is a brief list of others I would like to mention.
⁃ John Williams is a master when it comes to scores, from Star Wars to Jaws his work always blend perfectly with the films.
⁃ You could be mine was not written for the film but it did fit in with the rebel attitude of John Connor in the scene it was used.
⁃ Streets of Philadelphia has a powerful message written by Bruce Springsteen for the movie Philadelphia.
⁃ I will always love you from the bodyguard.
⁃ This one is not well known but it was very effective. The movie Everybody’s fine is an emotional movie and those emotions are beautifully captured in the Paul McCartney song “I want to (Come Home).
⁃ The ’80s had a few good ones like “Power of Love” from Back to the future and “Glory of love” from Karate Kid part 2.
The list is long but these are just a few examples of how music and movies come together.