The Top 10 Greatest Music Moments in Movie History

February 15, 2011

Besides an original score, some of the greatest directors have used their favorite musical tunes to make certain scenes simply unforgettable. By using these particular tracks, the songs, as well as the moving pictures, seem to become one and sometimes even become lost without the other. 

10. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Wayne’s World

Source: Paramount Pictures

First and foremost, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the greatest pop song ever written. Period. Although people did seem to forget about the 1975 Queen hit up until Wayne’s World paid a wacky lip-syncing tribute to it 20 years after it was first released. The popularity of Wayne’s World propelled the song back to number two on the singles charts and the soundtrack to the film also hit number one on Billboard. I remember when this film came out and the “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene in the car was the only thing anyone was talking about. Don’t hate. You know it’s awesome.

9. “The Man In Me” - The Big Lebowski

Source: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

The Coen brothers are legit pros when it comes to placing the perfect musical numbers over brilliant moving pictures. Besides the O Brother, Where Art Thou? original soundtrack, The Big Lebowski has to be their finest hour when it comes to this category. There are endless an number of classic musical moments to choose from in BL, but I gotta go classy and pick the amazing opening credits sequence featuring Bob Dylan’s 1970 jam “The Man In Me.” A close second would have to go to "Lookin' Out My Back Door" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, but “The Man In Me” gives viewers the perfect introduction to the world of The Dude, Walter and Donny. 

8. “In Your Eyes” - Say Anything

Source: 20th Century Fox

We all know the scene and we all know the song. Initially supposed to be a track by Fishbone, writer/director Cameron Crowe made the right move and used one of Peter Gabriel’s crowning pop achievements during the dramatic climax of his romantic teen tale Say Anything. The ‘boombox’ scene still resonates today and it is one of the greatest moments where music and film collide. Sport of the future, guys. Sport of the future.

7. “Stuck in the Middle with You” - Reservoir Dogs

Source: Miramax Films

Like Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino could have easily made up half of this list. With this said, I wanted to use a cinematic moment that was the crowning origin of Quentin’s amazing ability to mix graphic images with amazing pop tunes. This is that moment, y’all. The second Michael Madison starting jammin’ out to Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You” after cutting off a cop’s ear, we all instantly knew that this was a classic moment that would live on in cult status forever.

6. “Eye of the Tiger” – Rocky III

Source: MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

This list would not be complete without Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” Even if it’s not one of the greatest songs ever written, the song’s epicness still lives on present day and will as long as there’s an Internet. Mostly all of the Rocky films are known for their amazing soundtracks, but ironically enough, this song might be the most memorable of the lot. Stallone will always be known as the King of the montage and this 1982 rock number is one of the main reasons why. How can you not love watching Sly and Mr. T knock fools out to this song? You can’t. Bill Conti’s Rocky theme “Gonna Fly Now” will always be a favorite among fans, but the cheesy nostalgia of Rocky 3’s “Eye of the Tiger” has taken the song to a whole ‘nother level.

5. “Jumping Jack Flash” – Mean Streets

Source: Warner Bros.

This is easily one of the coolest entrances of a character in the history of cinema. Robert De Niro did have a big part to play in the awesomeness of this legendary bar scene in the 1973 breakthrough Mean Streets, but it was Martin Scorsese’s groundbreaking skills as a director that made it one of the most influential moments ever. This may just seem like a somewhat basic concoction of rad images and classic rock ‘n’ roll, but this marked the beginning of Scorsese’s now-classic mastering of mashing together the perfect images with the perfect track. It’s a formula that many would go on to copy and even outright steal. The Rolling Stones also had a little part to play in it.

4. “Moving in Stereo” – Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Source: Universal Pictures

Due to the legendary popularity of this clip, I don’t really feel the need to explain in great detail why it made the list. Phoebe Cates taking her swimsuit top off to the catchy new wave Cars track “Moving in Stereo” in Fast Times at Ridgemont High has made a lot of teen boys very happy over the years. Any song probably would have worked just fine for this scene, but “Stereo” gave it that classic ‘80s feel that few films can compete with. It also doesn’t hurt that Phoebe Cates is a stone cold fox.

3. “The End” - Apocalypse Now

Source: United Artists

Even though it was apparently Martin Scorsese’s idea to put “The End” in the opening of Coppola's Apocalypse Now, it’s still one of the most epic uses of a song in all of cinema. It seems as if the Doors wrote the song specifically in mind for the opening of Coppola's Apocalypse. I honestly couldn’t think of a better song to start/end a film as intense as AN. I also believe that the film would have never had the same punch it did if this song was not incorporated. They are one in the same as far as I’m concerned. It’s giving me chills just thinking about it.

2. "Layla" – Goodfellas

Source: Warner Bros.

Almost all of Scorsese’s cinematic musical movie moments come directly from the writing of the script. That’s what makes him such a brilliant director. The way he can instantly know which song should go with a specific scene so early on in the movie-making process is pretty unbelievable. The Making of Goodfellas is a prime example of this. It showcases how Marty perfectly places very specific songs over numerous dramtic moments throughout the film. The fact that he knows that the song in mind will work even before filming is a testament to his directorial brilliance. In my opinion, the use of Clapton’s "Layla" when Jimmy whacks his crew is the most breathtaking moment of them all.

1. “Also Sprach Zarathustra” – 2001: Space Odyssey

Source: Warner Bros.

This is the one that started it all, y’all. As you should all know, German composer Richard Strauss' “Also Sprach Zarathustra” can be first heard in the epic opening title of 2001: Space Odyssey. It has gone on to become one of the most memorable music pieces of all time.

As seen in the amazing documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, this was a very monumental moment in film due to Kubrick’s use of classical music from existing commercial recordings in 2001. Most films of that day were usually paired with elaborate film scores/songs by professional composers, but Stanley instead decided to break the Hollywood mold and use some of his most favorite classical music pieces and abandon his initial original score with Alex North. This groundbreaking move changed the game forever and influenced every up-and-coming director in the film industry. It doesn’t get any more epic than this. Hail to the King, baby.