1. Tiny Dancer :: Elton John
from the film, Almost Famous
“Blue jean baby,
seamstress for the band.
you’ll marry a music man.”
I couldn’t say how many times I’ve watched this scene, honestly, the number would be staggering, both from re-watches of the movie itself, and also just the scene itself (see above). This is by far my favorite go-to music/movie moment that I turn to whenever I’m feeling low or stressed or sad. Everything about it, the characters joining in to sing one-by-one, the connection between everyone that the music is helping to forge, the unspoken (but yes sung) forgiveness that is happening all in the length of a song, and this feeling of hope and wish and want that I feel because my heart would love to be “on the road” to somewhere, anywhere, especially if there was music along for the ride. I wish I could spend a vacation riding along on Doris with Stillwater, the Band-Aids and William “The Enemy” Miller.
2. Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime :: Beck
from the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
“Change your heart,
look around you.”
The first moment this song plays in the film is heartbreaking, and it never fails to bring me to tears. Later, when it replays, it brings a bittersweet kind of hope that can also bring tears, but also make my hopelessly romantic heart (jaded as it is sometimes) believe in all that “love conquers all” stuff. Clementine and Joel are so dear to my heart, and this film (my all-time favorite) and this song, have become very personal to me.
3. Rise :: Eddie Vedder
from the film, Into the Wild
“Gonna rise up,
burning black holes in dark memories.
Gonna rise up,
turning mistakes into gold.”
This movie is so inspiring to me, even in its moments of tragic heartbreak and loneliness. My gypsy soul who longs for adventure and exploration attached itself to this story, and though I know I could never go and get lost “in the wild” like Christopher does, there is still this feeling of “go out there and live” that this film gifts to me every time I watch it. I love the entire soundtrack, every song, but this one fits the most into favorite music in movie moments as it makes my heart soar and builds that “adventure awaits” feeling of freedom that is part of this film, and Christopher’s story.
4. All I Want is You :: U2
from the film, Reality Bites
“But all the promises we make,
from the cradle to the grave,
when all I want is you.”
There is a part of my heart that lives in this film, I think, and that part has grown with every year and each re-watch that happens. The entire soundtrack is one of my movie soundtrack favorites, but it is definitely this song, and the moments that transpire, that mean the most to me. Oh Troy Dyer, how you ruin me.
5. The Only Living Boy in New York :: Simon & Garfunkel
from the film, Garden State
“I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.”
I have so many favorite moments from this movie, but this one may be my absolute favorite one. I want my own “infinite abyss” to go to and yell into and hold hands with someone who can be there while we both break down and let go and just scream. There are so few moments in lie where we are able to just scream.
6. Where is my Mind? :: Pixies
from the film, Fight Club
“With your feet on the air and your head on the ground,
try this trick and spin it.”
Endings are hard, both in life, and in stories told. This is one of those perfect endings that is made more so by the use of this song. Everything about this moment is spot on, emotional and impactful and darkly beautiful.
7. Falling Slowly :: Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
“Take this sinking boat and point it home,
we’ve still got time.”
This movie, and the music from it, all the music, means so much to me. This song though, it is so heartbreakingly gorgeous and fits the bittersweet almost love story that Once tells through music. This is another song from a film that always makes me cry.
8. Like a Fool :: Keira Knightley
from the film, Begin Again
“And you have broken ever single fucking rule,
and I have loved you,
like a fool.”
In a similar vein as Once, and by the same creators, comes another music movie that hits so many emotional parts of me. This song hits hard and on a very personal level, and is so perfect in this moment, musically, cinematically and from a storytelling and character perspective. It is another that brings tears, which seems to be a running theme in many of these favorites of mine, doesn’t it?
9. Evergreen :: Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson
from the film, A Star is Born
“Two lights that shine as one,
morning glory and midnight sun.”
I have loved this movie, and this moment in this movie, since I was a little girl. There was a part of me back then that wanted to grow-up to be like Esther, and I know for certain that I had quite a crush on John Norman. This moment is so wonderful, intimate and real feeling, with so much emotion between the two of them – it almost tells the entire story in this one scene.
10. Shame, Shame, Shame :: Shirley & Company
from the film, Pride
“My feet wanna move so get out my way.”
I love everything about this moment – the song, the dancing, the energy, and the way Dominic West moves. This is another go-to movie and music moment that I find myself going back to when I need to smile and de-stress. This makes me miss going out dancing so fucking much.
11. Perfect Day :: Lou Reed
from the film, Trainspotting
“You just keep me hanging on.”
Moody and melancholic, this song fits the movie moment so “perfectly” in that “love song to heroin“/this story may break your heart kind of way. There is a complexity just underneath the surface of this song, and there is a complexity to Mark’s life and circumstance, as well as his friends, that is hard to pin down and define, as at some points it is reckless and carefree, at other times it is full of desperation and tragedy, and at other times it feels lost in itself – much like growing-up can feel like, and this song, about some “perfect day” that you can tell is not perfect at all, that is rather indicative to life, too.
12. Nature Boy :: Nat King Cole
from the film, Untamed Heart
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn,
is just to love,
and be loved in return.”
This is a nearly kills me heartbreaking moment that always leaves me sobbing. The song itself is one of my all-time favorites, and its significance and emotional heft in this scene is just completely incredible. On a side note, this movie is one of the biggest reasons I love Marisa Tomei so much.
13. Slave to Love :: Bryan Ferry
from the film, 9 1/2 Weeks
“We’re too young to reason,
too grown-up to dream.”
I don’t know which came first, me falling in love with this song after this movie, or me falling in love with Mickey Rourke after seeing this movie. Most likely the latter, as I became a Roxy Music fan a few years before, but the two – the song and Mr. Rourke – are forever linked in my musical heart now. This song is haunting, seductive and mysterious, much like the movie itself, the New York it portrays and John himself.
14. But Not Tonight :: Depeche Mode
“And I haven’t felt so alive in years.”
There was a time when my night times were much like those of the girls of Modern Girls. Hollywood at night in the mid-late 80’s, the music, the clubs, the fashion, the feelings, the times my friends and I had that were often a complete adventure in the span of sunset to sunrise the next day. This movie brings it all back, and this song is my favorite from the soundtrack, and the one that I immediately connect back to the movie, and their night in the city of Angels.
15. Don’t Stop Me Now :: Queen
from the film, Shaun of the Dead
I’m gonna have myself a real good time.
I feel alive,
and the world it’s turning inside out.”
A brilliant use of music and choreographed fighting that seems plays out like an interpretive dance of zombie killing. My first reaction after seeing this scene for the first time was just a that – “fucking brilliant!” This has always been my favorite Queen song, and this music/movie scene made it even more the best to me.
16. Wise Up :: Aimee Mann
from the film, Magnolia
what you thought,
when you first began it.”
Typically the most effective use of music in a film does not overtake the action, it sits somewhere in the back almost acting as back-up singers, a melodic coloring-in, making the picture more vivid and the emotions almost leap out and chase after you, it is usually only within an actual musical that the music steps out of the imaginary fourth wall to become the voice of the characters, and often in that situation it lifts the story into a suspension of disbelief’s playground; because it is not often in everyday life that people just break into song. This scene from Magnolia is an exception to the rule. It is done in such a moving and remarkable way that it brings every character’s inner demons, fears and emotions into the center; all of them singing in a round robin style to Aimee Mann’s Wise Up.
17. Just Like Honey :: The Jesus & Mary Chain
from the film, Lost In Translation
“Listen to the girl,
as she takes on half the world.”
What an ending, what a moment, what a way to keep everything somewhat open and up to the viewer to decide. This song is just perfect for this moment, it feels like the city, like the emotion between Bob and Charlotte, and like the emotional connection itself in all its mysterious and unexpected wonder. The two, the song and the film’s ending, are perfectly intertwined to me.
18. Miss Misery :: Elliott Smith
from the film, Good Will Hunting
“To vanish into oblivion,
it’s easy to do,
and I try to be,
but you know me,
I come back when you want me to.”
This moment, with this song, takes my heart along with it. All the hope and wonder, sadness and joy, the juxtaposition of conflicting emotions when you let someone you love go. The ending is one of those perfect ones, like the Lost In Translation end that I mentioned above, where there are things left unsaid and unknown, so that as a viewer you can come up with the next chapter; this song works perfectly for that sense of possibility.
19. Try a Little Tenderness :: Otis Redding
from the film, Pretty In Pink
“You won’t regret it, no, no,
some girls they don’t forget it,
love is their only happiness.”
Me and Molly are the same age, so her “coming of age” movies always felt like they got me, and I got them. This moment, in the record store, I remember wishing to be a part of it (which may have been integral in my going after record store jobs after High School). This was also the moment when I thought “Otis Redding? I need to hear more!”
20. I Melt With You :: Modern English
from the film, Valley Girl
“I’ll stop the world and melt with you.”
I didn’t live in “the valley”, though in some ways Orange County felt the same, and I was too young to hang out in Hollywood, though I would get there in a few years, but still I felt like I understood the plight of Randy and Julie. Or, maybe I just wanted to be Julie and melt away with Randy. Hearing this song, well, there is a little part of me that still wouldn’t mind melting away with that boy from Hollywood, or at least sharing a soda with him at Du-par’s.