** (Fairly old) Spoilers Ahead**
Inspired by the fact that it is London Film Festival, over at Digsy’s Corner, we have been discussing truly memorable movie soundtrack moments. What do we mean by that? We mean the scenes of a film that are not necessarily the point of shocking revelation (Like Bruce Willis really was dead the whole time) or action packed explosions (The Avengers never really do seem to save a city from complete destruction, do they?) but the ones that were so perfectly paired with their soundtrack that it added a whole new dimension to how we viewed it and dare we say it? But how we experienced the scene?- yes we know, we’re sorry. After an introduction as confusing as the timeline of the new x-men franchise, do try to stay tuned as below are ten of our chosen memorable movie soundtrack moments.
*these are not rated in any ranking order and are a mere drop in the ocean (never let go, Jack) compared to our original list.
Song: ‘The Sound of Silence’- Simon & Garfunkel
Film: The Graduate (1967)
Simon & Garfunkel’s sombre track perfectly captures the overwhelming feeling of reality hitting protagonist Benjamin Braddock in the opening sequence to this rendered cult classic of a film. For those who haven’t seen it, the film itself is essentially a coming-of-age story in which Dustin Hoffman returns home after university to find himself living in a fishbowl in which everyone is watching for some indication for what he might do with his life. The suffocated feeling is almost infectious and it is not at all surprising that the author of the novel (in which the film was based on) had just graduated when he wrote it-most likely to escape the same feeling that was perfectly portrayed in the film through the simple activity of standing on a travellator watching the world pass you by. The beige backdrop, slow motion of the airport travellator along with Dustin Hoffman’s vacant stare were amplified by the gloom of the famous Simon & Garfunkel track. The scene is completely transformed by the presence of this song and cleverly connects you to the protagonist instantly. The track starts to fade before coming to an end where we are left with the image of Hoffman sat in front of a large fish tank (movie buffs- you gotta love that symbolism!) and the final echo of the words “and the sound of silence” sits heavily on the audience and appears to also be heard by Hoffman. A film of such high merit could have easily seen this scene overlooked but it is rendered iconic with this song and impossible to see how it could have fared without it.
Song: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You- Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
Film: 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
This modern adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew is a staple of any (good) rom-com must-watch list. Filled with baby-faced well-known actors, aside from Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger, such as Joseph Gordon Levitt, this movie has grown into cult status in the ‘golden age’ of rom-coms. It goes without saying that cool, distant, long-haired Patrick (played by heart-throb Heath Ledger) would be irresistible but his serenade scene to Kat in front of the whole school further justified millions of hearts falling in love with him on screen. The choice of singing the Frankie Valli classic as he dances across the bleachers (of course with the school brass band in tow) was a perfect choice for this light-hearted (and unashamedly corny scene- which we adore). So ill-fitting to Patrick’s character until this point- it also adds to the monumental size of this ultimate grand gesture!
Song: ‘Both Sides Now’- Joni Mitchell
Film: Love Actually (2003)
“It was Joni Mitchell that taught your cold-hearted British wife how to feel” claims Emma Thompson’s character Karen in the Richard Curtis masterpiece that is Love Actually. It is not just the emotive lyrics of a woman with a heavy heart that render the use of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ a perfect partner to one of the saddest and most raw scenes in the entire film but the already established personal connection felt between Karen and Joni Mitchell. The way the song swells and Mitchell’s voice becomes stronger and more defiant accurately captures Karen’s struggle to contain her devastation when opening the CD from her straying husband played by the late, great Alan Rickman. Not only does the CD represent the confirmation of his cheating but the way it serves as a second-place gift compared to the necklace adds to the fact that his impulsive actions have led to Karen feeling as though her love for him is now second-rate. We listen to Mitchell with Emma Thompson adding to the intimacy of the scene which is shared between just us and her. Mitchell tells her “don’t let them know, don’t give yourself away” and Thompson does just that. The song acts as a perfect narration to the short scene replacing all dialogue and adds to why it is so memorable.
Song: ‘Nightcall’- Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx
Film: Drive (2011)
This song, like the entire soundtrack, impeccably matches the aesthetic for this film. The pairing of the 80s-electro beat is almost as flawless as Ryan Gosling himself (his acting is also pretty great too- on a side note, Gosling’s intense, mysterious character is portrayed so subtly that you cannot help but watch for a glimpse of insight into the man behind the slick getaway driver, and that’s just in the opening ten minutes). After a tense (and yet also calm and controlled) car chase opening scene, it cuts to Gosling driving alone to the beat of this Kavinsky track. The song is a great film opener and plays well alongside the dark city streets gosling drives through. The key change in the song to that of a soft, feminine voice claiming “there’s something inside you, it’s hard to explain” particularly adds to the scene and sets up the rest of the film. Ryan Gosling plays stunt driver by day and getaway driver by night hence why the two distinct personalities in the song acts as a perfect backdrop before it fully begins.
Song: ‘All By Myself’- Celine Dion
Film: Bridget Jones (2001)
One of the most iconic rom-com characters to be created, it is not a surprise that Bridget Jones entered our discussion. Whilst known more for its (hopefully not too much) relatable protagonist and perfectly chosen cast, the first in what would become a trilogy has a memorable soundtrack moment in the opening credits. Celine Dion’s “All By Myself” begins to play before we see or hear anything else. The source of the song is Bridget Jones’ front room where she is drinking wine and smoking a cigarette in what would come to be recognised as typical Bridget fashion. The comedy value and connection with Bridget is instant and her hopeless in love status is immediately revealed by the song choice. We are not often in the habit of playing this song over at Digsy’s but it is near enough impossible to not think of poor Bridget if we do hear it. This was not and will not be the last rom-com to use a ‘down on their luck’ song such as this one but it definitely has set the bar and proved itself worthy of its cult status in just the first thirty seconds of the film.
Song: “Lust for life” by Iggy Pop
Film: Trainspotting (1996)
There are two things that are abundantly clear about the hit 1996 film Trainspotting: Firstly, the film has nothing to do with trainspotting, and secondly, it has a winning soundtrack. You simply cannot imagine the opening scene of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting without Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ (1977). The scene in which Renton, Begbie, Spud, Sickboy and Tommy belt it down Edinburgh’s high street is interwoven with this terrific tune, performed by Iggy Pop and co-written by David Bowie. The military like rhythm of the opener of the song matches the action, violence and fierceness of this opening scene. Even when Renton is hit by a car mid-chase, the continued pumping beat of ‘Lust for Life’ makes sure that the excitement and feeling of a chase is still going. ‘Lust for Life’ also acts as a perfect background tempo to Renton’s famous ‘Choose Life’ monologue. The lyrics to the song come in quite late into the scene and only when the viewer is already completely hooked on Renton’s ‘Choose life’ monologue. Thus ‘Lust for Life’ is faultless for trainspotting’s opening scene because it’s pumping beat grabs the attention of the viewer, but doesn’t distract the viewer from Renton’s speech. Furtherore, though the soundtrack for Trainspotting is famous in its own right, it is ‘Lust for life’ which perfectly propels the viewer into the messy and dangerous lives of these young lads.
Fun Fact: Oasis were asked to contribute a song to the Trainspotting soundtrack, but lead guitarist Noel Gallagher refused to get Oasis involved because he thought the film was actually about trainspotters. True story. Also a very sad story.
Song “Where is my mind” by Pixies
Film: Fight Club (1999)
The end scene to this cult classic is an excellent example of a song cleverly capturing the essence of both a specific scene and the entire film. In the final scene to Fight Club, the narrator (played by Edward Norton) holds hands with his long running love interest, Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) as the camera pans out to show skyscrapers dramatically falling around them. The way in which the song roars into this scene at the exact point that the skyscrapers collapse is both hair-raising and breath-taking. The haunting song vocals of ‘Where is my mind’ also captures the beautiful but also troubled relationship between Marla and the narrator as they watch over the destruction unfolding in front of them. The opening lyrics ‘with your feet in the air and head on the ground’, also perfectly encapsulates the topsy-turvy narrative of the whole film.
Song: “Send me on my way” by Rusted Root
Film: Matilda (1996)
The cheerful and chirpy ‘Send me on my way’ (1995) by Rusted Root is tailor-made for a children’s film. It is therefore not surprising that ‘Send me on my way’ is used during a scene in the film Matilda, where Matilda decides to make pancakes from scratch by herself as her pathetic parents decide to leave her home alone. The lyrics ‘I would like to hold my own little hand’ suggests that Matilda is a sassy and strong-minded character (she is also seriously good at making perfectly cylindrical pancakes, even at the age of four). The cheery beat to the song also reassures the viewer that whilst Matilda is basically abandoned by her parents, Matilda is very much happy this way. Thus, though this film touches on very dark themes (i.e child neglect), the song ‘Send me on my way’ indicates that Matilda’s independent spirit gives her happiness despite the chilling realities of her childhood.
Song: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd:
Film: Forrest Gump (1994)
The Forrest Gump soundtrack is packed with classic American rock songs. These songs are mostly used to pinpoint key historical time periods in Forrest’s rather eccentric journey through life, from his childhood in 1950s Alabama through to the modern day (i.e sitting on a bench rambling to a bunch of strangers). Though the film mainly focuses on Forrest, it also shows the life story of Jenny, Forrest’s love interest from childhood. The viewer witnesses the abuse that Jenny suffers during childhood, her participation in the Hippie movement during the 1960s and her downward spiral into the drug scene in the 1970s and 1980s. It is therefore particularly poignant when the 1973 song ‘Free Bird’ by the American Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd plays during a scene in which Jenny takes drugs with an unknown man in a bedroom. The lyrics ‘And this bird you cannot change, Lord knows, I can’t change’ speaks to how Jenny feels trapped in a cycle of drug taking. The famous 5:12 triple guitar solo of the song erupts when Jenny emerges from the bedroom and onto the balcony. As Jenny climbs onto the balcony wall and looks down on the traffic below her, the tempo of the guitar solo builds speed. At the climax of the guitar solo, Jenny changes her mind and jumps down from the balcony, and the viewer witnesses her rocking back and forth on the floor. The guitar solo was expertly timed for this tense balcony scene, and the absence of any lyrics during the balcony scene means the viewer is left utterly fixated on Jenny and her raw emotions. Altogether, the song’s lyrics and guitar solo emphasises not only Jenny’s feelings of vulnerability and hopelessness, but also her desire to escape the life that she is currently in. Thus, though Jenny is not the main character in this film, the use of the song free bird in this crucial scene amplifies her emotions and importance as a character.
Song: “Don’t you forget about me” by Simple Minds:
Film: The Breakfast Club (1985)
‘Don’t you forget about me’ by Simple Minds is an anthem in its own right, but is used to excellent effect in the final scene for the quintessentially 80s high-school drama ‘The Breakfast Club’. The film is about a group of five high-school students, each from different school cliques, who end up bonding through in an all-day detention together. The gang of students are also tasked by their supervising teacher Mr Vernon, to each write an essay describing ‘who they are’. These elements collectively signal that this film will involve all the typical teenage coming-of-age tropes. However, it’s the song ‘Don’t you forget about me’ which accompanies the end scene to the film which really brings home a sense of reality to this teenage coming of age film. The dark synth beat of the song complements the feeling of mystery surrounding the future interactions between these characters as the viewer is left guessing whether these characters really do forget each-other after their all day detention.
Congratulations on making it to the end of our (highly subjective) list of the most memorable movie soundtrack moments. Whilst we think these are the crème-de-la-crème of movie soundtrack moments, there are many more highly memorable soundtrack moments that didn’t quite make it onto our list, but were nevertheless still very deserving of a place (particular apologies to Pulp Fiction, Platoon, and Four Weddings and a Funeral). Our task of picking the most memorable soundtrack moments was made even more agonizing by the fact that for some of the movies on our list, the whole movie soundtrack is the very essence of the viewing experience throughout the movie (this applies to Trainspotting, The Graduate and Drive in particular).Despite some sad omissions, we hope you enjoyed reading this blog post (we certainly enjoyed writing it anyway!)
*Also, feel free to also leave a message in the comments suggesting a memorable movie soundtrack moment (The more obscure the better!)