Ever since The Graduate in 1967, filmmakers have often used pre-existing pop songs to score their movies, and sometimes these songs end up working so well that it's difficult to separate the song from the movie. Here are twelve songs that are closely associated with movies.
1. Q Lazzarus - "Goodbye Horses" (1988)
I was inspired to write this list after a friend of mine put "Goodbye Horses" on a mix CD, which immediately brought to mind the scene in The Silence of the Lambs where Buffalo Bill dances around naked to the song. It's a beautiful, heartfelt song, but I always feel like something horrible is about to happen when I hear it. I don't even want to post the video in the article, but you can watch it here (NSFW).
2. Stealers Wheel - "Stuck in the Middle With You" (1972)
Post-modern filmmaking 101: if you want to make a disturbing scene even more disturbing, soundtrack it with an inappropriately jaunty tune, like Quentin Tarantino did with "Stuck in the Middle With You" for the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs (NSFW).
3. Dick Dale - "Misirlou" (1962)
Another Tarantino entry: for the opening credits to his classic film Pulp Fiction, Tarantino used Dick Dale's blistering "Misirlou," perhaps the most famous surf rock song ever recorded, and now I can't hear the song without visualizing the film title's orange typeface.
4. Wilson Phillips - "Hold On" (1990)
At my cousin's wedding reception, all of the bridesmaids went crazy when this song came on, and it was only later that I found out why: it was sung in the closing scene to the movie Bridesmaids by none other than Wilson Phillips themselves.
5. Pixies - "Where Is My Mind?" (1988)
Though it wasn't released as a single, "Where Is My Mind?" has become one of the Pixies most famous songs, largely because of its inclusion in the final scene of Fight Club, where a number of skyscrapers are destroyed by a terrorist organization.
6. Elliott Smith - "Needle in the Hay" (1995)
One of Wes Anderson's trademarks is his incorporation of pop music into his films, and one of the most unsettling examples of this trademark is his use of Elliott Smith's "Needle in the Hay" in The Royal Tenenbaums during a character's suicide attempt, made even more unsettling by the fact that Smith would take his own life just two years after the film was released.
(Warning: it's a little disturbing)
7. Peter Gabriel - "In Your Eyes" (1986)
I've never even seen Say Anything, and yet the scene where John Cusack plays Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" over a boombox is so iconic that I'm nonetheless still familiar with it.
8. Leonard Cohen/John Cale/Rufus Wainwright - "Hallelujah"
This might sound strange for anyone older than me, but for people my age, the first time most of us heard any version of Leonard Cohen's ubiquitous "Hallelujah" was in Shrek, which used John Cale's version in the actual movie, but Rufus Wainwright's version for the soundtrack.
9. The Moldy Peaches - "Anyone Else But You" (2001)
Though the soundtrack to Juno featured a number of songs by indie folk singer Kimya Dawson, the soundtrack also included one song by her old band the Moldy Peaches, which was sung by stars Ellen Page and Michael Cera in the film's final scene.
10. The Shins - "New Slang" (2001)
Though Garden State undoubtedly boosted the Shins' popularity, it's too bad that nobody can hear the otherwise great "New Slang" without being reminded of 2000's indie film clichés.
11. Queen - "Bohemian Rhapsody" (1975)
The inclusion of "Bohemian Rhapsody" in Wayne's World was so hysterically funny that the song actually re-entered the Billboard Charts at number two, more than sixteen years after it was originally released.
12. Geto Boys - "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta" (1992)
One of the funniest aspects of Mike Judge's Office Space is its use of hardcore hip-hop to soundtrack a completely mundane, white-collar setting, including this song by Houston's Geto Boys.