The B List: Five Stellar Musical Movie Scenes

2. Twist and Shout – The Beatles: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


I remember seeing this movie in the theaters back in 1986 and by the end of this scene, most of the audience was up and dancing around. Now THAT is proof of an effective music scene. In the film, the Beatles cover of this Phil Medley/Burt Russell tune gets the entire parade route rocking as Ferris continues his attempt to show buddy Cameron a good time.

From the dance troupe shuffling and bopping on the Chicago streets to Ferris’s own Dad shaking it in his office, this scene is what music in movies is all about. I love the wide shot showing the thousands of people all rocking. The scene was filmed during Chicago’s annual Von Steuben Day Parade making the hordes of extras needed easier to come by for the crew.

3. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry: Back to the Future


Marty McFly introduces the “Enchantment Under the Sea” crowd to a new type of music – rock & roll – complete with Townsend-esque windmills, an Angus Young floor spin and a Hendrix-like display with the guitar. A great song that has stood the test of time and a great movie that has done the same. According to IMDB, the original script called for Marty’s playing rock and roll at the dance to cause a riot which had to be broken up by police. I like the stunned silence and “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it” line that Director Robert Zemeckis went with much better.

4. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel: Say Anything


“I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen.” John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler made women swoon with his “everyman” approach and lack of desire to “sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career.” In a desperate effort to win back Ione Skye’s Diane, Cusack’s character stands outside her window blasting this Peter Gabriel tune. The scene is about as well-known as any ’80s movie clip not directed by John Hughes and the tune is Gabriel at his best.

To this day it’s hard to hear the song and not picture Cusack standing there stoically raising that box above his head. The scene was such a part of the movie that it was featured on the posters and DVD packaging.

5. Layla – Eric Clapton: GoodFellas


The gimme. This song has probably been included by every single person who has crafted a list like this and deservedly so. The second half of Layla – basically the soaring guitar and incredible piano – helps set the stage as dead mobsters turn up around New York City. From the dumpster to the pink Cadillac to the meat truck, as the bodies mount, Layla serves as the backing track. Rumor has it that Martin Scorsese actually blasted this tune on set while filming the scene where the dead bodies are found in the meat truck.

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18 Responses

  1. Good list. Here’s mine:

    In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Iron Butterfly: Manhunter
    Heart of the Sunrise, Yes: Buffalo ’66
    Tiny Dancer, Elton John: Almost Famous
    Damn it feels good to be a gangster, Getto boys:Office Space
    Wise Up, Aimee Mann: Magnolia

    Honorable Mention:
    Flight of the Valkeries, Wagner: apocalypse Now

    Then I would throw in Bond them, Oldfield’s Tubular Bells for Exorcists and Dueling banjos for Deliverance for classic themes.

  2. For the record I am a big fan of Almost Famous but I find that Tiny Dancer scene to be painfully cheesy. A few that almost made my list: Superfreak in Little Miss Sunshine, Ooh La La in Rushmore and Shout in Animal House

  3. Love the concept for this B List.

    A few I like:

    – In The Waiting Line (Zero 7) in Garden State. Not a huge fan of the movie, but that scene has some great cinematography and it’s a great tune.

    – Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) in Wayne’s World

    – Does Stonehenge from Spinal Tap count? 🙂

  4. Tom Waits- Innocent When you Dream used in the last scene in “Smoke.” Classic. And have we all forgotten Cat Stevens and Harold & Maude?

  5. Two immediately come to mind. The first from Almost Famous, not the Tiny Dancer part, though that’s a good moment — but “The Wind” when Penny is dancing in the venue alone is very poetic and beautiful I think. Of course, it’s one of my favorite movies.

    The other is the end scene of Devil’s Rejects. “Free Bird” set to the main characters final demise is nothing short of well, EPIC.

  6. Claire de Lune by Debussy – The Right Stuff & Oceans 13
    Don’t Be Shy by Cat Stevens – Harold and Maude
    Queen Bitch by Bowie – Life Aquatic
    Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds – Breakfast Club
    Goofing Off Suite by Pete Seeger – Raising Arizona
    Suicide is Painless – MASH
    Mickey Mouse Club Theme Song – Full Metal Jacket
    Man in Me by Bob Dylan – Big Lebowski
    You Never Can Tell by Chuck Berry – Pulp Fiction
    ALL DELFONICS SONGS – Jackie Brown
    Day-O by Harry Belafonte – BeetleJuice
    Sweet Dreams by Roy Buchanan – The Departed (minus the rat on the railing, this song/scene gives me chills just like Layla in Goodfellas)
    Immigrant Song by Zep – School of Rock

    FEW NOTES: That Layla scene gives me goosebumps every time, while that Cars tune…well, you know. An entire list could be made of just songs from Scorcese, Coen Bros,and Wes Anderson films. Obviously Pulp Fiction has so many moments, but I always liked Jackie Brown the most of all his stuff. I seriously can’t listen to the Delfonics without thinking of that movie. Great idea for this list. I am stunned into drawing a blank but I am certain I will awake in the middle of the night and post more. BIG THUMBS UP to Iron Butterfly and Manhunter. William Peterson was the MAN.

  7. My favorites are:
    Blazing Saddles – April in Paris by Count Basie
    Top Gun – Stranger Eyes by The Cars (trailer)
    The Naked Gun Theme – Trilogy
    Young Frankenstein – Puttin’ On the Ritz
    The Cooler – Luck Be a Lady by Bobby Caldwell (opening scene)

  8. I can’t hear “Stuck in the Middle with You” without picturing “Resevoir Dogs.”

    I’ll third Iron Butterfly and Manhunter. AWESOME scene.

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