Top 5 Uses of Music in TV and Movies

5. “Rescue Me; Voicemail”: Burn – Ray LaMontagne

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Dennis Leary’s powerful drama following the lives of New York Fireman after 9-11 is often forgotten in conversations about television’s current golden age, but scenes like this show why it shouldn’t be. As Tommy (Leary) sits on his couch alone, skipping his AA meeting to watch old home videos, excellent camera work reveals that, in his hands, he holds a bottle of vodka. LaMontagne’s tortured vocals add to an already beautiful scene as Tommy wrestles with his sobriety, before eventually pouring the entire bottle onto himself and attempting to light himself on fire. Once he learns that the vodka will not ignite, he gives up and shows up late to his meeting, wreaking of Vodka, as LaMontagne sings, “I’ll just stand here and burn in my skin.”

4. “Friends;The One Where Ross and Rachel Take A Break”: With or Without You – U2

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One of the most beloved sitcoms in American History, Friends is well ingrained in our culture for the foreseeable future, and with it, the on again, off again relationship between Ross and Rachel. Of the many breakups the pair endured, the most memorable scene features the perfect song choice of U2’s “With or Without You.” The scene, a combination of excellent writing and beautiful music, is able to date the show, and preserve everything great about the era it’s being dated in.

3.“Philadelphia”: La Mamma Morta – Maria Callas

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The next entry on this list is quite different than it’s predecessors. 1993’s Philadelphia followed the relationship of an AIDS-stricken Tom Hanks and the Lawyer, played by Denzel Washington, hired to represent him in his wrongful termination case. The other worldly voice of Maria Callas allows audiences to feel as alienated and out of place as Washington’s character when it comes to attempting to understand the LGBT culture of the 80’s and 90’s which is so well portrayed by this piece. As Hanks, barely able to stand and having withered to skin and bones, dances about the rooming, shouting the translation and explanation of the song, all the while lit by an unforgiving red light, He creates an incredibly intense scene, one that won him his second consecutive Oscar.

2. “Rocky III”: Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

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Few action series can boast the legendary soundtrack that Rocky does. From instantly recognizable themes in the first two installments to classic 80’s rock adorning one triumphant moment after another, none of these scenes can even compare to the perfection that is the Rocky III training montage, featuring Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” To this day, nothing can get butts off the couch and into the gym like this sequence.

********HONORABLE MENTIONS********

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“American Psycho”: Hip to Be Square – Huey Lewis and the News

“Fight Club”: Where is My Mind – The Pixies

“2001: A Space Odyssey”: Thus Spake Zarathustra – Richard Strauss

“Jaws”: Jaws Theme – John Williams

“The Breakfast Club”: Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds

“Star Wars I: The Fantom Menace”: Duel of Two Fates – John Williams

“The Exorcist”: Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield

********HONORABLE MENTIONS********

  1. Breaking Bad; Felina”: Baby Blue – Badfinger

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Breaking Bad is, arguably, the greatest piece of art ever put to film, so it would stand to reason that the best examples of using music in a scene would be found somewhere in it’s five seasons. Vince Gilligan gave us plenty of options for this list. The use of Tommy James’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion” as Walt finishes another batch of his famous blue meth or Jerome Kern’s “Pick Yourself Up” serenading Walt who sits idly in his home as multiple gruesome murders are carried out at his request. Both of these scenes, as well as many others may come to mind, but never before has a song been used so perfectly as in the show’s final scene. As Walt walks, dying, through his meth lab running his blood drenched hands over the equipment which has made him more than just a man, the lab that turned Walter White into Heisenberg, Badfinger’s “Baby Blue,” begins to play. This scene will never fail to give me chills as lyrics like “I guess I got what I deserve” bring the series to a close that is nothing short of perfect. Walt falls to the ground bleeding, as tears fall from the faces of any viewer with a soul and the tracks chorus, “My Baby Blue” bursts through. Simply breathtaking.

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Author: brendonsbeats

I'm a Sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University, studying audio-production while writing and playing music in Nashville. I love music more than anything else in the world, and I run this blog with the hope of introducing people to some great music that I love!

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