3x3: favorite pre-recorded songs in movie scenes

Softball alert! Your favorite pre-recorded songs used in movie scenes. So, no crappy end-credits songs that threaten to ruin a good movie (Yes Crouching Tiger, I’m looking at you). We’re talking about songs that exist within scenes, and why they are important to those scenes, but not written for them specifically.

We discuss our choices at the 55-minute mark of the Qt3 Movie Podcast of Dark Skies.

Kelly Wand
3. To Die For: “All By Myself”
2. Groundhog Day: “I Got You Babe”

  1. 2001: Something

Tom Chick
3. This is 40: “Debaser”
2. Zack and Miri Make a Porno: “Hey”

  1. Fight Club: “Where is My Mind”

3. The Big Lebowski: “Hotel California”
2. Miller’s Crossing: “Danny Boy”

  1. Say Anything: “In Your Eyes”

Now yours. Favorite pre-recorded songs used in a scene, and why you like them so damn much.

Listener picks to follow.

Our listener picks:

Jacob Heid
3. Amadeus: “Don Giovanni”
2. Pulp Fiction: “Flowers on the Wall”

  1. Martha Marcy May Marlene: “Marcy’s Song”

Fred & Lin
3. Dredd: Snuff Box theme
2. Fight Club: Goin’ Out West

  1. Fear & Loathing: White Rabbit

Jeff Sweet
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: “The Ballad of Jesse James”
2. The Tree of Life: Bach’s Fugue in D Minor

  1. Martha Marcy May Marlene: “Marcy’s Song”

Frederik K (with help from the mrs)
2. Dr. Strangelove: “We’ll Meet Again”

  1. 28 Days Later: “East Hastings”

Paul Weimer
3. The Sting: “The Entertainer”
2. 2001: Blue Danube

  1. Three Kings: “If You Leave Me Now”

David Lessenberry
3. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: “Search and Destroy”
2. The Royal Tenenbaums: “She Smiled Sweetly”

  1. Rushmore: “There’s Nothing in the World to Stop Me Worrying about That Girl”

Sören Höglund
3. Manhunter: “In a Gadda Da Vidda”
2. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle: Cole’s Extreme Mix

  1. 28 Days Later: “East Hastings”

Aaron Vaughn
3. Apocalypse Now: '“Ride of the Valkyrie”
2. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls: “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”

  1. American Psycho: “Hip to Be Square”

Sean C
3. Starship Troopers: “Fade into You”
2. Inglourious Basterds: “Un Amico”

  1. Evil Dead: :the Charleston

As always, we love your picks. Please send them to the podcast at [email protected].

Oops. One more. Sorry Nick!

3. The 40 Year Old Virgin: “Aquarius”
2. Goodfellas: “Layla”

  1. The Royal Tenenbaums: “These Days”

Here’s the one to top! The clip on Youtube has been given a penis-ectomy, so it’s even safe to watch at work!


“You met me at a very strange time in my life.”

This is a great topic and one I really should have remembered to participate in, since I love movies and music so much. Oh well, better late than never.

I’m not a huge fan of the Dawn of the Dead remake, but I do think that choosing to use Johnny Cash’s “When the Man Comes Around” in the opening credits was an inspired choice.

Also, I really loved Moulin Rouge even though I think I’m probably the only person who does. I think the main thing I really dug was repurposing a bunch of pop songs to fit into this period piece (ok, not really) about a French burlesque show. And I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Elton John’s “Your Song”, but I do really like the way it fits the scene where he tries to convince Nicole Kidman of his love. And he’s got a great voice!

You guys already called out the use of “In A Gadda Da Vida” in Manhunter, that’s probably the best example I can think of as a song that seems to fill me with dread whenever I hear it now, just because of its association with the final scenes of that movie. But I feel similarly about Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” now because of its use in David Fincher’s “Zodiac.” If you’ve seen it, you probably know what I mean.

And I have to throw in Harry Belafonte’s “Day O” in Beetlejuice as my runner up. Just because I love that movie.

1-Fallen “Time Is on My Side (Stones)”

Haven’t listened to the 3x3 yet, but wouldn’t this be a pretty perfect example? (Alternatively: I’m stupid.)

Harold and Kumar listen to Cole’s Extreme Mix vol. 5.

Someone likes Pixies songs in movies.

  1. Sister Christian” in Boogie Nights…a movie I don’t even like all that much, but that scene is pretty goddamn tense.
  2. Hurdy Gurdy Man” over the first fucked-up murder scene in Zodiac
  3. Easy…Duckie sings “Try a Little Tenderness”, Pretty In Pink

EDIT: Oh…alternate #1 would be the sublime opening in Manhattan with “Rhapsody In Blue”.

All obvious, but still great, and each use manages to express the heart of the film:

  1. Lebowski - Hotel California
  2. Mean Streets - Be My Baby
  3. Ferris Bueller - Twist & Shout

#3) “Dry the Rain” in High Fidelity, because I actually bought the Beta Band CD after watching that movie, as the characters intended, convincing me these record store clerk characters were indeed very good at their jobs.
#2) “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World, because it was my gateway into Queen in high school.
#1) “Wise Up” in Magnolia, because it was the first thing that popped into my head when the topic was presented on the podcast, even though I assumed it was written for that movie and was therefore disqualified. Turns out it was actually recorded for Jerry Maguire 3 years earlier and appears on that soundtrack.

EDIT: math

I’m not a huge fan of that movie, but damn I love that version of the song. It’s one of those songs I listen to when I’m down.


Dude, that’s a great pick, I did the same thing. I love the way John Cusack says, “Now I’m going to sell a dozen Beta Band albums” or something like that before he puts the album on, and by god I went straight to the record store after I saw the movie.

Coincidentally, John Cusack is doing an AMA on Reddit right now!

Little Bitty Pretty One - Christine

Another Brick in the wall - Faculty

Don’t you - Breakfast Club

Damn, that’s a great pick, Mr. Robot.

  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - The Godfather

  2. The Ride of the Valkyries - Apocalypse Now

  3. Bad Moon Rising - An American Werewolf in London

You beat me to it robot! Favourite picks from others: Where’s My Mind, all Aaron Vaughn’s and patheticrobot’s, Groundhog Day - I Got You Babe, and Goodfellas - Layla (It’s always disappointing to hear this track shortened now as a result).

Okay so I started typing up a 3x3 then it became a 3x3x3 then it… well, it got out of hand. So it’s back to a 3x3.

The Truman Show - Philip Glass: Anthem: Part 2
Moon - Chesney Hawkes: The One and Only
Vanilla Sky - Sigur-Ros: Untitled 4

…Sod it, here are a few others I was considering.

Pulp Fiction - Dick Dale: Misirlou (is this allowed?)
500 Days of Summer - Hall & Oates: You Make My Dreams
Summer of Sam - The Who: Baba O’Riley (don’t remember much of the film since I saw it a long time ago, but that scene stuck with me)
Napoleon Dynamite - Jamiroquai: Canned Heat
The Life Aquatic - The Zombies: The Way I Feel Inside (I love the closing moment where David Bowie’s Queen Bitch plays too)
Flight of the Navigator - The Beach Boys: I Get Around (aww, come on)

  1. A man turns on a radio. The laconic DJ drawls: “Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty were a duo known as Stealer’s Wheel when they recorded this Dylanesque, pop, bubble-gum favorite from April of 1974. That reached up to number five, as K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies continues.” The song, “Stuck In The Middle With You”, plays. Bad things happen. Reservoir Dogs.

  2. A Manic Pixie Dream Girl hands a pair of headphones to a friend. “You gotta hear this one song. It’ll change your life, I swear.” He listens to “New Slang” by the Shins. It changes his life. Garden State.

The song didn’t really change my life, except when I bugged my friends trying to figure out who was the original artist in that oldies song the Shins covered in that Garden State movie. They convinced me it wasn’t a cover. I bought the Shins album, and it was good. This song isn’t used quite as well in the movie as “Dry The Rain” from High Fidelity was, but it is a great song, and hasn’t been mentioned yet.

  1. A old man sits in his room, listening to a record play, enjoying a cigar. The airs of “O Danny Boy” echo throughout his house, when he realizes that thugs are about to kill him. A terrific aristeia erupts. The thugs are wiped out. The house and a car are ablaze. The old man is still an artist with a Thompson. Miller’s Crossing.

Jukebox honorable mentions: “Tequila!” from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, “Don’t Stop Me Now” from Shaun of the Dead, “Knights of Cydonia” in Muse’s Knights of Cydonia video.

Edit: another favorite bit: Wayne’s World 2 had the great Graduate gag where Wayne is driving to NoCal, listening to Simon and Garfunkel. When he hits a tunnel the radio disintegrates into static.

The Killing Moon by Echo & the Bunnymen in the opening scene of Donnie Darko. Just a great fit for the opening and the movie overall. (Sadly, they replaced this in the Director’s Cut with Never Tear Us Apart by INXS, which does not work nearly as well in that opening. At least The Killing Moon still appears later in the film.)

The fact that Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra is better known as “the 2001 song” says it all, I think. I even had to look it up because I always confuse it with that Nietzsche book.