Everyone has one: those big moments when the music kicks in and a classic movie shunts into a whole new gear. The Ronettes in Mean Streets. Tears For Fears in Donnie Darko. Everybody's Talking in Midnight Cowboy. There are thousands of greats to pick from, but for Movie Music month, Team Empire were asked to pick just one. Failure to comply meant listening to the Ghostbusters Rap on repeat for eternity. Here are our picks.
Chosen by: Kim Newman, Empire Legend
"Lauren Bacall singing How Little We Know and Hoagy Carmichael playing piano in Howard Hawks’ To Have And Have Not, with Humphrey Bogart in the audience. Along with the classic Hollywood studio system and David Lynch, I think every film should find room for a song – here, the electric connection between Bacall and Bogey (and their characters) is the subtext, but it’s mostly that the bar they’re in is so enormously appealing and the crowd they’re with seems to be having such a wonderful time that it’s hard not to wish yourself into the film in some Sherlock Jr. way…"
Chosen by: Phil de Semlyen, Staff Writer
"Maybe it’s the Edith Piaf/KRS-One/Suprême NTM mash-up, that Cypress Hill tee or the fact that the whole movie basically stops while the DJ has a warm-up – hurry up dude, we’ve got a riot to get to – but I love YouTubing this scene in Mathieu Kassovitz’s urban classic. Somehow that bass thump, the needle scratching of real-life DJ Cut Killer and a virtuoso, swooping camera move giving us a bird’s-eye flight above the concrete slabs of the west Paris projects, provide an exhilarating punctuation mark before Vinz and co. get back to doing what the track (literally ‘Fuck the police’) suggests."
Chosen by: Owen Williams, Empire Freelancer
"I don’t think this scene in Spielberg’s A.I. could have better accompaniment, and it’s only improved by the extraordinary fact that Paul Barker and Al Jourgensen’s industrial drug lords showed up to perform in the film. Let’s just stop to consider that: Ministry showed up in a Spielberg film! The set-up is Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment’s visit to a horrifying robot demolition derby, which makes Ministry especially apt, since Al’s vocals have always sounded like a Dalek being forced through a grinder. The film’s clash of the Spielbergian and the Kubrickian is awkward, but for five minutes in the middle there, it’s just purely, gloriously Ministrian. John Williams refused to have this anywhere near his soundtrack album."
Chosen by: Amar Vijay, Creative Director (Digital)
"Because it fuses music, camerawork, editing and performance together with such sophistication, it’s really hard to put this Michael Mann moment into words. But if I had to – and apparently I do – ‘stunning’ and ‘atmospheric’ would feature pretty strongly. It comes as Collateral reaches its turning point. Hunter (Tom Cruise) and prey (Jamie Foxx) begin slowly switching roles, but for this moment at least, they’re both aliens in Mann’s eerily alien cityscape. This track comes from the self-titled debut album by Chris Cornell’s post-grungers Audioslave – for my money their best record – and, loud as they usually are, they never overwhelm the stillness of the scene. That’d scare the cayotes off."
Chosen by: Debi Berry, Photographic Director
"It’s a match made in heaven: Jamie Bell’s raw and heartfelt outpouring of pain, hurt and frustration as he kicks in the door of his outdoor toilet and takes to the back alleys of Everington to dance his little heart out as Paul Weller sings of small-town dissatisfaction. The Jam’s classic track is played from beginning to end, only fading at the last moment as Billy pirouettes up the street and collapses in an exhausted heap against the corrugated metal wall blocking his path. Pure movie magic."
Chosen by: Dan Jolin, Features Editor
"While there are so many ‘classical’ soundtrack moments that I could have enthused about here, nothing has quite got my serotonin pumping as the moment towards the end of Trainspotting where Danny Boyle drops Underworld’s Born Slippy.NUXX. Sure, the track, actually a B-side which doesn’t appear on any of their albums, was played until comatose after the film’s release, but up until then it was firmly ‘mine’ (I still have the original single, released in January ‘95). It wasn’t just about the positivity of the scene — Renton choosing life — it was something bigger: a music scene I’d been part of for years, which had been vilified and even legislated against, had been legitimised in the best way possible. And I genuinely feel the echoes of that triumph reached their hugely resonant climax 16 years later in Underworld and Boyle’s magnificent Olympic Opening Ceremony. The 'repetitive beats' won."
Chosen by: Nev Pierce, Editor-At-Large
"The suspicion grows with years of experience that anyone who thinks the musical interlude in Butch And Sundance is to be scorned is to be avoided. They probably don’t like people. When Butch steals a few moments with Etta, balancing her on the handlebars of his bicycle while the fast-shooting Sundance sleeps, it’s pure joy. This is their innocent fantasy, untroubled by the wear and tear of an actual relationship. The bike also sums up their world, as the Old West gives way to the 20th century and the outlaw becomes obsolete. The theme’s reflected, too, in the zoetrope effect as they cycle past a fence: genius visual wit, flawlessly executed. The film won Oscars for best script, score and song (one of Bacharach and David’s greatest), plus for Conrad Hall’s glorious cinematography. This scene alone shows why each gong was justified. I watch it if I ever really need to smile – or to cry."
Chosen by: Adam Gerrard, Deputy Art Director
"As an avid Bond fan, Quantum Of Solace’s opera scene is one of my favourite musical moments – a genuinely virtuoso sequence in a film that promised so much and delivered so little. The music fits perfectly over the top of the chase sequence, intercut with the Tosca opera scenes, muting the sound to a subtle level that only adds an eerie sense of calm to the frantic chase scene that follows. You always feel as though Bond is in control, despite the odds ranged against him and the rare need to beat a tactical retreat. The opera added a touch of class to the new harder-edged Bond, ending in a crescendo of Craig dropping a bodyguard off the roof of the building (itself a homage to The Spy Who Loved Me). And Tosca herself? Well, she ended up battling murderers and torturers, too."
Chosen by: Chris Hewitt, News Editor
"I reckon this might just be the funniest music moment in movie history, although Nick Rivers’ rendition of Tutti Frutti in Top Secret! runs it close. As Andy Samberg's stunt biker and champion bellend Rod Kimble sets off towards his date with destiny, director Akiva Schaffer stages his march to glory to the ultimate air-punching ‘80s power ballad: John Farnham’s You’re The Voice (sample lyric: “We’re not gonna sit in silence/We’re not gonna live with fear/WHOOOOOOAAA-A-WHOA-A-WHOA-A-WHOA”). And, as with much in Hot Rod, it accompanies a pitch-perfect parody of ‘80s movie montages… and then it all goes to hell, as Rod’s victory march turns into a riot. When the revolution comes – and it will come – this will be the song that plays in all our hearts. As a great man once said, cool beans."
Chosen by: Ian Freer, Assistant Editor
"It may not be Scorsese’s most dramatic use of source music, but Tom Cruise playing pool to Warren Zevon’s Werewolves Of London might be his most joyous. The drive and wit of the song (“There’s a hairy-handed gent/who ran amok in Kent”) and the swagger of Cruise who is just having a ball potting balls, doing martial arts with his cue and miming to the song (“His hair was perfect”) is all perfectly synched with Michael Ballhaus’ giddy circular camera move. I used to “tape” Film 86 back then and I wore the cassette out marveling at Marty’s bravura and learning the words of the song. Unfortunately I have yet to see a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s. Am still hoping."
Chosen by: Ali Plumb, Staff Writer
"With a soundtrack as strong as The Big Lebowski’s, I want to pick every song. There’s Elvis Costello’s Mood Swings (as heard in the doctor’s surgery), Townes Van Zandt’s take on The Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers (played over the credits), Bob Dylan’s The Man In Me (the Superman/Maude-on-a-flying-carpet sequence)… it’s all fuckin’ A, man. But standing tallest is Kenny Roger and the Coen brothers’ utterly bonkers Busby Berkeley dream. Dubbed ‘Gutterballs’, it’s half David Lynch, half bowling porno. It boasts cable guy outfits, Viking damsels, light-up stairs, top-notch finger-click dancing, Saddam Hussein as an alley monkey (note the pin-based beret insignia) and one of the catchiest one-hit-wonders ever recorded. The result is a movie centrepiece that – wait for it – really ties the film together. "
Chosen by: Nick de Semlyen, Reviews Editor
"An utterly daft, throwaway song that could easily have been excised from Singin’ In The Rain, this is also my favourite moment (Donald O’Connor’s back-flips excepted). At this point in the narrative, with Hollywood making the switch from silence to sound, our movie-star heroes (Gene Kelly and O'Connor) are sent to a stuffy diction coach to be taught elocution. What begins as mild cheekiness, with O'Connor making deranged faces behind their instructor's back, steadily builds into full-blown anarchy, as the gibberish sentence they're practicing ("Moses supposes his toeses are roses…") blooms into an infectiously catchy musical number. A joy from start to finish, with world-class wordplay, the best tap-dancing you'll ever see, and killer curtain comedy. I always wonder whether the poor teacher filed a lawsuit later."
Chosen by: Helen O’Hara, Deputy Online Editor
"Arguably the best montage in movie history and almost certainly the most heartbreaking, this four-minute-odd sequence provides the emotional whammy that drives a whole movie. It’s worth taking a step back and examining just how ballsy it is: in a world where animation is seen as a medium primarily for kids (wrongly, but whatever), this sequence tells a wordless tale of lifelong love, loss and grief carried entirely by Giacchino’s score. The abrupt switch in tempo and tone from delicate delight to sombre maturity, matched by the animators’ colour switch, at about 1.30 here remains enough to draw a tear – and if you’re not welling up by the finale, seek professional help and ask the doctors to fit you with a prosthetic soul. Flawless filmmaking."
Chosen by: Liz Beardsworth, Production Editor
"In Richard Linklater’s near-perfect sequel to 1994’s Before Sunrise, reunited lovers Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) wind up in her apartment after an 80-minute walk round Paris that has been both highly wrought and somehow blissfully, perfectly comfortable. Having made tea, Celine takes this chance to sing Jesse one of her songs (penned by Delpy herself). It’s a scene that could have been excruciatingly embarrassing, yet such is the chemistry between the two that this simple yet poignant recollection of that night is unbearably, increasingly tense – in a good way. Just look at Jesse’s rapt gaze as she serenades him. You feel like you shouldn’t be there."
Chosen by: Mark Dinning, Editor
"Eric Clapton's lyrical, then-unrequited mope for Pattie Boyd becomes Scorsese's rhythmic cornerstone in his flawless gangster masterpiece. Scorsese, who would famously play the piano coda himself as each take played out on set, was drawn to the Derek & The Dominos (Clapton's woozy blues outfit) track by its haunting melancholy, but it’s got a narratively perfect tidal quality to it too; a fluid, pounding undercurrent so powerful it conjures images of Kubrick's iconic lift doors - rivers of blood gushing, a sense of life and death coming full circle. A past that cannot be escaped. At least, that's what I reckoned when I watched it on loop, every single night, as a student. But then I was off my tits."
Chosen by: James Dyer, Editor-In-Chief (Digital)
"Ask me this on any day of the week and it'll be a different answer. Monday: Tiny Dancer singalong from Almost Famous, Tuesday: Mad World montage from Donnie Darko, Wednesday: Yello's Oh Yeah from Ferris Bueller, Thursday: Yub Nub from the end of Jedi (original cut), Friday:… You get the picture. Today, though, it’s The Pixies’ Where Is My Mind from the final scene of Fight Club. It's a stunning sequence: Norton with half his face hanging off, clutching Bonham Carter as the song’s intro begins. He looks her in the eye and tells her that everything's going to be fine – and for the first time in his life, you feel, he actually believes it. The buildings around them detonate as the song’s riff takes off and we watch a symphony of collapsing highrises as Frank Black's haunting vocals pick up. “You met me at a very strange time in my life.” It’s a faultless cinematic moment. Plus there's the subliminal frame of a penis."
Chosen by: Ally Wybrew, Editorial Assistant
"When Khan growls those guttural words, “There she is… there she is!”, jabbing an eager finger at the screen of the U.S.S. Reliant, James Horner's symphonic score thrust Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan into a whole new nebula for me. The musical accompaniment to the film’s climatic battle scene, its urgent trumpets and harsh, hurried strings, fused together all the tension and anticipation that had paralysed me for, what, the past 80 minutes. The galactic cat-and-mouse chase is so moulded by Horner's energising accompaniment that it made the Kirk vs Khan face-off one of the most exhilarating and memorable action sequences I've seen on screen. Absolutely spine-tingling."
Chosen by: Chris Lupton, Art Director
"As a huge fan, under no circumstances was I missing the premiere of Guy Ritchie’s sophomore effort for a glimpse of our glorious leader (Madge) at the height of the Mr & Mrs Madonna era. Could she outstrip her famous ‘Mrs Ritchie’ suit from the LA prem? As it turned out, the big Madonna highlight came in the movie itself. Poor Ewen Bremner’s head forms the filling in a Vinnie Jones car-window sandwich while Lucky Star comes on the radio. Vincent immediate stops what he’s doing, turns to Tony Farina and grins, “I love this track!”. See? Glorious. Big props to Guy Ritchie for finding a way to keep the missus happy and the royalties in the family."
Chosen by: Ian Nathan, Executive Editor
"Favourite musical moment is too damn general a concept to ever pin-down to one, so I’ve opted for the most unforgettable musical moment (which might, secretly, be my favourite anyway; but I fear that says very strange things about my mental health). Amid David Lynch’s already perversely lyrical horror story, it is a moment of both quasi-serenity and utter dread, and serves, I think, as an emblem for not only the surreal waltz of Blue Velvet’s but also Lynch’s sensibility as a whole. After all, it is a version of Roy Orbison’s In Dreams. Wait, it is Roy Orbison’s In Dreams. Dean Stockwell — described, magnificently, as a “pan-sexual pimp” — merely lip syncs, using some kind of work-light as a faux microphone. Yet, his agonised facial expressions and moody glide through the room, lit like a phantom by his ‘mic’, become indivisible from Orbison’s lonely falsetto. The marriage of song and visual trance kills me. Here is the Lynchian dream-vortex rendered into vampiric karaoke, ready to haunt you forever."