Top 10 Songs Performed in Movies (That Aren’t From Musicals)

Movies entertain us as both visually and audibly, and it’s easy for audience members to under-appreciate the role that music can play in making up the complete experience of a movie. This is, in part, because a successful soundtrack and score doesn’t stand out but blends so perfectly with the visuals and narrative that it carries our mood and dictates how we respond. Other times the music takes the centre stage and holds our focus for a few short, perfect minutes.

For this list we set out to challenge each ourselves, so we set out three sets of criteria. Firstly, the song has to be original (that was the easy part). Next, the song had to be performed by characters in the movie. Finally, musicals were exempt because that’s a different list. After much head scratching we produced the following toe tapping numbers.

10. Forsaken

From ‘Queen of the Damned’

The sequel to epic vampire drama Interview With the Vampire was not well received. Recasting the iconic Lestat with Stuart Townsend was not a good start (granted neither was Tom Cruise, but at least he has screen presence). Cramming together two books instead of adapting one was another mistake, leaving a confused narrative further worsened by key character introductions being left in the deleted scenes section of the DVD. When Aaliyah tragically passed away during filming it became a patchwork final product. In spite of all that the soundtrack was pretty solid, capturing the zeitgeist of the era and giving Lestat’s rock band some convincing material courtesy of Korn. Best of the bunch: ‘Forsaken’.

9. The Flame Still Burns

From ‘Still Crazy’

This movie managed to slip by many people, which is a shame because it’s a fun and heartfelt comedy. This number features the members of old school hair metal band Strange Fruit (existing in their heyday as a blend of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath) returning in their later years for a reunion tour. If the draw of Billy Connolly was the wacky roadie to Stephen Rea, Jimmy Nail and Timothy Spall playing rockers wasn’t enough, then Bill Nighy playing the ego-driven front man should be. Check it out if you haven’t already, in the meantime enjoy one of their hits.

8. Scotty Doesn’t Know

From ‘Eurotrip’

Sure, it’s nothing particularly interesting music wise. It’s simple, in fact. But if there is a funnier way a guy has found out his girlfriend has been cheating on him then I don’t want to know about it. Easily the funniest part of the crass Eurotrip and…wait, is that Matt Damon?

7. Fever Dog

From ‘Almost Famous’

Ok, they aren’t Led Zeppelin but Stillwater does a pretty solid job of filling in for the legendary rockers in this ode to the golden age of music. Featuring Billy Crudup and Jason Lee, they are everything we’d want a classic rock band to be if we hit the road with them. When they take to the stage they needed to sound the business – with their smash out hit ‘Fever Dog’ they do just that.

6. Falling Slowly

From ‘Once’

If I ever write a list of the top ten most over-rated movies of the previous decade then Once would be near the top of the list. Not a terrible movie, but astoundingly plain with forced quirkiness. Poverty stricken characters who often find themselves hanging around Dublin tourist landmarks amid forced sentimentality. Even if the movie proved a yawnfest, no-one in their right mind could turn their nose up at this tune.

5. Belleville Rendez-vous

From ‘The Triplets of Bellville’

If you haven’t seen this slice of French animation you should find a copy right now. It’s one of the most usual, most surreal and most brilliant animated films you will ever see. It’s one of a kind, and especially outstanding is the toe-tapping soundtrack. If you haven’t seen the film then the clip below will be a gentle introduction to the madness. To those familiar with it it will be a joyful revisit to Belleville!

4. She’s Just a Picture

From ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’

It’s difficult to say for certain whether or not the character performing this number makes it creepy, him being a cult leader under whose hands the titular Marcy May endures emotional and sexual abuse and all that. Perhaps the fact that it comes from such a dangerous and menacing, albeit charismatic, figure adds to the power of the song, and goes a long way to explain how Martha Marcy May becomes so enamored with him and captures what mindset she had to lead her to this point in her life.

3. Tonight I’m Going to Rock You Tonight

From ‘This is Spinal Tap’

One measure that could be given to mockumentaries is how convincing it is. This is Spinal Tap managed to pull the wool of the eyes of some viewers in part due to the strength of the musical tracks created for the film. Spinal Tap as a band were so convincing that they continued their career outside of the fictional film and have been releasing albums and performing live almost thirty years later, even appearing in a very early episode of The Simpsons. The songs aren’t just a parody of the heavy metal industry but a celebration of it.

2. Black Sheep

From ‘Scott Pilgrim vs The World’

Here’s a film that gives us quite a few options for this list. Our first instinct was to use something from Scott Pilgrim’s band ‘Sex Bob-omb’, but then we started weighing up options from The Katayanagi Twins and ‘Crash and the Boys’. When it came down to it we couldn’t look past this number by ‘The Clash at Demonhead’. Written by the awesomely talented Canadian trio ‘Metric’ already makes it a great track, and actress Brie Larson performed the vocals herself for the film.

1. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

From ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’

First and foremost, thanks to Randy for reminding me that this should be on the list at the 11th hour. Forgetting to include it is one of the most grievous omissions this site could’ve ever made, especially since it belongs at the top of the list. In one of the best scenes in comedy history we see that Brian Cohen has had a rough time. He was mistaken for the Messiah, imprisoned by the Romans and ultimately crucified. He’s been abandoned by his mother, friends, lover and followers who have mistaken his execution for a noble sacrifice. With no hope left and facing death the prisoner to his right offers him one last piece of advice…