Soundtracks really can make or break a film.

Moreover, there's often a specific song that's intrinsically linked with a particular scene to the point that it almost felt as if it were written for that scene. In some cases, the scene is written to that song whereas, in other cases, it's a choice in the editing room. We've picked the ten best musical moments in film that feature a song NOT specifically written for the film.

Any glaring omissions or suggestions? Let us know in the comments!


10. COLLATERAL - Audioslave 'Shadow On The Sun'

Michael Mann's always had a sharp ear for music. Whether it's using Tangerine Dream for some of his earlier films or the rousing soundtrack for Last of the Mohicans, he's always been able to blend the perfect piece of music with a key scene. Case in point is this brilliant moment in Collateral when Tom Cruise's icy assassin and Jamie Foxx's hostage / taxi driver spot a coyote in the middle of Los Angeles.


9. FULL METAL JACKET - Johnnie Wright 'Hello Vietnam'

You can watch Full Metal Jacket the whole way through and not actually realise it's a blistering satire on war. There's a few markers, of course. One of them is the Army officer who talks about how the Viet-Cong are actually Americans trying to get out and the other is this, the opening scene for the film. One by one, the various recruits are shaved with blank expressions whilst tepid, earnest country music plays. You're not really sure whether you should laugh or not and that's exactly the way Stanley Kubrick wanted it.


8. DIRTY DANCING - The Contours 'Do You Love Me'

The thumping sound of The Contours' one and only hit mixes perfectly with the raw sexuality on show when young Baby Houseman witnesses the staff dancing hard to their own music. The whole scene is set up perfectly as she tries to navigate through the rutting dancers - with a watermelon, of course. The loud, overblown music is meant to be jarring and anarchic, just like the impassioned and sexualised dancing on display.


7. DONNIE DARKO - Tears For Fears 'Head Over Heels'

Although most people associate Donnie Darko with another Tears For Fears song, this track works just as well at placing both the viewer in the story and the time as well. While the song doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the scene in question, it's an interesting way of showing us how each of the characters relate to one another without any dialogue needed.



6. APOCALYPSE NOW - Wagner 'Ride Of The Valkyries'

There's endless theories as to why Francis Ford Coppola used this particular piece of music for the stunning village attack scene in Apocalypse Now. It was said that Wagner was Adolf Hitler's favourite composer and wanted to draw parallels between Col. Kilgore's brutal tactics and the Nazi strategy of blitzkrieg. Whatever his reasons might have been, Ride of the Valkyries is now as much associated with Apocalypse Now as any other piece of classical music.


5. GOODFELLAS - Derek And The Dominoes 'Layla'

Using the piano exit from Layla was a particularly inspired choice by Martin Scorsese and, in a way, the two songs paralleled with one another. Eric Clapton wrote Layla as a song to Pattie Boyd, the wife of his close friend George Harrison with whom Clapton was infatuated with. As the song talks about betraying yourself for love, so to do we see Robert DeNiro's character, Jimmy Conway, betraying his friends so he can keep the one thing he loves - money.


4. MIDNIGHT COWBOY - Harry Nilsson 'Everybody's Talkin' At Me'

Harry Nilsson's bright, carefree folk song plays over Jon Voight's hapless and optimistic modern-day cowboy as he sets off for New York in search of his destiny. If you've seen the film, you know that it doesn't exactly end well for Voight. But, at the start, the bright and breezy nature of both the song and Voight's character are in perfect unison. How could a film this dark start off with such a happy tune? 


3. JACKIE BROWN - The Brothers Johnson 'Strawberry Letter 23'

Quentin Tarantino's made an art of his song choices for films. Whether's it's Stuck In The Middle With You for Reservoir Dogs, You Never Can Tell for Pulp Fiction or Across 110th Street for Jackie Brown, Tarantino uses disparate song choices that somehow instinctively work with whatever's on screen. Our favourite musical choice / scene from Tarantino is this. It's exactly the type of song that would have been used in a blaxploitation thriller in the '70s and, as well as this, the slickness of the song works so well with Samuel L. Jackson's "pony-tailed motherf***er."


2. AMERICAN PSYCHO - Huey Lewis And The News 'Hip To Be Square'

Bret Easton Ellis' source novel was filled with long paragraphs on popular music of the '80s, including Christian Bale's monologue on Huey Lewis And The News. As Bale / Bateman waxes idiotic about the importance of the song's message, he prepares to bludgeon Jared Leto to death with an axe. The visuals of a blood-spattered, screaming Bateman is in such direct contrast to the upbeat tempo of the song that it makes for pitch-black comedy.




1. HEAT - Moby 'God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters'

We make no secret of how much we love Heat. It's easily the best film Michael Mann's ever made and it was the best film Al Pacino's starred in since then. The finale, which sees Pacino hunting DeNiro through Los Angeles airport before they eventually meet under the lights of an aeroplane. The scream of the plane's turbines and the bright lights immediately contrast with the tender moment as the two join hands. Moby's instrumental track rises softly as Pacino looks out over the runway, gripping DeNiro's hands. A perfect end to a perfect film.