Cameron Crowe, the onetime pop critic whose film semiautobiography Almost Famous recalled his rock initiation while on the road with a Led Zeppelin-like band, compiled an affectionate list of his favorite musical moments in movies for Empire magazine. Two of his top 12 or so overlapped with my favorites: Marvin Gaye's snazzy, jazzy title song "Trouble Man," and Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire," used in GoodFellas as Ray Liotta tries to multitask and melts down instead.
Inspired by Crowe's list, I compiled my own, limiting myself to movies from the last 25 years. There are two Crowe films on it.
1) Almost Famous: A fractious band and their fractious groupies come together while singing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer."
2) Babe: Camille St. Saens' "Carnival of the Animals," both its orchestral and sung version, is a lovely tribute to the peaceable kingdom of humans, farm animals and pets.
3) Crimes and Misdeameanors: Woody Allen's seriocomedy ends with "I'll Be Seeing You," as an ophthalmologist with cloudy moral vision confesses to a dicumentarian with keen insight.
4) Garden State: Zero 7's "In the Waiting Line" is on the soundtrack during a sequence at an an orgiastic party where everyone is buzzed and manic (and in fast-motion), while Zach Braff is buzzed and detached, unable to synchronize his mood to others.
5) GoodFellas (see above).
6) High Fidelity: The film ends as John Cusack lays down the first track on the mix tape for his beloved: Stevie Wonder's "I Believe When I Fal lin Love it Will Be Forever."
7) Love, Actually: The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" ties up this omnibus story of types of love, and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" is used in a devastating sequence as Emma Thompson contemplates her marriage.
8) Malcolm X: Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" signals Malcolm's transfiguration as he's on his way to the Audubon Ballroom.
9) The New World: Richard Wagner's " Das Rheingold "underscores sequences in which explorer John Smith (Colin Farrell) encounters the Native American Rhinemaiden, Pocahontas (Q'orianka Kilcher)
10) Say Anything: . John Cusack hoists his boom box to play Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" for Ione Skye, because the song says what he cannot.
I also love the use of Scott Joplin's piano rags to set the tone, sometimes jaunty, sometimes elegiac, in The Sting; Foreigner's "Urgent" (with Junior Walker's killer sax riff) in Desperately Seeking Susan, as Madonna skulks out of an Atlantic City hotel room and Jack Black's hilarious one-man reconstitution of famous movie soundtracks in the DVD-store scene in The Holiday.