Songs in Films Playlist

Hey Digital Fam! This is Ryan Howard with another Playlist Challenge for you guys! For those of you who didn’t check out our first edition last month, the Playlist Challenge is an interactive exercise where I provide all of you with a playlist topic, create a twenty song playlist of my own on that topic, and challenge you to do the same. The rules for this challenge are simple: each playlist must be 20 songs long; only one song per artist is allowed; and you must provide an explanation for each entry.


This month’s topic is similar to last month’s topic in that it is something that is very often associated with summer- Movies! As you know from the podcast, both Brent and I are film buffs and this month I’m going to celebrate the use of rock tracks in movies as well as the long-lost artifact of the 80’s and 90’s known as the soundtrack hit. For this topic, I’m places one additional rule on the playlist- one song per movie. That’s right, if you want to talk about Rocky IV, you’re gonna have to pick between Burning Heart, Living in America, and Hearts on Fire. You can only have one John Cafferty song anyways. Same with Kenny Loggins. Choose wisely.

The Playlist:

1. Survivor- Eye of the Tiger (From Rocky III and IV)

Let’s get the obvious one out of our way here. I’ve always felt that Survivor was an underrated ensemble that unfortunately ended up pigeon holed by their most successful single. Survivor, like many of the bands that will feature on this list, got the label of soundtrack band slapped on them following the success of this song, leading to them to produce “The Moment of Truth” for the Karate Kid and “Burning Heart” for the 4th Rocky film. While they had decent success with their 1984 album Vital Signs, to the populous at large Survivor is the “Eye of the Tiger” band and…there’s a damn good reason why. This song kicks thirty-one flavors of ass. It is impossible to hear this song and keep a normal heartbeat. Additionally, this song perfectly fits within the context of its film as it parallels the story Rocky goes through in his third installment. The band created this track at the request of Sly Stallone himself and we’re all grateful for it!


2. John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band- On the Dark Side (Eddie and the Cruisers

Eddie and the Cruisers is an interesting experience as a film. It’s often forgotten in the wake of Oliver Stone’s “The Doors,” but in my opinion it is the superior rock drama. The film is set in the early 80’s as a reporter tries to reopen the investigation into the disappearance of rockstar Eddie Wilson who fronted Eddie and the Cruisers, an early 60’s rock ensemble that somehow discovered the New Jersey rock sound ten years before Springsteen. Eddie is portrayed as a musical genius decades ahead of his time, which gives the film its 80’s soundtrack despite being half set in the 1960’s. That soundtrack is provided by yet another soundtrack band, John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band who are probably the only successful rock band to come out of Rhode Island. Cafferty was selected based on the producers’ desire to preserve the Jersey bar band aspect of The Cruisers while adding in elements of Jim Morrison ( unhinged baritone vocals) and some of the early 60’s rock sensibilities as well. Cafferty more than delivered, giving us a fantastic soundtrack with the primary single, “On the Dark Side” serving as a great soundtrack song as well as a classic 80’s track.


3. The Wonders- That Thing You Do! (That Thing You Do!)

Speaking of underrated rock dramas about a fictional band from the early 1960’s, it’s time to talk about one of my favorite movies of all time, That Thing You Do! Directed by and starring Tom Hanks, the film chronicles the overnight success of a Pennsylvania rock band who scores a hit song in the summer of 1963. The movie is great and endlessly quotable as it weaves rock band tropes and humor with interpersonal drama and the idea of having to cope with newfound fame. The soundtrack for this movie is killer as well, boasting 60’s-inspired rock and jazz tunes composed by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, composer Howard Shore, and Hanks himself. The stand-out track is the title track, an upbeat 60’s rocker about the troubles of watching your ex go out with other people. This song, along with many others on the soundtrack, is officially credited to “The Wonders” who serve as the subject of the film. It’s a great slice of the early 60’s served up by the mid 90’s and I love it.


4. The Pretenders- Where Has Everybody Gone? (The Living Daylights)

Over 56 years, 24 main movies, and two films outside of the generally accepted canon, the James Bond franchise has provided many killer songs. Typically, the main theme of each Bond film is the standout track (putting aside the James Bond theme itself), but one notable exception to this rule is in Timothy Dalton’s first outing as Bond, 1987’s The Living Daylights. While Swedish new wave act a-ha provides a decent theme for the film with help from legendary Bond composer John Barry, Barry’s best work from this soundtrack would actually be with Chrissie Hynde’s outfit The Pretenders. In the film, this track serves as the main henchman’s personal theme and the soundtrack to his dirty deeds. It’s an excellent combination of The Pretender’s post-punk sensibilities with the orchestral sound of a John Barry Bond composition. For many Bond fans, this song is the de facto theme of Daylights and while I’m a fan of a-ha, this is the superior song.


5. Lynyrd Skynyrd- Free Bird (Kingsman: The Secret Service).

“Free Bird” is an absolutely cliched rock song that has been used in way too many movies. So what is it doing on this list? Well, it makes the list because of one single use in one single film. That film is 2014’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” in which Free Bird’s nearly 4 minute section of guitar solos scores one of the most well-composed, well-shot, and brutal fight scenes in cinematic history. “Free Birds” free-spirited hippy sensibilities provide a fun contrast to the hyper violence committed by a secret government agent to a group of southern religious fanatics. The scene is attached above for your enjoyment, but if you’re sensitive to gore and hyper violence, don’t watch it.


6. Bob Dylan- The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Watchmen)

Here’s another track that’s getting included purely based on its context within a specific film. In this case Dylan’s 60’s anthem is the soundtrack to the best opening credit sequence in cinema history, 2008’s period super hero drama Watchmen. In this five minute sequence, the audience is shown how the idea and the world of the costume vigilante has changed from the 1930’s up to the film’s setting of an alternate reality 1985. The brilliance of Watchmen as a comic and a film is its commentary on the Cold War and its dangerous reliance on figureheads of power like Kennedy, Thatcher, Regan, Stalin, and Castro. Dylan’s somber ballad that heralds a coming upheaval of the status quo fits this sequence like a glove.


7. Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott- Hero (Spider-Man)

Now hold on a damn second, Ryan! How can any song featuring Kroeger the Ogre on vocals make any kind of quality playlist? If you’ve just asked this question in your head, then you need to listen to this track. Chad Kroeger is by no means a fantastic singer, but his voice is not nearly as grating on this track as it is on many Nickelback songs. It helps that Josey Scott of Saliva takes on some of the vocal duties too. This song comes courtesy of the 2002 Spider-Man soundtrack and if you know me at all then you know how much affection I have for the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. That affection extends to this song, which immediately evokes Spider-Man in my mind. I rock out every time I hear this song as I imagine swinging over New York City.


8. Eminem- Lose Yourself (8 Mile)

People love Eminem’s autobiographical film 8 Mile. That is undeniable. I’ve never actually seen the movie and I don’t consider myself much of a rap fan. However, I am an Eminem fan and knowing that this song is essentially Eminem rapping his life story makes this song very inspirational to me. Additionally, this song holds a special place in my heart as it was always played in the weight room in high school when I would work out with the football team. Much like “Eye of the Tiger,” “Lose Yourself” is a very intense and inspirational song that transcends the confines of the movie it was written for. Quite simply, I think this is Eminem’s best work.


9. Aerosmith- I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing (Armageddon)

My fiance hates this song with a burning passion. During her college days, she was forced to listen to this song on a five hour loop while her roommate got it on with a guy in the next room. That sounds awful and if I’d been subject to similar circumstances, I’d hate this song too. However, this passionate love song from Aerosmith became a massive hit off the back of 1998’s Armageddon despite having nothing to do with asteroids. The 90’s was a great time to slap a grandiose love song onto a seemingly unrelated movie as we saw with “My Heart Will Go On”, “I Will Always Love You”, and “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You.” This song is just as grandiose and just as much of a non-sequitur with the film, but unlike the other songs it has the power and might of Steven Tyler behind it so it gets a pass.


10. Will Smith- Wild Wild West

This movie is ass. It’s really, really terrible. This song is awesome though. During the height of his 90’s popularity, Will Smith would often rap the plot to his movies in gigantic soundtrack singles. “Men in Black” almost got this spot, but I personally feel like “Wild Wild West” is the better song. It features an amazing Stevie Wonder sample as well as a sample of Kool Mo Dee’s “Wild Wild West.” Brent probably hates this song, but I think it’s awesome and this is my list.


11. Smash Mouth- All-Star (Mystery Men)

Can you tell that I’m a child of the 1990’s? 1999 was the year of Smash Mouth and that was all due to this song right here. It’s been featured in a million different movies, most of which came out between 1999 and 2005. What movie used it first though? Shrek? Digimon? Actually, it was the Ben Stiller super hero comedy Mystery Men which is yet another tragically underrated film. The music video actually ties into the movie although the song was not specifically written for the movie. This song is a late 90’s classic though and the footage from the movie will have you wondering why exactly every Warner Bros action comedy film from 1997 to 2003 had basically the same visual style.


12. Blue Swede- Hooked on a Feeling (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Fun fact, I’d never heard this song until the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer dropped in February of 2014. I must say though, this song somehow perfectly captured the tone of the film. It was used as background music in one scene in the movie and ended up on the soundtrack for the film, but the entire marketing campaign for the film seemed to revolve around this forgotten hit from an obscure Swedish glam rock band that claims to have another hit, but I’m not buying it. For me and an entire generation, this song will forever be associated with a talking tree and a machine gun-toting raccoon.


13. Duran Duran- A View To A Kill (A View To A Kill)

I feel like I’m cheating slightly by going back to the Bond well again, but I feel like I should include at least one of the actual theme songs to one of the films for the sake of completion. My selection comes from 1985’s A View To A Kill which was the last outing for the late Sir Roger Moore as 007. I’m an unabashed fan of Duran Duran as you all know, so this inclusion should be a no-brainer. However, there is a very famous Bond theme by a former Beatle that everyone seems to think is the greatest but, if I’m honest, I’m sick of “Live and Let Die.” It’s the only Bond theme that gets heavy air play and it isn’t the only one that deserves that distinction. Thankfully, I do hear this song on the radio every now and then, but it isn’t a common occurrence.


14. John Parr- Restless Heart (The Running Man)

Here we have yet another soundtrack artist of the 1980’s. There were a lot of these guys. None of them seemed to fit neatly into any of the mainstream 80’s rock genres, so they kinda ran off and formed their own subgenre. John Parr is most famous for the theme to St. Elmo’s Fire. That song is fantastic but let’s be real, the movie is hot garbage. That hasn’t stopped me from putting songs on this list (Wild Wild West), but fortunately Parr had another big soundtrack hit from an Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, “The Running Man.” This song is a kick-ass 80’s rock track that I frequently find myself listening to while on a treadmill.


15. Stan Bush- The Touch (Transformers: The Movie)

Transformers! Robots in Disguise! Need I say more? Actually yes, I need. Stan Bush also falls into the soundtrack rock subgenre and his big soundtrack single came from Transformers: The Movie which taught a whole generation of boys that even the mightiest of heroes would eventually succumb to mortality. It also gave them “The Touch” though, so it’s kinda an even trade. This song is bad ass though. Most animated films don’t get such great tunes unless they’ve got the Disney sticker slapped on them.


16. Kenny Loggins- I’m Alright (Caddyshack)

It’s the king of soundtrack rock himself, Kenny Loggins! Any number of Kenny Loggins songs could have made this list and most of you are probably wondering why “Danger Zone” wasn’t my pick for Loggins. Well, “Danger Zone” is evocative of a very fun and slightly homoerotic Tom Cruise movie, but to be perfectly honest, “I’m Alright” is the better song. This song has some serious groove to it. I can’t help but dance like a gopher every time I hear it. This is a really fun song about doing whatever you want and assuring everyone around you that you know what you’re doing. It’s also attached to one of the greatest comedies of all time, so it’s got that going for it. Which is nice.


17. Ray Parker Jr.- Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters)

This is one of the most iconic theme songs of all time. All anyone needs to hear is the opening synth riff and they know that Dr. Venkman, Dr. Stantz, Dr. Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore are here to get rid of whatever is strange in your neighborhood! I wanted to avoid some of the more obvious choices for this list, but I couldn’t not include Ray Parker Jr’s classic theme. Why? ‘Cause bustin’ makes me feel good!


18. ZZ Top- Doubleback (Back to the Future Part III)

Back to the Future Part III is not as well-regarded or well-remembered as the other two movies. This is quite honestly a fair assessment. Part III is the weakest film by a long shot. So why am I giving the nod to ZZ Top’s “Doubleback” over the much more popular “Power of Love” or “Back in Time?” Well, quite frankly I like this song better than those two. I love me some Huey Lewis, but ZZ Top was performing at their commercial peak when this song came out and they just kill it on this track. I love all three big songs from this franchise, but I love this one the most.


19. Bob Seger- Shakedown (Beverly Hills Cop II)

At some point we may have to talk about Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band on the podcast. They’ve always been a favorite of mine and they perfectly encapsulate the essence of a blue collar band. This track from the highly-entertaining Beverly Hills Cop II also earned Bob Seger his only number 1 hit on the Hot 100 here in the US. It’s a hell of a song too with a fantastic hook. The perfect song for nabbing a perp on the run.


20. Queen- Princes of the Universe (Highlander)

Everything about this song screams bad-ass. The a capella intro, the Brian May shredding, Freddie Mercury giving one of the last great performances of his life before his untimely death, and the fact that it’s all hitched to one of the coolest movies of all time with some of the absolute worst sequels all make this song a triumph of soundtrack songs. Queen are titans of rock so it’s only right that they make a truly titanic song about immortals battling for the ultimate prize.