5 Times Background Music Made Good Scenes Great Ones

Music can sometimes actually make a movie. Consider the shower scene in the classic film “Psycho.” Imagine “Jaws” or “Halloween” without the music. Music often turns good scenes into great ones. Here are five of the best examples.

5. “Reservoir Dogs”
This 1992 Quentin Tarantino film makes great use of the song “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel. The scene in question is perhaps best recognized by the line: “You ever listen to K Billy’s super sounds of the 70s?” Mr. Blonde, played by Michael Madsen, must stay with a captured policeman while the rest of his group is otherwise occupied.

Blonde is unhappy just “babysitting.” Thus he tunes in to his favorite 1970s radio program and begins to torture the police officer. He slices the cop’s face, cuts off his ear with an old school straight razor then douses him with gas.
Madsen’s character is unabashedly full of glee. He’s a real psychopath. His disturbing one-liners, “How about a little fire scarecrow?” and the music makes the scene of the coolest albeit sickest in movie history.

4. “Silence of the Lambs”
This Academy Award-winning Jonathan Demme film from 1991 features the song “Goodbye Horses” by Q. Lazzarus. Although the stars are Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, the scene of note features the creepy Buffalo Bill portrayed by Ted Levine. Bill kidnaps fat women and imprisons them in a pit until he is ready to shoot and skin them.

Bill does this because he needs to change, just like a butterfly or moth. In his case, Bill wants to be a woman. In the scene set to the song, Bill adorns his incomplete skin outfit.

He speaks to his own reflection: “You’d fuck me? I’d fuck me.” Note the nipple ring tug and his introduction of the word “mangina.” It’s the film’s freakiest moment which says a lot considering Hannibal Lector is one of the main characters.

It’s hard to think of these scenes with any other songs. Still, it would have been cheaper to produce with background music found on websites that offer royalty free music for videos.

3. “Casablanca”
Michael Curtiz’ 1942 classic includes the Dooley Wilson number “As Time Goes By.” The motion picture’s second scene concerns the reunion of two former lovers. The woman named Ilsa broke Rick’s heart in Paris, France years prior to this chance meeting.

Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, is now the haded, self-interested owner of a popular nightclub in Casablanca. It serves as a way station between the freedom of the USA and Nazi-occupied Europe.

When Ilsa, portrayed by Ingrid Bergman, and her husband resistance fighter Victor Lazlo arrive there, Ilsa meets Rick’s pal and pianist and utters the world-famous and often misquoted line: “Play it Sam.” No one can perform “As Time Goes By” the way Sam does. Rick is soon wrestling with his conscience and a reunion of the two lovers is afoot.

This film is studied in schools across the globe. Scenes such as this are part of the reason why. The long gaze between Ilsa and Rick says more than most modern films say in two hours.

2. “Say Anything”
This 1989 Cameron Crowe movie includes Peter Gabriel’s song “In Your Eyes.” This is an “opposites attract” story between Lloyd Dobler, played by John Cusack, and Dian Court played by Ione Skye. Court is a straight A-student who hopes to study abroad and Dobler’s social group features dopes, drunks, and a depressed vocalist.

Other than kickboxing, Dobler’s only desire is to be with Court. Nothing makes this more obvious than Dobler standing outside his newly ex-girlfriend’s window holding up a boombox stereo playing their song “In Your Eyes.” it is now a world-famous image and the song is part of the playlist for every wedding reception and first school dance.

1. “Goodfellas”
Martin Scorsese’s 1990 movie includes “Layla” by Derek & the Dominoes. Here we see the effective mix of a great director, dome great actors and a classic Eric Clapton composition. Perhaps no scene is more effective at showcasing the potential power of music and film than this mobster murder montage.

This is the best scene from one of the best movies ever. Here Ray Liotta as Henry Hill narrates over the cut as we discover one dead mobster after another as Robert DeNiro’s Jimmy attempts to tie up all the loose ends and cover his tracks after the infamous Lufthansa heist. Additionally, this scene not only leads to the mafia execution of Joe Pesci’s Tommy but also explains the title of this motion picture too.

So there you have it, film fans, five times that background music made good scenes great. Did we miss your favorites? Let us know.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.