A good soundtrack song will not only evoke memories of the film, but can also push at the boundaries of our tastes. Don’t like vocal jazz? Sure. But how can you resist Nina Simone at the end of “Before Sunset”? Not a fan of hip hop? Okay, but once you’ve seen “Do The Right Thing,” I don’t know how you could possibly resist Public Enemy. That’s what a good musical movie moment can do.
But what about a great musical moment? Well folks, a great musical moment can take a sad, tired song you hate and transform it completely. Deployed correctly, whatever negative associations you have with that song will dissolve and all that will remain is whatever emotion it is the filmmaker kicked up in you. Hearing the song will recall beautiful shots, delightful performances and a well-told story.
5. “STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU” — RESERVOIR DOGS
This list could probably be back to front Tarantino but this is my favorite example of Quentin’s powers of transformation. Stealers Wheel never sounded so compelling.
4. “YOUR SONG” — MOULIN ROUGE
Still cheesy? YOU SAY THIS IS STILL CHEESY? Well, I say you’re MacGregoring incorrectly, because the burning immature passion that burbles out of young Christian endows Elton John’s cheesiest song with new meaning. At least, that’s what it did for me.
3. “CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF YOU” — 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU
Well this is dirty pool, isn’t it? There’s now a third layer to this song made up entirely of Ledger nostalgia. So beautiful and young once.
2. “BABY I LOVE YOUR WAY” — HIGH FIDELITY
This may be a minor cheat because it’s Lisa Bonet’s marrow-melting cover rather than Peter Fucking Frampton himself that redeem this song. But what a redemption.
1. “MY CHERIE AMOUR” — ALMOST FAMOUS
This is the original inspiration for this list. With much love and respect for Stevie Wonder, I always found this song one of his cheesier efforts. Now whenever I hear it, all I see are Penny Lane’s glorious legs and poor William Miller’s lovesick expression. On an absolutely perfect soundtrack, it’s a standout.