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Picture-perfect Songs: memorable music used in films

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by Chloe Catajan

(Disclaimer: Potential spoilers ahead.)

At the end of The Breakfast Club, the famous brat pack goes its separate ways after serving detention for an entire Saturday. Bender, the school rebel, wins the heart of popular girl Claire and raises his fist in victory as he walks across the football field. But his triumph doesn't happen in silence; it happens to the sounds of Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)."

It's almost natural now to associate the film with the track, and vice versa. We'll never know if the scene would be the same without the song, but it definitely plays a huge part in its legacy.

Music and movies go together like primary colors. They can be appreciated on their own, but when mixed, they bring the art to an entirely new level. With the Oscars coming up, we're taking a look at some of the most memorable songs used in films.

Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me)
The Breakfast Club (1985)

Katherine Ho - Yellow (Coldplay cover)
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Katherine Ho's Mandarin cover of the Coldplay classic is as sweet and sincere as the original. Naturally, the scene it's used in is the ultimate tug at the heartstrings. Filmmaker Jon M. Chu has said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that only "Yellow" could fit his vision for this particular scene. He wanted to reclaim the word (a slur against Asians) and "make it beautiful." When requesting to use the song in Crazy Rich Asians, Chu wrote to the band: " has always had a negative connotation in my life ... until I heard your song."

The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar - Pray For Me
Black Panther (2018)

This is one of the few cuts off Black Panther: The Album—a curated soundtrack produced by Kendrick Lamar—that made it into the actual film. It plays when the titular hero, Nakia and Okoye sneak into a casino to find the vibranium stolen by Ulysses Klaue. The record itself, curated and produced by Kendrick Lamar, is a concept album of sorts as each song references the film's plot. Other notable cuts include "King's Dead"—a nod to Killmonger featuring Lamar, Future, Jay Rock and James Blake—and "All The Stars" featuring Lamar and SZA, but the entire album is worth a listen.

Sufjan Stevens - Mystery of Love
Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens wrote a few songs for Luca Guadagnino's film that feature his signature soft and sentimental indie-folk sound. "Mystery of Love," however, best represents the beauty of Elio's and Oliver's blossoming relationship. It plays when Elio and Oliver go on a nature getaway together, allowing the audience to bask in this immersively captivating experience alongside the two protagonists.

Bonus: The Psychedelic Furs - Love My Way

This new wave classic has a couple spots in the film, making its first appearance when Elio and Oliver are at a dance party. It tends to frame the pair's spontaneous and youthful dynamic perfectly.

Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me
Lady Bird (2017)

Dave Matthews Band's hit single is all over the airwaves in Greta Gerwig's coming-of-age directorial debut. The first time it's heard is in the car with best friends Lady Bird and Julie, who've just had their hearts broken and are sobbing as it plays. It reappears on prom night, when Lady Bird is in a car with the popular kids, who actually rag on the cut. "I fucking love this song," she calls out before ditching them to meet Julie instead. It's that go-to song that ends up defining Lady Bird's last year of high school—her guidepost as she navigates some of young adulthood's most tumultuous phases.

Family of the Year - Hero

Writer and director Richard Linklater had filmed Boyhood over the course of 12 years, using the same actors throughout to truly capture the coming-of-age experience. "Hero" plays when lead character Mason, who is six-years-old when the movie begins, goes to college. The song's bittersweet and reflective tone is perfectly in tune with Mason's journey from a rough childhood to a hopeful future.

The Shins - New Slang
Garden State (2004)

"You gotta hear this one song; it'll change your life, I swear," says Sam to Andrew, played by Natalie Portman and Zach Braff respectively. Their characters had just met in a hospital waiting room when Sam introduces Andrew to The Shins. Instantly, the two had a connection. Though the moment was fleeting, "New Slang" didn't just change Andrew's life—it also changed every future indie lover's. It was a breakthrough moment for The Shins and early 2000s indie rock, without a doubt.

Seu Jorge - Life On Mars? (David Bowie cover)
The Life Aquatic(2004)

Brazilian singer-songwriter Seu Jorge covers several David Bowie songs throughout Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic. Stripped down and sung in Portuguese, Jorge's charming renditions play a huge part in giving Anderson's film that feeling of being in a world of its own. His cover of "Life On Mars," in particular, plays during a pensive moment for Owen Wilson's character, Ned, which reflects the song's reflective nature.

Elliott Smith - Miss Misery
Good Will Hunting (1998)

The muted and melancholy stylings of Elliott Smith make up about half of Good Will Hunting's soundtrack. Its sincere simplicity beautifully frames the titular character's complexities, while its recurrence throughout the film gives viewers a constant connection to Will's world. Smith wrote "Miss Misery"" specifically for the movie, resulting in one of the most poignant closing scenes.

Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes
Say Anything (1989)

Perhaps one of the most iconic uses of a song in a movie is this popular Peter Gabriel single in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything. It appears when Lloyd Dobler, played by a young John Cusack, stands outside of his love interest's window and holds up a boombox that's blaring the song. The gesture isn't quite an old-fashioned serenade, but it's a scene that has many romantics swooning to this day.

Check out the full playlist below, which includes more iconic movie songs!

Aimee Mann - Save Me
Magnolia (2000)

Sixpence None The Richer - Kiss Me
She's All That (1999)

Simon and Garfunkel - Mrs. Robinson
The Graduate (1967)

Dooley Wilson - As Time Goes By
Casablanca (1942)

You Never Can Tell - Chuck Berry
Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pixies - Where Is My Mind?
Fight Club (1999)

Bobby Vinton - Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet (1986)

Gary Jules - Mad World (Tears for Fears cover)
Donnie Darko (2001)

Harry Connick Jr. - It Had To Be You
When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Q Lazzarus - Goodbye Horses
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On
Titanic (1997)

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