Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge picks out his 25 favourite uses of songs (I’m not talking about scores or original songs from musicals) in films from the 2010s.
25. We Found Love by Rihanna – American Honey (2016)
Jake (Shia LaBeouf) gives Star (Sasha Lane) a taste of a free and wild life as he dances in a supermarket to this pop track. The lyrics also relate to Star’s own circumstances in the film.
24. Father And Son by Cat Stevens – Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 (2017)
Cat Stevens’ song captures the collective mourning of a beloved fatherly figure at the end of this Marvel movie.
23. Plus Putes Que Toutes Les Putes by Orties – Raw (2017)
Justine’s (Garance Marillier) transformation takes on another shape in this scene. The young medical student kisses herself in the mirror while dancing to this song’s highly sexualised lyrics.
22. Lady D’Arbanville by Cat Stevens – Hounds Of Love (2017)
Few film scenes from this decade are creepier than Evelyn (Emma Booth) dancing in the mirror to Lady D’Arbanville while her kidnap victim is chained up in the next room.
21. Mrs. Robinson by The Lemondheads – The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)
‘Every way you look at it you lose’ – The lyrics of Mrs. Robinson speak to the lose-lose situation of Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) as he brings down Jordan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and co. The decision to use The Lemonheads’ cover – rather than the Simon & Garfunkel version – is in keeping with the chaotic tone of the film.
20. Harvest Moon by Neil Young – A Quiet Place (2018)
The only song in A Quiet Place gives voice to a tender and romantic interaction between Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski). It feels like Young’s 1992 song is calling back to an old memory of the two together, perhaps a prom or wedding dance.
19. Yellow by Coldplay – Boyhood (2014)
Coldplay’s reflective track is the perfect fit for the sky-gazing opening of Richard Linklater’s film.
18. That’s Life by Frank Sinatra – Joker (2019)
Todd Phillips’ film closes with Sinatra’s uplifting tune and the Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) causing more chaos in Arkham asylum.
17. Come And Get Your Love – Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Redbone’s groovy track and Star-Lord’s carefree dancing get us into the mood for some intergalactic fun in the opening credits scene of this Marvel hit.
16. Harlem Shuffle by Bob & Earl – Baby Driver (2017)
The dazzling musical synchronicity of Baby Driver means a number of scenes could have easily made this list. However, it is the playfulness and Easter eggs of the opening title sequence that stands out the most.
15. Cool by Gwen Stefani – Somewhere (2010)
Downbeat acting star Johnny (Stephen Dorff) looks up from his phone and takes notice of his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) as she ice dances to this serene song. A sweet and understatedly beautiful moment.
14. Nightcall by Kavinsky – Drive (2011)
Following a slow-burn getaway open, the pulsing synth of Kavinsky helps to set the tone for Nicholas Winding Refn’s electric film.
13. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John – American Hustle (2013)
Elton John’s song and theatrical smoke heighten the drama of the first meeting between Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and Sydney (Amy Adams).
12. God’s Whisper by Raury – American Honey (2016)
Raury’s song captures the wild euphoria of American Honey’s closing scene as Star (Sasha) leaves the bonfire for a cleansing moment in the water.
11. La Nuit N’en Finit by Petula Clark – Two Days, One Night (2014)
Sandra (Marion Cotillard) turns up this song on the radio for a rare moment calm and warmth amid the against-the-clock stress of this film’s story.
10. I Think We’re Alone Now by Tommy James & The Shondells – 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
This cheerful song takes on an unsettling new context as it plays over a montage scene of Howard (John Goodman), Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) living life in their bunker.
9. Das Hobellied by Marlene Dietrich – Personal Shopper (2017)
This musical choice brings an air of fantasy to a scene in which Maureen (Kristen Stewart) daringly tries on her employer’s clothes.
8. Despair, Hangover & Ecstasy by The Dø – Raw (2017)
The Dø’s music adds to the wild and euphoric atmosphere of this single shot scene as Justine (Garance Marillier) searches for her sister (Ella Rumpf) at a party.
7. Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake – Lady Bird (2017)
Greta Gerwig’s film gives ’90s kids serious nostalgia as Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) arrives at a high school party. The song also accompanies her fervid making out with Kyle (Timothee Chalamet).
6. His Master’s Voice by Monsters Of Folk – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2018)
A single take shot follows Dixon (Sam Rockwell) as he violently takes out his frustrations following the death of Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). The gentle and spiritual sounds of Monsters Of Folk acts in sharp contrast to the brutality of Dixon’s actions.
5. Everytime by Britney Spears – Spring Breakers (2013)
The ‘inspiring’ music of Britney Spears accompanies scenes of intense violence and drug-taking. One of many subversive choices in Harmony Korine’s divisive film.
4. A Real Hero by Electric Youth – Drive (2011)
The soothing sounds of Electric Youth plays over a montage sequence of Driver (Ryan Gosling), Irene (Carey Mulligan) and Benicio (Kaden Leos) enjoying a car ride together. A moment of happiness and peace.
3. I Get Overwhelmed by Dark Rooms – A Ghost Story (2017)
M (Rooney Mara) listens to this emotionally surging song as she lays on the floor and reflects on a moment she shared with C (Casey Affleck). A soaring use of music that is especially potent given the film’s quietness.
2. Too Late To Turn Back Now by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – Blackkklansman (2018)
Following a disturbing interaction with racist police officers, Ron (John David Washington) and Patrice (Laura Harrier) share a moment of community and joy to the sounds of the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose. Love in response to evil.
1. On The Nature Of Daylight by Max Ritcher – Arrival (2016)
Max Ritcher’s soul-stirring music underscores the emotional peaks that open and close Dennis Villeneuve’s sci-fi film. Simply breath-taking.