Movies don’t have the same effect without music. Try watching a suspense-filled scene on mute: the scene stops being nail-biting without the accompanying music.
Music does not dependant on movies in a similar way; we do not need to see actors acting in order to feel a tune.
One could therefore argue that music is more important for the movies than the other way around. However, do not underestimate the power of the moving pictures to spread and popularise the tunes!
Movies that made the music
The list of songs composed specially for films that went on to become famous in their own right is practically endless. Here are just a few personal favourites:
- Cabaret is great; so is just about every other song in the musical of the same name. It is said that Lisa Minelli ruined the role of Sally Bowles for any other actress, because she was that good.
- You’re the One that I Want is one of the infectiously catchy songs performed by Olivia Newton John and John Travolta in Grease, another musical film.
- Some say that the song Diamonds are Forever captures the essence of the James Bond movie franchise. In Shirley Bassey’s unforgettable rendition, this song is simply forever. With or without Mr. Bond.
- My Heart Will Go on from Titanic became Celine Dion’s biggest hit and one of the best-selling singles of all time. Many an eye still mists while listening to it.
Movies that popularised the music
The list of the movies that took ready-made, more or less famous musical pieces and revived them is also very long. Here are some of them:
- Thus Spoke Zarathustra enjoyed a quiet sort of fame such as is usually bestowed upon works of classical music until it was featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Can’t Take My Eyes off You by Frankie Valli was made a hit all over again by The Deer Hunter.
- Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time did a lot for the dance scene in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, and that the film did a lot for the renewed interest in the song.
- Old Time Rock ‘n Roll by Bob Seger sounded much sweeter to many an ear after Tom Cruise danced to it in his shirt and underwear in Risky Business.
- A great song by The Doors, The End, was used to great effect in Apocalypse Now.
- Dick Dale’s version of Misirlou became the signature tune for Pulp Fiction.
Movies that soured the music (or not)
The songs below are really good in themselves, but…
- The song Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel makes some people (yes, I am one of them) cringe by association, because the famous torture scene from Reservoir Dogs was chillingly well choreographed to it.
- Others are a tad tired of Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf, which is considered to be one of the most overused songs in the history of motion pictures. Starting with Easy Rider, it featured (still features, and probably will be featured) in numerous movies, TV shows and commercials. (It still sounds great, if you ask me.)