As Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits the big screen, hitting the charts – in all likelihood – will be the selection of seventies and eighties nostalgia tunes that make up the film’s Awesome Mixtape Vol. 2 soundtrack album. Vol. 1‘s set list was a joy back in 2014 and with the newbie boasting ELO, Fleetwood Mac and Cat Stevens, once again James Gunn has assembled a crowd-pleasing musical delight.
I love a good soundtrack me. When music is deployed well in film it has the ability to transform a good scene into a great one, a classic even. Indeed, many ionic scenes and sequences pepper the lineage of film history due to their accompanying number; as such, I couldn’t help but wonder what the ultimate film soundtrack would be? The list I’ve assembled, a hand-picked collection of my favourite music usage in cinema, is by no means definitive and I welcome your comments and suggestions, but this is an album that I would very much like to own…
#1 ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ – Blue Swede (Guardians of the Galaxy, 2013)
This was the track that defined Guardians of the Galaxy and the hit that really got fans hooked on the franchise. This scene perfectly introduced audiences to James Gunn’s vision: as the Guardians are tortured and imprisoned on screen, the music is light, fun and oh so nostalgic.
#2 ‘Lust for Life’ – Iggy Pop (Trainspotting, 1996)
So many of the tracks from Trainspotting would find a happy place on this soundtrack – leaving out ‘Perfect Day’ was a particularly tough call – but this Iggy Pop number is now so tightly interlinked with the iconic opener that it’s surely impossible to imagine the film without it.
#3 ‘Twisted Nerve’ – Bernard Hermann (Kill Bill Vol.1, 2003)
Maybe this one’s just me, but I find this early scene from Kill Bill Vol.1 electrifying. Deadly, exhilarating, sexy – and that’s just Daryl Hannah’s performance as the eye-patch-wearing assassin, Elle Driver. I could listen to this on repeat for hours. Who’m I kidding, I have.
#4 ‘You Never Can Tell’ – The Beatles (Pulp Fiction, 1994)
Whilst we’re on the subject of Tarantino – and, frankly, the director could have filled this list – there are few dance scenes in cinema more distinctly memorable than the ‘You Never Can Tell’ routine of Pulp Fiction – it speaks for itself.
#5 ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ – Richard Wagner (Apocalypse Now, 1979)
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the sort of track I had in mind when I started the list (‘The End’ would’ve been a more than worthy representative from Apocalypse Now) but the harmony of Wagner’s opening to Act 3 of Die Walküre and Coppola’s direction is simply exquisite. As the gusto builds, the adrenaline soars with it.
#6 ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ – Queen (Shaun of the Dead, 2004)
Possibly my favourite example from the list, certainly so in the case of sound and scene pairing. It is, of course, best appreciated within the context of the film, but the blistering inappropriateness of the song alongside the warding off of a zombie attack remains an absolute riot. ‘Kill the Queen!’
#7 ‘Eye of the Tiger’ – Surviver (Rocky III, 1982)
It’s hard to believe in hindsight that it was only the third in the Rocky series that saw ‘Eye of the Tiger’ become inseparable from the franchise, and the man himself. No montage sequence has ever bettered it, though it’s inspired many to try.
#8 ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ – The Beatles (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)
I didn’t realise my love for the Beatles was so strong till the moment I noticed that the definitive sound of the sixties that was their oeuvre has somehow managed to occupy a quarter of this mixtape. This one was one of their own films and it’s an enduring gem by Richard Lester.
#9 ‘Young and Beautiful’ – Lana Del Rey (The Great Gatsby, 2013)
Much like my attitude towards Luhrmann’s wider work in general, I find his 2013 Great Gatsby adaptation a decidedly mixed back. One area in which the film does sing (literally) however is in its soundtrack – particularly Lana Del Rey’s haunting, thematic rendition. The shivers are real.
#10 ‘Twist and Shout’ – The Beatles (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986)
What can I say? It’s the Beatles! This time accompanied by Matthew Broderick having the time of his life atop a float amid a joyeux street parade – all the fun!
#11 ‘Annie’s Song’ – John Denver (Free Fire, 2017)
Ahh, Annie’s Song. Ahh, John Denver. The ballad is a delightful folky love song: a warm and affectionate number which here accompanies ninety minutes of non-stop gunfire, death and brutality. You fill up my sunshine alright!
#12 ‘Mrs Robinson’ – Simon and Garfunkel (The Graduate, 1968)
Mr Nichols, you’re trying to seduce me! It’s worked, I’m yours. A classic. Need I say more?