Nothing enhances a great scene quite like a well chosen song, and for some reason I had that concept in mind this week. In any case, I thought it best to keep from making this list TOO obvious (Tiny Dancer, Bohemian Rhapsody, etc.), but if there's anything missing that you feel should be represented, by all means, repre-SENT. Wow, these introduction paragraphs get shorter every week... anyway, let's get on with it. Dr. Dre - Still D.R.E. (As used in Training Day)
It's hard to describe just how well this scene sets the tone for the rest of the film, with this song's near-sleazy quality and addictive yet simple beat. It really does feel like you're at the start of a long ass day, and it's somehow both fun and foreboding.
Simon & Garfunkel - The Only Living Boy in New York (As used in Garden State)
You don't have to be at a proverbial crossroads to enjoy this movie, though it certainly helps. The characters are so easy to get behind that when this scene hits it really feels good - and though the subject matter of this song is about as opposite as can be with what transpires underneath it in the film, the beautiful harmonizing couldn't possibly be more right.
Kiss - Shout It Out Loud (As used in Detroit Rock City)
I don't even like Kiss, but when I'm watching this movie every single Kiss song is fantastic simply because I'm experiencing it through these four guys. The scene with the friends screaming along with this all too appropriately chosen song captures the feeling of going to a concert with your friends as a teenager so well that it feels like you're going along with them.
Huey Lewis and the News - Hip to Be Square (As used in American Psycho)
Probably the most obvious one on this list, but just too hard to resist. Carnage with a pleasant backdrop isn't really anything new, but it was done so well here that it can make you laugh at pettiness, unreasonable rage, and of course, a guy getting his face split in half by an axe. Also one of several examples of the screenplay's clever interweaving of different parts of the book.
The Rolling Stones - I Am Waiting (As used in Rushmore)
Given the just about perfect track record that Wes Anderson films have with their soundtracks, it was rather difficult to pinpoint a single moment in a single movie. This edged out the rest for me simply because of how impeccably it underlines the characters' collective sadness; the themes of reaching out, pulling away, and general loneliness in both the scene and song come together all too well.
Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane (As used in Natural Born Killers)
The Cowboy Junkies' cover of this Velvet Underground classic carries such a sense of doomed romanticism that it only makes sense for it to become this psychopathic white trash couple's theme. The song gets even better past the single verse that sees use in the film, but really the cooed vocals and dark, bluesy guitar are more than enough.
Talking Heads - This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (As used in Lars and the Real Girl)
There are lots of songs that fail to really fill you with a single powerful emotion, much less two. Much less two contrasting ones. It works perfectly here, the happy-but-not-really (or sad-but-not-really, depending on how you look at it I suppose) music and lyrics in a movie that similarly makes me feel strangely both happy and sad.
Bonnie Hayes - Girls Like Me (As used in Valley Girl)
Valley Girl shares a trait with any given John Hughes movie in that in lesser hands, it would have been complete shit. There's a certain quality about this movie that captures its era so perfectly, and unsurprisingly the soundtrack is no different. With all the great songs to choose from, I had to go with this - simply because there's something to be said for a scene with young scantily clad girls that makes you think about being one of them more than actually having sex with them. Then again, that could just be me...
Massive Internal Complications - Strawberry Wine (As used in The Basketball Diaries)
After a long hunt for anything by this band, it seems that the one thing they did was this song, which was used for the brutal withdrawal scenes. It certainly wasn't chosen where it isn't so suitable, either; Strawberry Wine is harrowing to a ridiculous degree, and I can't help wondering if anyone could hear this song without having seen the movie first and picture anything BUT heroin withdrawal. Few songs seem as tailor-made for desperation as this one.
The Knack - My Sharona (As used in Reality Bites)
A one hit wonder from the late 70s should do just about anything but transport me to the 90s every time I hear it, but that's exactly what this song does, and it's all because of Reality Bites. Much like Valley Girl, it's a fantastic time capsule with, admittedly, a very trite and predictable story, but it just has that charisma about it that can make you overlook its flaws. Even if this moment in the film wasn't so obnoxiously fun, it's an oddly funny reminder that hipsters have always liked twenty year old music.