Howard Hawks once defined a good movie as one with “three good scenes and no bad ones.” Whether or not you think he’s right — and he’s not massively wrong — it’s often the moments that make the movies for us, and there’s no better way to make a moment memorable than with some music.
From the chorus lines of Busby Berkeley and “The Sound Of Silence” in “The Graduate” to Chuck Berry in “Pulp Fiction” and “Where Is My Mind” in “Fight Club,” movies and cinema are intrinsically linked together, with songs made indelible by scenes in films, and scenes made by indelible songs.
As such, when we look back at the year gone by in film, one of our favorite pieces is always to look at the Best Music Moments, and this year didn’t disappoint (of course, you also need to read our related sister feature, The Best Soundtracks & Scores of 2016). The musical was revived in traditional and non-traditional forms, but all kinds of films included musically inclined highlights. Take a look at our Top 25 below, and let us know the movie moments that sung for you in the comments.
25. “Sabotage” – “Star Trek Beyond”
It’s strange that the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” (which famously had a classic video directed by Spike Jonze back in the day) has become the theme tune to the new “Star Trek” franchise. A brief glimpse of it in the original was followed by the new movie “Star Trek Beyond” using it in its first teaser trailer, but it turns out that was only hinting at something bigger, as it becomes a key plot point in the movie’s finale, as our heroes blast it out of the speakers of their Federation ship in order to destroy the deadly swarm of ships that Krall (Idris Elba) is about to use to wipe out a space station. It’s pretty goofy in a way that probably winds up old-school Trekkers no end, but to us it was quite a fun surprise that’s sold by the little touches — the late Anton Yelchin twiddling knobs like he was DJ-ing, John Cho nodding his head, Spock asking if it’s “classical music.”
24. “New York Groove” – “Weiner”
It’s relatively rare for a documentary not about music to use a needle drop in a particularly memorable way. But among all the clever things that “Weiner” does that marks it head and shoulders above most political documentaries is its killer montage showing its subject, emerging from shame and gaining in the polls, manning phone banks with his team, to the tune of Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove.” It’s the kind of choice that could feel on-the-nose, but the choice of song so seems to match Weiner’s spirit and mood at that point, and the zippy editing plays off it so well that a simple montage becomes one of the film’s most memorable scenes.
23. “The Riddle Of The Model” – “Sing Street”
John Carney’s ’80s charmer, a sort of New Wave “Commitments,” has a number of memorable music moments, as you might imagine for a film about a young Dublin schoolboy trying to woo a beautiful classmate by starting a band. We nearly included the later song “Drive It Like You Stole It,” but in the end it’s “The Riddle Of The Model” that stole our hearts. It’s as catchy as the film’s other songs, reminiscent of Orange Juice or a baritone-voiced take on Siouxsie And The Banshees’ “Hong Kong Garden,” but with faintly amateurish lyrics that feel truer to what a band of this age would actually come up with. The song’s inclusion in the movie is also there as Sing Street shoot a video for it, and it’s infused with Carney’s love of filmmaking in a way that reminded us of “Son Of Rambow.”
22. George Michael – “Keanu”
We’re not going to lie, we’d hoped for a little more from “Keanu,” the first big-screen foray from sketch comedy gods Key & Peele (plus their regular director Peter Atencio), but it’s only fitfully funny on the whole. That said, it has plenty going for it, including a surprising love for George Michael, the film serving as a tribute to the pop legend who shockingly passed away this past weekend. Much of the comedy revolves around Keegan-Michael Key’s character uneasily walking the line between his suburban soccer-dad reality and the badass gangsta assassin he’s posing as, and arguably peaks here where he’s forced to make an argument for his favorite artist, George Michael, to a group of criminals waiting in his mini-van. There’s a little more later on, too, as an unusual take on the drug-trip trope sees Key transported into the video for “Faith.”
21. “Fat-Bottomed Girls” – “Aquarius”
By the time this scene happens in Kleber Mendonça Filho‘s wonderful “Aquarius,” we already know that Sonia Braga‘s character, Clara, has a typically idiosyncratic fondness for the music of Queen. It dates her, but it also suggests the million different, potentially contradictory, aspects and tastes that one rounded human being can encompass. Yet the way this song is used here, in a film in which the sound design is almost more germane than the camerawork, goes even further: In response to the noisy orgy going on upstairs (the developers have allowed the rooms above to be used for such purpose in an effort to get Clara to leave), Clara pours herself a big glass of red wine and puts her “Fat-Bottomed Girls” record on at top volume. It’s a combative gesture, and as Clara pads around proprietorially, a little smile of satisfaction on her face, it’s as though as long as Freddie Mercury is blasting out, her dominion over her own home is reasserted, supreme and unassailable.