What makes the perfect film scene? Well, first you need a good story. Then you’re going to want to cast some top quality actors. Don’t forget the best cinematographer either – or camera operator, director, editor, grip, sound assistant. The list goes on. In fact, perhaps the most under-appreciated part of filmmaking is the music you choose to accompany the images…
BBC Radio 1’s film critic Ali Plumb is no stranger to a cracking song choice – one that marries the moving picture with its ideal audio partner. That’s why he’s presenting a brand new series of programmes called Radio 1’s Movie Mixtapes – the perfect place for you to discover your favourite new track – as well as a hidden cinematic gem you might have missed.
“Radio 1’s Movie Mixtapes are an opportunity to connect with the music that you may already know and love from films that you already watch,” says Plumb. “Whether it’s Marvel or Disney or James Bond or [Quentin] Tarantino or teen movies – I particularly loved that one – each episode is an hour’s worth of my very favourite, personally picked music to match a genre or scene.”
To get you started, we caught up with Ali to pick his brains on some of his favourite music moments from across every film genre. Wrap your ears – and eyes – around this lot.
Perfume Genius – ‘Slip Away’
At her first high school party ever, outsider Amy follows her crush into the pool area just as Perfume Genius‘ indie-pop gem bursts into life. As the the two girls take the plunge, the euphoric chorus matches Amy’s grinning face until she spots Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) making out with someone else. Heart-wrenching stuff.
Ali Plumb’s verdict: “I just love how [director Olivia Wilde] shot that underwater sequence. It’s beautiful – and I think it really captures that time in your life. It’s such a great song and looks exceptional too. When you haven’t heard a song before, and I hadn’t heard that song before, you get the revelation of hearing this amazing sound for the first time, matched with the incredible visuals and it really hits you.”
Kubo and the Two Strings
Regina Spektor – ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’
Beautifully animated action-adventure Kubo and the Two Strings tells the story of a young boy tasked with defeating a vengeful spirit from the past. It closes on a hand-drawn credits sequence which is set to New York singer-songwriter Regina Spektor‘s melancholic cover of The Beatles’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.
Ali Plumb’s verdict: “Another criminally overlooked movie… There have been many Beatles covers over the years and you’ve heard Beatles songs in so many different movies. I think when you take a song that is that well-known, you’ve got to get someone really good and it’s got to feel different. I think [Regina Spektor] finds that pleasant mix of doing justice to the original as well as adding enough newness. Her voice is really special.”
Captain America: Civil War
Marvin Gaye – ‘Trouble Man’
Following the events of Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers is unfrozen after decades asleep thanks to cryogenics. Later, he draws up a list of cultural touchstones to catch up on – including Marvin Gaye‘s smooth R&B number ‘Trouble Man’. You can hear the track playing on an iPhone during Captain America: Civil War, while Cap lies injured in a hospital bed.
Ali Plumb’s verdict: “Marvel music typically gets a bit of a bad rap in terms of score, which I think is a little unfair. People say it all sounds too similar or forgettable but I don’t think that’s quite right… ‘Trouble Man’ is actually from another movie, called Trouble Man. It’s such a spectacular song. So for me, it’s just a really good example of how movies can introduce you to a whole world of other music.”
Derek and the Dominos – ‘Layla’
A group of kids approaches a fancy-looking pink Cadillac, their eyes widening in shock. The camera pans slowly up the car’s grill as the soothing piano-led outro from Eric Clapton‘s 1971 rock classic ‘Layla’ plays in the background. A windshield slowly comes into view revealing two dead bodies, presumably ‘wacked’ by ruthless mobster Jimmy (Robert De Niro). It’s perfect cinematic juxtaposition from the master, Martin Scorsese.
Ali Plumb’s verdict: “Martin Scorsese was actually there with a piano when he was shooting, so he could match the shot to the song, which is a level of detail I find truly amazing.”
The Big Lebowski
Kenny Rogers and The First Edition – ‘Just Dropped In’
In one of cinema’s coolest dream sequences, Jeff Bridges visits a psychedelic bowling alley featuring Saddam Hussein, a sky-high shelf filled with shiny bowling shoes and Julianne Moore dressed as a viking. Kenny Rogers’ soft rock ballad ‘Just Dropped In’ seems almost dreary by comparison. Almost.
Ali Plumb’s verdict: “This is my favourite film of all time. It varies day to day, but I would say that is probably the one I’ve seen the most in my life… This sequence is such an amazing flight of fancy from the Coen Brothers and they somehow pull it off. [The bit] where he’s walking down the stairs swinging – I just love it; and that song is unbelievably cool too.”
Kill Bill: Volume 1
HOTEI – ‘Battle Without Honor Or Humanity’
Samurai of the underworld O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and her guards arrive at ‘The House of Blue Leaves’, walking in slow motion (obviously) as Tomoyasu Hotei’s disco rock banger adds tension and energy to the pictures on the screen. Quentin Tarantino’s magpie crime flick contains dozens of deep cut tracks, but none are as thrilling as this.
Ali Plumb’s verdict: “This is a song from an older Japanese movie that was a remake of another Japanese series [Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity]. And what’s interesting about that is, much like Trouble Man, it was plucked from another movie because Quentin loved that song but didn’t care for the film. So he took it and put it in Kill Bill. Now, we all think of it as the Kill Bill song, but in reality it’s actually written for another movie.”
The Lego Movie
Tegan and Sara – ‘Everything Is AWESOME!!!’ (Feat. The Lonely Island)
Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s charming, laugh-a-minute animated adventure is perhaps the most fun you can have at the cinema. The only thing more enjoyable than watching it? Letting loose to Tegan and Sara‘s sweet-as-candy title track – the pop mega-hit ‘Everything Is AWESOME!!!’.
Ali Plumb’s verdict: “Kids and adults alike were bopping around in the car to this song. It’s a parody of capitalism and indoctrination taking over your life – and how we all seem to want to conform, conform, conform… It’s also incredibly catchy but it’s saying something that people don’t realise until later. I think there’ll be loads of kids turning 18 or 19 who will listen to it again and go: ‘Oh yeah! Okay, gotcha.’ By the way, it’s also written as ‘Everything Is AWESOME!!!’ [in capitals] with three exclamation marks at the end. They were not mucking around.”
Childish Gambino – ‘Redbone’
As terrifying as it is funny, Jordan Peele’s breakout social critique-come-horror hit also packed a top notch soundtrack. In the opening credits sequence, a cut-and-paste jobby that sees Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) getting ready to meet his girlfriend Rose (Alison Williams), Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover’s funk-infused soul tune ‘Redbone’ adds a certain level of smoothness to proceedings that belies the sinister action to follow.
Ali Plumb’s verdict: “He’s shaving himself and he cuts himself while his girlfriend is looking at the pastries. There’s something about that song and I know there have been memes where people play it over different bits of footage, but that movie is an exceptional work of art. It is superb, Jordan Peele is a genius… I hadn’t heard the song properly until I’d seen the Get Out opening sequence. It really popped off the screen for me and I love those moments where you watch the movie and go: ‘I have to know [what that track is]’.”