There are few more powerful combinations than when just the right song meets just the right scene. To put all our favorites in one place, The Dissolve compiled 50 remarkable combinations of pop music (broadly defined) and moviemaking.
Times Square, morning; commuters on their way to work. Just as the opening credits begin and private detective John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) emerges from the subway en route to his office, Isaac Hayes’ theme kicks in, like the overture to the coolest, funkiest musical ever. Shaft contains no voiceover and almost no exposition; in a sense, Hayes is the film’s narrator, explaining everything we need to know about our main character. He’s the one who tells us Shaft’s a “black private dick” and a “sex machine to all the chicks,” and that he’s a “complicated man” and “no one understands him but his woman.” In supplemental materials on the Shaft DVD, director Gordon Parks tells Hayes how he wants the scene scored: “That should be a driving, savage beat,” he says, “so that we’re right with him all the time.” Accordingly, Hayes actually matches that driving, savage beat to Roundtree’s footsteps so he’s swaggering through midtown in perfect synchronization with the music. It’s as if Shaft is such a bad mother, he can actually hear his own theme song. Before he’s said or done anything more than take a leisurely morning stroll, Hayes’ music has already made him one of the coolest characters in movie history. —Matt Singer
The Big Lebowski was the Coen brothers’ seventh feature, but the first in which they relied more on needle drops than on Carter Burwell’s score. The film’s eclectic soundtrack features everything from Henry Mancini to Yma Sumac, but its centerpiece is a crazily goofy dream sequence, set to a psychedelic Kenny Rogers number from his early days with The First Edition. As the future Gambler tells us of a time when he saw so much that he broke his mind, the Coens do their best to replicate that scenario, with Jeff Bridges shaking his moneymaker dressed as a porn-movie cable guy and Julianne Moore glaring at him in full Viking regalia, surrounded by a chorus of women wearing enormous bowling-pin headdresses. —Mike D’Angelo