Walt Disney Pictures/Marvel
To a large extent, blockbuster movie soundtracks are all the same. There's probably some Kanye, a few dubstep tracks to keep things upbeat, maybe a classic rock song or two, and then some kind of instrumental score meant to add some tension or sentiment at the appropriate moments. And it makes sense — you're not paying for perfectly-scored moments of emotion, you're paying to watch people punch each other and blow things up. So when a blockbuster film manages to match the perfect song to the perfect scene, something special happens. Suddenly, it's not just about the effects. It's about the experience. And even though we've yet to see Guardians of the Galaxy, we can tell that it's going to be that kind of film, thanks to the cheesy classic rock featured in the trailer and the presence of the founding member of Mouserat. In honor of its August 1 release, we've rounded up some of the most iconic blockbuster movie moments in cinema history. After all, what's the point in saving the world if Kenny Loggins isn't singing about it?
“Trouble Man” by Marvin Gaye, Captain America: The Winter Soldier At the start of the film, Sam Wilson makes a tentative attempt at friendship with ol' Steve Rogers by recommending he check out Marvin Gaye’s classic 1972 album; at the end of the film, Steve wakes up in a hospital bed with Sam by his side and the title track playing over the speakers. Because even if you’re unconscious, Sam Wilson is going to ensure that your musical education is complete.
"Non Je ne Rigrette Rien” by Edith Piaf, Inception Primarily used as a way to signal to the people in-dream that the kick is coming, “Non Je ne Rigreete Rien” also warned of a much more dangerous shock headed towards the team: Mal. Sure, it’s a bit on the nose for the recurring dream-ghost of Leonardo DiCaprio’s dead French ex-wife, but finding the perfect movie music moment isn’t necessarily about being clever – it’s about creating a mood. And besides, Christopher Nolan’s not the subtle type.
“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, Rocky III It doesn’t matter that Rocky didn’t start training to the sweet, sweet sounds of ‘80s rock until the third installment of the franchise. When you think Rocky, “Eye of the Tiger” automatically starts playing in your head. It might not have been the original music moment of the series, but it’s the most enduring; even the Broadway production couldn’t resist working it into the score. You should hear it in five-part harmony.
“Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, Top Gun The love scene scored to Berlin might be a bit more iconic, thanks to its awesomely cheesy use of backlighting, but the best musical moment in Top Gun is, without a doubt, the montage of fighter pilots taking off, scored to what is perhaps Kenny Loggins’ most ridiculous hit of all. Did Berlin give us one of the best running jokes of all time? No. No they did not.
Rogue Pictures via Everett Collection
“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen, Shaun of the Dead Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy is filled with hilarious gags and perfectly-timed music cues but none are more elaborate, ridiculous or more pitch-perfect than the gang’s choreographed attacks on the zombies in the bar, using an assortment of pool cues, a fire extinguisher and a last-minute rifle. The fact that everyone in the film acknowledges the insanity of the situation – and even dance along! – makes it unforgettable.
“Where Is My Mind” by Pixies, Fight Club Fight Club is a weird, twisted psychological thriller that leaves you questioning what was real and what was hallucinated. Therefore, the only appropriate song to end it with is one that asks the core question of the film: “Where Is My Mind?” Just melancholy enough to fit the tone, and just obvious enough to help even the slowest members of the audience make the connection.
“Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, Back to the Future When you’re tasked with reviving the party at your parents prom, you could go the safe route and play something everyone would be familiar with, or you could invent rock and roll by busting out some Chuck Berry… before he’s even heard it. And then you can make everything awkward by extending a guitar solo for far too long and freaking everyone out, but hey, Marty McFly was ahead of his time. It’s not his fault they didn’t get it.
“You’re the Best” by Joe Esposito, The Karate Kid In the ‘80s, wimpy kids everywhere were inspired to stand up for themselves and find their inner Karate Kid thanks to Mr. Miyagi. But his “wax on, wax off” philosophy would be nothing without the encouraging synth-pop of Joe Esposito telling them that nothing could ever bring them down. How else were they supposed to get pumped up for the biggest karate competition of their life? Or you know, the playground. Both are intimidating.
“Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf, Easy Rider Since its release in 1968, “Born to Be Wild” has been the second favorite song of music supervisors looking to indicate someone as a “bad boy” without actually forcing the other characters to say it. (The first, of course, is “Bad to the Bone.”) It might be cliché now, but it all dates back to 1969, when Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda set off on a road trip and ensuring that any time someone bought a motorcycle, a Steppenwolf reference would be made.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
A musical and video celebration of the working class of America, hosted by recording and concert artist Kenny Rogers. The program features footage of a live concert performance at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, and photographs taken by Kenny Rogers of workers and their workplaces. Also featured are narratives of laborers' individual stories, and Rogers own personal experiences.