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The Screening Room's top ten songs in movies

  • Story Highlights
  • Call of the open road: the opening scenes of "Easy Rider" with "Born to be Wild"
  • Iggy Pop lends his pop culture cool to the start of "Trainspotting"
  • Scorsese adds gravitas to a murder spree with "Layla" in "Goodfellas"
  • Mr. Blond lops off an ear to some bubblegum pop in "Reservoir Dogs"
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(CNN) -- This list isn't just about soundtracks or great music in the movies -- it is about quintessential movie moments where a song flawlessly complements or enhances the action.

Reservoir Dogs: Mr. Blonde tortures a prisoner accompanied by 70s bubblegum pop

Reservoir Dogs: Mr. Blonde tortures a prisoner accompanied by 70s bubblegum pop

A riff or harmony that works so perfectly that the hair on the back of your neck stands on end. Or a classic song at just the right moment to mainline feel good factor.

We've compiled a list of 10 of what we think are the best. If you don't agree or think we've missed one, share your views by using the Sound Off box below and we'll publish the best.

1. The film: Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper (1969)
The song: Born to be Wild, Steppenwolf
The scene: The opening sequence


From the moment Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper kicked their motorbikes to life and gunned down the dusty highway accompanied by "Born to be Wild" almost 40 years ago, audiences were electrified. The lure of escaping onto endless, empty roads still resonates today, even if Steppenwolf has become the food of a million drivetime clichés.

2. The film: Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino (1992)
The song: Stuck in the middle with you, Stealers Wheel
The scene: Mr. Blonde cuts a man's ear off

"You ever listen to K Billy's Super sounds of the 70's?" asks Michael Madsen's super-cool psychopath Mr. Blonde as he opens up a cut throat razor. Innocuous -- but then we see a bloody man with a duct-taped mouth. Mr. Blonde tunes the radio, does an eccentric little dance to "Stuck in the Middle With You" and then brutally cuts the man's ear off. It's the juxtaposition of sadistic violence with bubblegum pop that epitomizes Tarantino's brilliance and has been much aped since.

3. The film: Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese (1990)
The song: Layla, Eric Clapton
The scene: Jimmy's murder spree montage

Scorsese's use of the piano exit from "Layla" over a montage showing the ugly demise of a series of gangsters after a heist is simply brilliant. The pink car, the garbage truck, the meat locker: scene after scene of horribly disfigured corpses that Scorsese has somehow imbued with the wistful poetry of the end of an era.

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4. Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola (1979)
The song: The End, The Doors
The scene: Captain Willard waiting for an assignment in Saigon


The Doors' dark epic twists and turns of over the opening scenes of Captain Willard waiting for his next assignment in a humid hotel room in Saigon. It perfectly evokes the stifling claustrophobia he feels stuck alone with nothing but his demons and a bottle for company.

5. The film: Muriel's Wedding, P. J. Hogan (1995)
The song: Waterloo by ABBA
The scene: Muriel and Rhonda triumph at a talent contest

ABBA-obsessed ugly duckling, Muriel performs "Waterloo" at the local talent contest and sticks the proverbial two fingers up to the small-town bitches who have been bullying her. Even the white satin jumpsuit straining over her ample figure can't take away from her triumph -- and when the synchronized dancing starts there aren't many film moments that can beat it for feel-good factor.

6. The film: Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe (2000)
The song: Tiny Dancer, Elton John
The scene: On the tourbus the band sing along to Tiny Dancer

1960's rockers, Stillwater, are stuck on the tour bus. No-one is talking and the tension is palpable. "Tiny Dancer" comes on the radio and slowly one by one they start singing along. Everyone grins and tensions drain away. Touching without being cheesy, this scene is full of nostalgia for good times had with friends and will stay with you long after watching the film.

7. Say Anything, Cameron Crowe (1989)
The song: In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel
The scene: Lloyd tries to woo Diane

You have to admire Lloyd's (played by a young John Cusack) style as he stands outside love interest Diane's window holding his boombox aloft blaring "In Your Eyes" like a modern day Romeo. Maybe Peter Gabriel's song hasn't quite stood the test of time but if you don't get hung up on the fact that it sounds a bit cringeworthy now, this is a scene of perfect romance -- 80's-style.

8. The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson (2001)
The song: Needle in the Hay, Elliot Smith
The scene: Richie Tenenbaum attempts suicide

Beautifully shot with no ambient noise, just the melancholy "Needle in the Hay," we see Richie -- the tennis prodigy who never realized his potential --methodically cutting off all his hair before, shockingly, slicing his wrists. It's both intimate and appalling. In a dark coincidence, Smith died in 2003 as a result of two stab wounds to the chest, thought to be suicide.

9. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Stanley Kubrick (1964)
The song: We'll meet again, Vera Lynn
The scene: Nuclear apocalypse

"We'll meet again, Don't know where, Don't know when," warbles a hopeful Vera Lynn as mushroom cloud after mushroom cloud explodes into the sky. It's as preposterous as making a comedy about nuclear armageddon. But with Kubrick at the helm and Peter Sellers playing three of the main characters, this unlikely film -- like its ending -- works very well indeed.

The film: Trainspotting, Danny Boyle (1996)
The song: Lust for Life, Iggy Pop
The scene: Choose Life voiceover

The opening drumbeat of "Lust for Life" kicks in and Renton deadpans "Chose life. Choose a career." -- the beginning of one of the most cynically brilliant monologues in film or literature. It is strangely exhilarating and the fact that Iggy Pop is a punk legend and heroin survivor just adds to the pop culture cool. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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