Top 10… Movies With Title Songs

This week’s movie of the week over at the Film Vituperatum is Cabaret. Now, I didn’t submit a review for this because I watched and reviewed it during the period of my blog that I call ‘Reviewing for the Sake of It’ in which it was more important to me to watch, or at least sit through, a playing of the film, and record the briefest of comments upon it, as then I could get to the part I was most looking forward to, crossing it from the 1001 List (or whichever list it came from). a little while ago I decided this was ridiculous and wasn’t benefiting anyone, at which point I decided to try and expand upon my reviews. I’ve made the intention to go back and re-review some of the films I’d not given enough respect to in the past, but there are some films I’d really not rather watch again, and amongst those is Cabaret. If you really want to, you can read my 130-word review here, but personally I wouldn’t recommend it. Anyway, I wanted to do a list that somehow ties in with the movie of the month (this won’t always be the case, but it seems to be working so far). My initial idea was to do my list of Top 10 Worst Movies I’ve Ever Seen, in honour of Liza Minnelli’s cameo in Sex and the City 2 (second place, after Home Alone 4), but instead I opted for movies with songs in them of the same name as the film, as of course the film features Minnelli belting out the titular Cabaret.
This list could have very easily been entirely dominated by Bond films, but I suppressed that urge, which I’ll get to in the list. Some of the films had songs written specifically for them, and by the star of the movie no less, some re-purposed older songs to fit, at least one used a blatantly obvious tie-in song for the closing credits, and one is a biography about the singer of the song they used for the film’s title. And as always, this is by no means a definitive list, and I look forward to hearing your feedback on what I missed out. Just don’t bring up Pretty Woman, that is a godawful film only worthy of existence for Larry Miller and Jason Alexander.
 
Honourable Mention: Wild Wild West
That’s right, I’m a Wild Wild West apologist. Now, I’m not saying it should be highly regarded as a pinnacle of movie making, or even that it’s a terribly good film, it just isn’t as horrible as everyone seems to remember. Hell, I think it’s downright enjoyable. Yes, there are several scenes where Captain James West (Will Smith) and the wheelchair-bound but brilliantly named Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) trade insults aimed squarely at race and disability, but there is also Salma Hayek, looking gorgeous, Kevin Kline being hysterical in a duel role (and frequently dressed as a woman), and of course a giant mechanical spider, in one of the most what-the-fuck-is-that moments I’ve ever seen. And it’s got both M. Emmet Walsh and Ted Levine in supporting roles. And Bai Ling, but we don’t talk about that. The theme song, sung of course by Smith, is annoyingly catchy but also, unfortunately, pretty damn dreadful, featuring lyrics from misogynistic: “Any damsel that’s in distress be out of that dress when she meet Jim West” to borderline homosexual: “Loveless, givin’ up a dime, nothin’ less, now I must put his behind to the test.”
 
10. Demolition Man

Sylvester Stallone versus Wesley Snipes… in the future! And Wesley Snipes is blonde! Like Wild Wild West, this is one of those films that is more ridiculous than it is actually good, and it fits neatly amongst my DVD collection as such, with the likes of Godzilla and Twister as something I can put on to just switch off to. I’m a fan of most films that feature either time travel or prison escapes and this one just happens to feature both, and it features Sandra Bullock at the closest I’ve ever come to finding her attractive. Unfortunately there’s Rob Schneider in there too, spouting some crap about seashells, and one of the worst wrap-up speeches in any film, let alone a Stallone piece “I’ll tell you what to do: why don’t you get a little dirty, you a lot clean, and somewhere in the middle… I don’t know, you’ll figure it out.” Sting’s title song is pretty forgettable, as proven by my having forgotten it even existed, but it does, so this counts.

9. Walk the Line

Telling the story of Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix), from cotton farm to international star, this is one of the few films that, upon first seeing, I went out the very next day to get not the soundtrack, but the greatest hits album of it’s star, someone whose music I’d never been very familiar with beforehand, but who has it has since become an album I’ll gladly listen to in any situation. The film itself is pretty good, especially the performances of Phoenix and Reece Witherspoon as June Carter, but unfortunately it was so ripe for parody that I find it difficult to distinguish in my memory just what scenes were from Walk the Line, and which came from Walk Hard.
 
8. Weird Science
It may well be the fourth best film I’ve seen that’s directed by John Hughes (after Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club), but that’s only because I haven’t seen any of the other ones. Wait, that sounded bad. Yes, this is a worse film than those other ones (and Home Alone if you’re counting Hughes scripted films) but this is still a brilliant film, with a title song by Oingo Boingo of which I can only remember the title being yelled a few times. As a film, this falls into my pet peeve of the outcast, ill-fitting kids (Anthony Michael Hall and, er, the other one, umm… Ilan Mitchell-Smith?) magically finding exactly what they needed in life, but this dodges that bullet by having them able to create life in the form of Kelly LeBrock’s lightning-struck Barbie doll Lisa, thereby setting the whole thing in some ridiculous fantasy land where putting a bra on your head gives you magical powers. 
 
7. Men in Black
Will Smith makes another appearance, rapping it up on the soundtrack to Men in Black as one of the eponymous galaxy defenders, in case he didn’t let you remember. I recently watched part three in this series, and other than a couple of decent cameos – Bill Hader as a bitter Andy Warhol, the always brilliant Michael Stuhlbarg as a being able to see every possible parallel universe simultaneously – this would have worked far better had it just remained as a standalone single film. The original had the perfect balance of science fiction and comedy – a combination that will appear later in this list – and grounded it all around the odd couple pairings of Will Smith’s wise-cracking youngster Agent Jay and Tommy Lee Jones’ crusty old hand Agent Kay. The CGI is also impressive for 1997 – how is this film 16 years old? – and Vincent D’Onofrio is awesome once he gets taken over by a giant cockroach living in his body. Plus, Tony Shalhoub and David Cross!
 
6. Skyfall/Goldeneye
I couldn’t let Bond dominate this list, but he definitely needs to be represented, so I picked two of the best, with not necessarily those with the best songs. Goldeneye, whose nasally title track by Tina Turner can be described as lacklustre at best, is otherwise tremendous fun, as Pierce Brosnan freed Bond from Timothy Dalton’s debatably over serious take to be more quip-happy, smooth and downright cool as he takes on the Russians over the codes to a devastating weapon. This was Brosnan’s first Bond outing, and remains easily one of the best in the series’ entire 23-year run, with enough action, glamour (Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp? Go on then) and badassery to keep anyone happy. And Sean Bean! And Robbie Coltrane! And Alan Cumming! Skyfall, on the other hand, played out as more of a Bond’s greatest hits, nodding references left, right and centre to everything that came before. Daniel Craig’s Bond even escapes a pit by jumping from a komodo dragon, for M’s sake! Adele’s song was not, in my opinion, deserving of an Oscar, as I’ve never been much of a fan of hers, though I can’t really say who I’d have given the award to in her place. And I’ve said it before, but Skyfall does not, I repeat not, rhyme with crumble.
 

Kevin Renick’s melancholic titular track for Jason Reitman’s downsizing drama-comedy fits the tone of this film perfectly. It’s a well balanced, poignant piece following George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham as he jets around America, assisting in company’s dismissals of their employees, only to find his fleet-footed lifestyle may be under threat from Anna Kendrick’s plans to do it all digitally, via webcams and Skype, all from one central office. I really like this film, which isn’t as popular an opinion as I once thought, and I really don’t know why. It also makes a great pairing with Reitman’s debut, Thank You For Smoking, another tale following a hugely successful business man (Aaron Eckhart’s tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor) over a few days, as his world begins to fall apart when a woman enters it (Katie Holmes’ reporter, in place of Vera Farmiga’s female Bingham).

4. Iron Man

There is no correlation between the Black Sabbath song and the Marvel superhero (the song is in fact about a man traveling in time and seeing an apocalypse he will eventually bring about), but the film-makers would have been inexcusably silly not to have included it. Plus, it kicks in perfectly into the closing credits, after Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) proclaims to the media “I am Iron Man,” just like in the song. The film itself kick-started Marvel’s avengers initiative in the greatest possible way, with a little-known superhero, an actor on a cataclysmic rise after Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and a director more known for being Monica’ boyfriend in Friends than for handling giant blockbusters. It’s gone on to become a behemoth of a franchise, with this summer’s Iron Man 3, directed by Kiss Kiss‘ Shane Black, one of my most anticipated films of the year, and judging by the trailers it has the potential to become possibly this series’ best. Fingers crossed.

3. Ghostbusters

Duh-nuh-nerner-nerrnerr, duhnuh-nuhna-nuh-nerr-nerr, it’s the quintessential classic 80s theme tune, to the quintessential 80s sci-fi-comedy. Ray Parker Jr. crafted arguably the most iconic film of the decade, with one of the greatest videos to boot as he finally admitted to an increasingly demanding world that bustin’ did indeed make him feel good. As for the film, well I’d like to think I didn’t have to explain what it is about Ghostbusters that makes it so incredible, but for me it isn’t necessarily Bill Murray’s sarcastic yet horny Peter Venkman, or Harold Ramis’ Spock-lite Egon Spengler, or even Rick Moranis’ nerd-king Louis Tully. No, it’s Dan Aykroyd and his boyish sense of wonder at everything as Raymond Stantz. The scene when they first look at the fire station as a possible base for their paranormal investigations and he discovers the pole makes me smile so much, every time. Whilst the song was deservedly nominated for an Oscar, it was criminally beat out by Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You. Did he have Chevy Chase, John Candy, George Wendt, Jeffrey Tambor and Peter Falk in his video? I think not.

2. Beauty and the Beast

The second greatest non-Pixar animated Disney film (after The Lion King, which had it been named The Circle of Life would easily be my number one), Beauty and The Beast is a film that I have no shame in admitting I love, despite it not only being for kids, but predominantly female ones at that. Unfortunately, the title song (sung by Angela Lansbury’s teapot, Mrs. Potts) takes place at one of the most soppy and sentimental moments of the film, but almost everything up to that point, from the marvellously chauvinistic Gaston (“As a specimen, yes, I’m intiiiiiimidaaaaaaating”) to the antics of the anthropomorphised inhabitants of the Beast’s mansion, this is a film it’s hard not to love. Plus the animation is belle – sorry, beautiful – and there’s actually a strong female character at the centre who steadfastly doesn’t want to give it all up and marry the town hunk. Granted, by the end she has suffered from Stockholm’s Syndrome and fallen for the hideous creature keeping her captive in exchange for her father’s freedom, but y’know, people can go crazy when they’re incarcerated.

1. Goldfinger
Well I never said that Bond wasn’t going to reappear on the list, did I? What did you think was going to be number one? Bad Boys? The Sweetest Thing? Convoy? No, of course it’s Goldfinger, as bellowed by Dame Shirley Bassey in a window-shaking song that, if played loud enough, would probably be able to radiate Fort Knox’s gold on it’s own, without the need for any atomic devices. As for the film, well it’s obviously my favourite Bond picture, with the greatest henchman in Harold Sakata’s Oddjob, the barmiest villain’s plan, the most ridiculous Bond girl name (Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore) and a woman being killed by being sprayed in gold. Plus, there’s the iconic, oft-quoted moment with the laser, and Sean Connery on top form. Perfection.

9 thoughts on “Top 10… Movies With Title Songs

  1. Holy shit – I love Demolition Man (for all its terribleness, mostly) and had NO idea that there was a theme song, much less that it was done by Sting. Listening to it right now and it's hilariously 80s. So out of character for Sting – he must have been hard up for cash. Also sounds like it has the Mortal Kombat song in there in parts.Fun list. The only other one I'm not familiar with off the top of my head is Up in the Air. Hard for me to think of additions at the moment.

  2. I'll be honest, I didn't know Demolition Man or Up in the Air had titular songs either until I looked into it. The songs aren't particularly noteworthy on either count, which is probably why they didn't get too much attention.Demolition Man is both awesomely terrible and terribly awesome, and does not get the appreciation it deserves in my opinion. Future MOTM potential?

  3. By the sounds of it, the same thing it was doing here when I wrote the list. Alas, I haven't seen any of the films you mentioned, sorry Chip. But thanks for the recommendations.

  4. There's potential there…not sure if there are too many out there that think of Demo Man the way we do, but it'd probably be fun to find out.

  5. I know at least 2 other people who love Demo Man, but unfortunately they're not affiliated with the Lamb, have never listened to the Lambcast (even though I've sent them links and told them I'm on 5 episodes, one is insanely paranoid of film spoilers) and would therefore not vote for it. Ah well, something to consider.

  6. Demolition Man! YES! Completely forgot about that theme song. Love that damn movie.This is a great list, Jay. Nice Bond picks, and Ghostbusters… that's just a classic '80s tune right there.

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