If it were up to me, every movie would be required at least one musical number. Seriously, every movie. Children Of Men would have a song in it, Sophie’s Choice as well. Why? I don’t know – it would be funny I guess. Fine, so it’s probably not a great idea. I take it back. I just get excited when a song becomes the center of a scene – especially in comedies.
People rarely have the nibs to stick a good musical sequence or two in their non-musical genre films, so let’s take a moment to pay our respects to those who did it so well by arbitrarily judging them in list form.
12. Johnny B. Goode In Back To The Future
I have so much personal nostalgia surrounding this film that I often forget that it’s a comedy. Marty McFly performing Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and accidentally inventing Rock N’ Roll in the process has to be the trademark of the entire trilogy. What strikes me as particularly funny about the whole thing is how quickly everyone, the band and the students, just run with it. Like suddenly these musicians just ‘follow along’ and play a perfect rendition of “Johnny B. Goode” in every way. Then of course you have the obvious Michael J. Fox lip-syncing to top it off. All this makes for a delightfully goofy scene, which of course sets up the punch line at the end of Marty completely ruining the moment with his more modern showboating.
11. Day-O In Beetlejuice
Hard to imagine just how awesome the rehearsals for this were – and in the end they really pulled this off. It comes out of freaking nowhere, which is awesome, but what really sells the scene is the look on everyone’s face as their possessed bodies dance against their wills. The mix of odd curiosity and horror, along with forced pleasure gets me every single time. The star performance is clearly Catherine O’Hara’s, as she embodies every element of what makes this bit work so nicely. My only nagging question is: why would anyone think this would be a good way to scare someone out of your house? Sure, the shrimp were a little freaky at the end, but phantom Harry Belafonte dance numbers are well worth a little haunting – as seen in the closing scene of this film.
10. Build Me Up Buttercup In There’s Something About Mary
I absolutely love it when you sit through a comedy and, right as you think it’s all over, you get hit with something like this. A surefire way to make your audience come out smiling is to have a little song and dance as your closing sequence. What makes this particular music video work is that it, right at the end, immediately takes you back through everything you just saw – only with everyone singing and dancing to The Foundations for no good reason besides it being awesome as shit.
The extra layer that hits me with this is that because movies are shot location to location, they must have had to take a little time out in every location to shoot just a little bit of the song – if not the entire thing. That must have been so fun for the first few weeks, and then pain inducing for every following week after.
And while we’re talking about ending credits songs…
9. Aquarius In The 40 Year Old Virgin
You watch this film hoping, waiting for that moment when Steve Carell’s character Andy finally gets a piece. In the end, the reward for your patience is well, WELL worth it. Much like There’s Something About Mary – the sequence brings back all the characters, big and minor, to dance hilltop in celebration of Andy’s new love to the tune of Aquarius from the musical Hair. It’s ridiculous as hell, but also such a blissful moment that you can’t help but to feel a little fuzzy about it while you laugh your ass off. I think for me, it’s the colorful fabric banners that really did it – that, and of course, the folksy dancing and overall shirtlessness. Probably my favorite detail of all has to be Jonah Hill dancing in a poncho – that image is rather unbeatable.
8. Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) In The Big Lebowski
It must be tough to be Jeff Bridges and know that the role you were born to play was a character called ‘The Dude.’ But… well… god what a role – what a movie! And everything that makes this Coen Brothers masterpiece so damn entertaining comes together in one beautiful drug induced porno movie inspired sequence lovingly entitled ‘Gutterballs’ and set to Kenny Rogers’s “Just Dropped In.”
What makes this whole ordeal so adorable has to be Lebowski’s slick dance moves as he seduces Julianne Moore’s Viking clad dream-world facsimile. Also Peter Stormare running with giant scissors is just a wonderful thing to have happened in the history of cinema. To top it off, pretty much everything you see in this sequence is something related to the rest of the film. For example, those scissors that Stormare is running around with can be see painted in the background of an earlier scene.
If you’ve never beaten up a piece of electronic equipment you’ve never really lived. What makes this scene great is that, like the movie itself, everyone who has ever worked in an office environment – or even just worked with technology of any kind – can relate to this scene 100%. I don’t go a day without screaming at some blank-faced piece of electronics stalling on me like some robot asshole, and the fantasy of just smashing it through with a bat is a common one for many different reasons.
The idea alone of the quest for simplicity in life is enough to make three guys in suits bashing a copier/printer in the middle of a field to the Geto Boys the most satisfying imagery in a film – not to mention one of the funniest. But the cherry on top is of course the hatred this thing has invoked in these men and the catharsis of the kill. Michael Bolton’s refusal to let up is amazing, but the winner of the scene is Peter – look at him standing there, the man who set this whole thing up simply watches the brutality and savors it without a single blow.
6. You’re The Voice In Hot Rod
I feel like not enough people saw this film. It’s probably one of my favorites casts, which includes the SNL-famous trio from The Lonely Island as well as some of the funniest people around like Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Chris Parnell, and Will Arnett. This particular moment in the film, which actually serves as the turning point of the plot that I believe brings us into the third act, is portrayed simply in song as our main character is joined with the rest of his friends while walking down the street to John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice.” Then something… weird happens. Okay weirder. It’s an amazing progression from kind of silly spoof on a movie cliché to an amazing moment of ridiculousness followed by one of the funniest reaction conversations ever. That’s really what makes it all work, when they get out of the situation and react the way any normal person would in that situation, asking “What the hell? Was that because of us?”
5. Puttin’ On The Ritz In Young Frankenstein
Mel Brooks films are kind of something you have to grow up with to find funny – at least that’s what I’ve come to realize from discussing them with friends. Either you love them or you don’t. So with the clip above I expect a very polarized reaction in terms of funniness. However I think the reason why it never fails to make me personally laugh is really the simplicity of the song and dance, we know what’s coming every time Gene Wilder cues Peter Boyle’s monster portrayal, but it’s funny nonetheless. Combine that with the monster’s vacant but excited gaze and stiff cane work and this becomes easier one of the funniest dance sequences in a film.
Okay, maybe this isn’t exactly “HA HA” funny…well, it kind of is. I know I laughed the first time I saw Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman shuffling around in a raincoat frantically explaining the intricacies of Huey Lewis & The News to a drunk Jared Leto while preparing to hack into his face with an ax. The comedy to be found comes from the horror of what is inevitably about to go down combined with Bale’s happy-go-lucky performance and amazing dialogue, followed by Leto’s all too slow progression as his inebriated mind pieces together that something is terribly wrong with the situation and Bateman’s brief and honest responses to his inquiries.
Then, all of it comes into a perfect climax as we realize that what we are actually seeing is a man chop up another man in the middle of a beautiful apartment to the tune of “Hip To Be Square” by Huey Lewis. How can you not lose it at such a beautifully absurd moment? For the record, this scene was neck and neck for this list with the Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” sex scene – the deciding factor being the fact that I’m not really sure I’m allowed to link to such a scene.
3. Knights Of The Round Table In Monty Python And The Holy Grail
Monty Python And The Holy Grail is a film that they would never make today, and that makes me sad. You just can’t end a film with everyone getting randomly arrested anymore, and you certainly can’t blow off Camelot, ground zero of King Arthur lore, in a single song and dance routine. But there we have it – the beauty of this film, the beauty of Monty Python in general. These guys never failed to mix absurdity and talent together to create comedy art – and it was art.
My biggest fear is that this film will be missed by newer generations; it’s truly timeless in its humor. What makes this particular moment really work for me is two things: the stupidly joyful looks on the knights’ faces as they dance about, and then of course the punchline reveal that the whole song appears to be some kind of shared delusion of the group, concluding that Camelot is not worth the time – that’s literally as much sense as you can make of it. Of course there’s the cutaway to the prisoner clapping along in the dungeon – gets me every time that does.
2. Don’t Stop Me Now In Shaun Of The Dead
Of course. This scene literally makes my heart race in excitement every time I see it. Something about fighting zombies to Queen just gets me so pumped. The progression is amazing as it goes from simply having “Don’t Stop Me Now” playing innocently in the background to it becoming the metronome for a zombie assassination. What I love most is the characters’ frustration with the situation’s seriousness as they truly struggle with gravity of things, but at the same time they inadvertently go along with the silliness by strobing the lights and instinctively striking to the beat. Then as matters get exacerbated further, as the zombies break in and Shaun takes a dart to the dome, the scene begins to just spew madness. All a while we are watching this poor zombie who is being taken out in what should hold the record for least effective zombie killing method.
Oh hey – speaking of Queen…
1. Bohemian Rhapsody In Wayne’s World
I mean, obviously. There’s not much I can even say here – it’s the freaking “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene. Here’s a story for you, many years ago I took a trip to London where I spent most of my time randomly walking the streets with a friend. We met up with a group of young punk rockers who wanted us to join them on a fairly long subway trip to go see this movie being publicly played in the middle of a field in some random park. We took the trip and found ourselves in a field of what must have been thousands, all picnicking with their kids or drinking with friends – young, old, middle class, poor, rich – there was no divide amongst us. And then came this scene, and everyone knew the words. EVERYONE. A whole field of people headbanging together as one – perfect harmony. It was truly beautiful.
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