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13 Great Musical Moments in Cameron Crowe Movies

May 4, 2011  |  10:00am
13 Great Musical Moments in Cameron Crowe Movies

Last week, Cameron Crowe finally joined the Twitterverse (@cameroncrowe) and began teasing us by tweeting photos from the set of his upcoming movie We Bought a Zoo.

If We Bought a Zoo is anything like the rest of the director’s work, it’ll have an extremely well-chosen soundtrack. Being a former rock journalist, Crowe’s got a deep understanding of music, and he knows that a song can often say more than even the most eloquently written dialogue. Few directors give songs space to breathe the way he does, and so far the results have included a rock ‘n’ roll movie that ranks amongst the best ever and an iconic scene that made girls everywhere yearn for boombox-wielding beaus of their very own.

Many notable scenes (My Morning Jacket in Elizabethtown, for one) have been wiped from YouTube, but without further ado, we give you our admittedly Almost Famous-heavy (hey, we music writers have a soft spot, okay?) list of the 13 Best Musical Moments in Cameron Crowe Movies. Warning: spoilers ahead.

13. Elizabethtown, “Moon River”
You wouldn’t think that Susan Sarandon performing a stand-up comedy routine and then tap-dancing to this song at her husband’s wake would be such a divisive scene, but people either love or hate it. It’s a little goofy, sure, but we dig it.

12. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, “We Got The Beat”
What better way to set the stage for some 1980s teenage hedonism than to lure us in with The Go-Gos blasting as our main characters troll the mall? Unfortunately all video of it has disappeared from the interwebs, but check out the trailer below.

11. Jerry Maguire, “The Wrong Come Up”
“You complete me” and “You had me at hello” have since become the oft-referenced stuff of romantic comedy legend, but perhaps no line from Jerry Maguire is as instantly recognizable as this Cuba Gooding Jr. classic. It’s enhanced by a badass L.V. track, proving that it’s always a good idea to psych yourself up with some tunes when you’re making outrageous contract demands.

10. Almost Famous, “Misty Mountain Hop”
The driving melody gives you the sense you’re headed somewhere important, and Robert Plant’s swaggering vocals lead the way, making this the perfect song for rolling up into a strange, new land — or revealing to your friends that you’ve lost your virginity. Or, you know, both.

9. Singles, “State of Love and Trust”
Singles is a veritable who’s who of the Seattle grunge scene, with the likes of Chris Cornell and Alice in Chains popping up in cameo spots. No band did as much for the flick, however, as Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder and Stone Gossard appear as members of Citizen Dick, and it’s this track that will forever remind us of nights spent consoling sobbing friends outside of bars. Ah, to be young and single!

8. Almost Famous, “Cherie Amour”
Planting one on her while she’s only semi-conscious after OD’ing on Quaaludes might not be the most romantic way to score a first kiss with the girl of your dreams, but hey, whatever works. Crowe expertly juxtaposes the grim reality of the scene — Penny writhing and gagging as a doctor pumps her stomach — with the upbeat love song undoubtedly ringing in William’s ears.

7. Vanilla Sky, “Everything Right in Its Place”
Everything may be right in its place at the beginning of Crowe’s adaptation of Abre Los Ojos, but this Radiohead track adds a sense of foreboding. Open your eyes, Tom. Things aren’t always what they seem.

6. Almost Famous, “The Wind”
After the record label brings in a fancy, new manager for Stillwater, Lester Bangs’ words echo in William’s ears: “They will ruin rock ‘n roll and strangle everything we love about it.” Crowe then jumps to the simple beauty of being a music fan as Penny dances in an empty venue littered with trash to this Cat Stevens song and a not-so-subtle “Where the music means something!” banner hangs in the background.

5. Vanilla Sky, “The Nothing Song”
Choosing the right song to have playing while a character’s life flashes before his eyes is nearly impossible, but Crowe managed to pick a Sigur Rós song that speaks to both the haunting mortality one faces when they’re about to throw themselves off a building and that crazy thing called love that convinces viewers Mr. Cruise is making a sound choice by doing so.

4. Elizabethtown, “My Father’s Gun”
Drew (Orlando Bloom) flashes back to memories of his recently-deceased father as he heads home for the funeral. Elton John belts out a heart-wrenching tale of a soldier who vows to keep his dad’s legacy alive. We all cry like babies.

3. Almost Famous, “America”
The music takes center stage here, as Zooey Deschanel declares, “This song explains why I’m leaving home to become a stewardess” and forces her mother, William and the audience to really listen to Simon & Garfunkel’s gorgeous ode to adventure. That sense of youthful anticipation is only heightened by those words we all long to hear: “One day, you’ll be cool.”

2. Say Anything, “In Your Eyes”
All he did was press play and let Peter Gabriel do the talking, but with this iconic scene, Lloyd Dobler became the ideal boyfriend for any girl with decent movie taste. When you’re standing outside someone’s window while they sleep, you’re toeing the fine line between romantic and creepy, but Cameron Crowe’s song choice ensured that we’d all be swooning. Chuck Klosterman probably said it best: “Every straight girl I know would sell her soul to share a milkshake with that motherfucker.”

1. Almost Famous, “Tiny Dancer”
Almost Famous is about a lot of things: grasping for an identity, gaining the confidence to leap head-first into a new world, loving something (or someone) so much it hurts. Above all, however, it’s Crowe’s love letter to a certain musical era, and nowhere is this more apparent than during this sing-along. After a fight and an acid trip leave everyone in bad spirits, this Elton John classic comes on the radio. One by one they join in, and the mood shifts from tense to cheery in the blink of an eye. See, kids? Rock ‘n’ roll can save the world!

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