While John Williams does a helluva job in the orchestra pit, nothing gets our blood pumping during that intense space battle, zombie-killing spree or alien encounter like our favorite ass-kicking tunes straight from the juke box.
From oldies to metal to hip-hop, these badass songs from our favorite films make memorable moments just ... well ... rock. Check out some of our favorite hard-rockin' tunes from the big screen, embedded when possible, linked to when not.
Star Trek—"Sabotage" by Beastie Boys
J. J. Abrams' 2009 reboot had a number of memorable scenes, but thanks to the Beastie Boys, one in particular always seems to stand out. I remember the collective gasp that went up in the theater as everybody realized what they were hearing. A second later though, everyone was enjoying it too much to give it any real thought. The last time James T. Kirk and the Beastie Boys were this close to one another was probably during a Futurama marathon.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day—"Bad to the Bone" by George Thorogood & the Destroyers
Everybody remembers the biker bar scene from T2. And sure, T-800 looked pretty tough after beating the hell out of some bikers, 'borrowing' the keys to a motorcycle (and all the black leather outerwear he could carry) and walking out of the place like nothing much had happened. But when we heard "Bad to the Bone" start up, that's when we knew he was just getting started.
Maximum Overdrive—soundtrack by AC/DC
Who better to do the music for a film adaptation of Stephen King's "Trucks," a story about sadistic semis, than Aussie rockers and King's 'favorite band' AC/DC? Maximum Overdrive didn't earn King a lot of accolades for his directing, but it did make for a pretty awesome, two hour AC/DC music video. Along with plenty of black humor, explosions and the infamous Green Goblin semi, AC/DC's music helped make Maximum Overdrive a rockin' fan favorite. (Skip ahead to 6:08)
Batman (1989)—"Partyman" by Prince
It was the late '80s, Jack Nicholson was the most celebrated Joker since Cesar Romero and the world rocked to the sounds of a guy who wasn't yet known by an unpronounceable symbol. The Joker and his crew had murder and mayhem, but they also had some goofy dance moves, purple bomber jackets and a boom box with a Prince tape in it. I guess we knew that deep down; Batman's artistically-inclined, homicidal archenemy was just trying to have some fun. "Prince!"
Shaun of the Dead—"Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen
When the zombie hordes descended on Shaun and his pals, and the pub's juke box hilariously started playing "Don't Stop Me Now," we laughed, we danced, we wanted to smash some zombie heads in. Complete with an unintended light show, this scene epitomizes how cleverly Shaun of the Dead combined the best in black comedy and seriously fun zombie action.
The Fifth Element—"The Diva Dance" by Éric Serra (performed by Inva Mulla Tchako)
Throw a backbeat on some space opera and the next thing you know Leeloo is kicking the crap out of some Mangalores. It was bold choice for a fight scene, but then again, The Fifth Element was a bold movie. Looking back, "The Diva Dance" made for one of the most memorable scenes from one of the best sci fi flicks of the decade.
Disturbing Behavior—"Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger
High school can be tough. And it can be especially so when your classmates are being reprogrammed into a small army of uniformly well-behaved (albeit homicidal) academic zombies. That'd be enough to make anybody paranoid. Disturbing Behavior gets an 'A+' for its use of Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta." (Skip ahead to 4:04)
Flash Gordon—"Football Fight" by Queen
Flash Gordon is more than a little, shall we say, 'campy'? And Queen's rock opera-esque musical accompaniment certainly doesn't bring it down to Earth. But let's face it, when Queen scores your movie, you've got instant rock cred. Not to mention, at the time Queen was one of the first bands to score an entire film. And besides Prince Vultan and the Hawkmen, their soundtrack is one of the most universally liked things about Flash Gordon. (Skip to 0:45)
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure—"Play With Me" by Extreme
It'd be fitting for a movie about a couple of time traveling metalheads to feature some totally radical shredding and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure doesn't disappoint in that regard. If you're anything like me, you might have done a little head banging or air guitar soloing as Lincoln evaded mall security and Joan of Arc did, well... whatever she was doing here. (Skip to 2:07)
The Watchmen—"All Along the Watchtower" performed by Jimi Hendrix
Watchmen relied heavily on the music of Bob Dylan. Its use of "The Times They Are a-Changin" in the opening credits was a highlight of the film. And this scene, in which Nite Owl (II) and Rorschach crash land in the Antarctic is set to another Dylan classic and ultimate rock mainstay: Jimi Hendrix's rendition of "All Along the Watchtower".
Ghostbusters—"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr.
Everybody's favorite team of paranormal researchers (no, not TAPS) had three big things going for them: a rad firehouse-turned-office, a retired ambulance with a custom paint job and an infectious theme song. Ray Parker, Jr.'s unforgettable tune made the question, "Who you gonna call?" part of the cultural polter(zeit)geist and probably even had Egon Spengler dancing (when nobody was looking).
Star Trek: First Contact—"Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf
What's one of the benefits to being lured back in time by Borg intent on erasing one of humanity's greatest achievements? Classic Rock. Zefram Cochrane's warp drive flight was a pivotal moment yadda yadda, but doesn't the lift-off mix tape deserve its place in history too? (BTW, if Zefram was rockin' some Steppenwolf in 2063, would the almost 100-year-old song have been 'classical music' rather than 'classic rock'?)
Highlander—"Princes of the Universe" by Queen
Sure, it's the third appearance on the list by Queen, but what do you want? Queen's got a lot of rock to spread around. Besides, I think Highlander fans will agree: nothing captures the centuries-old battle between MacLeod and the Kurgan like Freddy Mercury belting it out about the struggles of immortality.
Tank Girl—"2 Cents" by Beowülf
When Tank Girl and Jet Girl set out to do a little light maintenance on their respective vehicles, this hard-rockin' montage got us pumped to see them kick some Water & Power ass. Of course, Beowülf weren't the only band to make a contribution to the movie. Chock full of metal, grunge, punk, electronic and new wave, Tank Girl's soundtrack was as unpredictable as the movie itself. (Skip to 4:43)
Back to the Future—"Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry (performed by Marty McFly & The Starlighters)
It was an 'oldie where he came from' and it made the 'Enchantment Under the Sea' dance the hottest place to be in Hill Valley one night in 1955. With the power of some good old fashioned rock 'n' roll, Marty tried to turn the tide against Biff, unite his would-be parents and ultimately get Back to the Future (no more creepy dissolving photographs). Who knew Michael J. Fox had such a soulful singing voice?
Iron Man 2—"Shoot to Thrill" by AC/DC
Say what you will, Tony Stark knows how to make an entrance. And with a little help from AC/DC, Iron Man 2 kicks things off with a rock 'n' roll skydive. The only thing more rockin' was the alternate opening where Tony's tossing his cookies pre-jump. Wonder if we'll get to see that again.
Predator—"Long Tall Sally" by Little Richard
So you're a member of an elite, Special Forces team on its way to rescue some hostages in Guatemala while being secretly stalked by the ultimate extraterrestrial hunter. What pray tell, do you listen to on the helicopter ride over to get pumped? Just some Little Richard (something no survival kit should be without).
The Matrix—"Wake Up" by Rage Against The Machine
And finally, how do you end one of the biggest sci-fi films ever made? If you're the Wachowski Brothers, you enlist the help of Rage Against The Machine. Not only did "Wake Up" turn hanging up a payphone into seriously bad ass moment, it left us wanting more of their trademark action and cued up the sequel which would become The Matrix: Reloaded. I still can't hear the song without picturing a flying Neo. (Skip to 1:05)