all courtesy Everett Collection (except "Beautiful Boy," courtesy Amazon Studios)
Hollywood has been naming movies after pop songs since at least 1956, when executives detected the new youth culture and gave us Rock Around the Clock and Love Me Tender. By now, the list is as long as the track rundown on a double LP (a format only AARP-aged music fans remember): Stand by Me, Sweet Home Alabama, My Own Private Idaho, Pretty in Pink, Pretty Woman, American Pie, Proud Mary. And that’s not counting deep-cut homages like 1997’s The Myth of Fingerprints, named after Paul Simon’s Graceland track “All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints."
This year's films that use tunes as titles include the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, with Rami Malek as singer Freddie Mercury and Mike Myers, 55 — who's responsible for popularizing the song in his 1992 film Wayne's World — as Freddie's record executive (released Nov. 2). Also out this year, I Think We’re Alone Now, the end-of-the-world film starring Peter Dinklage, 49, named after Tommy James’ enduring ’60s make-out anthem, and I Can Only Imagine, the story of the band Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine,” the No. 1 top-selling Christian pop song, whose popularity helped make the film America's No. 3 highest-grossing music biopic. The song-to-film tradition is littered with duds — anyone remember the Whoopi Goldberg film Jumpin’ Jack Flash? — but also boasts films worthy of the songs they draw on. Here are the five best movies ever named after songs, one of them released this week and all worth watching right now:
Courtesy Everett Collection; Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
1. Blue Velvet (1986)
The nightmare-noir classic by David Lynch, 72, took its name from Bobby Vinton’s swooning 1963 love song, heard in all its croony splendor in the opening credits. It’s an appropriately sardonic, Lynchian choice for a dark masterpiece that revels in kink, kidnapping and missing body parts. You’ll never hear “Blue Velvet” — or Roy Orbison’s 1963 “In Dreams,” lip-synched by a kidnap victim played by Dean Stockwell — the same way again.
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2. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
Years before he was McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey, 52, played the lawn-mowing nerd who dreams of dating the cutest girl in school — and essentially bribes her into doing so to up his social status. The use of the Beatles’ song title is overly literal, but the movie itself, one of the most underrated of ’80s teen comedies, is sweet and touching, much like any number of Fab Four tunes. And it has an unforced life lesson to boot.
3. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Led Zeppelin wouldn’t allow director Richard Linklater, 58, to use their 1971 song “Rock and Roll” in the closing credits of his follow-up to Slacker. Linklater went with Foghat’s 1975 “Slow Ride” instead, but at least he was able to name his movie — a recreation of the last day of school in a Texas suburb in 1976 — after another Zep anthem. Much like the trippy song itself, Linklater’s characters are dazed and confused themselves as they navigate the malaise of post-‘60s American life.
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4. Baby Driver (2017)
Though it took its title and lead character's name from the lighthearted ’50s-style romp on Simon & Garfunkel’s 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Water, one of last year’s most acclaimed and violent films was hardly the equivalent of easy listening. Baby (Ansel Elgort) loves cranking obscure tunes on his earbuds — especially when he’s working as a getaway driver for psychotic criminals. Smartly, Simon & Garfunkel’s recording isn’t heard until the last scene, when Baby is released from prison. By then, we’re eager for anything upbeat.
Amazon Studios; MARKA/Alamy
5. Beautiful Boy (2018)
Based on the 2008 account by writer David Sheff, 62, of his teenage son Nic’s addiction to crystal meth — and Nic’s own account of his struggle — one of this year’s Oscar-buzz movies borrows its title from John Lennon’s delicate 1980 lullaby to his son Sean. The film includes not only Lennon’s recording but a scene in which Steve Carell, 56, as the elder Sheff, serenades his young son to sleep with it. In the context of an especially harrowing movie, the inclusion of “Beautiful Boy” isn’t a cynical use of a beloved classic-rock ballad; it’s a rare ray of musical sunlight amid a graphic deep dive into the opioid crisis that’s increasingly gripping the country.