Music and movies are indelibly linked. So much so, in fact, that the first feature-length talkie was “The Jazz Singer”— the story of a Jewish cantor who defies his family’s religious heritage to perform popular music.

In the ensuing years motion pictures have provided us with an unforgettable array of music and iconic movie moments set to it. Recently, AOL’s Moviefone released its ranking of the 50 Best Music Scenes in Movies.

The criteria for consideration was that the song or music had to be “diegetic.” In other words, it had to come from the characters or from a source within the film (such as a radio) that the characters could hear just like the audience. This meant that some films with celebrated soundtracks, like “The Graduate,” were ineligible, since the songs are another form of scoring. (Also note that musicals were disqualified since they are another movie beast altogether.)

Here’s the top half of Moviefone’s list with additional commentary.

1. Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) standing outside Diane Court’s window, arms aloft holding boombox playing “In Your Eyes” in “Say Anything”

2. Wayne and Garth’s“Bohemian Rhapsody” headbang in the car in “Wayne’s World”

3. Tom Cruise cuts loose in his underwear to “Old Time Rock N Roll” in “Risky Business”

4. In “Reservoir Dogs,” Michael Madsen hacks off a man’s ear while groovin’ to “Stuck in the Middle With You”

5. Pulse-pounding “Ride of the Valkyries” helicopter assault in “Apocalypse Now”

6. “Unchained Melody” pottery scene between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in “Ghost”

7. Toga partiers “Shout” it out loud in “National Lampoon’s Animal House”

8. “Tiny Dancer” sing-along on the bus in “Almost Famous”

9. Matthew Broderick “Twist and Shout”s on a parade float in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

10. PeeWee Herman’s biker bar “Tequila” dance in “PeeWee’s Big Adventure”

11. “Casablanca” becomes even more beloved “As Time Goes By,” so play it again, Sam

12. Patrick Swayze (again) and Jennifer Grey’s “Dirty Dancing” to (“I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” is a real pick-me-up

13. A jedi walks into a bar — where an alien band is playing klezmer-style in “Star Wars”

14. “This Is Spinal Tap”…and this is a side-splittingly small “Stonehenge” set for the band’s big showstopper

15. Tom Cruise (again) goes down in flames for Kelly McGillis while crooning “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” in “Top Gun”

16. “Dueling Banjos” is upbeat, but it feels (rightly, we soon learn) like a dark foreshadowing in “Deliverance”

17. Aliens and humans bond over a sequence of musical tones in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

18. Duckie’s manic lip sync of “Try A Little Tenderness” grabs “Pretty In Pink” Molly Ringwald

19. Marty McFly plays “Johnny B. Goode” and invents rock and roll in “Back To The Future”

20. Malcolm McDowell unleashes a deluge of violence while “Singin’ in the Rain” in “A Clockwork Orange”

21. John Travolta busts a disco move to “You Should Be Dancing” in “Saturday Night Fever”

22. Tom Hanks’ little-kid-in-a-“Big”-man’s-body plays chopsticks with his feet at FAO Schwarz

23. In the library, “The Breakfast Club” — the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal — rock out to “We Are Not Alone” by Karla DeVito.

24. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) enchants with a plaintive “Moon River” in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

25. Dr. Frankenstein (that’s Fronk-en-steen) and his namesake creation soft-shoe their way through “Puttin’ On The Ritz” in “Young Frankenstein.” : :


David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at