Top 10 Rock and Metal Songs in Movies

This top 10 list is kind of two fold. Firstly it addresses films that get credit for picking songs that are my personal favourites. Secondly it reflects the power of using an awesome rock/metal song as a score for just the right moment of cinematic goodness.

I’m probably going to get some flack for the order of the list, and I’ll undoubtedly get abuse for certain glaring omissions. In fact with that in mind I’m just going to say that honourable mentions go to ‘Born to be Wild’ in Easy Rider, ‘This is the End’ in Apocalypse Now and ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ in Shaun of the Dead. There are plenty more, so please feel free to cut me down in the comments section below. Let’s get to it.

10. Bodies by Drowning Pool – The One


How many people have actually seen The One? The martial arts parallel universe traversing Jet Li actioner? Well I have, more times than I probably should actually. It was kind of a cheap cash in on The Matrix, and by cheap I mean Poundland. There is some fun to be had though, particularly with the soundtrack which features not one, not two, but three Drowning Pool tracks. I suppose they got a bulk deal. But of all the tracks, this one lends itself the most to the semi-cgi slugfest as Jet Li carves a path through numerous lawmen.

9. Progenies of the Great Apocalypse by Dimmu Borgir – Hellboy Trailer


Okay this is a slight cheat as it’s not used in the finished film. But you can’t help but be amazed that an A list hollywood director found a way to use black metal to promote a film, and it actually fits the context perfectly.

This grand operatic dark song completely sums up the twisted fun of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and offers an audio cue to the inevitable fate of the title character (one that is yet to be played out on screen….please give us Hellboy 3!!!)

8. Focus by Hocus Pocus – Robocop (2014)


Whilst the Robocop reboot hardly set fire to the box office, it also didn’t end up being the total train wreck we all predicted. Saying that it still doesn’t hold a candle to Paul Verhoeven’s original. But where it does work particularly well is the section known as “Field Test” where the newly finished Robo gives his weapons and skills a whirl.

What really elevates the sequence is director Jose Padilha’s choice to use the insane 70s prog rock riff from Hocus Pocus. For a song that features yodelling as its middle 8, to make a 2014 blockbuster soundtrack is pretty amazing!

7. Back in Black/Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC – Iron Man 1 and 2


Another kind of cheat, but these films are part of the same story arc so I feel I’m alright. When Marvel took the gamble of bringing Iron Man to the front of their development slate they needed to grab the audience from the get go, and they did that in perfect style with Back in Black, which had us all engaged and nodding our heads before we even met our protagonist for the first time.

What made it even more special was the fact that it speaks perfectly to Tony Stark’s rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. And in Iron Man 2, Shoot to Thrill allowed him to make a heroic entrance in explosive style. AC/DC were made to score Iron Man!


6. Island by Mastodon – Monsters University


This works on so many levels. Not least because Mastodon are my favourite metal band of all time. But also because it’s the last thing you’d expect to hear in a Pixar movie, and they use it to show a side to a character you would least expect to be a Mastodon fan.

If pixar needed any more respect from me (which they didn’t) they earned it in spades by using this band and this song. It may only be a short clip, but it’s still brilliant!


5. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen – Wayne’s World


I doubt there’s anything I need to say about this that hasn’t already been said. This is such an iconic movie moment and for a generation of people, whenever they hear Bohemian Rhapsody, they instantly loosen themselves up ready to recreate this scene.

I know because I’m part of that generation, and if you’re starting a road trip, a long one that is exciting at first but then becomes dull somewhere after the first service station Burger King, this is the perfect shot in the arm to raise the spirits and relive cinema first hand.


4. Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry – Back to the Future


This is another song that’s a ‘my generation’ kind of thing. This song creates so much nostalgia it’s untrue. It was also one of the things that made me want to play guitar when I was a kid. And now I can. So thanks to Michael J Fox and Chuck Berry for making me a fraction more attractive to girls in dive bars.

All that aside it is the icing on the cake for one of the greatest movies of all time; the ultimate feel good moment that tells us all is right with the world, and Marty McFly wasn’t going to be doomed to a life of being invisible and/or getting off with his mum.


3. Where is my Mind by The Pixies – Fight Club


One of the coolest songs in history plays out as the cue for one of the best plot reveals in history. As Tyler Durden revels in the oncoming destruction of multiple financial hub skyscrapers, and Edward Norton realises he has been a one man insanity machine; a kind of post modern Gollum, this song captures story and visual splendour in perfect harmony. It also created a legion of Pixies fans who only know one song.


2. Long Tall Sally by Little Richard – Predator


The 80s were the time for men to be men. When action stars had to have biceps whose diameter was larger than Rik Waller giving John Prescott a hug. And if we ever needed to wonder what a military team made up of the world’s most bicep ridden men would listen to for kicks, that was answered by Long Tall Sally blaring from a boom box in Dutch’s helicopter.

Much like AC/DC in Iron Man, this song works brilliantly in getting the audience on the side of the heroes without actually needing to divulge any character detail. It also conjures up Jesse Ventura’s line “This stuff will make you a god damned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me.” Which is possibility the greatest tough talk line in all cinema.

1. Wake Up by Rage Against the Machine – The Matrix

Rage Against The Machine.

When I first saw the Matrix it totally blew my mind. There had literally been nothing like it beforehand and the entire film was made up of one jaw dropping moment after another. So when it came for the moment that the credits approached I was upset that it was going to end. I wanted one last hoorah to leave me smiling like a goofy idiot. That’s when Rage Against the Machine kicked in and turned the film up to 11.

It’s not often that I look forward to a film’s credit sequence, but thanks to this perfectly chosen political angst master-tune, that’s exactly what I do with The Matrix. Don’t get me wrong I love re-watching the whole thing. But knowing how perfectly and ending this song creates makes it all the sweeter. Let’s Rock!

James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.


  1. Adam Bartle

    20 February, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    I love The One! Jet Li is amazing.
    What, no Cannibal Corpse in Ace Ventura?! Haha

    • James Plummer

      20 February, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      Damn I forgot Cannibal Corpse. That’s a great scene as well:
      “New England. Clam. Chowder”

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