Artwork by Chloe Leeson
One of my favorite and most memorable parts of a movie can actually occur right at the very end—during the credits. I love when a film ends with a great song. As soon as the film is over I add it to my Spotify playlist, and in listening again I am able to immediately relive the ending or the story. A perfect song can encapsulate the entire feeling of the film, or more interestingly, juxtapose the tone of the story or ending. The end credits song is the last thing you leave with, and sometimes can go as far as to influence your opinion of the film overall. My list of great end credit songs includes films ranging from iconic to independent features. I’m not including songs that were written for the film, despite how amazing they can be, or the musical scores. Here, I’m highlighting the choosing of a song completely independent of the film that somehow manages to perfectly complement it. There are many strong endings out there, but these are some of my personal favorites.
The Breakfast Club – “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds
The 80s one-hit-wonder has become synonymous with the John Hughes coming-of-age classic and is considered one of the most iconic endings in pop culture history. The romantic and melancholy lyrics capture the essence of the character’s relationships with each other and the world. They don’t want to forget about each other, to “walk on by” in the hallway. But the Nerd, Jock, Princess, Basketcase, and the Criminal will have to part ways Monday morning in order to retain their social echelon. They don’t want their authority figures to forget about them and brush them aside, for they have a place and a say in this world despite their young age. Judd Nelson punching the air to this 80’s dance epic is a quintessential film moment that is nothing without the brilliant choice of song.
An American Werewolf in London-“Blue Moon” by the Marcels
An American Werewolf in London constantly teeters between outright terror and side-splitting black comedy, and the choice of ending song nails that thrilling mesh of genres. The entire soundtrack of the film features songs referring to the moon, the transformative enemy of the werewolf. The movie starts with the more well-known slow and crooning version of “Blue Moon” by Bobby Vinton. Other songs featured are Van Morrison’s “Moondance” and Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”. “Blue Moon” also appears again during David’s first transformation, as a soft bittersweet ballad by Sam Cooke. But the film ending punches you with an ironically upbeat version of “Blue Moon” by the Marcels. (spoilers) Our main character lies dead in the trash, now human after his final and deadly transformation that has wreaked havoc over London. His girlfriend sobs upon seeing his body. As it immediately cuts to black, the happy doo-wop song begins abruptly. At first you are filled with shock from the sad ending then overcome with laughter from the ironic song choice. The perfect way to end this horror comedy.
V for Vendetta- “Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones
This post-apocalyptic thriller follows the Guy Fawkes masked vigilante V in his crusade to topple the corrupt government in London. The famous British band’s influence for the song also aligns with the film’s political contentions. Mick Jagger was influenced during the Vietnam War with the riots in Paris, “There was all this violence going on. I mean, they almost toppled the government in France.” The lyrics, particularly, “Cause in sleepy London town there’s no place for a street fighting man, no. Hey! Said my name is called disturbance. I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants” give the feeling of a call to revolution, much like the one V started.
The Social Network– “Baby You’re a Rich Man” by The Beatles
David Fincher’s moody and atmospheric film depicting the creation of Facebook ironically ends with a warm and toe-tapping tune, quite the opposite of Trent Reznor’s somber score laced throughout the film. We know very well that Mark Zuckerberg is a rich man. The youngest billionaire in the world, the title card tells us. “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?” the song opens with. Throughout the film, Zuckerberg has been constantly trying to move up the ladder of the Harvard community, to join the ranks of the popular and “beautiful people” that surround him. But our ending shows Zuckerberg, though successful, still cut off from everyone else. He’s pathetically pressing the refresh button, still pining for a girl he can’t have. And money won’t be able to buy her love. “Baby you’re a rich man!” the chorus emphatically cheers. But sounds like less of a celebration and more of a prison sentence. “Now that you know who you are, what do you want to be?” The song asks. Mark has risen to become one of the beautiful people, a rich man with all the money and the power. But inside he may always be that nerd struggling for acceptance.
Heavenly Creatures– “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Mario Lanza
Heavenly Creatures portrays the overwhelming intensity that a close teenage friendship can have. Based on a true story, two teenage girls with fiery imaginations become the closest of friends. When one family threatens to move in order to curb their growing obsession with one another, the girls plan to murder one of their parents to always be together. The film ends with a dream scenario of their heart-wrenching goodbye, filtered in sepia. Pauline reaches out on a dock to Juliet, who holds her arm out while sobbing on the ship. Pauline is wracked with sobs and blood-curdling screams as the film fades to black. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a beautiful song from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Carousel that plays over the end title cards. We learn the girls fates, they were charged for murder and sent to separate prisons. “It was a condition of their release that they never meet again” the final title reads as the sweeping music plays. It is haunting and poetic. Though Pauline and Juliet never saw each other again, they will never walk alone for they will forever share a spiritual bond.
Fight Club– “Where is My Mind” by The Pixies
Out of every end credits song there has been, I don’t think there has ever been a song to so perfectly capture a film’s core as Fight Club’s use of “Where is My Mind” by The Pixies. The song starts during the final scene, the rhythmic drums kick in as soon as the buildings start to detonate- the result of the chaos and anarchy that the Narrator unknowingly perpetuated throughout the film. The repeated mantra, “where is my mind?” reflects the trippy journey we’ve spent in the Narrator’s head, the insane culmination in the film’s final twist.
Killer Joe– “Strokin” by Clarence Carter
I wouldn’t say this is a choice that will stand the test of time, but it’s a quirky choice that left a real impression on me. Killer Joe centers around a deplorable white trash family, a son and his father plan on killing his ex-wife, the boy’s mother. They employ Killer Joe, played by Matthew McConaughey, to do the job. Of course, it goes horribly wrong. The final scene is a crazy cacophony of arguments and violence. The whole film is rooted in uncomfortableness, it can be quite depraved and unnerving. (Basically, one of the most hot-button moments is a scene where Matthew McConaughey makes a woman give a blow job to a piece of chicken.) Many may find it disturbing (and yes, offensive) but I found it oddly humorous in a way like “I can’t believe how trashy they are and how insane this is.” After a giant shoot-em-up, Juno Temple, Killer Joe’s very young girlfriend (and daughter of his employers) announces she’s having his child. McConaughey smiles the cheesiest smile you’ve ever seen and then cut to black. Clarence Carter’s soulful song begins “When I start making love, I be strokin’”. The sexual relationships in this film is uncomfortable. Juno Temple’s character is basically sold to Killer Joe as collateral, and in their sex scene she claims to be 12 years old in order to turn Joe on. (She’s clearly not, though. But she is underage.) This song referring to having sex is a entertainingly uncomfortable and somehow manages to capture the trashy essence of the twisted film.
Mud– “Help Me Rhonda” by The Beach Boys
There are probably other songs that could better capture the mood of Mud, but I thought “Help Me Rhonda” was an interesting and memorable choice. It also sends across a perplexing message. All throughout the film, we are reminded that Mud’s true love, Juniper, has scorned him and chosen another man. The Beach Boys sing “But she let another guy come between us and it ruined our plan”. Ellis looks up to Mud especially, and he knows that Juniper has let another guy come between the two high school sweethearts, his role model. Juniper is the cause for all of Mud’s pain. He strives for them to be together. Ellis deals with lots of confusing emotions towards the opposite sex throughout the film. I thought “Help Me Rhonda” was an interesting choice, completely different from the Southern atmosphere of the film, instead reflecting Ellis’ childish notions about relationships between men and women.
Magic Mike– “Feels Like the First Time” by Foreigner
Magic Mike is just pure fun. It’s hot guys stripping, what more do you need?? The end credits song pumps you up just as much as you have been pumped up throughout the movie. It starts during the ending scene, when Mike’s crush Joanna playfully asks him “What are we going to do for seven hours?”. Mike slowly smiles, knowing where this is going, as the guitar riff kicks in. It takes a while, but they finally kiss. “It feels like the first time” Foreigner sings. Mike’s in a new relationship, Alex Pettyfer learned how to strip, all is well with the world. This song was the perfect rocking-out send off to a movie that is one fun ride.
The Spectacular Now– “Song for Zula” by Phosphorescent
The Spectacular Now not only a sensitive teenage love story, but also about the quest for accepting yourself. Sutter is an alcoholic who falls in love with Aimee in their senior year. By the end of the film, Sutter has a revelation about his destructive behaviors, told via a college application. Sutter admits that he has been living as a closed off person, “If I couldn’t feel it, then no harm would come to me.” That he shut out “the pain, shut out everything good, and the bad, until there was nothing.” Much like the cage that Phosphorescent sings about, “See the cage it called, I said come on in, I will not open myself up this way again.” Time and time again, throughout the film, Sutter let himself open up but would soon put up the familiar walls around him. The other lyrics, “See honey, I saw love. You see it came to me. It put its face up to my face so I could see. Yeah then I saw love disfigure me into something I am not recognizing”. The love that Aimee and Sutter shared helped him find that other side of himself. From there he was able to become aware of his problems and begin to become a functioning and happier person. “Song for Zula” is a beautiful song that eloquently closes out the tender film.
Caroline hails from the home state of her hero Bruce Springsteen. Some of her favorite films are Amadeus, King Kong, When Harry Met Sally, Raging Bull, The Godfather, Jaws, and An American Werewolf in London. Her absolute favorite will always be The Lord of the Rings trilogy. 70s/80s era Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are her faves. She blogs even more about her film obsession at cinematicvisions.wordpress.com.