To the Tune of Mortality: “The Gondola Song” in Ikiru
A ballad from the 1910s becomes a precarious way station between life and death in Akira Kurosawa’s portrait of an ordinary man’s final days.
Fassbinder and Kraftwerk: A Marriage Made in a New Germany
The iconic band’s 1976 song “Radio-Activity” finds a perfect home in the final episode of Berlin Alexanderplatz, providing a musical correlative to the film’s interrogation of national identity.
The Valedictory Anthem That Takes Us Inside Inside Llewyn Davis
The heartbreaking lament “Fare Thee Well” builds in resonance as it drifts through multiple scenes in the Coen brothers’ folk-fueled drama.
Ryuichi Sakamoto Finds a Melody for the Unnameable
In Nagisa Oshima’s POW drama Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, a palpable but forbidden attraction achieves its most potent expression through music.
Mike Leigh Meets the Cure: The Three-Chord Nostalgia of Career Girls
One of the most iconic rock bands of the eighties provides the soundtrack to this poignant portrait of friendship and lost youth.
Bobby Womack Turns Up the Heat and the Soul in Fish Tank
Heard three times in Andrea Arnold’s coming-of-age drama, the R&B legend’s cover of “California Dreamin’ ” highlights the teenage heroine’s yearning for connection and escape.
When a Lovely Flame Dies: The Climactic Heartbreaker in 45 Years
The Platters’ impassioned rendition of the pop chestnut “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” highlights the irrevocable loss in Andrew Haigh’s marriage drama.
The Hot-Blooded Love Cry at the Cold Heart of Badlands
Mickey & Sylvia’s 1956 hit “Love Is Strange” injects a hint of lustful energy into a screen romance that is otherwise unsettlingly detached.
Uriah Heep Brings a Touch of the Uncool to Cold Water
With its irresistible momentum and sonic crunch, “Easy Livin’” occupies a special place in one of the most celebrated sequences in Olivier Assayas’s filmography.
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” Captures the Ache of Fleeting Friendships
The Scottish band Simple Minds took the Breakfast Club theme song to the top of the charts. But its success—and its plea for loyalty—couldn’t save the group from its ultimate demise.
From Folk Ditty to Rally Anthem: Nashville’s “It Don’t Worry Me”
Performed by the late Barbara Harris, the final song in Robert Altman’s masterpiece is a provocative mix of genres and conflicting cultural resonances.