From Rushmore to Mr. Fox: The Best Uses of Songs in Wes Anderson's Films

Categories: Film
Oh, Wes Anderson, you beautiful, whimsical, detail-oriented genius, you. Today, Anderson's latest movie, Moonrise Kingdom, sees release nationwide -- so naturally we're already anticipating the gems he'll have pulled together for the soundtrack. Wes Anderson movies of course always, always, always have wondrous soundtracks. The songs make the scenes better, and the scenes make the songs better. Therefore, we'd like to take a moment to appreciate the greatest uses of songs in Wes Anderson's finest movies so far. Given the wealth of material available, these were not easy choices.

The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away" in Rushmore, 1998



When Max Fischer and his friend Herman Blume both fall in love with the same woman in Rushmore, they go to war with each other, each doing something more vindictive than the other, until Max gets arrested for sabotaging the brakes on Herman's car. The montage of all this crazy one-upmanship is soundtracked by The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away", the "You are forgiven" refrain ringing out ironically over all the bitterness. (Also, we like the fact that the song opens with the words "Her man" -- a subtle but clever nod to Bill Murray's character.)

Elliott Smith's "Needle In The Hay" in The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001



The Royal Tenenbaums is a movie packed to the rafters with unspoken grief, un-discussed pain and a mountain of repressed emotion. So when Richie Tenenbaum finally gives up on the love he feels for his adopted sister, Margot, and attempts to take his own life, the scene needed a sense of foreboding, a quiet urgency, and a whole heap of subdued agony. Which is why Elliott Smith's "Needle In The Hay" was so ridiculously perfect. 

Iggy Pop's "Search and Destroy" in The Life Aquatic, With Steve Zissou, 2004




The Life Aquatic's soundtrack is a strange and wonderful thing. The consistent use of Portuguese renditions of David Bowie classics is nothing short of fabulous, and the weird, video-game-like electronica Steve Zissou listens to when he's diving made us laugh for 10 minutes the first time we saw this movie. But, for us, the greatest use of a song in a scene here is at the point when Zissou goes gloriously apeshit on a bunch of pirates and Iggy Pop's "Search and Destroy" kicks in, soundtracking the lunatic gun fight. Absolutely brilliant.

The Rolling Stones' "Play with Fire" in The Darjeeling Limited, 2007



When the three estranged brothers of The Darjeeling Limited finally track down their mother in a convent in the Himalayas, it becomes apparent why and how this dysfunctional family got that way in the first place. "Maybe we could express ourselves more fully if we say it without words," suggests the brothers' evasive mother. The circular meditation scene that follows is given an unspoken degree of malice thanks to the song it is paired with: The Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire." It's clear then that this woman is not to be trusted and will not give the trio the solace or comfort that they need. What the song doesn't say, Adrien Brody's face does.   

Jarvis Cocker's "Fantastic Mr. Fox, AKA Petey's Song" in Fantastic Mr Fox, 2009



Okay, so this isn't music to enhance a particular scene -- because the song is the scene. It's our favorite musical moment in Fantastic Mr Fox though, because Jarvis Cocker is so adorable as Petey that when Mr Bean scolds him for writing a bad song and flicks a cigarette at him, it just serves to make us root harder for the rebellious animals. Delightfully, Jarvis Cocker's trademark dance wiggle is animated into the movie too. Awesome.


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3 comments
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Anonymous
Anonymous

Left out the Rolling Stones' "2000 Man" from Bottle Rocket. Great Scene.

Lee
Lee

I think that Jarvis Cocker track on Fantastic Mr. Fox was the first original song from Wes and his gang.

Adriannalovesmusic
Adriannalovesmusic

Totally agree but you left out the force that his Randall Poster, his Music Supervisor and Mark Motherbaugh for scoring all his films until "Darjeeling".

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