Even when you eliminate the obvious - biopics and documentaries about rock stars and events - you'll find that classic rock is a key part of today's feature films. Hollywood has employed rock from the '60s and '70s to enhance films about everything from motorcycles to drugs to high school angst. Here are ten of the best examples of movies with classic rock soundtracks.
This road trip film is a memorial to '70s rock, with an aspiring music writer riding along on a rising rock band's tour. The soundtrack features well chosen album tracks from the likes of The Who, Yes, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers Band, Todd Rundgren, and Elton John.
The film chronicles 30 years in the life of a drug dealer (portrayed by Johnny Depp) who goes from rags to riches to prison. The eclectic mix of music on the soundtrack ranges from a one hit wonder (Ram Jam's version of "Black Betty") to an oddity that consists of just two lines (Bob Dylan's "All The Tired Horses") to a popular Cream song that Eric Clapton says he never really liked ("Strange Brew") to a Southern rock staple (Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See.")
It's 1976. On the day they graduate from high school, a group of friends contemplate where they've been and where they're going. If nothing else, it's a plot that lends itself to a classic rock soundtrack that includes the obligatory "School's Out" (Alice Cooper) and other '70s anthems like Deep Purple's "Highway Star," ZZ Top's "Tush," Foghat's "Slow Ride" and Rick Derringer's "Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo" among its 14 tracks.
It's hard to imagine that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda could have made it across the Southwest on their motorcycles without the aid of Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" or The Who's "I Can See For Miles" or Blue Cheer's "Summertime Blues." That's just a tiny sample of the 29 classic rock tracks that make up the movie's soundtrack.
The further removed you are from high school, the less likely you are to relate to teen "coming of age" flicks, but the more likely you are to relate to the music. What the story line may lack, the music (Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks, Graham Nash, Sammy Hagar, The Go-Go's) goes a long way to make up for.
It's Johnny Depp and drugs again (see Blow above) with motorcycles (see Easy Rider above) central to the plot. Depp is cast as a journalist who turns a trip to cover a motorcycle race into an experiment in how many drugs can be ingested during one road trip. The soundtrack underscores the theme with tracks like Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," Buffalo Springfield's "Expecting To Fly" and Brewer & Shipley's "One Toke Over The Line."
Once again the setting is high school (see Dazed And Confused and Fast Times At Ridgemont High above) but the theme more focused: pregnant teenaged girl planning to give her child up for adoption. Among the musical selections that help move the action along are The Kinks' "Well Respected Man," Mott The Hoople's "All The Young Dudes" and Velvet Underground's "I'm Sticking With You."
You couldn't have a film about a pirate radio station in the late '60s without heavily sampling the era's best rock. The soundtrack includes all those great bands whose names start with "The" -- Who, Hollies, Kinks, Turtles, Troggs, Box Tops plus Hendrix, Moody Blues, Cream, Rolling Stones -- in all, 32 classic rock tracks.
This cult classic spoofs all those early rock 'n' roll movies of the '50s and '60s with a '70s punk rock version. Instead of Bill Haley and The Comets we get The Ramones. Instead of "Rock Around The Clock" we get a healthy dose of Ramones, Todd Rundgren, Alice Cooper, Brian Eno and Brownsville Station.
This fantasy (Richard Nixon is serving his fifth term as President and all of the world's caped, masked, and hooded superheroes have retired) has musical underpinnings that include Jimi Hendrix's "All Along The Watchtower," Janis Joplin's "Me And Bobby McGee" and Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'."