High Fidelity (2000)
“Let’s Get It On”
Jack Black’s “Let’s Get It On” performance in High Fidelity is being listed as an honorable mention because it’s the only performance-based use of Gaye’s music on this list. But regardless, there is no end to my enjoyment in watching Black crush this song while John Cusack stares at him with dumbfounded admiration. Watching the film, you’d never think that guy would be able to deliver such a soulful performance. Rock on.
5. Boogie Nights (1997)
“Got to Give It Up”
“Got to Give It Up” is Marvin Gaye’s most used track in film and TV. It’s been featured in all types of projects (from Menace II Society to How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Charlie’s Angels to The Wire), but my favorite use of the song has always been Dirk Diggler showing off his new home in Boogie Nights. It fits the mood of the scene so perfectly, with Dirk bragging about his new possessions like a pompous douchebag (“That’s custom made – that’s real imported Italian leather”) as the camera glides around smoothly, taking it all in.
4. Zodiac (2007)
“Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”
David Fincher likes to have fun with his passing-of-time montages, and this time lapse of the Transamerica Pyramid building being constructed in San Francisco is chief among them.
3. Stepmom (1998)
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
This scene is proof that Marvin Gaye can make any movie better.
2. Broken Flowers (2005)
“I Want You”
Don Johnston (Bill Murray) sits at home alone, thinking. He’s thinking about taking a trip to visit a handful of former lovers. He’s thinking about women he’s screwed over, the children he may have had, the years he’s done nothing with himself. He stares at the expensive bottle of champagne in front of him, contemplating another isolated sip.
“Don’t you wanna care?” Marvin Gaye dares. “Ain’t it lonely out there?”
1. The Big Chill (1983)
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
Opening credits don’t get much better than The Big Chill. We’re introduced to all the main characters, spending about 25 very telling seconds with each other them, while cross-cutting very close-up shots of their former friend being dressed for his funeral. All the while, Marvin Gaye blares away, telling us that he’s “Just about to lose my mind!” It’s such a perfect music choice; spot-on, but never forced. As good as music in movies gets.
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