2019 Movies: Music

A trio of caveats before we crown my favorite uses of music in 2019 movies, the subject of this chapter in our recap of the past year in film.

A subject not to be confused with movie music (and yes, we’re already inside the first caveat); those original scores and songs will be saved for The Stevens (my picks for the Academy Awards’ official categories), so none were eligible for inclusion in the lists below.

Another exclusion: any mention of Cats will be reserved for other upcoming awards (here’s a hint).

One final exclusion: Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese. I mean, it’s just not fair to pit archival footage of peak Tambourine Man against, well, anything.

  1. Her Smell
  2. Gully Boy
  3. Wild Rose


Special citation: Climax

  • None of the characters sing on screen — my technical definition of a musical — but they perform (to) the music, often through overt choreography,  sometimes in cinematic relation to it; the unceasing songs inform each of their gestures in every moment. Since they, the movie, and thus us are always aware of the music’s pervasive presence coursing through the proceedings, Climax can be considered a musical of a different (depraved) color.


Speaking of characters being aware of songs, that’s my classification for a scene to be eligible for this category; the music cannot be merely a soundtrack for the audience’s benefit. Rather, the song(s) being played must exist in the world of the movie, with the characters visually hearing and reacting to them, usually through singing and/or dancing.


  1. Company Dual Juxtaposition (“You Could Drive a Person Crazy” and “Being Alive”) — Marriage Story
  2. Dance-Circle Raves — Climax
  3. “GLORIA!!!” — Gloria Bell
  4. “Heaven” — Her Smell
  5. “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” — The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  6. “Peace in This House” — Wild Rose
  7. “Space Age Love Song” — End of the Century
  8. “Pump Up the Jam” — Synonyms
  9. “They Don’t Really Care About Us” — Midnight Traveler
  10. Nightclub —> Orgy — Aniara
  11. MDMA / “King of My Castle” — Loro
  12. Colonial Ballad — The Nightingale
  13. “You Oughta Know” — Booksmart
  14. “Crocodile Rock” — Rocketman
  16. “Shake It Off” — Little Monsters
  17. “Dancing on My Own” — Teen Spirit
  18. Music Video — Perfect
  19. “Honky Cat” — Rocketman
  20. “Thunder Road” — Blinded by the Light
  21. Recording Steamroll — Yesterday
  22. “Ocean (Where Feet May Fail)” — Breakthrough


The flip-side to the prior category: these are my favorite uses of preexisting songs — AKA songs not original to the movies (again, I reserve those for the impending Stevens) — that act more like conventional soundtracks, unaccompanied by singing and dancing.


In Movie Proper

  1. “Out of Time” / “California Dreamin'” — Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  2. “In the Still of the Night” — The Irishman
  3. “Come Healing” — The Farewell
  4. Michael Bay’s Fuck Playlist — 6 Underground
  5. “Dancing Queen” — The Two Popes
  6. “Oops!… I Did It Again” Jazz Standard — Ruben Brandt, Collector
  7. “Hells Bells” — Pig
  8. “Somebody to Love” — The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  9. A Score to Settle

Over Opening-Credits

  1. “Country Girl” — Wild Rose
  2. “Bitter With the Sweet” — Poms
  3. “Komm gib mir deine Hand” — Jojo Rabbit

Over Closing-Credits

  1. “Road to Nowhere” — Transit
  2. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” — Midsommar
  3. “Here Come the Martian Martians” — Non-Fiction
  4. “Doodle Let Me Go (Yaller Girls)” — The Lighthouse
  5. “Sweet Virginia ” — Knives Out
  6. “L’Amour Tojours” — Uncut Gems
  7. “Shotgun Safari” — Dragged Across Concrete
  8. Lizzo’s Remix of “Stayin’ Alive” — Happy Death Day 2U
  9. “See You Later, Alligator” — Crawl
  10. “Wish Someone Would Care” — Chained for Life
  11. “KHJ Batman Promotion” — Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  12. Knock Down the House


This category boils down to more than just the quality of the collected songs evaluated in a vacuum. How the songs are used, what they add to the movies — more than the usual emphatic underscoring of obvious emotions and/or tones, with lyrics that are on-the-nose relevant  — and the creativity of the choices should all be factors in our judgements.

Oh, and single-artist catalogues by masters and preexisting musicals don’t count; my apologies to Blinded by the Light, Yesterday, Rocketman, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, other music documentaries, and Cats!


  1. Climax
  2. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  3. 6 Underground
  4. Loro
  5. Gloria Bell
  6. The Beach Bum
  7. Hustlers
  8. Waves
  9. Wild Rose
  10. The Souvenir
  11. The Image Book
  12. Poms
  13. Booksmart
  14. Hail Satan?
  15. In the Aisles
  16. Ash Is Purest White
  17. A Dog’s Way Home
  18. Adult Life Skills


“Nobody Speak”, AKA the “bag of dicks” song — Booksmart Good Boys Charlie’s Angels

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