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10 Paul McCartney Songs That Made Movies Better

on September 05, 2018, 5:00am
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“Blackbird” – I Am Sam (2001)


Once called an “insipid example of the Hollywood message movie,” I Am Sam is far from a perfect film, often times more content in manipulating emotional responses than establishing depth in its characters. What helps it rise above all the manufactured moments of ugly crying though is its soundtrack: an organic use of The Beatles’ catalog that helps flesh out the heart of the story. Originally intended to be full of The Beatles’ actual music, the crew ran into the roadblock many filmmakers have in relation to The Fab Four’s music: they just couldn’t obtain the rights. Too expensive? Couldn’t get them to sign off? We’ll never know, but many of the artists tapped to cover this iconic source material were more than ready to step up. Most striking was Sarah McLachlan’s version of “Blackbird”, which tenderly soundtracks a moment of parental covert ops involving a father, his daughter, and an origami bird. Okay, okay, okay — that ugly cry moment is justified. –Doug Nunnally
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“Another Day” – 50 First Dates (2004)

Let’s face it: 50 First Dates is no masterstroke. In fact, it’s pretty atrocious. Luckily, though, a sizable enough ratio of its soundtrack (not least ironclad classics like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Boys Don’t Cry”, and “Do You Realize??”) make it tolerable enough to warrant a cursory watch. Another highlight was the inclusion of the first single of McCartney’s solo career, “Another Day”. Written and previewed during The Beatles’ Let It Be sessions in 1969, the song – which was later recorded during the sessions for McCartney’s second album, Ram – upgrades almost heroically unremarkable montage from bland to tolerable. For a film of this pedigree, that’s no mean feat. –Brian Coney

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“Baby You’re a Rich Man” – The Social Network (2010)

Before cutting to black, David Fincher’s The Social Network features a pathetic Jesse Eisenberg repeatedly refreshing his browser on his ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page. With “All You Need Is Love” B-side “Baby You’re a Rich Man” seeping in, and the viewer being informed that Mark Zuckerberg is “youngest billionaire in the world,” Fincher’s intent comes into sharp focus. While perhaps not one of McCartney’s more inspired Beatles singles, utilised in this stark manner, the small print is driven home: wealth, success, and power isn’t everything. Now, if only things had worked out in such a way that “All You Need Is Love” made for a more fitting curtain call. –Brian Coney

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“Band on the Run” – Boyhood (2014)

Whether you’re a music nerd or not, the most memorable scene in Richard Linklater’s ambitious masterpiece Boyhood has to be the scene in which Mason Evans Sr. (Ethan Hawke) gives his son, Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), a specially constructed mix CD of The Beatles’ solo career entitled The Black Album. Not only is it a perfect conduit through which to process the realities of separation (or divorce in this context), but it’s also a tender moment of a parent imparting his own wisdom and passion to his offspring, who, in this case, is happy to oblige, even if his own inclination is to just listen to Paul. “You’re missing the point,” Ethan Hawke’s character exclaims in response. “There is no favorite Beatle. It’s in the balance.” And some might argue he’s right, but which Beatle leads off the carefully curated mix? It’s Paul with one of his most iconic songs, the one that best portrays his musical identity in the form of a contemporary mélange that to this day still feels timeless. –Doug Nunnally

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“Live and Let Die” – American Hustle (2014)

As anyone reading this will surely know, McCartney originally penned this song for Roger Moore’s first film as James Bond, 1973’s Live and Let Die. There’s no arguing on this end that the song makes that movie — one overflowing with mundane storylines, cringeworthy stereotypes, and inane dialogue — better. But if we’re going for the definitive use of this song, with a scene that you just can’t forget about, we have to shift our attention to David O. Russell’s 2014 crime drama, American Hustle. It’s not that Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is so mesmerizing (it is). It isn’t that she perfectly matches the gentle barbs of its ballad intro and the frantic energy of its bustling breakdown (she does). No, it’s the fact that watching the scene makes you feel as though Russell wrote her character specifically with this song in mind. And then Lawrence took it to the next level by performing like it was the defining scene of not just her character, but the movie itself. (And it certainly is.) –Doug Nunnally

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