Is it a coincidence that all of these films are well-rated on the Internet Movie Database? Probably not. Any filmmaker smart enough to get real-deal musical artists in their movie is already ahead of the game. Sure, it’s not a surefire predictor of success. But if this list is any indication, it’s a pretty good gauge. Independent directors, please remember this unofficial guideline!
Up in Smoke (1978) [IMDB]
The Dils perform “You’re Not Blank” at the battle-of-the-bands happening at the infamous Roxy. Tony Kinman explains how the band wound up the film here. Clips of the actual scene get taken down off of YouTube, and so here’s the trailer for the movie:
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979) [IMDB]
This Roger Corman classic is about a girl named Riff Randell who dreams of meeting the Ramones. By the end of the movie, the band has come to the school and inspired the kids to go crazy with their Punk Rock. And they play the song Riff wrote especially for them:
Out of the Blue (1980) [IMDB]
The Pointed Sticks play two of their early classics in this obscure gem directed by, and featuring, Dennis Hopper.
Alone in the Dark (1982) [IMDB]
The Sick F*cks perform two of their best tracks in this Horror / Thriller featuring Jack Palance and Martin Landau. Couldn’t find a clip of the scene, but here’s an entertaining review of the movie in which the reviewer who, when recounting the scene with the Sick F*cks, sings a bar or two of “Chop up Your Mother.”
Class of 1984 (1982) [IMDB]
Canadian Punk legends Teenage Head perform one of their classics “Ain’t Got No Sense” in this early-80’s cult classic featuring Punk rock drug dealing gangs that roam the highschool halls.
Suburbia (1983) [IMDB]
Penelope Spheeris’ follow-up the hugely popular “Decline of Western Civilization,” this movie about disaffected suburban youth features the earliest known appearance of “the chickenbutt game.” It also features live performances by TSOL, DI, and The Vandals.
Here’s TSOL going “Darker My Love” and “Wash Away:”
This is DI doing what might be their best track, “Richard Hung Himself:”
The Vandals performing “Pat Brown:”
Repo Man (1984) [IMDB]
While the Circle Jerks perform “When the Shit Hits the Fan” (lounge version) in a nightclub, Otto (Emilio Estevez) turns to his date and says “I can’t believe I used to like these guys!” I was unable to find the clip from the film, so here’s the band doing the track live at proper tempo, circa 1985 in Canada:
Back to School (1986) [IMDB]
Rodney Dangerfierd’s ultra-rich character Thornton Melon hires Oingo Boing to play a dormitory party when he returns to college to finally get a degree after conquering the business world. In the clip below, one student describes the party as “the best thing to ever happen to me in my whole life!”
Brain Damage (1988) [IMDB]
Swimming Pool Q’s play “Corruption” in this comedic Horror film about a guy that trawls the NY underground for people to feed to the evil disembodies brain that has him addicted to some alien narcotic.
Here’s the complete film on YouTube. The SPQ’s appear around the 32:00 minute mark.
There’s Something About Mary (1998) [IMDB]
Indie stalwart Jonathan Richman performs as a “Greek chorus” performing the film’s title track as well as a a variety of miniature pieces that narrate the story. This movie was widely popular and it’s unlikely that most viewers realized that the onscreen minstrel was such a respected veteran of underground music.
This is one of many appearances Richman makes in the movie, this time doing a little number in Italian: