Movie Fun: Music in Non-Musicals

I finished watching 13 Going On 30 today during my torture treadmill session. Cute movie… serious lapses in plot (duh)… Jennifer Garner is a revelation. Anyway, my favorite scene in the movie was the Thriller dance at the magazine’s party. I’m a sucker for the interjection of such scenes in movies that are not musicals, especially if they’re unusual or unexpected.

That brought to mind similar scenes in other movies, and so I’ve decided to create a Top 10 list to see if you can think of any favorites I’ve missed. Again, the criteria are simple: the scene should involve song or dance, and it should take place in a movie genre other than a musical.

In no particular order, here’s my list (the aforementioned “13…30” rounds it out to ten):

  • Caveman, the eminently forgettable vehicle with Ringo Starr, Shelley Long and Dennis Quaid had a gem of a scene around a campfire in which music was invented.
  • The best scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding was during the pre-wedding meal when the group broke out into Say A Little Prayer for You.
  • About A Boy was a surprisingly good movie all the way around, but the finale where Hugh Grant tried to save a really pitiful song was classic.
  • People stayed away from Tank Girl in droves, and in doing so, missed a wonderfully incongruous rendition of Cole Porter’s classic, Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love), complete with dominatrix.
  • Some might say that Chevy Chase, John Candy and Dan Akroyd hit bottom with Nothing But Trouble, but I would point to the hip hop scene with Tupac Shakur, Fuze and Chopmaster J (among others) and ask for a recount.
  • My Blue Heaven is an underrated movie starring Steve Martin and Rick Moranis and it features a great scene where Steve’s character teaches Rick’s how to dance. Rick is a quick learner.
  • I debated about this one, but decided that no list of this kind would be complete without Peter Boyle’s delicate rendering of Puttin’ On the Ritz in Young Frankenstein.
  • Before I swore off watching her movies, I thought Whoopi Goldberg was a riot in Sister Act, and the choir’s rendition of I Will Follow Him is fraught with double-meaning. (Here’s a bit of unrelated trivia, btw. The nun with the really amazing voice in Sister Act…you know, the cute blonde [can I say that about a nun?]…was Wendy Makkena. She’s now starring as Jason Alexander’s wife in the CBS sitcom, Listen Up. Catch her while you can; I predict a short life for this series.)
  • The Mask was one of Jim Carrey’s best pure comedies, and Cameron Diaz (in her first movie role) was breathtaking during their big dance scene.

OK, your turn. What’d I miss (other than the 25 minutes it took me to write this)?

Categorized as Movies, Music


  1. Eric, the ‘Knights of the Round Table’ scene from the movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” still makes me laugh after all these years.
    A much different tone, but very moving, is Paul Newman singing ‘Plastic Jesus’ in the movie, “Cool Hand Luke.”
    I guess I’m showing my age with these, but I’ll offer one more … Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort singing, ‘If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out’ in the movie, “Harold and Maude.”

  2. Jeff, I guess I’m showing my age also, because I’ve seen all three of those movies…and I can’t recall ANY of the songs!
    I figured you’d mention the Soggy Bottom Boys singing “Man of Constant Sorrows” in “O Brother…”

  3. LOL, Eric. “Uncouth?” Those of us who know you, know better.
    The film is actually a thriller, beautifully set and shot, and featuring some great characters, genuine suspense and some great chase scenes. I saw it in the theater when it came out in 1981, in French with English subtitles.
    I recommend it highly. Add it to your “Netflix” queue

  4. In the Three Amigos – Chevy Chase and Steve Martin singing “Little Cowboys”
    TopGun – “She’s lost that lovin’ feelin'” sung by Tom Cruise
    Lee Marvin singing “Happy Birthday” in Cat Ballou
    Sidney Poitier in Lillies of the Field teaching the sisters, “Amen”, his goin’ to meetin’ song
    Cary Grant’s duet with his dog in “The Awful Truth” ( this movie is a riot, I love Irene Dunn)
    Do you want more? *grin*

  5. Okay – I’m racking my brain….
    how about:
    John Wayne in one of his earliest flicks “Riders of Destiny” where he sings to a blonde heroine – something about desert breezes?
    (although I seriously doubt it was his voice)
    I know it is a musical, but Brando blew me away in Guys and Dolls as Sky Masterson and his surprising ability to at least carry a tune, Luck be a Lady?
    Ahhh, and how about Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter, he is singing an eerie Bringing in the Sheaves to Lillian Gish.

  6. You’re an old-time movie kind of gal, aren’t you? “Riders of Destiny”? That’s pre-WWII vintage! And I don’t believe you were born when “Night of the Hunter” was made…

  7. Yes, tis all too true. I love the old stuff. Especially the campy old westerns. Never missed a Gene Autry flick. Few years back, I purchased a CD set of the Duke’s early movies, he was soooo handsome! And thanks to Turner Classic Movies, anyone of any age can catch some of the best old Hollywood has to offer.

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