Since the dawn of end credits, music has been used to end a movie. Sometimes that music is so powerful that not only does it contextualise the story that came before it, but lifts it on to a higher plane. For our money, that is exactly what the music on this best end credit songs list does.
The songs in the below list are all songs that existed before the movies they are in (except for Eminem's little ditty). Yet, they are now known because of the movies, such is the power of music and moving pictures.
The best end credit songs
1. Fight Club
Song: Pixies - Where Is My Mind?
The ending of Fight Club goes like this (including spoilers, in case you’re one of the eight people who’s not seen it): Tyler works out that Tyler is Tyler. Tyler shoots self in head. Tyler says: “You met me at a very strange time in my life.” Banks explode. The Pixies’ Where Is My Mind? cranks into life and sums everything up. Audience goes ‘Whoah.’
2. Stand By Me
Song: Ben E. King – Stand By Me
Though Stand By Me is based on Stephen King’s novella The Body, the film takes its name from the Ben E. King song. It’s a decision that enhances this classic, stirring tale of adventure, friendship and solidarity.
3. 8 Mile
Song: Lose Yourself - Eminem
The whole of 8 Mile was building up to its ending, when B-Rabbit has a rap battle that, if he wins, hip-hop supremacy awaits. As 8 Mile is loosely based on the life of Eminem it was always right that the rap god would create an absolute banger of a track to end the movie that sums up the passion of someone who, to seize everything he ever wanted, only has one shot.
4. The Graduate
Song: The Sound Of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel
It's the third time we hear The Sound Of Silence in The Graduate, but it's certainly the most poignant. After the high of breaking off her wedding to run away with the man/boy she loves, Ben and Mrs Robinson end up on the back of a bus. Free from their old lives, their smiles soon change to something else. Fear? Terror? Sadness? Whatever it is, The Sound Of Silence is the perfect sombre soundtrack.
5. The Bourne Ultimatum
Song: Moby – Extreme Ways
For most sensible people, the end of the third Bourne film comes as a musical epiphany. Instead of being a guy who makes dreary music for adverts, it turns out that Moby's music is occasionally amazing. Who knew?
6. Donnie Darko
Song: Gary Jules - Mad World
Just what was it that happened in Donnie Darko? Does anyone know? At the very least, Gary Jules’ plaintive cover of Tears For Fears’ classic Mad World went some way to reflecting the mind-jumble experienced by the audience. A mad world, indeed.
7. The Matrix
Song: Rage Against the Machine - Wake Up
The Matrix has a streak of anger and nihilism throughout its run time so there was no better band to encapsulate that in song form. It's a double meta hit, too, with the name of the band being Rage Against The Machine and the song being Wake Up, both things Neo does throughout the film.
8. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Song: Yello – Oh Yeah
The synergy of a youthful Matthew Broderick doling out a carefree life mantra and a synthesised voice growling “Oh Yeah” will probably never be bettered in cinema. Bravo.
Song: George Michael - Careless Whisper
There's no better song to have over a scene where a streaky bacon faced Wade Wilson kisses the love of his life than Careless Whisper. Even Deadpool's commentary of, "well that's the only thing pulling out tonight" doesn't ruin the romance in this brilliant ending.
10. Dr. Strangelove
Song: Vera Lynn – We’ll Meet Again
The shot of Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb to the end of the world is such a memorable one, but it's made infinitely better with Vera Lynn's song in the background, a song that was written to gee up the English troops in World War II. This is such a fantastic final moment in not just this movie but any movie.
Song: Underworld - Born Slippy
Underworld’s Born Slippy is the perfect choice for the end of this Danny Boyle classic. As Renton (Ewan MacGregor) commits the ultimate betrayal of his friends to save himself, the song provides the backdrop for his ‘Choose Life’ mantra. A culturally iconic moment of the ’90s.
12. Platoon/The Elephant Man
Song: Samuel Barber - Adagio For Strings
Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings is the sort of thing you pop on the iPod for your commute (unless you’re heading into a particularly heavy-duty meeting that morning), but a moving piece of modern classical music, nonetheless. Written in 1936, it has appeared in many films and computer games – most notably deployed at the end of David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and Oliver Stone’s Platoon to yank hard at the heartstrings.
13. Reservoir Dogs
Song: Nilsson – Coconut
You can’t do a list of great music in films without mentioning Tarantino. His first two movies in particular, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, harvest gems from the ‘70s. Harry Nilsson’s whimsical, single-chord Coconut is the perfect contrast to Reservoir Dogs’ tense and bloody final scene.
14. Groundhog Day
Song: Nat King Cole – Almost Like Being In Love
Forget Sonny and Cher’s I Got You, Babe – the most uplifting bit in this existential classic is delivered by Nat King Cole. When today finally becomes tomorrow, weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) heads outside with his new love, Rita (Andie MacDowell), to the joyous sound of Almost Like Being In Love. Finally, he’s ready to get on with the rest of his life.
15. Romeo + Juliet
Radiohead – Exit Music (For A Film)
Though it appears at the end of Romeo + Juliet, this song didn’t appear on the OST. Instead, it was held over for Radiohead’s 1997 classic OK Computer. It’s pretty bleak stuff, which suits the story’s double-suicide, emo-supernovae ending. (If that last sentence was a spoiler we can deduce that you failed your English GCSE.)
16. The Big Lebowski
Song: Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers (Rolling Stones cover)
Allegedly, the Stones’ manager Allen Klein was holding out for $150,000 for the rights to use this song at the end of The Big Lebowski. However, when he heard The Dude utter the immortal line “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man” he was so delighted that he let the Cohen brothers have it for free. The version used on the film is by cult musician Townes Van Zandt, from his album Roadsongs.
Song: Sid Vicious – My Way
Not long after Ray Liotta’s stopped freaking out to imaginary helicopters and the piano bit from Derek & The Dominoes’ epic Layla, he winds up in court. Next comes the punk rock manifesto of Sid Vicious’s My Way. Joe Pesci doesn’t seem to find any of it very funny.
Song: Faces – Ooh La La
Wes Anderson’s films use a lot of good music, thanks to the input of DEVO legend Mark Mothersbaugh. For the ending of his second movie, the gloriously silly Rushmore, the pair selected the Faces’ Ooh La La. It’s a great choice, especially the timing of the line, “I wish that I knew what I know now/When I was younger”, as the curtains close on Max Fischer and Rosemary Cross sharing a dance.
19. Good Will Hunting
Song: Elliott Smith – Miss Misery
This moving song brought the music of Elliott Smith to much wider attention when it received an Oscar nomination in 1998. Thought it lost out to the schmaltz-fest of Titanic and Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, Smith performed at the ceremony. Arguably, the singer never fully came to terms with his newfound fame. He died in 2003 aged 34.
20. Jerry Maguire
Song: Bob Dylan - Shelter From The Storm
No record collection – WE SAY NONE – should be without Dylan’s 1975 opus Blood On The Tracks. This refrain is the most pertinent to the film: "Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"” In tandem with the sign-off from Dicky Fox (Jerry’s mentor in the movie) the message here is to get your home life straight and the rest will follow.
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