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The 10 best songs from Richard Linklater films

One serious playlist

The 10 best songs from Richard Linklater films

The music that made the moments - we pick the 10 best songs to appear on Linklater soundtracks


Aerosmith - Sweet Emotion

Film:Dazed And Confused 

Put simply, Dazed And Confused would not have been Dazed And Confused without the rumbling bassline and mantra-like hook of Aerosmith’s signature song gliding over the opening scenes. There can’t be many other films whose tone is set so effectively by an opening song: the vibes here being laidback, druggy and with an undertone of violence.

Led Zeppelin - Immigrant Song

Film:School Of Rock 

Prior to the release of this film, Led Zeppelin had been notoriously prickly about allowing their music to be used by filmmakers: not least Linklater, who screened Dazed And Confused for Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in the hope of securing their song of the same name, but was turned down. For School Of Rock, he got Jack Black to beg the band on live TV. Not only did they get the banshee-screech of Immigrant Song signed off, but since then Zeppelin music has been everywhere in film (well, not everywhere, but…)

Thom Yorke - Black Swan

Film:A Scanner Darkly 

Some might consider Thom Yorke singing “This is fucked up” over glitchy electronic beats close to self-parody, but in the context of Linklater’s Philip K Dick adaptation, its claustrophobic atmosphere fits perfectly.

Devo - Whip It

Film: Everybody Wants Some!! 

The film may be named after a Van Halen song, but in the first scene we see lead character Jake moving into his frat house carrying a box of vinyl albums, at the front of which is Devo’s seminal debut Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!. This is an early sign that these are not your average baseball jocks: Devo make esoteric, arty outsider music. Their single Whip It soundtracks one scene, as does Brian Eno’s equally strange Driving Me Backwards.

Nina Simone - Just In Time

Film:Before Sunset 

The second instalment in Linklater’s romantic trilogy has one of the best, most low-key endings of any film ever: centred around some aimless chattering between Ethan’n’Julie about this Nina Simone song. The naturalistic feel was conjured in part by the fact that neither actor knew which Simone song was coming until action was called.

Paul McCartney & Wings: Band on the Run


Easily the most memorable moment is when Ethan Hawke’s father figure bestows The Black Album upon his teenage son: a compilation of the best Beatles solo stuff, sequenced as the album they would have made had they stuck it out together. In the film, we only get a few seconds of Wings’ best song (the opening track on the compilation), but it’s enough to make you want to seek it out. Touchingly, the idea stems from a disc Hawke made in real life for his daughter Maya. The liner notes will make the dads among you cry like babies.

Ed Hall - Sedrick


Music does not play a central role in Slackers, but boy did Slackers play a central role in music: providing the catch-all term that would loosely describe so much of the music that infiltrated the mainstream the following years. One band that do feature centrally are local Austin noise-rockers Ed Hall, who went on to garner much more attention off the back of it.

The Florida Boys - Love Lifted Me


The second of Linklater’s films featuring a scene in which Jack Black is driving while singing (the first is when he screeches Led Zeppelin at his students in School Of Rock). Here he mimes to Fifties Southern gospel vocal quartet The Florida Boys in a scene that encapsulates the whimsical-yet-unsettling tone of both his character and the film.

Alice Cooper - Muscle of Love

Film:Bad News Bears 

We only allowed ourselves one song from Dazed And Confused in this list, and it had to be Sweet Emotion. But this meant that neither No More Mr Nice Guy or School’s Out – both of which play central roles – could feature. So, in order to avoid the travesty of a ‘music in Richard Linklater movies’ without Alice Cooper, we present this less celebrated but still awesome cut from his 1973 album of the same name, with apologies to Vincent himself.

Friends of Dean Martinez - A Place in the Sun

Film:Fast Food Nation 

Linklater’s hymn to the horror of the US hamburger obsession features one of his best soundtracks: the film is scored by Arizona’s Friends Of Dean Martinez, who position one of their own, sombre songs in the climax to brilliant effect. It’s a fitting closer there, and it’s a fitting closer here.

(Images: Rex/Covers)