Easily regarded as one of the most important bands in rock music history, The Rolling Stones have always taken easily to the biggest stages. Whether that’s Hyde Park or Hollywood, there’s no spotlight that has ever put Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the rest of the band off. It means that the group, and their marvellous music, is ripe for the picking when it comes to making films. Below, we’ve gathered up our favourite Rolling Stones moments in films as a reminder of their prowess.
The Rolling Stones have survived nearly six decades as a band. That’s no mean feat. The group may have had a few alterations throughout the years, but, largely, the band that takes to worldwide stages today are the same guys who gathered up their Muddy Waters records to write some songs back in the early sixties. With a career so long, the Stones have always been forced to keep things fresh; it’s partly why the band is habitually used for movie soundtracks.
Whether it’s beautiful ballads or blistering moments of unbridled rock ‘n’ roll, The Rolling Stones have done it all and done with aplomb. Across the ten entries in this list, you’ll get a good idea of just how versatile the group are, as they provide the backdrop for heartwarming, heartwrenching and heartbreaking scenes, all with the same permanent class that ensures they still sell out stadiums to this day.
Now, we know what you’re thinking, but this won’t be a list completely overrun by entries from Martin Scorsese films. The classic film director didn’t just pick up their music documentary Shine A Light for no reason — he’s a diehard fan of the band. While there are some nods to Marty’s love for the Stones, we’ve got plenty of other directors who love the band too.
Here are ten times that The Rolling Stones made films better.
The Rolling Stones best music moments in films:
‘Sweet Virginia’ – Knives Out by Rian Johnson (2019)
One of the most recent entries on our list proves that although most of The Rolling Stones’ best work was done in the 20th century, the group can still find a brand new audience on this side of the millennium.
Featuring as a pivotal moment in Johnson’s Knives Out, ‘Sweet Virginia’ proves itself to be a classic song.
With Marta about to confess during the film’s finale, she is finally saved as Benoit Blanc pieces everything together. Thankfully, the will goes through, and Marta gets the house as planned. As she takes her morning coffee to the vast balcony of her estate, she can see the Thrombey family below her; the song plays as Marta’s dreams have come true.
‘Jumpin’Jack Flash’ – Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Terry Gilliam (1998)
There are a few moments in music and film where the crossover works to a tee. However, the more ingredients you add, the more difficult it is to balance. That wasn’t the case for Terry Gilliam’s 1998 vision of Hunter S Thompson’s classic novel Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
The film, like the book, is a riot, a trip and a whole host of other words to describe a crazy drug train that goes off the rails; it offers up the perfect moment to hear the Stones at their best.
One of the band’s favoured songs, and written about Keith Richards’ very own gardener, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ acts as the perfect palette cleanser for audiences as it plays out across the end credits. Thompson’s bolting out of the city with only the Stones and his wits for company.
‘Can’t You Hear Me Knockin” – Casino by Martin Scorsese (1995)
If there’s one band that Martin Scorsese has relied upon again and again it’s The Rolling Stones. More often than not, the Stones will feature in one of the director’s feature films. There are plenty of moments that one song, in particular, has been used in his filmography, but we’ll get to that one in just a second.
First, we’re looking back at the use of ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knockin” in the 1995 classic Casino.
As montage scenes go, Scorsese is one of the best at making them, and this one from Casino, one that sets up Nicky’s eventual demise, is perfectly punctuated by the closest thing The Rolling Stones ever got to a jam — ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knockin”. It’s a combination that lands with devastating effect and keeps the film’s buoyancy continuing to motor on.
‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ – Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola (1979)
Used time and time again, ‘Satisfacxtion’ is the kind of song that will outlive us all. Endlessly covered and, therefore, tainted, the song can feel both euphoric and cringe-inducing in equal measure.
But one moment that the song truly loses all its gathered dad-rock vibes is when Francis Ford Coppola picked the song for his unfiltered war epic Apocalypse Now.
The song is used as a pertinent reminder of the horrors of war. As Captain Willard’s men make their way to their eventual deaths, the group are given a reprieve from the unholy hell around them as The Rolling Stones play out across the radio. It allows the men to sing and dance for the first time in months and provides the perfect juxtaposition for Willard’s own fatalistic musings.
‘Out of Time’ – Once Upon A Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino (2019)
Quentin Tarantino is in love with the music of the sixties and seventies. Throughout his rich filmography, the director has often relied on rock’s golden age to provide some sincere and searing moments in his pictures. One of the greatest to feature The Rolling Stones comes in his latest film, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.
A film based on the audience’s knowledge of a horrific tragedy means this song lands more heavily than might be expected.
As Rick and Cliff land in the States following their contract in Italy, and therefore their working relationship, ending, the duo part ways, and Joanna make her way to live with Rick next to Sharon Tate’s house. As the tragedy of the murders looms heavily over the film, this song provides a knowing backdrop for everything that’s not being said.
‘Play With Fire’ – Darjeeling Limited by Wes Anderson (2007)
Wes Anderson is perfectly aligned with the 1960s that birthed The Rolling Stones. Throughout his films, he has provided an aesthetic that feels at home with the swinging sixties and all the bands that came out of it. It means that often The Rolling Stones and their contemporaries find their way into Anderson’s films, much like this number featured in 2007’s Darjeeling Limited.
Anderson uses ‘Play With Fire’ as the perfect underlying theme for a montage scene that sees the three brothers central to the story explore their maternal relationships through meditation.
It’s a joyful piece of filmmaking and one that underlines Anderson’s wondrous talent.
‘Gimme Shelter’ – Goodfellas by Martin Scorsese (1990)
We’ve already told you that The Rolling Stones are Martin Scorsese’s go-to band. If you saw his 2008 masterclass music documentary about the band, Shine A Light, you’d be in no doubt. But his use of one song in three of his most famous films proves just how much of a fan he is.
‘Gimme Shelter’ is rightly seen as one of the band’s best tracks. Regarded as the death-rattle of the sixties, the song is forever linked with the incendiary refrain of “Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away,” which acts as the perfect lyrics for many of Scorsese’s films.
It’s a precursor to Henry Hill’s demise in Goodfellas as he begins cutting drugs outside of Paulie’s permission. It leads to his downfall like the song led to the debauched seventies.
‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ – The Big Chill by Lawrence Kasdan (1983)
As a group of baby boomers reconnect over the death of their friend Alex, the all-star cast for Kadan’s The Big Chill share their journey through a barrage of classic songs from the 1960s.
As well as the Stones, there is room for the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and plenty more. The film may not be revered as highly as it possibly deserves, but there’s no doubt that the story’s introduction is the best bit.
It’s an introduction made ten times better with the work of The Rolling Stones. Gathering at Alex’s funeral, Jo Beth Williams begins performing the anthemic Stones number ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, as the original songs drifts into focus, we get a vision of the film about to unfold in front of us.
‘Gimme Shelter’ – The Departed by Martin Scorsese (2006)
One of the most potent songs of the 1960s, ‘Gimme Shelter’ adds an extra demented level to Frank Costello’s introduction in The Departed.
It’s clearly Scorsese’s favourite song, even if the lyrics are a little twisted, and the use of it, in all three films (Goodfellas, The Departed and Casino), is nothing short of pure brilliance.
Costello may well be one of Jack Nicholson’s finest performances and one of Scorsese’ most-loved villains, but the introduction of him would be nothing without The Rolling Stones kicking it up a notch or two with this killer tune.
‘I Am Waiting’ – Rushmore by Wes Anderson (1998)
Wes Anderson’s seminal high school movie, Rushmore is one of the finer moments of his career. A story built around the incredible character of Max Fischer is charming, funny, emotional and just about everything you want a film to be.
It even comes complete with a perfect Rolling Stones moment too.
“She’s my Rushmore, Max,” says Bill Murray’s Herman Blume before Fischer replies, “Yeah, I know. She was mine, too.” Then follows a two-minute montage (one of Anderson’s specialities) that sees the entire plot of the film unfurl while being soundtracked by the Stones song ‘I Am Waiting’, perfectly encapsulating the characters at hand endless waits for life to come good.