In recent years, the factions of Led Zeppelin that are pulling the strings of the band’s legacy began to loosen their grip a little. Before that, trying to get a license for a Led Zeppelin song was damn-near impossible, leaving a chunk of pop culture that no director could touch, no matter how relevant or important it was. However, now it would seem that we will see a lot more Zeppelin in our favourite films as the rockers, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones, are given more license to appear on the big screen.
The band’s power cannot be denied. There are few artists as commanding and cultured as Led Zeppelin, and, for over a decade, the group reigned supreme as the greatest band on earth. Even after their disbandment following the tragic death of John Bonham, Zeppelin have continued to be a cultural touchpoint that can connect generations of music lovers. Put simply, there’s not much that putting a Led Zeppelin song on won’t improve, and these films knew it.
That’s not to say the films below are bad movies, though a few may find a slight Venn diagram dilemma, but that they were drastically improved by the use of Led Zeppelin’s material. Of course, there are some obvious choices in here; for example, we managed to pick just one of the five Led Zeppelin songs that feature in Almost Famous, but there are also some choices that you may not have witnessed.
The band’s songs have appeared in films and TV shows over 30 times, and that number will continue to increase as not only is the band no more willing than ever to license its material to filmmakers, but a brand new generation are discovering the work of the seventies’ rock gods.
Below, we’re picking out ten times that Led Zeppelin made films so much better.
10 best Led Zeppelin moments in movies:
‘Good Times, Bad Times’ – American Hustle (2013)
Okay, so we’re taking a little bit of artistic license on this one but, if you don’t consider the film’s trailer to be a part of the movie package, then you won’t like this. We’re picking out the moment Zeppelin’s ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ powered the American Hustle trailer.
The film saw an all-star cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adamas, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper and has become a cult classic. When the producers were trying to capture the spirit of the film for the trailer, they knew that only the classic stop-start of the song, and its lyrics, could accurately demonstrate the movie as Plant sings: “In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man / Now I’ve reached that age, I’ve tried to do all those things the best I can / No matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam.”
‘What Is and What Should Never Be’ – Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Another Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence film again use Led Zeppelin’s song to devastating effect — largely because of David O. Russell. Director, Russell used the band’s song ‘What Is and What Should Never Be’ as the perfect way to depict the bipolar disorder of Bradley Cooper’s character.
Cooper’s character has a breakdown during the film, and Russell noted the track as “a bipolar song”, also saying that trying to get the license for the song in the first place was more difficult than anything else he has tried to license. He’s a huge fan of the band and has included their work in three of his pictures.
‘Tangerine’ – Almost Famous (2000)
Almost Famous is one of the best rock movies you’ll ever see. Built on all the tropes you’d imagine could be found in a film about a fledgeling music journalist going on tour with the biggest band on the planet, Stillwater — the film is a classic. It also features a host of classic Zeppelin songs, including ‘The Rain Song’, ‘That’s The Way’. ‘Bron Yr Aur’ and ‘Misty Mountain Hop’.
But, certainly, the best appearance of Page and the band is when ‘Tangerine’ lands as the closing song of the film. As the characters of the film begin to go their separate ways and embark on new journeys, the track plays out as a reminder of their past and a view on the future.
‘Immigrant Song’ – Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
There aren’t many Marvel franchises that we will stick up for — we tend to side with Martin Scorsese on those. But, equally, there is no denying that the spectacle they provide is always guaranteed to please fans. Music plays a big part in blockbusters, and on Thor: Ragnarok, arguably one of the better Marvel exports, there’s a perfect match.
Taika Waititi, the film’s director, picked out ‘Immigrant Song’ as part of his initial pitch to Marvel for the movie. He used it twice within the film, firstly when Thor battles Surtur’s army and then fighting the demon during the film’s opening. The song then bookends the film as it is also used when Thor lands on Bilfrost to fight Hela’s armies.
‘Stairway To Heaven’ – Wayne’s World (1992)
Perhaps the finest use of classic rock that you’ll ever witness, Wayne’s World does a great job of making the importance of rock and roll feel pretty silly. But while it will undoubtedly be a favourite of many Led Zeppelin fans, it also, perhaps, aims at them.
Wayne makes his way to pay homage to his dream guitar. Asking to get it out of the case, he begins to strum some of the most important chords in rock history, those of ‘Stairway to Heaven’, before he is abruptly stopped. A store assistant appears and points to a sign that says “NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN”, to which Wayne replies with a chortle and a hair tuck: “No ‘Stairway’! Denied”.
‘When The Levee Breaks’ – Argo (2012)
An Oscar-winner, Argo isn’t exactly the first place you’d expect to hear a Led Zeppelin song. Ben Affleck was the man behind the movie about the Iran hostage crisis, and saw the perfect opportunity within his political thriller for behemoth Zeppelin song, ‘When The Levee Breaks’. Perhaps the reason the song fits in so nicely is that it is an organic feature.
Instead of soundtracking a particular scene, the song is put on the record player during one of the film’s tensest moments. As they wait patiently for a resolution they allow Plant, Page, Bonham and Jones to provide the relief.
‘Good Times Bad Times – The Fighter (2010)
Another David O. Russell film sees another use of Led Zeppelin and, in perhaps a curious indication of his favourite Zeppelin track, he picks ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ once more to feature in his stunning film The Fighter. The film is an unabashed look at the life of Micky Ward and his half brother and trainer Dicky Ecklund.
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale take on the esteemed roles, and Led Zeppelin plays at a critical moment in their relationship. The film is steeped in the depravity of Ward’s upbringing, and, as Dicky is caught stealing cars, Bale’s Micky is forced to try and get him out of jail. The song acts as a perfect refrain.
‘Achilles Last Stand’ – Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)
Few films are as capable of making you want to travel back in time as 2001’s documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. The film, which focuses on the skateboarding subculture that was exploding in California in the seventies, the film uses two Zeppelin songs to make their rebellious point.
The film follows a group as they continue to try and skate bowls, valleys and other gnarly sets. However, they struggle to establish themselves in the mainstream and operate as perennial rebels. In this regard, Led Zeppelin song ‘Achilles Last Stand’ is perfectly used to describe their situation and fits the film’s vibrancy.
‘Kashmir’ – Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High survived as one of the few moments Led Zeppelin was actually used in a film prior to the turn of the century. It also features the classic Mike Damone line: “When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.” While we couldn’t necessarily stand by it, or the five-point plan, it does allow Mark Ratner the chance to play some killer tunes.
The only issue is that Led Zeppelin IV was categorically on the no-fly list for Led Zeppelin when they were approached with the film. Instead, they signed off on allowing Ratner to play Physical Graffiti‘s ‘Kashmir’ as his go-to make-out track.
‘Immigrant Song’ – The School of Rock (2003)
Depending on your age, this Jack Black film will either be a beloved cult classic or just another kids movie. However, no matter which way you cut it, the movie is jam-packed with references to the musical titans of old. Naturally, with a film about a School of Rock, starring Jack Black, there was bound to be a Led Zeppelin tune.
‘Immigrant Song’ is the one selected, and it plays a pivotal role in one of the film’s triumphant scenes. The kids have just landed a spot a the Battle of the Bands after feigning a terminal illness, and Dewey Finn (played by Black) decides to commemorate the moment with a rendition of the classic Zeppelin song.