The Most Memorable Uses of Beach Boys Music in Film and TV
Few bands are as iconic as the Beach Boys, who spent years creating a catalog of incredible music. Running the gamut from catchy pop songs to experimental rock, they have a song for every occasion … and for every movie. With the wonderful Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy now available on Blu-ray and DVD, let’s take a look back at the most memorable uses of Beach Boys music in movies and TV. After all, it’s hard to find something that wasn’t improved through the use of one of their tracks.
“Barbara Ann” / Full House
In one of the more memorable episodes of Full House, D.J. wins two tickets to a Beach Boys concert, leading to a plot where she must choose who take with her. After learning a series of valuable life lessons, the whole crew manages to get admitted to the show … where they are invited on stage to rock out to “Barbara Ann.” It’s an adorable moment and that instantly catchy earworm of a song easily created a new generation of young Beach Boys fans.
“God Only Knows” / Boogie Nights & Love Actually
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights is chock-full of amazing music cues, but the use of “God Only Knows” during the film’s final montage is something truly special. That song, simultaneously romantic and melancholic, plays as we discover the fates of the large ensemble cast. Some find happiness and others turmoil, but they are all united by that song. God only knows how they ended up where they are.
The song was also used to incredible effect in Richard Curtis’ Love Actually, where it once again lent its power to a climactic montage. As every character from this sprawling romantic comedy ends up at the same airport, love of all kinds linger in the air as couples reunite and as others form new connections. Some of the relationships detailed over the course of the movie are new and exciting, others tried and tested, but “God Only Knows” manages to apply to each and every one of them.
“Good Vibrations” / Vanilla Sky
“Good Vibrations” maintains a tricky balancing act between surreal and reinvigorating. It kickstarts the brain while making you question exactly what you’re hearing. So it’s perfect for Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky, which climaxes with Tom Cruise learning that he’s living in a self-imposed dream sate, cryogenically frozen after committing suicide. It’s a wild ending, with Cruise dashing through hallways screaming for “tech support” to wake him up. Meanwhile, “Good Vibrations” blasts on the soundtrack, giving the scene its urgency and commenting on just how insane things have gotten.
“Surfin’ USA” / Teen Wolf & Rush Hour
Look, if you don’t get a kick out of a teenage Lycanthrope played by Michael J. Fox rocking out to “Surfin’ USA” while riding on top of a moving vehicle, you’re probably beyond help. This scene can’t help but kick you right in the nostalgia and the music choice is a big part of that.
This is a film whose main appeal is watching its two mismatched leads bicker and squabble, but Rush Hour lets Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker have their most memorable disagreement with the Beach Boys providing the background music. Chan’s instant delight at hearing “Surfin” USA” and Tucker’s instant annoyance at another man touching his radio tells us everything we need to know about these characters.
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” / 50 First Dates & Roger & Me
Since “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is one of the most joyous songs ever recorded, the movies love to use it ironically. Watching a broken-hearted Adam Sandler belt out the song while piloting his boat in 50 First Dates is funny – it’s hard to think of a song that that would be less likely to inspire tears. In a film filled with Beach Boys tracks, this particular needle drop reigns supreme.
Director Michael Moore’s first film is about as cynical as you can get. While examining the financial devastation wrought upon his hometown of Flint, Michigan by General Motors, he interviews one local who describes hearing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” on the radio moments after suffering a job-related mental breakdown. Cue a montage of abandoned homes (and the rats that live in them), while that song blasts on the soundtrack. The contrast is amusing, but it’s also devastating.