Here at Topless Robot we've already given the business to a not-quite-dozen nerd-centric songs that could best be described by Spinal Tap's immortal two-word review, "Shit Sandwich." But there's more to life than snark—there's even more to the Internet than snark, believe it or not—and while anyone whose driver's license doesn't read "MATLIN, MARLEE" can tell you that Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap" eats it, selecting the true cream of the soundtrack crop is a tougher row to hoe. Armed only with fond memories, refined taste, and that sweet YouTube extension for the Firefox search bar, we've selected the finest tunes ever to grace any movie about extraordinary, gaudily dressed individuals solving problems through violence. (If you're reading this site, that describes pretty much every movie you've ever seen.) Our one rule: If the song is from a score it has to have vocals—otherwise we'd just end up rattling off a few dozen tracks from John Williams, Danny Elfman, and John Carpenter and having to call it a day.
So feast your ears on the eleven songs listed below: They're really freaking good. And for once, we're not even being sarcastic.
11) Stan Bush: "The Touch" - Transformers: The Movie
If this song didn't exist, the '80s would have had to invent it. The ultimate fist-pumping, headband-wearing, sleevless-sweatshirt-sporting anthem, Stan Bush's contribution to the only full-length Transformers movie so far in which Bumblebee does not urinate on Barton Fink is basically the peppiest song EVAR. It's so deliriously encouraging, so psychopathically uplifting that I wonder if an on-staff psychiatrist prescribed it so as to mitigate the damaging effects that the movie itself would have on its grade-school audience. How upset can you get over the death of Optimus Prime and dozens of other Autobots or those creepy floating-head tribunal things who feed people to shark robots when Bush's full-throated "You're a winner! You're nobody's fool!" is ringing in your ears? Bonus video: Dirk Diggler pays homage in Boogie Nights! He's right about the vocals, you know.
10) Tomoyasu Hotei: "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" - Kill Bill Vol. 1
Yes, this track rapidly became the most played-out soundtrack staple since White Zombie's "More Human Than Human." But in the context of your very first viewing of Quentin Tarantino's genre-movie mash-up masterpiece Kill Bill Vol. 1, where it served as the entrance theme for crosseyed cutie Lucy Liu's O-Ren Ishii and her gaggle of Asian pop-culture stereotypes the Crazy 88s, it was pretty much the coolest thing you'd ever heard. That reverbed-out "When the Levee Breaks" drumbeat, those razor-sharp J.B.'s-style horn blasts, and those towering peals of guitar and trumpet practically had me ready to jump into the screen and start attacking people with my Hanzo sword myself. Not coincidentally, this was one of filmdom's best "walking in a group in slow motion to stylish musical accompaniment like total fucking badasses" scenes since another Tarantino movie, Reservoir Dogs. And frankly, if I have to get killed by a gang of vicious criminals with coordinated clothing, I think I'll take Go-Go Yubari and Sophie Fatale over Mr. Pink and Nice Guy Eddie.
9) Michael Sembello: "Rock Until You Drop" - The Monster Squad
One of the many, many, many great things about Fred Dekker's "Our Gang meets the Universal Monsters" mash-up masterpiece The Monster Squad is that when he decided the forces of good needed some kind of rebuttal to Dracula's proclamation of certain victory, this is what he came up with. Over a memorable montage of the Monster Squad's middle-school members prepping for a confrontation with the Prince of Darkness and/or fighting for a look at a naked picture of their colleague's slutty sister, singer Michael Sembello (yes, the "Maniac" guy!) orders his legion of listeners to have so much fun that they literally dismember themselves: "Dance until your feet fall off!" "Party till your brains fall out!" Sir yes sir! And just when the music threatens to get too hot, Sembello breaks it down so that we can enjoy the rest of the montage without spilling over the side like a pot of spaghetti you leave unattended on the burner for too long. Even despite the total lack of any visible contribution to the cause from Squad member Fat Kid, I think you'll still agree with Sembello's musical assessment of this sequence: "It's totally rad. It's coo-coo. It's coo-coo. It's cool."
8) Tim Cappello: "I Still Believe" - The Lost Boys
Years ago, on the message board for comic-snob bible The Comics Journal, I somehow got around to the topic of the sax-heavy song performed by a shirtless, musclebound, heavily greased gentleman on the Santa Carla boardwalk in Joel Schumacher's one and only good movie, The Lost Boys. Who was that barechested, Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake-bodied bard, I asked? The answer, as I found out (from the former EIC of TCJ and current mastermind of ComicsReporter.com, bizarrely enough), is Tina Turner sideman Tim "Timmy" Cappello. Kudos to Mr. Cappello, then, for producing this atmospherically anthemic ode to believing, whatever the cost. Musically it boasts the shit-hottest sax this side of Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" or Beck's "The New Pollution," while lyrically it's a defiant declaration of belief in the face of pain, grief, lies, storms, cries, wars, cold, heat, rain, tears, crowds, cheers, shame, greed, heartache, tears again, wait, years, and of course pseudo-punk vampire tribes, though that last bit is more implied than stated outright. Such is its power that, like Corey Haim does to Jason Patric, we can only force our eyes away from the rhythmless yet oddly passionate dancing of '80s goddess Jamie Gertz and gaze in awe as the bonfire light reflects off his glistening torso while he plays it.
7) Rage Against the Machine: "Wake Up" - The Matrix
This right here? This is why the Matrix sequels sucked. No, seriously, listen: You've just finished watching the most groundbreaking Western action movie of the '90s, a combination of Philip K. Dick conspiracy/philosophy, Yuen Wo-Ping wire-fu, cutting-edge CGI, and "electronica"-era shiny pants that blew the minds of every geek in the country. You've listened to the now-godlike Neo, fresh from laying the hacker-Zen smackdown on Agent Smith, tell his computerized overlords that he's gonna rip the lid off humanity's virtual-reality prison. You've seen him step out of a phone booth into the midst of the brainwashed hoi polloi and take to the skies like a trenchcoat-wearing, ecstasy-rolling Superman. And most importantly, you've seen it all go down to the astonishingly intense roar of Tom Morello's how-the-hell-does-he-get-it-to-make-those-sounds-anyway guitar and Brad Whatsisname's pounded-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life drums from Rage Against the Machine's "Wake Up," an absolutely brilliant music choice that literally had me laughing for joy in the theater. You are, in short, FUCKING PUMPED. So whatever those wacky Wachowskis cooked up for parts two and three, how could it possibly top the sequel you instantly saw in your head?