5. Napoleon Dynamite - "Canned Heat," Jamiroquai
Starting with his name, Napoleon Dynamite was not cut out to be one of the cool kids. But that social obstacle doesn't seem to slow him down a bit, especially when it comes to the high school talent show.
After one scene after another of him listening to mysterious music and planning some sort of aerobic exercise, Napoleon takes the stage in front of all of his classmates and delivers a sort of shockingly good dance routine, set unexpectedly to the disco-funk of English pop group Jamiroquai. The sequence soon became legendary - a take-charge, coming out and coming of age moment for modern nerds - which probably explains why there are actually more videos of people imitating Napoleon than ones of Napoleon himself.
6. Office Space - "Still," Geto Boys
Office Space is an odd film in that most of its soundtrack was hip-hop, in spite of the fact that two of its protagonists are some of the whitest desk jockeys you've ever seen. But after living out their empowerment fantasies from behind the safety of their car windows, which conceal tracks by Ice Cube and others, they finally get to stand up for themselves for real - well, sort of.
Following a particularly demoralizing moment of corporate humiliation for his buddies, the newly-promoted Peter Gibbons designates a particularly infuriating printer as the target of their suppressed rage. The trio smashes it to smithereens as the syrupy g-funk of Geto Boys' song provides them with musical accompaniment, giving them a catharsis so powerful that by the end of their assault, they actually have to be pulled away from the poor machine's splattered parts.
7. Pee-wee's Big Adventure - "Tequila," The Champs
Tim Burton's feature debut is a gauntlet of weird, wonderful sequences, stitched together with the filmmaker's trademark ebullience, and Paul Reubens' indefatigable charm. But after the title character wins the friendship of just about everybody he encounters - except Andy, of course - he encounters his biggest challenge yet: a group of bikers whose hogs he accidentally knocks over.
After cleverly - but to no avail - suggesting he be let go, Pee-wee scrambles to find a way to win over the tattooed tough guys who are threatening to pummel him. Throwing a quarter into the jukebox and donning a pair of platform shoes, Pee-wee turns potential tragedy into triumph and immortalizes a dance in the process.
8. Revenge of the Nerds - "They're So Incredible," Revenge
The centerpiece song from Revenge of the Nerds is performed by two different people, depending on whether you're watching the movie or listening to the soundtrack, but don't hold that against it. Either way, however, it's kind of a marvel of geekery, mashed-up into precisely the kind of synth-pop that dominated the charts in the 1980s.
After the geeks have been bullied one too many times by their jock counterparts, they decide to embrace their natural talents, utilizing years of training with musical instruments, computers and anything else they can get their hands on. With their former tormentors watching from the crowd, the nerds give a performance that's not only a demonstration of defiance, but a soundtrack to their ascendance to the top of their school's Greek system.
Previously by Todd Gilchrist: