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90s Music Goes to the Movies

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

We intentionally dedicated last week to ’90s songs, rather than albums or movies or TV shows; the decade is too big to cover in great depth in a single week. But as Rob alluded to in his essential Soundtracks with Elastica Songs piece, a lot of great ’90s tunes turned up in a lot of great (and not-so-great) ’90s movies, for reasons both artistic and mercenary. So here we’re taking a look at how some of our Top 90 Songs of the ’90s fared in movies that actually came out during the ’90s, with a big assist from film fan and music enthusiast Sara Batkie. A lot of them involve Scenes of Teen Partying.

90s Music at the (90s) Movies

“Fake Plastic Trees” (#61) in Clueless (1995)
“Wah wah wah.” This is how Cher Horowitz reacts to Radiohead in Clueless, with the band standing in for all complaint rock that typically plays on college radio or at least does in Cher’s version of California. I didn’t realize until looking the soundtrack up that it’s actually an acoustic version of the song as its appearance in the film itself is brief and pretty muffled. It is notable, however, for backing the scene that introduces Josh, Cher’s ex-stepbrother and eventual love interest, a plaid-and-Amnesty-International tee-shirt-wearing foil to Cher’s candy-colored Beverly Hills princess. Like Thom Yorke’s sweetly abrasive crooning on the soundtrack, which is otherwise a mix of peppy pop rock numbers by Supergrass and Smoking Popes and sunny covers of Mott the Hoople and Kim Wilde, Josh doesn’t fit his surroundings at first glance. But Clueless remains a classic of its genre for its inclusiveness, from Di and Murray to stoner Travis, even teachers like Ms. Geist and Mr. Hall. In the end, just like Josh and Cher, “Fake Plastic Trees” works with the film because of its differences, not in spite of them. – Sara Batkie

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