As Love & Mercy – the biopic about the tortured musical genius Brian Wilson – continues to receive rave reviews (including my own review posted earlier this month on the Fly’s website), we decided to take a look back at some of the classic moments in film and television that feature the songs of Wilson and the Beach Boys. With nearly 300 film credits to his name (according to IMDb), the task wasn’t easy. But there were definitely a few that immediately popped into my mind, and the rest seemed to be perfect fits as well on the Top 10 list.
Before you delve into my picks, first take a look at the trailer for Love & Mercy, and consider going to see it at a local theater this weekend (After all, the summer officially kicked off last weekend). The film has showing times at Penn Cinema in Lititz, Regal Manor Stadium 16 in Lancaster, Midtown Cinema in Harrisburg, Digiplex Cinema Center of Camp Hill and the Carlisle Theatre.
And after watching the trailer, read our interview with the legend himself – Brian Wilson. In it he talks (briefly) about the making of Love & Mercy and what it was like to see himself portrayed on the screen by both John Cusack and Paul Dano.
But now, here are our Top 10 Beach Boys’ moments in film and TV.
10) Theme song from the show Karen
The 1965 NBC sitcom Karen was just a blip on the radar, lasting only one full season. However, the band tasked with coming up with the theme song would go on to have a long and fruitful career (if you count the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and 36 Top 40 hits – the most by any American band – as a fruitful career).
9) “Feel Flows” from the movie Almost Famous
Cameron Crowe did an excellent job putting together the soundtrack for his biopic film, prominently featuring songs like Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and “America” by Simon & Garfunkel and going on to win a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album. As the films final credits role, the Beach Boys classic psychedelia song “Feel Flows” is the song that’s playing.
8) “Surfin’ USA” from the movie Rush Hour
Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker always seemed like an unlikely pair to star in an action movie, but the Rush Hour series went on to be a blockbuster hit spanning three different films. One of the classic scenes from the first installment is Chan’s character, Inspector Lee, getting excited to hear the Beach Boys playing on the radio, only to have Tucker’s character, James Carter, switch it to some Jay-Z in a heartbeat.
7) “All Summer Long” from the movie American Graffiti
The George Lucas 1973 coming-of-age film about a night in Modesto, CA, has one of the all-time classic soundtracks for a film. It’s a who’s-who of early rock & roll greats, and once again the Beach Boys find themselves prominently placed in the final credits – this time featuring their song “All Summer Long.”
6) “God Only Knows” from the movie Boogie Nights
Boogie Nights is perhaps one of my favorite films of all time, which features an epic cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Burt Reynolds), a consummate director (Paul Thomas Anderson) and an incredible soundtrack. The Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows” (which Paul McCartney famously called “the best song ever written”) plays towards the end of the film as most of the characters show their developmental resolutions (and right before Mark Wahlberg famously flashes his prosthetic member).
5) “Wouldn’t Be Nice” from the movie Roger & Me
Juxtaposing the cheery lyrics of “Wouldn’t it be Nice” with the downtrodden buildings and the horrid state of Flint, MI, in the 1980s was a brilliant cinematic tool for Michael Moore. It also makes me think what song he would use for the Detroit of today.
4) “God Only Knows” from the TV show The Wonder Years
With a song as good as “God Only Knows,” it’s bound to end up being used more than just once. In this classic scene for the 1980s mega-hit The Wonder Years, Kevin Arnold gets his heart broken for the first (but not the last) time by Winnie Cooper. I can still remember my 14-year-old self trying hard not to cry when I first saw this episode (don’t judge me).
3) “Good Vibrations” from the movie Vanilla Sky
In a movie as visually trippy as Vanilla Sky, it’s only fitting to highlight a song just as trippy as “Good Vibrations.” In this scene, Tom Cruise comes to the realization that his life is a lie and there’s a good possibility he’s actually living inside a computer program. It’s also the second Cameron Crowe film on the list.
2) “Surfin’ U.S.A.” from the movie Teen Wolf
If you’re going to have a surfing scene in a film, it’s a good possibility you’re going to at least consider using “Surfin’ U.S.A” When the scene calls for a young teenage werewolf played by Michael J. Fox to surf on top of a moving bread truck, there is no other option.
1) “Kokomo and Barbara Ann” from the TV show Full House
A famous running gag on Full House was how obsessed Danny Tanner (played by Bob Saget) was with the Beach Boys. On this early episode, the whole family was invited to an actual Beach Boys concert at Candlestick Park and brought up on stage to sing a song. It’s probably the only time you’ll ever see Brian Wilson and Dave Coulier together on the screen.
We had to leave a lot of movies and TV shows off the list (Forrest Gump, One Crazy Summer, etc.), so what’s your favorite movie featuring a Beach Boys song? Leave a comment below.