Movie Songs

A playlist of Jim Jarmusch’s favourite movie songs

January 25, 20243 Mins Read

As a filmmaker, Jim Jarmusch is a magpie pinching from all the culture that inspires him. “Nothing is original,” the director once told Movie Maker Magazine. “Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.” We can all be thankful that it just so happens that the record collection that he nabs from is one of the finest around.

For Jarmusch, it would seem that often, the spark for his creative flame is a fantastic song that he is more than happy to share with us. “Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul,” his famous quote continues, “If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it.”

He concluded his eulogy of plagiarism transfigured into creative homage, by quoting the legendry French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to,” a quote that in itself was stolen from Pablo Picasso, who had stolen it from CS Lewis in turn, and lord knows where Lewis got it from.

For Jarmusch, there is nowhere better to steal from than records. “Music, to me, is the most beautiful form,” he once said, “And I love film because film is very related to music. It moves by you in its own rhythm. It’s not like reading a book or looking at a painting. It gives you its own time frame, like music, so they are very connected for me. But music to me is the biggest inspiration.”

His favourite facet is the music of the people—the sort of track that viscerally shakes things up for the proletariat. As he said of The Stooges, one of the director’s favourite bands: “It was working class, ass-kicking incredible rock ’n’ roll. So It had a big effect. Still does to me.” He said that it “spoke to me and a small group of friends” who weren’t into the era’s whole hippie thing.

Another of his favourites is Tom Waits, a fellow to whom he once posed a philosophical conundrum that explains his view on art. As Waits recalled: “Jim Jarmusch once told me Fast, Cheap, and Good… pick two”. In other words, in the world of modern pop culture with its rapid content turnover, if you can only be two of those facets, then what would you choose so that you’re not battling three fronts that you cannot win?

Waits explains: “If it’s fast and cheap, it won’t be good. If it’s cheap and good, it won’t be fast. If it’s fast and good, it won’t be cheap. Fast, cheap and good… pick words to live by.” While Waits never offered which two he had selected, perhaps he’s proof that if you’re weird, you can avoid choosing any and live by your own two tenets. However, from the astounding quality of his back catalogue, he certainly hasn’t compromised on being gloriously cheap.

With all this love for glorious cheap music in mind, we’ve served you up a playlist of the best songs from his movies (not including Neil Young, who isn’t on Spotify). Enjoy.

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