Since today marks the release of a new movie featuring a pair of dudes who just wanna rock, but also have to do things like time travel and save the world, we got to thinking about other standout bands—some heroic, some flat-out evil, and a few with zero human members—that’ve appeared in our favorite movies.
It was tough to narrow it down (seriously, we could do an entire list of 1980s movies that preyed on the fear that heavy metal could actually summon demons, and you’ll find a few of those here). But without any further ado, please put your hands together for...
The eerie folk music running throughout Wes Craven’s 1972 revenge epic is actually by David Hess, who plays the movie’s main villain. Its presence enhances the film’s themes of innocence lost (especially with mournful lyrics like “the road leads to nowhere”) and hints at the horrors to come. The band that’s actually within the world of the movie—Bloodlust—never actually appears on screen, nor do we ever hear its music, but we don’t need to. We just know that when wholesome teen Mari (Sandra Peabody) heads out to a freakin’ Bloodlust concert in the big city, on a journey that sets the entire plot in motion, doom awaits—and the name “bloodlust” does indeed prove unfortunately prophetic for all involved.
This energetic 2015 splatter comedy—all hail New Zealand horror—follows high school hesher Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) as he reluctantly moves to a new town to live with his fearfully Christian aunt and uncle and loathsome cousin. Things briefly begin to look up when Brodie meets cool metal dude Zakk (James Blake) and they form a band, though the discovery of sheet music with the power to summon an actual demon (of course they play it, duh) turns their nascent musical dreams sideways. The gory, goofy, Evil Dead-esque mayhem that follows (there’s a fight scene involving multiple dildos and a chainsaw) comes with the added annoyance of attracting a murderous Satanic cult, as well as the awkward fact that Brodie and Zakk fall for the same girl. But through it all, Deathgasm’s genuine love of metal shines through.
Legendary 1960s cult director Herschell Gordon Lewis is best-known for the movies that earned him the nickname “the Godfather of Gore,” like Two Thousand Maniacs! and Blood Feast. But he also directed biker movies, trashy wife-swapping dramas, juvenile delinquent flicks—basically, anything that could be made for dirt cheap and lure crowds to the drive-in. One of the seven films he released in 1967 dipped its delightfully grimy toes into the waters of rocksploitation: Blast-Off Girls. It’s about a band called the Faded Blue that gets “discovered” by a sleazy manager; he gives them a makeover, renames them the Big Blast, and uses every crooked trick he can come up with to shortcut their road to success, while (of course) eagerly plotting to siphon all the profits.
The movie’s title refers to the band’s groupies, in case you were wondering, and while the Big Blast’s jangly pop numbers are not bad as far as Beatles rip-offs go, the real high point of the movie is Colonel Harland Sanders, who emerges at one point for a surreal cameo that involves prominent Kentucky Fried Chicken product placement.
The Muppets can be edgy when they want to be, a fact confirmed again and again by the groovy stylings of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. The band got its start on the classic Muppet Show, then made its big-screen debut along with Kermit, Gonzo, and company in 1979's The Muppet Movie. With a core group consisting of Dr. Teeth (vocals, keyboards), Janice (guitar), Floyd (bass), Zoot (saxophone), and the second-best Muppet of all time after Miss Piggy, Animal (drums), the band has popped up in various movies, TV series, and Christmas specials over the years, adding a certain psychedelic flair to Muppet soundtracks with jams like “Can You Picture That?” Look, they may be puppets, but they still rip.
The Mos Eisley cantina house band, a group of Bith led by Figrin D’an, get the nod (the Node?) here over Jabba the Hutt’s fave rave Max Rebo Band because, well, we meet the Modal Nodes first—and that cantina ditty, an exuberantly upbeat song to hear in a dive bar stuffed full of intergalactic rogues, just gets in your head like nobody’s business.
Glen (Stephen Dorff) and his buddy Terry (Louis Tripp) sense that there’s something uncanny about the giant hole that forms in Glen’s backyard after a tree is removed. But it takes a bit of music trivia for them to realize demons are lurking down there, and that the hole is a gateway that’ll let them creep into suburbia. See, Terry is a huge metalhead, as much as a nerdy 1980s tween can be, and his knowledge of metal lore—especially the contents of a record titled The Dark Book, which contains a spoken-word track that precisely explains “the gate behind which the demons wait”—helps the boys figure out exactly what’s going on behind Glen’s house.
“They’re called Sacrifyx, and my dad brought it from Europe,” Terry explains to Glen. “And it’s got all this stuff in it! See, these guys are like really serious about demonology, and it’s like they’re trying to warn you!” He opens the record jacket to show his friend how the band literally took their lyrics from “the Bible for demons.” Then, he reveals that after their first and only album was released, the members of Sacrifyx all died in a plane crash. Glen is skeptical, but Terry is convinced. “These guys knew!” Terry says. “It’s all in here!” And as the movie soon shows, he’s right! Never doubt the power of tasty riffs, kids.
Speaking of tasty riffs, we must acknowledge what’s maybe the ultimate 1980s movie about the dangers of dark music. Trick or Treat stars Marc Price (also known as Skippy from Family Ties, which was at its height of popularity when this movie came out in 1986) as a high schooler named Eddie whose few friends include his classmate Roger (played by future X-Files writer and producer Glen Morgan) and “Nuke,” a radio DJ played by Gene Simmons of KISS (Ozzy Osbourne also has a cameo).
After the mysterious death of his idol, pouffy-haired Headbangers Ball-type Sammi Curr (Tony Fields), Eddie takes solace in Nuke’s gift of Sammi’s as-yet-unreleased final album—which naturally reveals Sammi’s evil plan from beyond the grave when played backward. The plan is somewhat low-stakes (Sammi wants to take down high school bullies Carrie-style at the big Halloween dance) but the execution is entertainingly over the top; it involves a murderous guitar solo that sees Sammi start zapping people with evil bolts of rock lightning without ever leaving the stage.
Imagine how annoying it would be to be in a band with Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), the hero of Edgar Wright’s 2010 cult comedy. When he bothers to show up for practice, he brings along his girlfriend drama, and whenever you have a gig, his girlfriend’s operatic evil ex-boyfriend drama interrupts the show. Still, the sound of Sex Bob-Omb—a fuzzed-out, garage-y three-piece—is undeniably catchy, propelled by the furious rhythm of drummer Kim (Alison Pill), who’s propelled in turn by her seething hatred of Scott Pilgrim.
We haven’t gotten to see Bill & Ted Face the Music yet, but we hope for the future of all existence that Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) finally end up writing that fated song that’ll bring lasting peace throughout the world. Though Wyld Stallyns was just kind of an air guitar-fueled dream in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the dudes the dudes did actually master their instruments in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (with the help of time travel)—so as with all things Bill and Ted, there’s always hope.
Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) is many things—genius scientist, interdimensional traveler, snappy dresser—but he still finds time to rock out with the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see too much of the band in the movie, what with the sudden complications of Buckaroo spotting a woman in the crowd who looks exactly like his late wife, and his accidental intrusion into a longstanding alien conflict that comes to a head on Earth. But rest assured we see enough to know that the band—which includes a lot of shoulder-shaking dance moves, two saxophones, a piano player, and Buckaroo himself on vocals, guitar, and pocket trumpet—slays in any dimension.
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