Proving he was more than just a member of the Beatles, Paul McCartney continued to shake the world with his solo music and work with the Wings even after the Fab Four broke up. With sensitive lyrics that strike at the heart of everything he writes, McCartney imbues his music with heart and courage in equal measure.
From nostalgic comedies like Licorice Pizza to action classics like Live and Let Die, McCartney’s music proved extremely versatile. Because of his clever lyrics, catchy pop hooks, and propelling bass playing, McCartney’s work is particularly suited to underscore movies and TV shows.
Only Fools and Horses (1981–2003)
Hailing from England himself, Paul McCartney’s music has been featured on many of the UK’s top TV shows. Only fools and horses follows a pair of brothers, from a tough part of London, who spend their days trying to find the big score that will earn them millions.
With a character named Uncle Albert, it was natural for McCartney’s song “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” to highlight an episode. The episode “He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Uncle” centers on Uncle Albert and his secret nightlife, and the song is a perfect addition. The song is very funny due to how it seems to be tailor-made for the story being told in the episode.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Although not generally considered one of Cameron Crowe’s best films, vanilla sky still had many unique elements. The film follows a former publishing magnate as he recounts the events in his life that led to his incarceration. Her memory is hazy and many points in her memory become fantastical and strange.
The film has a unique tone that adds elements of dreamy logic and fantasy to its otherwise straightforward narrative. The inclusion of an original Paul McCartney composition was a perfect choice and the title track “Vanilla Sky” has appropriately dreamlike lyrics. Reminiscent of his days in the psychedelic days of the late Beatles, McCartney’s sweet song pairs well with the bizarre events that unfold on screen.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Although best known musically for its inclusion of an original composition by Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Maguire is packed with classic tunes. The film follows a sports agent who decides to strike out on his own after going through a moral crisis at the unethical company he works for.
The film is both humorous and emotional and it uses its many pop songs to emphasize the mood of the scene they belong to. While several McCartney songs appear on the soundtrack, it’s the inclusion of the instrumental song “Singalong Junk” that works best. The dark room sounds more like sheet music than pop, and gives the scene it plays a suitably sad mood.
The Office (2001–03)
Although the UK version of Office is somewhat overshadowed by its American counterpart, the original series still packs a big comedic punch. Following the day-to-day activities of an office being shut down, the many strange characters who work there are exposed by a documentary crew.
Although there are many classic Christmas episodes in British TV shows, Office the “Christmas Special” episode is one of the funniest. Not only is the episode humorous, but it’s also packed with classic Christmas tunes, and Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” is heavily featured. Although the song is not used for any particular effect, it still serves as the perfect music to emphasize on-screen events.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990–96)
Corn The prince of Bel-Air was generally humorous, he sometimes used his comedy to tackle bigger issues. The show follows a resourceful young man who is pressured by his worried Philadelphia mother to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in Bel-Air.
The episode “Guess Who’s Getting Married?” sees the family divided when an aunt plans to marry a white man. McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s song “Ebony and Ivory” is hilariously performed by Carlton with the aim of changing hearts and minds. Although the song was not written with humorous intent, its clever use in the episode gives the song a new dimension.
Spies Like Us (1985)
Possibly referring to his legendary song for a James Bond film, McCartney was tapped to provide the music for the comedy spies like us. The film follows a bumbling pair of US government employees who are tricked into believing they are spies. As they unfold in their mission, they slowly learn that they are actually decoys for a larger scheme that puts them in mortal danger.
The pairing of comedy legends Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase was a recipe for success and spies like us became one of the best comedies of the 1980s. The title track was composed by McCartney specifically for the film and is a musical departure from his usual fare. Diving into more synthesizers and modern 80s musical techniques, the song is an energetic and catchy tune that makes the viewer want to watch the wacky comedy.
The Killing Fields (1984)
Although McCartney’s music is generally upbeat and uplifting, it can sometimes be put to good use in much darker stories. In the killing fields, an American journalist is trapped in Cambodia during Pol Pot’s reign of terror in which the lives of millions were claimed through government-sanctioned killings.
Although the film was made barely a decade after the events of the film, The Killing Fields cleverly uses his music to establish a place in time. McCartney and his band Wings’ classic song “Band on the Run” features prominently throughout the film and slowly it begins to take on an eerie mood. With evocative lyrics about escapism, the song has a double meaning when placed under the events of the film.
A Single Woman (1978)
In addition to his many talents as a musician, Paul McCartney has also made a name for himself as a writer of love songs. A single woman tells the story of a wealthy New York woman who finds herself in a personality crisis when her husband leaves her for a much younger woman.
The film is an intimate portrait of its main character and offers touching insight into her thought process as she deals with her changing life. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is not only one of McCartney’s most famous songs, but it’s also one of the best examples of his songwriting prowess. The song, as the film’s subtitle, seems to be about the character and extolling his many “amazing” virtues.
Licorice Pizza (2021)
Music has a way of transporting the listener to another place in time, and Licorice Pizza was a film that needed a proper 1970s score. The film follows a young woman and a young man as they navigate their lives through the turbulent days of the late 1970s in the San Fernando area. Valley in Los Angeles.
Music has always been a big part of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, and Licorice Pizza is no exception. Serving as the love theme for the film’s main characters, the song “Let Me Roll It” is one of the most unique love songs in McCartney’s catalog. Avoiding the usual lyrical cliches of love songs, “Let Me Roll It” is as unconventional as the story told in the film.
Live and Let Die (1973)
From the cultural touchstone of The Beatles to the cultural touchstone of James Bond, McCartney has served as a bridge between pop culture icons. Live and Let Die sees super-spy James Bond on the tail of a heroin distributor who is the head of a complicated organization that dabbles in the occult.
Generally considered one of the best James Bond songs of all time, McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” was Bond’s rockiest song up to that point. Perfectly preparing the viewer for the adventure that was about to unfold, the song is not only a great Bond song, but also stands on its own.
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