As this video countdown of the Best 'Dazed and Confused' Classic Rock Moments demonstrates, it's hard to imagine any movie that's used the music of our favorite genre better than this 1993 masterpiece. Not only does writer and director Richard Linklater employ classic tracks from artists such as Alice Cooper, War and Aerosmith to establish the time and place of the film (last day of school 1976), he also helps explain what the characters are experiencing, thinking and feeling through the lyrics. The end result is practically a classic-rock musical. By our count, about two dozen different rock songs were played during 'Dazed and Confused.' Here are 10 scenes that show just how important they are to the movie.
Opening CreditsAerosmith, 'Sweet Emotion'
In addition to being the No. 1 song on our Top 100 Classic Rock Songs list, it turns out 'Sweet Emotion' also makes for a pretty terrific way to start a movie. The song's famously hypnotic bass and talk-box intro plays mostly over darkness, and when the beat kicks in, the slow-motion shot of a Pontiac GTO arriving for the last day of school helps set the proper laid-back vibe for the entire movie.
Freedom Has Its PriceAlice Cooper, 'School's Out'
Granted, this is hardly a surprising song choice for the 'Dazed and Confused' scene showing the students being freed for the summer. But the underlying menace in Cooper's vocal delivery pairs perfectly with the social terror caused by the seniors who immediately chase down the future freshmen boys for their ritualistic ass-paddlings.
'Now Fry Like Bacon!' War, 'Why Can't We Be Friends?'
Lest you think the girls are getting off scot-free in terms of hazing, this 'Dazed and Confused' classic-rock scene will set you straight pretty quickly. Given the choice between a few (admittedly violent) whacks with a board or lying face down on hot asphalt while someone smears ketchup, mustard and flour on you, which would you choose?
Evening PreparationsEdgar Winter Group, 'Free Ride'
After everyone gets cleaned off and iced up, it's time to head out into the night. But Kevin Pickford's parents have gotten wise to his plans for a big house party, so everyone squeezes into his or her best jeans and takes to the road in search of fun. Meanwhile, the seniors have zeroed in on their No. 1 paddling target ...
Mitch Gets His Freshman BeatingAlice Cooper, 'No More Mr. Nice Guy'
How do Mitch Kramer's friends thank him for pitching them to victory in the big baseball game? By forcing him to walk to his doom all by himself. Cooper's music once again fits the bill perfectly, as one of the seniors (Ben Affleck's Fred O'Bannion) takes things more than a bit too far.
Alright, Alright, Alright ...War, 'Low Rider'
War's percolating love letter to car culture is the perfect soundtrack to 'Dazed and Confused''s extended cruising scene, where our young hero Mitch meets the film's breakout character, the unflappable, eminently quotable and fun-loving David Wooderson (played by Matthew McConaughey).
Pool Hall EntranceBob Dylan, 'Hurricane'
On first listen, it's hard to imagine the connection between Bob Dylan's impassioned song about wrongly jailed boxing champion Rubin Carter and the 'Dazed and Confused' scene where the gang arrives at the pool hall. But the slow-motion focus on Wooderson as Dylan sings "One time, he could have been the champion of the world" hints that the long-graduated ex-jock might enjoy reliving old glories too much.
'Bowling Ball!' ZZ Top, 'Tush'
As one of ZZ Top's finest hell-raising anthems plays in the car, the gang immediately sets about to corrupting young Mitch -- first by getting him high and then recruiting him for some unexpectedly expensive property damage.
You Win Some, You Lose SomeLynyrd Skynyrd, 'Tuesday's Gone'
Lynyrd Skynyrd's woozy, slightly mournful lament about leaving former lives behind sets the perfect tone as the night's big moon-tower party winds down. Mike Newhouse recovers from losing a fight, Wooderson and young Mitch both seem to get new girlfriends, and everyone heads out for one final celebration on the high-school football field.
Closing CreditsFoghat, 'Slow Ride'
As star quarterback Randall "Pink" Floyd settles the movie's main conflict by refusing to sign an anti-drug pledge for his coach -- "Now me and my loser friends are gonna head out to buy Aerosmith tickets -- top priority of the summer" -- Mitch successfully gets by his mom without being grounded. He hits the bed, dons his trusty headphones and then a smile as big as the riff from Foghat's 1975 classic crosses his face as he thinks back on his big eventful day.