Jul 25, 2023

The 19 Greatest Uses of Aerosmith in Movies

Aerosmith made it into tons of films thanks to their rip-roaring sound and memorable vocal harmonies.

Boston-bred band Aerosmith were formed in 1971, after a merging of the respective first bands of Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, with Tyler taking the helm as lead singer. Drummer Joey Kramer came up with the name Aerosmith after hearing it on a Harry Nilsson album. It didn't take them long to secure a record deal, as a show at Max's Kansas City in front of Clive Davis only a year later would help them secure a contract with Columbia Records. Within a year they released their eponymous debut album, with the track "Dream On" peaking at number 59 on the Billboard singles chart. The track would get a second life however, as after the successful 1975 release of their album Toys in the Attic, they would re-release "Dream On", which this time hit number 6.

Despite some moderate success in the '70s, the band battled drug and alcohol abuse, and due to some infighting Joe Perry would, for a time, walk away from the band. In the '80s, Aerosmith would attempt to generate a comeback, though at first this reunion only generated a Gold record. That would all change in 1986, when, at the behest of famed Def Jam record producer Rick Rubin, the rap group Run-DMC would cover the '70s Aerosmith track "Walk This Way", leading both groups to shoot a video together for the burgeoning MTV Network. The track was an enormous success, leading to Aerosmith's hit-laden era of the late-'80s/early-'90s, when MTV would vault them back into the limelight. This led to an era of heavy track licensing, that saw that band make it into tons of films thanks to their rip-roaring sound and memorable vocal harmonies.

The following are the 19 greatest uses of Aerosmith in movies.

In Sex and the City: The Movie, Darren Star's hit series got adapted for the big screen with critically-mixed results, though an Aerosmith song never hurts a film's prospects. In this case it was "Walk This Way", the 1975 single off the Toys in the Attic album. The album developed Aerosmith's chunky, blues-based sound into some more thoughtfully-composed songwriting. Despite later being covered for Run-DMC's rap song, its main riff is a prototypical Joe Perry guitar line, with all the earmarks of Aerosmith's early sound, which back then seldom strayed from the pentatonic scale. Perry used to be firmly against licensing the band's music, until, during his second stint with the band, he embraced it.

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Another track so epic that it outweighed the movie it was featured in, "Janie's Got a Gun" was one of the songs that helped reboot Aerosmith's career in the late-'80s. In Not Another Teen Movie, Jake Wyler (Chris Evans) sings the song to serenade Janey Briggs (Chyler Leigh), which unfortunately backfires when the surrounding student body takes the lyrics literally, fleeing in terror for fear that Janey....well, you get the point. Did we mention that David Fincher-directed music video for the original track? Yep, it came right during Fincher's run of videos for the likes of Aerosmith, Nine Inch Nails, and Madonna — and got pretty much non-stop play on MTV during its most glorious era (when they actually still played music videos).

Longtime Beatles fans, Aerosmith were compelled to cover one of their heroes' tracks for the Armageddon soundtrack, to round out their other 3 amazing tracks on the album. Their cover of "Come Together" was a perfect mesh of old and new on a soundtrack of mostly classic rock bands. Aerosmith does a much more rock-forward version of the song, with Joe Perry emulating the influence of George Harrison's guitar playing on his own finger work. The song mimicked the need for the movie's ragtag group of drillers to coalesce enough to complete the simple task of saving the planet from assured destruction. No biggie.

When the Charlie's Angels franchise was first brought to the silver screen in 2000 with a shiny new cast, it has all the trappings of a big-budget, Y2K Era action film, including the necessary Aerosmith track, with the fittingly-titled "Angel's Eye". The song plays during an epic chase scene, when Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz) chases the Thin Man (Crispin Glover) on a racetrack. Aerosmith always slots perfectly into high-action scenes like these, this time using a lesser-known track that maintains their recognizable sound, on a soundtrack that also featured Heart and Fatboy Slim.

In the Bret Easton Ellis epic, Less Than Zero, a lesser-known Aerosmith track, "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie-Woogie Flu" gets some play when Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) meets with his uncle at his car dealership and talks him into investing $15k into a nightclub. The song plays on a jukebox, as naturally there is nary a bar jukebox without the presence of at least one Aerosmith song. Def Jam Records was in charge of the film's soundtrack, and naturally included them on the soundtrack after their smash-hit collaboration with Run-DMC a year prior with "Walk This Way." The soundtrack provided perfect backing to this seminal '80s film, which married Ellis' source book with an exceptional screenplay from Harley Peyton, aided by one of Downey Jr.'s great early performances.

Despite a paltry 30% Rotten Tomatoes score and some scathing reviews, Be Cool did have one bright spot — Steven Tyler graced the film with his innate acting talent and Aerosmith performed "Cryin'" in a particularly stirring scene. The song is most memorable, however, for the music video, which had a big MTV premiere and featured a pre-Clueless Alicia Silverstone. Silverstone plays a spurned lover in the video, who exacts revenge on an evil, cheating Steven Dorff by pretending to jump off a bridge (don't worry — she had a harness). The song mixed country and rock in a way that only Aerosmith could ever pull off, and remains a radio favorite across the globe. As for Tyler's acting, he's had plenty of cameos over the years, in everything from this film to the zany horror film Happy Birthday.

Likely Aerosmith's most-licensed song ever, "Sweet Emotion" soundtracked a particularly sexy scene in We're the Millers, showing that Jennifer Aniston hadn't lost a step when she stripped to the song to appease a Mexican drug lord. Aniston definitely wasn't shy about showing off her pole dancing talents in the film, in which she plays a stripper who poses as a mom to help David Clark transport some seriously illegal product across the country in an RV. Apparently the drug lord was as impressed by Aniston's performance as we were, as the Millers lived to tell the tale.

Blades of Glory's use of "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" was definitely a bit tongue-in-cheek, as Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) premiere their new routine as figure skating's only same-sex duo. Despite a tumble early in their routine, they use the sweet sounds of Aerosmith's most-streamed track ever to set the mood for their triumphant entrance onto the world stage. While "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" was used somewhat ironically in the film, we still find ourselves breaking into song during this scene, as well as its original appearance in Armageddon.

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We've long loved Rugrats music thanks to the work of the incredible composer and Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, who captured the innocence of Tommie, Chuckie and Kimi with his themes for the show. For Rugrats Go Wild (which saw the crew team up with The Wild Thornberry gang), Mothersbaugh again provided the score, along with procuring the memorable Aerosmith track "Lizard Love" for the film's soundtrack. The high-octane song provided the punch necessary as the Rugrats set off on their final mission, as the film signalled the end of both series.

Yet another fitting use of "Sweet Emotion" came in Starsky and Hutch for the film's final scene and credits, when Starsky (Ben Stiller) and Hutch (Owen Wilson) meet the original duo, before piling into their red and white 1976 Ford Gran Torino for a joyride that sees Starsky launch the muscle car about 30 feet into the air. We already knew that Aerosmith were synonymous with all things 70s-Rock, but Aerosmith and muscle cars have always gone hand-in-hand too, as they've become the preferred music of motorheads the world over, and got featured in this scene as well as the car show at the beginning of Dazed and Confused.

"Dream On" showed Aerosmith's penchant, early in their career, for long, epic songs with a cinematic flare. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the song at number 172 on its list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The lyrics were a perfect match for Last Action Hero, which sees Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien) transported into his favorite action star's movies in dream-like fashion. Aerosmith is the perfect backing for Detective Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger), as the character and band are about as '90s as you can get.

"Back in the Saddle" was a fitting song title for Aerosmith's return to prominence in 1977, after two years earlier their Toys in the Attic album had made them internationally famous. While it wasn't used for Lloyd's (John Cusack) famous jukebox serenade of Diane (Ione Skye), it still provided Say Anything... with some necessary punch for a film with one of the 1980s most-famous soundtracks. The track is most memorable for Joe Perry's use of a Fender Bass VI (sort of a combination of a bass and guitar) that gives the track it's signature low-end sound.

While "Toys in the Attic" was never Aerosmith's most famous track, it typified their '70s sound, which maintained its classic rock roots as pop music was moving in the direction of disco and dancehall tunes. Aerosmith rebelled against this movement (which many other rock bands were forced to embrace), and certainly may have been on the radios that the Z-Boys listened to during their epic pool skating sessions in Dogtown and Z-Boys. The track is used here for a montage of the Z-Boys early attempts at conquering pool skating, with interview footage from the likes of Tony Hawk setting the mood of that '70s era of freedom of expression.

For Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Ace (Jim Carrey) is faced with the unenviable task of figuring out which Miami Dolphins football player is responsible for the dispappearance of Snowflake, the team's dolphin mascot. In order to do so, Ace must examine the Super Bowl rings of every team member to follow a clue. The montage of Ace's hunt for the kidnapper gets high-octane backing from Aerosmith's "Line Up", one of the B-sides off their Get a Grip album, which, believe it or not, was co-written by Rock 'n' Roll luminary Lenny Kravitz. Carrey brings the montage to life with his characteristic slapstick skills, doing everything from arm wrestling a linebacker to some none-too-kosher urinal behavior.

Central to the plot of Wayne's World 2 is Wayne Campbell's (Mike Myers) attempt to stage a concert, Waynestock, in his hometown of Aurora, Illinois. The linchpin of the show is an appearance by Aerosmith, with Wayne's "if you build it, they will come" mandate giving him faith that the '90s biggest rock band would headline his show. Luckily, after some guidance from roadie-extraordinaire Del Preston (Ralph Brown), the band does indeed show up in a stretch limo version of Garth's AMC Pacer, before performing a kick-butt version of "Shut Up and Dance", another of the many singles to come off their Get a Grip album.

Another use of Aerosmith for the purposes of montage, "Back in the Saddle" appears in The Fighter for a scene when Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) begins running off a string of victories in his boxing matches, revitalizing his career and setting up a championship bout. Director David O. Russell has long been a fan of classic rock for his films, and has used Aerosmith songs in three of them, with this one being period-perfect for the Ward's '90s rise to prominence as one of the great welterweight fighters of the era.

"The Other Side" provides backing for Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama's (Patricia Arquette) triumphant entrance into Los Angeles in True Romance. Tony Scott chose the song to show the sharp contrast between LA and Detroit, as the two journey into the West Coast unknown in Clarence's purple Cadillac Eldorado, while Dick Ritchie (Michael Rappaport) spouts off in delirious fashion. Aerosmith has always been well-suited to action films, with this track being one of their most up-tempo and powerful affairs, a perfect match for director Tony Scott's hard-boiled film, which had a soundtrack featuring everyone from Hans Zimmer to Soundgarden.

At the flash of the Gramercy Pictures logo before the opening credits of Dazed and Confused, we hear the eerie sound of a talk-box, a sort of guitar pedal that allows you to talk through a plastic tube, using the voice and guitar effects to create an other-worldly being. That being is Joe Perry, in the intro to "Sweet Emotion", a track that has never found a more fitting home than this '70s-Rock-driven fantasy. As tricked out muscle cars roll through the school parking lot to Aerosmith's sonorous sounds, the groundwork is laid for the '90s' greatest retro flashback film, which luckily included Aerosmith, as even Led Zeppelin (who gave the film its name) wouldn't agree to license songs for the film.

Collaborating with famed songwriter Diane Warren, who wrote the ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for Aerosmith to record for this famous soundtrack, turned out to be a great idea, as the track debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving the band their first and only number one single. That fact may have been due, in part, to the enormous marketing campaign to promote Armageddon, a summer blockbuster that pitted Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, two of Hollywood's most economically viable creatives, together again. The single capped a '90s that restored Aerosmith to their rightful place of enormous popular influence, showing that no matter how varied a movie audience could be, a band of this stature brings a credibility to any blockbuster film.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mike Damski studied Art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY while beginning a twenty year career in Film and TV, performing nearly every job on set from Production Assistant to Stuntman. His credits include Prime, Surviving Christmas, Alex and Emma, The Sopranos, Royal Pains, Taxi, Little Manhattan, Early Edition, Boston Public and many more. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

AerosmithSex and the City: The MovieWalk This WayJanie's Got a GunNot Another Teen MovieArmageddonCome TogetherCharlie's AngelsAngel's EyeLess Than ZeroRockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie-Woogie FluBe Cool Cryin'Sweet EmotionWe're the MillersBlades of GloryI Don't Want to Miss a ThingRugrats Go Wild Lizard LoveSweet EmotionStarsky and HutchDream OnLast Action HeroBack in the SaddleSay Anything... Toys in the AtticDogtown and Z-BoysAce Ventura: Pet DetectiveLine UpWayne's World 2Shut Up and DanceBack in the SaddleThe Fighter The Other SideTrue RomanceDazed and ConfusedSweet EmotionI Don't Want to Miss a ThingArmageddon