We can all agree that the finest application of Metallica’s music in a motion picture was Some Kind of Monster. Cool music, cool lyrics, cool sweaters. But in the halcyon days before lifestyles determined deathstyles, you will be surprised to learn that the biggest of the Big 4 wrote four albums regarded even more highly than St. Anger. Here are our thoughts on how seven films and TV shows used the good stuff.
STRANGER THINGS, SEASON 2, EPISODE 8
Billy the Bully is not exactly the most three-dimensional antagonist in the storied history of Netflix and Chill, but he did rock “Whiplash” in his bedroom to get pumped for another feel-good night of threatening African-American children with bodily harm. He did [SPOILER ALERT] suffer the ultimate ’80s comeuppance, however: his father calling him a “f*gg*t” for egregious bedroom hair-tousling. ANYHOO, even though zero high schoolers in this time period excelled at varsity basketball and listened to Kill ’Em All, this song is absolutely appropriate for Billy’s character, which earns this a solid score of 7 .
THAT’S MY BOY
From Steve Buscemi and John Turturro to Nicole Kidman and Al Pacino, Adam Sandler has the Midas Touch when it comes to humiliating legendary thespians. 2012’s That’s My Boy continues this proud lineage by pitting Sandler’s eponymous son (Andy Samberg) against an egregiously slumming James Caan, playing a foul-mouthed, brawling priest. The subsequent beatdown is set to (sigh, again) “Whiplash,” but the editor is too lazy to sync the blow-landing freeze-frame montage to any cool staccato parts (you know, like the iconic beginning). Lazy and stupid, but would you expect anything else? A 3 if we’re being generous.
Two wretched Hangover sequels and one Due Date and War Dogs later, the bloom has long worn off the notion of Todd Phillips being Hollywood’s preeminent crass comedy guy. But most of Old School ages well, particularly the scene where Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn kidnap prospective fraternity pledges to the tune of “Master of Puppets.” Thumbs up to any scene that concludes with a protagonist threatening a middle-aged woman in a supermarket parking lot, “You tell anybody about this, I’ll fucking kill you … I’m kidding, I’m kidding, we’ll have him back by tonight. Okay, sweetheart?” Obvious choice, but expertly applied. Hard 8.
Does not, will not get any better. The title font is Metallica-style, for god’s sake. This is the pinnacle of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career. It wisely employs five classic ’Tallica bangers: “The Shortest Straw,” “Fight Fire With Fire,” “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth),” “Battery,” and “Motorbreath.” The above scene employs “Battery” at its beginning and end, and while I would highly recommend skipping it and just watching the whole thing, I can tell you that this is exactly how I would have treated a younger brother if my parents had granted me one. A perfect 10.
THE BIG SHORT
I am not a homeowner, nor do I care about other people’s problems, nor do I approve of fourth-wall-breaking in movies that are not Kuffs, so perhaps I am not best-equipped to analyze Metallica’s usage in a movie that I turned off after 10 minutes out of boredom. But unless various and sundry synopses have steered me wrong, Christian Bale’s savant-like hedge fund manager Michael Burry predicted the housing crisis while drumming along to the likes of Mastodon, Pantera, and Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” (“Eye of the Beholder” is later utilized.) Everyone but me seemed to really like this movie, and I’m pretty dumb, so I’ll throw it a cursory 8.
The overstylized opening credits to the second-ever zom-com blare “For Whom the Bell Tolls” as various forms of the undead hurl armed guards off prison towers (two thumbs way up), chase down smoothie-toting yuppie women (eh), plow into a groom mid-toast (good stuff), participate in one of those father-son races where your legs are tied to one another (okay, sure), and much more. The song selection is spot-on even if only half of the imagery makes sense. 8
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Let’s end with a weird one. I know the idea is to counterprogram with pop to cast as wide a Nielsen net as possible, but how Metallica haven’t done a Super Bowl halftime show yet is beyond me. (They could even make up with Axl and drag him out there in his stupid Jerry Rice Raiders jersey.) Anyway, Oliver Stone’s ludicrous “examination” of professional football boasts a super-weird soundtrack, mixing great hip-hop (DMX, Mobb Deep, OutKast) with opposite-of-great nü-metal (Godsmack, P.O.D.). In this particular locker room interlude, the white linemen shut off their black counterparts’ pesky hippity-hop in favor of “Motorbreath.” Shouting ensues. I think this is social commentary or something. Uh, 4?