by Wes Anderson The Royal Tenenbaums, the film that took the eccentric auteur to new levels of critical acclaim and is still considered by some fans to be his masterpiece, has an original score by Mark Mothersbaugh. Mothersbaugh had provided scores for Anderson’s earlier films, and in The Royal Tenenbaumshe used different musical instruments to portray different characters.
But this tragicomic family saga doesn’t just use his original music. Anderson also included many of his signature needle drops on the soundtrack. The film features mostly rock ‘n’ roll classics from the 1960s through the 1990s, with guest appearances from legendary musicians such as Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.
ten “Hey Jude” by Mutato Muzika Orchestra
The soundtrack of The Royal Tenenbaums opens with a Beatles cover. The Mutato Muzika Orchestra’s whimsical version of “Hey Jude” plays over the prologue featuring the history of the Tenenbaum family.
The lighthearted melody provides the perfect musical accompaniment to set up the bittersweet relationship between the Tenenbaums, paired well with Alec Baldwin’s voice-over narration.
9 These Days by Nico
Richie Tenenbaum is madly in love with his adoptive sister Margot, but she is married to another man and having an affair with another man. Nico’s “These Days” plays on their reunion at the bus station. It’s the first time Richie has seen Margot in years.
Nico’s use of melancholic hit in this heartbreaking scene perfectly captures the painful feeling of unrequited love. Thanks to “These Days,” audiences know exactly how Richie feels when they see Margot get off that bus.
8 “Wigwam” by Bob Dylan
“Wigwam”, one of Bob Dylan’s most upbeat songs ever recorded, first plays when Henry proposes to Etheline, she says yes, and they kiss. This continues until Royal first meets her grandsons Ari and Uzi at the playground.
Chas doesn’t want his kids to know their grandfather, but Royal is eager to bond with them and make up for lost time.
7 “Me and Julio Down the School Yard” by Paul Simon
Paul Simon’s solo hit “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” plays on the montage of bonds between Royal and his grandchildren. He takes them to a dogfight, they shoplift, they run along a swimming pool, they cling to the edge of a garbage truck, and they cross a busy street at a red light (among many other reckless activities).
This hilariously reckless behavior is a breath of fresh air for the boys, who had to deal with the overprotection of their safety-conscious father in the months after their mother’s untimely death.
6 “Judy is a Punk” by the Ramones
When Raleigh begins to suspect that his wife is cheating on him, he hires a private detective to watch her. When the PI returns to him, Margot’s sexual past turns out to be much more widespread and prolific than he thought.
The Ramones’ “Judy is a Punk” sets the perfect punk rock tone for the montage of Margot’s liberated romantic story.
5 “Needle in the Hay” by Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay” plays over the film’s most heartbreaking scene. Richie goes into the bathroom and ritually cuts his hair and shaves his beard to finally reveal the face he has hidden behind sunglasses, a headband, and facial hair throughout the film.
He tells himself he’s going to kill himself tomorrow, then ends up grabbing his razor blade and attempting to kill himself on the spot. The moody lyrics and tune of “Needle in the Hay” round out this powerful sequence beautifully.
4 “Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones
When Richie returns from the hospital, he joins Margot in her inner tent, where she is listening to the Rolling Stones record. between the buttons. It was the Stones’ fifth UK studio album and seventh US album. She listens to “She Smiled Sweetly” first, then listens to “Ruby Tuesday” when Richie arrives. (“Ruby Tuesday” only appeared on the US edition of the album.)
After Richie shows his scars to Margot, they kiss. She confesses that her love is not unrequited and that she cares for him, but since they were raised as siblings, they will have to be secretly in love.
3 “Stephanie Says” by The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground’s “Stephanie Says” plays when Richie is on the roof of the hotel where Royal works, talking to his father about his complicated feelings for his adoptive sister.
As they talk, Richie’s hawk from his childhood – Mordecai – seemingly returns to him. In hilariously dry Andersonian fashion, the schmaltziness is undermined by the fact that Richie and Royal are unsure if this is really Mordecai or just a random hawk.
2 “Rock The Casbah” by The Clash
The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” is one of the diegetic soundtrack choices in The Royal Tenenbaums. He’s playing in Eli’s apartment when Richie comes to confront him about his drug addiction.
Eli agrees to get help, then quickly flees the apartment. Richie and his assistant—his father, Royal, and Royal’s co-worker, Pagoda—watch out the window as Eli signals a cab, jumps in the back, and takes off down the street to avoid facing his troubles.
1 “Everyone” by Van Morrison
Van Morrison’s “Everyone” ends the film on a bittersweet and nostalgic note, as the Tenenbaums and their loved ones attend Royal’s funeral. The song begins as the bewildered priest spots Royal’s wildly misguided epitaph: “Died tragically saving his family from the wreckage of a sinking wrecked battleship.”
All of the surviving characters leave the funeral in a glorious Andersonian slow motion before Van Morrison’s lead extends into the end credits and plays the movie.
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