Earlier today, after previous reports of grave illness broke, the legendary Aretha Franklin passed away at the age of 76. First and foremost, she'll be leaving behind a legacy of countless musical hits, and just as many memorable performances on stage. Yet what she also leaves behind is a history of memorable movies that have used her music, as well as one movie that she appeared onscreen for. In honor of Ms. Franklin, we'd like to highlight five of the greatest Aretha Franklin moments from film history.
The only film character she played throughout her career, Aretha Franklin was the all business, no-BS wife to actual band member Matt "Guitar" Murphy in both movies of The Blues Brothers franchise. Her first time out saw her arguing with Matt over whether or not he should get back together with the band of criminal ne'er do wells / bluse musicians. Naturally, as any respecting wife would do, she tells Mr. Murphy to really mull over his options when it comes to the matter, and does so in a showstopping musical number that actually expanded upon her 1967 hit single.
Sometimes, a song can make even the smallest moment of a film like Mystic Pizza into a joy. In the case of that very film, we see our main trio of characters, played by Julia Roberts, Lili Taylor, and Annabeth Gish, singing along to their truck's radio. These three women, throughout the course of the film, chart the courses of their destiny and move towards their big life goals throughout their time working at the titular pizzaria. So, of course, a good way to cement characters like that is having them sing a song like Aretha Franklin's "Respect," which cements the plot with a little bit of shorthand through musical convenience.
Next to "Respect," "Chain of Fools" is probably the most used Aretha Franklin song in the history of film moments borrowing from her extensive catalog. But out of all of those moments, John Travolta's big musical moment from Michael has to be one of, if not the most fun usage of the song. What starts as his titular archangel dancing on an empty barroom dance floor turn into a moment that lures several female patrons of said bar onto the floor alongside him. Needless to say, the menfolk aren't all too thrilled, and a comical fight ensues. What makes the usage of Franklin's song standout in the scene, of course, is the fact that a natural dancer like Travolta knows just how to use the song to his advantage in the first place.
Our next moment happens to also focus on just how much the music of Ms. Franklin can get people dancing at the right moment. Even better, the romantic comedy The Holiday uses such an opportunity as its big, uplifting finale; as we see Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz's stories come together to form one of the warmest, happiest endings. With Winslet paired off with Jack Black, and Diaz becoming a part of Jude Law's on screen family, everyone gathers to celebrate Christmas, as "You Send Me" plays on the film's soundtrack, closing everything out with a big smile and a soulful heart.
Sometimes a song makes the moment, while on other occasions the moment enhances the song. In the last act of Barry Jenkins' Best Picture winner Moonlight, we see Trevante Rhodes' Chiron (or "Black" as he's know in that era) finally catching up with his best friend, Andre Holland's Kevin. To Chiron, Kevin is not only a childhood friend, but an unrequited love in his life. As he enters the diner, leading up to the scene that eventually sets up the film's emotional ending between the two men, we hear "One Step Ahead" playing over the diner's speaker system, hinting at what's to come in the moment that will finally seal their fates.