The following contains SPOILERS for Bohemian Rhapsody.
Bohemian Rhapsody hits theaters today, and with it will likely come something of a resurgence of the popularity of Queen music. That’s never a bad thing. While the movie is being met with mixed reaction overall, few have anything bad to say about the music. Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t even the first movie to learn how a Queen soundtrack can really amp up your game, after all.
There’s obviously a lot of great music in Bohemian Rhapsody, but which of the band’s famous tunes get the best treatment in the film? Much of it is incidental background music, but a few songs get a chance to shine and they’re among the best moments in the entire movie. This isn’t just about being the best song, but being used well in the film to an appropriate effect. Let’s get started.
10. Freddie’s Redemption – Under Pressure
As mentioned, a lot of the music in Bohemian Rhapsody is just used as incidental music. It’s used as part of montages or simply diegetic music in the background of a scene. Most of these moments don’t make the list, but a couple did, and one of them takes place near the end of the film. Freddie has come out of his haze thanks to Mary Austin, who has finally gotten through to him. After Mary rides away and Freddie kicks John Reid out, that familiar bass line starts to the great Queen and David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure.” The song’s a bit out of time, as it was recorded years before the events in this moment, but considering the title of the song, there’s no better option in this place.
9. Opening Credits – Somebody To Love
There are so many ways that a movie about Queen could have started. They have so many memorable songs. Bohemian Rhapsody decides to start the movie at the end, moments before the band takes the stage for the Live Aid performance, but the song in the background is perfect. In many ways, the song itself, “Somebody to Love,” is a window into the story we’re about to be told. But it’s also one of Queen’s best songs, and the perfect way to get you in the mood for the film. It builds the anticipation for the end of the movie before things even get started.
8. Smile – Doing Alright
Before the band was Queen, it was called Smile, and before Freddie Mercury, they had another lead singer. This is the only song in the movie not sung by Mercury, but that’s part of what makes it a solid movie moment. Bohemian Rhapsody is very much Freddie Mercury’s story, which means the rest of the band often takes a back seat. This is one of the few places where you get to see that the other members of the band were legitimately great musicians in their own right. Freddie Mercury may have been the final key that unlocked superstardom, but the rest of the band played their part as well. Freddie wants to join them because he knows they have talent.
7. The First Performance – Keep Yourself Alive
If you needed any more evidence of just how important Freddie Mercury was to the band, then simply look to the next musical scene in the film. After some minor fumbling with a microphone, Freddie appears to completely forget the lyrics to the song he’s supposed to be singing. He doesn’t let that stop him and instantly Freddie’s stage presence is visible. Even the people who were angry to see a new lead singer have to take notice that they’re in the presence of a real talent. Freddie elevates the rest of the band and everything that happens to Queen, at least in the movie, is because of this moment.
6. Mercury’s Diagnosis – Who Wants To Live Forever
“Who Wants To Live Forever” previously existed on the movie screen as part of the Highlander soundtrack. While it’s little more than montage music here, the song is used to great effect in a sequence where Freddie Mercury learns of his AIDS diagnosis. It’s a perfectly fitting piece of music in the way that the meaning of the song has been turned on its head. Previously, the song was about somebody who would live forever, but wishes he could live out his days with the woman he loved. Here, we see Mercury facing his own mortality, long before he’s really ready to be done with life. Of course, in his own way, Freddie Mercury would live forever, but clearly the man wasn’t ready to be done quite yet.
5. Becoming Stars – Killer Queen
You can’t talk about Queen without talking about “Killer Queen.” It became the band’s first number one in the U.S. and launched them as international superstars. It’s our first real moment in the movie of seeing Queen as the band that we know. They perform the song on Top of the Pops, the British music show where the stars played, and the song catapults them to global celebrity, becoming a number one hit in the USA and starting their first American tour. The rest is history, or in this case, cinema.
4. The Recording Session – Bohemian Rhapsody
We can’t really talk about the movie Bohemian Rhapsody without talking about the song of the same name. The movie shows us some of the creation of the iconic song, as well as its controversial release. Watching Queen “make the sausage,” so to speak, is fun, as we get to watch the various parts get created on their own, before finally coming together in the finished product. When it’s actually time to hear the complete work, it’s played while we’re shown what the critical reception to the song actually was, which wasn’t particularly kind, even though it did become a number one hit (twice). The song certainly aged well, as it’s one of the most instantly recognizable tunes ever made. We don’t get the entire song of course, as the movie itself may be tacitly admitting that the tune is a bit too long. Also, the associated Mike Myers cameo is fantastic.
3. The Argument – Another One Bites The Dust
Similar to “Under Pressure,” this one is all about the bass line. In the scene, Freddie has fired Queen’s longtime manager after being manipulated, and the rest of the band is unhappy. An argument has begun and bass player John Deacon has had enough of it. He sits down and starts to jam just as a way to avoid bickering. Whether intentional or not, he ends up ending the argument when everybody else stops to listen to what he’s playing, the catchy bass line to “Another One Bites the Dust.” It’s a great moment for a couple of reasons. First, it shows how even with the problems the band was having, music could still bring them together. However, the song’s title also foreshadows that, eventually, everything is still going to fall apart.
2. Audience Participation – We Will Rock You
Sometimes, simplicity works best. The three beats that make up the bulk of “We Will Rock You” may be some of the most famous in the history of rock music. Watching the song come to life on screen is a joy because we all know what’s about to happen, but watching the characters figure it out is a lot of fun. Brian May has an idea, but the rest of the bad clearly doesn’t get. Freddie comes in late (as usual), but when the lightbulb goes on for him, it all starts to come together. We jump between the studio and an arena full of fans as the song comes to life, culminating in that guitar jam finale that makes it all worth it.
1. Live Aid
This sequence, of course, comprises multiple songs, but it’s a single sequence and that’s part of what makes it amazing. Bohemian Rhapsody recreates Queen’s 1985 Live Aid performance, almost in its entirety. It’s like watching the performance live, something large parts of the audience of this film never had an opportunity to do. While the movie as a whole may be as much miss as hit, you’ll leave the theater feeling the movie was a massive success simply because of the way this sequence makes you feel. It’s a remarkable achievement and the perfect way to cap off the story of Queen.