Ric Ocasek was cool. Clarence Worley-level cool. The type of cool that allowed for him to take a small cameo as a beatnik in John Waters’ Hairspray — splashing paint on a canvas and freaking himself out with a lightbulb — and turn it into a scene cemented in memory for over 30 years. For most of the world, though, he made an impression as the voice of The Cars, whose groundbreaking new wave soundtracked all of our lives.
On Sunday night, news broke that Ocasek died in his Manhattan home at the age of 75. Many of us learned on Twitter, and as tribute after tribute flooded our feeds celebrating his vast career, his influence became quite clear: People didn’t just love The Cars; they lived with The Cars. Hell, one of their songs probably just popped into your mind as you read that. You may have even added it to the memorials. We’re there, too.
Looking back, Ric Ocasek made sounds that echo. Whether it was sitting in the passenger seat of your dad’s car, looking out the window while he turned up “Just What I Needed” a little bit louder, or developing a deeper appreciation for Weezer’s Blue Album after discovering that Ocasek produced it, he had a hand in generations of musical joy. Whatever he touched turned a little slicker … a little cooler.
Look no further than his presence in film. More often than not, when a Cars song plays in a movie, it’s to embellish some kind of onscreen swagger. Think back to all of those teenagers walking in slow motion. Or, most famously, an ’80s babe emerging from underwater in slow motion, pointing her breasts to the sky, and smoothing back her long dark hair. Not every band gets those kinds of scenes. Not every artist can say they made the one song that caused the soundtrack to sell.
Here are 10 times The Cars did.
10. “My Best Friend’s Girl”
Mr. Deeds (2002)
“My Best Friend’s Girl” isn’t featured on the soundtrack to Mr. Deeds, but it is in the movie. This 2002 remake of the 1936 Frank Capra classic pairs Adam Sandler with Winona Ryder, who plays a reporter trying to win the blockbuster comic’s heart for a scoop. (Her name is also Babe Bennett, which sounds like the name of a cartoon bunny.) Regardless, The Cars are one of a dozen classic FM hits in the film, which is par for the course of any Sandler film come to think about it, and “My Best Friend’s Girl” pops up when Deeds meets Peter Gallagher’s villainous Chuck. The dusty track, which is taken off the band’s 1978 debut, speaks to Deeds’ carefree attitude, while also stressing his inherent cool.
The Squid and The Whale (2004)
Written by Ocasek and sung by bassist Benjamin Orr, “Drive” is the third single off The Cars’ 1984 fifth studio album, Heartbeat City. The track is one of the band’s more somber tracks, and the video features Paulina Porizkova, who Ocasek would go on to marry in 1989. Although it was featured in Transformers (2007) and Ziggy Marley covered it for 50 First Dates (2004), the fan favorite hit fits in best on the soundtrack for The Squid and The Whale. Noah Baumbach’s 2007 film, which stars Jeff Daniels, revolves around two boys living in Brooklyn who are grappling with the results of their parents’ divorce. It’s a comedic drama, as Baumbach is wont to do, and the use of “Drive” helps tip it a bit more to the dramatic side.
Two Adam Sandler movies with two separate Cars tracks? What are the odds? Rest assured, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Click arrived four years after Mr. Deeds and used The Cars’ “Magic” in the film’s opening scene to tongue-in-cheek effect. In case you forgot, the whole film revolves around Sandler and a magical remote control, one that allows him to zip through the more unpleasant aspects of any given day — you know, like having kids who steal Twinkies. “Magic” also hails from Heartbeat City, and its video finds Ocasek walking on water over a swimming pool. To achieve the effect, a plexiglass platform was built, which unfortunately for him, collapsed on the first take. If only he had Sandler’s magic remote.
07. “Bye Bye Love”
Super 8 (2011)
Another one written by Ocasek and sung by Orr, “Bye Bye Love” was placed deep into the band’s 1978 self-titled debut album and features rather well in a movie about aliens. Super 8, the 2011 sci-fi sleeper put out by J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, stars Elle Fanning as a teen attempting to make a Super 8 movie with her friends. Shit gets spooky, as shit often does, and the song’s lyrics (“It’s an orangy sky/ Always it’s some other guy/ It’s just a broken lullaby/ Bye bye love”) help set and keep the tone.
06. “It’s All I Can Do”
The Wedding Singer (1998)
Make that three Adam Sandler movies that use songs by The Cars. (Seriously, has anyone checked on Sandler since the news of Ocasek’s passing?) “It’s All I Can Do”, off of 1979’s Candy-O, once again features Orr on vocals, and while it wasn’t a big hit for the band, it’s become another fan favorite in their catalogue. In The Wedding Singer, the track surfaces when sparks begin to fly between Sandler and MVP co-star Drew Barrymore. The two are wrapping up their respective tasks, and you can tell there’s a romance in the works. Like so many late ’90s hits, the film warranted two volumes of music, and this one popped up on the second volume.
05. “Just What I Needed”
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
The use of “Just What I Needed” in Boys Don’t Cry could easily be construed as too on-the-nose if it weren’t so damn heartbreaking. If you recall, the 1999 biopic stars Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena, a Nebraska trans man who was killed as the result of a terrible hate crime. The song soundtracks the film’s opening scene, which introduces Brandon as he cuts his hair cut a little shorter before heading out into town to search for love at the local skating rink. There’s a hopefulness within Orr’s vocals, as well as in this scene, but whatever Brandon hopes to find is painfully out of reach.
04. “Good Times Roll”
Jawbreaker is a dark comedy in which nary a “good” thing happens, and it’s fantastic. The film stars Rose McGowan in her prime as head bitch (intended warmly) to a crew of other likeminded bitches. To avoid too many spoilers, a semi-good natured birthday prank goes bad, and one of the crew ends up dead. “Good Times Roll” is used in a particularly grim scene as an ironic elbow to the ribs that could have landed flat, but, because it’s The Cars, gives the film the edge it was going for. That also explains why the track opens the band’s 1978 self-titled debut: It sets a mood, and that mood can go any number of ways.
03. “I’m Not the One”
Billy Madison (1995)
Our fourth and final Sandler outing heads back to the school halls. Billy Madison came out in 1995, and odds are most of you reading this still quote lines from it to this day. (Stop looking at me, swan!) “I’m Not the One”, off of 1981’s Shake It Up, finds Ocasek at lead vocals with bassist Benjamin Orr and the rest of the band coming together to add backing vocals. The track plays as Billy, a grown man whose adult body is squeezed into an old-fashioned school desk, handles a stack of elaborately hand-made Valentines. Warm? A little. Hint of Dateline? Also that. Nevertheless, the brilliantly juxtaposed track adds an endearing sweetness to the scenario.
02. “Dangerous Type”
The Craft (1994)
If something cool or sexy happens in a movie, it’s probably best to just go ahead and make it happen in slow motion. This is just a cinematic fact. For 1994’s The Craft, Letters to Cleo borrowed Ocasek’s Cars, covering their Candy-O classic “Dangerous Type”. The inspired cover plays when Fairuza Balk’s Nancy leads her newly-minted coven of witches down the locker-lined hallway of their high school. To be featured on a soundtrack for one of the best ’90s movies and have your song (cover or not) be used in a high value slow-motion scene? Well, that’s just the golden ticket. No shade to Cleo or anything, but could you imagine if the OG version had been used? Would have cast quite a spell on things. Nevertheless, Balk, dressed in her Hot Topic finest, flashing her teeth, and faking kisses at a bunch of normy a-holes while this plays is a pretty damn near perfect scenario.
01. “Moving in Stereo”
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
An instrumental version of “Moving in Stereo” added an air of tense seduction to a scene that many people can pinpoint as being the cause of their first sexual, um, “awakening.” Phoebe Cates had only been in one other movie when she landed the role of Linda Barrett in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and it’s the role she’s known for to this day. Now, even if you don’t remember the rest of Cameron Crowe’s story, you will never, ever forget that iconic image of her climbing slowly out of a swimming pool in a red bikini with matching red lips. For Christ’s sake, if you were to Google “boner”, this scene might automatically play … and yes, so would “Moving in Stereo”.