This feature originally ran in April 2017, but we’re dusting it off for Punk Week.
What really made The Clash “the only band that matters” was their ability to evolve. Over six studio albums, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon proved that punk rock wasn’t being confined to power chords and lots of spit.
It meant taking societal conflicts and themes and pouring them into a variety of sounds and stories that connected with the people at any given time, which is why they eventually went from a blitzkrieg of noise on their 1977 self-titled debut to reggae, dub, funk, ska and rockabilly over the five albums that followed.
Because they were so varied — seriously, listen to “White Riot,” then “Rock the Casbah,” then “The Magnificent Seven,” and then something like “Straight to Hell” or “Sean Flynn,” it’s unreal — The Clash have long been ideal for celluloid.
Their range of sounds can soundtrack a number of scenes, and they have over the years, though not as many as you might think. In fact, it wasn’t until the ’90s that producers (and, ahem, Strummer himself) became hip to the idea that The Clash were ideal for the cinema. Since then, they’ve graced both living rooms and theaters alike.
Ahead, we put together 10 songs by The Clash that really amped up a handful of great (and exceptional) films, including one that doubled-down on the boyos to perfection. Since we’re focusing solely on films, we unfortunately left off a number of ideal and iconic appearances on the small screen, from “Train in Vain” offering a nice aural metaphor in season five of The Wire to “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” terrifying Winona Ryder in the first season of Stranger Things.
Rest assured, these moments were in our heads the whole time, but sadly, they don’t belong on this list.
So, put down the “Remote Control,” click ahead, and try not to be too “Hateful…”
10. “Police on My Back”
Knocked Up (2007)
God bless Judd Apatow. The guy clearly appreciates the power and diversity of Sandinista!, the band’s cruelly underrated 1980 triple album that bafflingly remains polarizing among fans. Case in point: Both 2007’s Knocked Up (“Police on My Back”) and 2009’s Funny People (“Junco Partner”) pull from the album, though if we’re splitting hairs, the former wins out. Sure, it’s a cover of The Equals’ deep cut of the same name, but there’s no denying how Jones and Strummer’s double-guitar work embellishes the stress and tension of the titular scene in question.
When Katherine Heigl’s lead character, Alison, comes to the sobering realization that she might be pregnant, her sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann), rushes her to the pharmacy, tipping off a hilarious montage that follows the two of them trying out various pregnancy tests. It’s fast, it’s punchy, and it’s effective, especially when Jones shouts, “What have I done?” Good question, Joe.