An ode to the many splendid joys of spontaneous singing

Have you ever felt the sudden, passionate, inescapable urge to break into song? Like there’s a deep swelling in your chest, a pressure that rises up and makes your heart pound and your hands shake until there’s nothing else you can do but open your mouth, release the song inside you, and grab the hand of the nearest person so you can swing them around, dancing gleefully together until everyone around you can’t resist joining in?

Yeah, me neither.

But, lucky for us, it happens all the time in movies! And not just the Zac Efron ones. Spontaneous singing (the original flash mob?) brings just a little bit of magic into otherwise non-musical movies. Today, we’re celebrating the best instances of surprise singing on film. If you’ll follow me, first up is…


Will Ferrell isn’t known for his subtlety, but this low-key version of Starland Vocal Band’s  “Afternoon Delight” featuring Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and that actor we always recognize but don’t know the name of (David Koechner) features some spot-on harmony and Carellian falsetto that’s too good to overlook.


Ben Affleck took spontaneous singing to a whole other level by snuggling foreheads with Liv Tyler (in her adorbs black dress with the understated flowers). Sigh. Cue Michael Clarke Duncan’s deeper than deep back-up and Steve Buscemi’s showtune-worthy crooning, and it’s a delightful rendition of John Denver’s  “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (though they’re probably thinking of the Peter, Paul and Mary cover).

Love Actually

Sheriff Rick really knows how to bring the party. We can forgive him for making all the singers point accusingly at Keira Knightley’s character because it turns into a melodic masterpiece of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” featuring pop-up musicians hidden amongst their wedding guests.

Almost Famous

OK, OK, I know this scene technically portrays a band so they’re not exactly regular Joes just busting out these beautiful ditties. But we can’t ignore how this rendition of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” is indeed spontaneous, and lovely, and poignant, and still worth celebrating. Plus, it paved the way for another shining example of singers jamming on a bus.

A League of Their Own

These ladies make me wish I was more athletic. At first glance, this scene feels more subdued than some of the others in this collection, but we must give credit where credit is due. Their victory song packs an emotional punch that has us admitting, yes, sometimes there is crying in baseball (singing is at the 5:16 mark).

10 Things I Hate About You

I may be a little biased, but I still believe that Heath Ledger puts every other melodic courtship attempt to shame with his serenade of Franki Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” Though, Jerry O’Connell’s lesser-known Scream 2 number, which came out over a year before 10 Things, is a close second

My Best Friend’s Wedding

If only all family gatherings were like this, with full-family sing-alongs to Dionne Warwick classics like “I Say a Little Prayer.” We can forgive them for not breaking into choreography because Julia Roberts’ angst contradicted with Cameron Diaz’s elation are enough to carry us through.

Top Gun

The matching uniforms, the weird shoulder-tap/bend-over move Tom Cruise and and Anthony Edwards open with, the guy with the intense bedroom eyes just over Goose’s shoulder, the dim lighting, and the sudden chorus of eager participants make for a nearly perfect scene, all set to the tune of the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Also, shout-out to the enthusiastic gent who takes over the second verse. We could have used more of him.

[Image via]

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