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The 11 Types of Lip Sync Scenes From the Movies

Duckie Pretty in Pink

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By Kevin Maher

Saturday Night Live writer Michael O’Donoghue observed that the 1950’s fad of paint-by-numbers perfectly captured the hopes and dreams of post-war America, asking, “What better metaphor for life under Joseph McCarthy’s rigid witch-hunting regime than a style of painting in which you had to stay carefully within the lines?”

The current fad of celebrity lip-syncing echoes paint-by-numbers, with artists going through the motions and giving the audience what they expect is coming. (See also: movie remakes and reboots.)

What’s more, lip-syncing gives famous people a chance to be relatable (“they’re just like us!“) and aspirational (even celebrities wish to be like other famous people). But long before this celebrity parlor game was a TV staple, lip-syncing was featured in some famous movie scenes. There are roughly 11 categories of celebrity lip syncing scenes:

1. The Creepy-Ass Lip Sync

Dean Stockwell belongs in some hall-of-fame for this unnerving performance of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” from Blue Velvet. The creep-factor is upgraded by Dennis Hopper’s mesmerized reverence and Brad Dourif dancing with a snake. (See also: Mulholland Drive, where David Lynch features some almost grotesque sing-along numbers in the movie within a movie.)

And of course, we can thank Reservoir Dogs for making us all shudder whenever Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” comes on the classic rock station.

2. The Irreverent/Sexually Frustrated Teen Lip Sync

If there’s one thing John Hughes got right about smart-ass teens of the ’80s, it’s that they best express themselves through lip-sync. Whether it’s Ferris Bueller in the Von Steuben Day parade or Ducky serenading a girl out of his league, mouthing along to music is a go-to device. Of course, Ducky’s infamous performance comes off as uncomfortable cultural appropriation today, which brings us to…

3. The Racially Problematic Lip Sync

Preston Sturges’ films were known for rapid-fire comic dialogue, but he wasn’t above a good synchronization gag. In The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Trudy Kockenlocker (actress Betty Hutton) presents herself as the singer of a Paul Robeson-esque song. This 1944 film helped pave the way for generations of white people imitating black artists.

4. The Candid Moment Lip Sync

Most movies won’t show the hero masturbating to his beloved (well, except for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, of course) — so what’s the next best humiliating solo act? Lip-syncing to sappy songs. Extra credit if the character is “caught in the act.” The opening song from Just Friends features Ryan Reynolds in an Eddie Murphy style fat-suit mock crooning to the All-4-One classic “I Swear.”

Then of course there’s Tom Cruise’s infamous underwear lip-sync from Risky Business

Which became so popular, it was parodied by ALF…

See also: Hugh Grant’s lovelorn Prime Minister dancing to The Pointer Sisters’ “Jump (for My Love)” in Love, Actually.

5. The Group Car Ride Lip Sync

What starts as a singalong turns into a lip sync with Wayne and Garth mouthing the final chorus of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to each other. As many karaoke singers have discovered, it’s quite a long song.

6. The Flirtatious Duet Lip Sync

Is there anything more playful (in a PG-13 sort of way) than a man and woman moving their mouths to the radio while making eyes at each other? That flirty chemistry is best captured by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey moving to “Oh, Baby” in Dirty Dancing.

See also: Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig lip-syncing to Jefferson Starship in The Skeleton Twins. (Yes, we know they’re brother and sister.)

7. The Celebrity Impersonating Another Celebrity Lip Sync

Behold, the very rare meta-lip-sync. Jim Carrey imitates Andy Kaufman playing along as Mighty Mouse in a routine from the first episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975.

8. The “We Sure Had Fun Making This Movie” Lip Sync

For years the closing-credits blooper reel was the filmmakers’ way to tell the audience, “Lighten up! Even if you didn’t enjoy watching this movie we had a ball making it!” (See The Cannonball Run or Liar, Liar.) In 1998, the Farrelly Brothers upped the ante by combining an outtakes reel with a musical number. There’s Something About Mary ends with the cast and crew goofing around and lip-syncing to The Foundations” “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

9. The Lip Sync as Seduction

Here we have Wayne’s World‘s Garth Algar again, using the ’70s classic “Foxy Lady” to put the moves on his dream woman.

10. The Angry Lip Sync

Jennifer Lawrence mixes angry cleaning with angry lip syncing (and a little angry singing) in this memorable scene from American Hustle. She also channeled Santana in a deleted lip sync to “Evil Ways” that plays as more “comedic actor moment” than “spurned suburban housewife.”

11. The Lip Sync as Lip Sync

Finally, sometimes a lip sync scene is just a lip sync scene. For instance, there’s Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths (above) performing “Waterloo” in a lip sync competition in Muriel’s Wedding.

And here’s Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce performing “I Will Survive” and the ’90s dance club staple “Finally” in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…