Maybe it’s the crisp uniforms and shiny instruments or the way everyone moves exactly in unison, but nothing perks up a crowd quite like a marching band. And while not every story that starts with “this one time at band camp…” winds up a winner, it’s hard not to love the adorkable characters that suit up and play along with our favorite onscreen bands. So before you practice your scales and make-out skills with Matt Stifler and the gang at Tall Oaks in American Pie Presents: Band Camp this month on IFC, get in step with some toe-tapping marching band moments. March Madness just took on a whole new meaning…
Possibly THE quintessential marching band movie, Drumline is full of sick beats, impressive halftime performances, and all the typical life lessons a rebellious drumming prodigy (Nick Cannon) should learn when he’s forced to be part of a team instead of the star. But nothing beats the final showdown between Atlanta A&T and rival Morris Brown, going head-to-head on the 50 yard line. After a flashy performance from Morris Brown’s drumline, A&T retaliates with an awe-inspiring cadence, moving forward until they drop their sticks on top of Morris Brown’s drums, delivering one final crushing blow and winning the championship. Stick-dropping should definitely be the new mic-dropping.
2. Mr. Holland’s Opus
When frustrated composer turned high school music teacher Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss in an Academy Award-nominated performance) is tasked with starting a marching band, things don’t exactly go very smoothly. But this being an inspirational teacher movie, the band and its novice wrestler-turned-drummer, Louis, (a pre-Empire Terrence Howard) obviously improve pretty rapidly via a musical montage (is there any other way?) and give a rollicking performance of The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” during a parade with Glenn in full marching band regalia leading the way. You’d have to be buttoned up like Vice Principal Wolters (William H. Macy) to not want to dance along.
3. Animal House
Usually a homecoming parade is a time of celebration with floats and marching bands, but for the raucous Delta House at Faber College, it’s a time for revenge on evil Dean Wormer and rival fraternity, the Omegas. While Bluto (John Belushi) leads the charge in an all-black float nicknamed “Deathmobile,” fellow Deltas Stork (Douglas Kenney) and Handbar (Chris Miller) distract the school marching band, leading them down a deserted alleyway away from the parade. The band keeps marching until they all crash into the wall, crushing their trombones and possibly also their school spirit.
4. Live and Let Die
Bond films always start off with a bang, and Roger Moore’s first outing as the suave MI6 agent definitely doesn’t disappoint, especially when it opens with a New Orleans jazz funeral. As the marching band passes an unnamed MI6 agent observing a restaurant called the Fillet of Soul, he’s stabbed by a fellow observer and falls to the ground. The passing pallbearers put his dead body into their empty coffin, and the once mournful procession suddenly turns joyous with the band and its followers dancing wildly to Dixieland jazz. Guess Café du Monde’s beignets aren’t the only thing to-die-for in New Orleans.
5. Easy A
Now THIS is what we’d call a “pep” rally! In a last ditch attempt to set the record straight about her “extracurricular activities,” wisecracking Olive Penderghast (a winning Emma Stone) solicits the help of her high school band and mascot crush Todd (Penn Badgley) to interrupt a school assembly and perform a sexy routine to the song “Knock on Wood.” While her former best friend, Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), is visibly shocked by Olive’s outlandish display, the rest of the school can’t seem to get enough. Olive’s performance is one we easily give an A.
6. Doctor Who
Christmas always seems to be a busy day for our favorite traveling time lord, especially when a band of murderous robot Santas suddenly start chasing companion Rose (Billie Piper) all around London while she’s out Christmas shopping. These spooky big band St. Nicks first popped up in David Tennant’s debut outing as the Doctor, “The Christmas Invasion,” back in 2005 and made a second appearance the following year in “The Runaway Bride,” kidnapping future companion Donna (Catherine Tate) in a London taxi. When it comes to THESE Santas, everyone is on the Naughty List!
7. Freaks & Geeks
While Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s late, great cult TV series was full of lovable losers, smartass slacker Ken (Seth Rogen) holds a special place in our hearts thanks to his relationship with band nerd Amy (Jessica Campbell). Initially, Ken made fun of “Tuba Girl” (as he calls her), but with every wicked insult she threw back at him, he realized she’d marched her way into his heart and wound up asking her out. The two hit a few bumps along the way, but Ken and Amy became one of the most enduring and heartfelt couples of the series. Their sweet relationship sure hit all the right notes with us.
8. The Wolf of Wall Street
Marching bands are known for their eye-catching uniforms, but that means something a little different for the band hired for one of Stratton Oakmont’s infamous company ragers. Broker mastermind Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and right-hand man Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) are prone to throwing debauched parties full of drinking, drugs and sex anytime someone at their firm makes a high-stakes deal, so after a particularly good week of money-making, Donnie leads a barely-dressed marching band through the trading floor to the sounds of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars & Stripes Forever.” All that’s missing from this red, tighty-whiteys and blue display are fireworks.
9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Though Ferris (Matthew Broderick) gets into all kinds of mischief around Chicago, we’re partial to his charismatic performance atop a float in the Von Steuben Day Parade. Ferris cuts loose with a rendition of “Twist and Shout” complete with a giant dancing marching band and girls in lederhosen. The party REALLY gets rocking when a group of dancers show up doing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” choreography. For this moment of musical fun, we must say “danke schoen” to director John Hughes and choreographer Kenny Ortega of Dirty Dancing fame.
10. 10 Things I Hate About You
It’s entirely possible bad boy Patrick Verona (the late Heath Ledger in one of his most fun performances) invented what we now know as prom-prosals back in the beloved 1999 teen comedy adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. In an attempt to win over feisty Kat’s (Julia Stiles) affections, Patrick hijacks both the school’s loudspeaker and marching band to serenade her at soccer practice with the Four Seasons classic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” As Ledger works his crinkly smile to the enthusiastic strains of the marching band and Stiles blushes five shades of red during this typical Hollywood “Grand Romantic Gesture,” it’s impossible to find a single thing to hate about this moment, let alone 10.