Aretha Franklin and the movies: How her music shaped classic film soundtracks

Aretha Franklin’s incredible music seemed made for the movies — with each song often feeling like a powerful short film in itself.

So it’s probably not surprising that Franklin’s songs featured on an amazing 223 soundtracks – often stealing the scene they appeared on.

With news of the singer’s death on Thursday, we’ve gathered some of our favorite musical movie moments.

Black Rodeo (1972)

This powerful film, chronicling the first all African-American rodeo in New York’s Harlem, featured Franklin’s iconic “Respect” on the soundtrack.

The documentary shows people attending the rodeo and becoming awed to find African-American men and women actively involved in skills like bronc-riding and calf-roping.

The film featured appearances by Woody Strode and Muhammad Ali, and Franklin’s musical contribution was so significant they put her name on the poster.

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Franklin didn’t just turned up on soundtracks, she occasionally showed up in movies, with her performance of “Think” one of the absolute highlights of the brilliant Blues Brothers.

The scene’s a delightful set-piece, which combines character work with a genuinely thrilling performance.

It speaks to Franklin’s longevity that she was asked back for the sequel, 18 years later.

Goodfellas (1990)

We only hear a snippet of “Baby I Love You” in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, a film featuring plenty of memorable songs, but Franklin’s contribution is a standout.

That’s possibly because the track is used as the lead-in for one of the most intense scenes, the moment where Joe Pesci shoots Spider.

It wouldn’t be the last time Scorsese would use Franklin, with “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” popping up in Cape Fear — to similarly memorable effect.

The Zen of Bennett (2012)

Franklin’s name must have been at the top of the list for this unique documentary, which follows Tony Bennett as he teams up with a wide variety of A-list artists to record a new covers album — with key performances captured on camera, including the one above, Franklin’s stirring rendition of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”

Muscle Shoals (2013)

This documentary about Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., features a powerful contribution from Aretha, who recorded some of her classics at the studios.

You can watch the anecdote above, but brace yourself to be overwhelmed by the sheer coolness of it.

Moonlight (2016)

If ever there was an artist whose music could perfectly juxtapose melancholy sadness and brave hope at the heart of Moonlight, it was Aretha Franklin. And the use of “One Step Ahead” in a key diner scene (which we won’t go into — spoilers!) is both moving, and thrilling.

If you haven’t caught Moonlight yet, we can’t think of many better ways to pay tribute to Franklin via the magic of the movies than to watch it tonight.

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