As all movie buffs and TV fans know, music plays a huge role in setting the tone, mood, and atmosphere of any given cinematic story. In 2022, British heavy metal band Motorhead showcased two of their most famous songs to great effect on acclaimed TV shows, including “Ace of Spades” used in break, and “Eat the Rich” used in The Walking Dead.
In terms of Motorhead’s film resume, several of the band’s most iconic rock tunes have been featured in a slew of horror films dating back to 1985, while a few others are set in the world of heavy metal, musicals memorable, etc.
ten Phenomena (1985) – Locomotive
The first use of a Motorhead song in a feature film came in Dario Argento’s ultra-scary creature feature. Phenomena, establishing a specific genre that fits well with the band’s sound. The story follows Jennifer (Jennifer Connelly), a young American student at a Swiss boarding school who develops a frightening ability to communicate with and control insects.
The song “Locomotive” is used after a school massacre leaves Professor McGregor (Donald Pleasance) barely alive on a stretcher. The blazing rock track amps up as Jennifer watches McGregor’s body being transported by paramedics before sprinting through a dark field at night. The song beautifully captures the anarchy of laughter preceding the scene and the chaos that Jennifer has swirling around in her morbid mind.
9 Eat the Rich (1987) – Eat the Rich
Hired specifically to create the soundtrack for the scathing British dark comedy eat the rich, Motorhead composed seven different tracks for the film. Of course, neither dominates the title track, which tells the story of a disgruntled waiter at a fancy restaurant who rebels and goes on a hyper-violent rampage against the wealthy.
The song plays as a chorus over several critical moments in the film, which happens to Motorhead’s Lemmy as an anarchist named Spider. As one of the rare instances where the band was asked to write specific music around a story rather than just laying one of their pre-existing tracks on a stage gives “Eat The Rich” a more relevant feel than nearly every other song in Motorhead’s filmography.
8 Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) – Hellraiser
Instantly setting the macabre vibe to come, Motorhead’s mid-tempo title track “Hellraiser” begins Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth with a roaring breath. Not only does the song kick off the movie, but the music video for the track was directed by Clive Barker and features Lemmy playing cards with Pinhead. It’s arguably scarier than the movie itself.
As a thematic piece used to establish Pinhead’s sadomasochistic tone, sinister stakes, and evil identity, the track also comments on events in history such as Pinhead’s attempt to begin a new reign of terror on Earth rather than in the underworld. Even cooler, the song was co-written by Ozzy Osbourne.
seven Airheads (1994) – Born to Raise Hell
In one of Motorhead’s few non-horror film uses, the driving banger “Born To Raise Hell” is also the first song heard in ’90s comedy rock. Aerial heads. The story follows three bumbling aspiring metal rockers who start a radio station in order to get a record deal.
Performed with Ice-T and Whitfield Crane, the song immediately lets audiences know what kind of thrash metal soundscapes they can expect. It’s a great use of the band’s music as the characters are steeped in the world of heavy metal and even idolize Lemmy as a God, who also plays a role in the film as the editor of School Rocker magazine. There’s a real affinity for the music felt by the characters, which gives the opening metal track an awesome party vibe.
6 Tromeo and Juliet (1996) – Sacrifice
What better way to presage a bloody beheading scene than by launching Motorhead’s “Sacrifice” just before it hits the screen? Such is the case for Tromeo and Juliet, the micro-budget horror-comedy Troma written by the irreverent James Gunn. The story is a metal-punk take on Shakespeare’s classic love story gone wild.
The song is used to establish a largely chaotic moshpit sequence where a fight breaks out between rival gangs, eventually escalating into a violent maelstrom of madness. The sonic vibes of “Sacrifice” playing in the background not only comment on the scene, but the song captures the mood perfectly as it strikes a biting balance of humor and horror.
The rise of the infantryman chronicles the life of British hooligan Carlton Leach, footballer turned ruthless gangster. In one of the most vivid and visceral rumble scenes that establishes how hooligans defend their turf, Motorhead’s “We Are (The Road Crew)” amps up and injects a heavy dose of energy into the beloved British gangster film.
With shocking immediacy from the shaky hand-held camera, the massive brawl spills out into the streets as Motorhead’s anarchic anthem proudly resounds. Fires rage through the streets, clans cheer, police scramble in panic and the party winners are seen cheering to the sound of “We Are (The Road Crew)”, a song that brilliantly reflects their empowerment.
4 Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) – Ace of Spades
Whereas Grosse Pointe Blank, Smokin’ Aces, and super bad (among others) used Motorhead’s most notorious song quite well, none of them used the song as long or as prominently as Kill them. Indeed, the way “Ace of Spades” plays full-throated during the slam-bang action flick makes it seem like the sequence’s choreography was specifically tailored to the track. Couldn’t be more badass.
Kill them follows Mr. Smith (Clive Owen), a mysterious man who delivers a woman’s newborn baby during an intense shootout and swears to protect the baby from a host of triggers. “Ace of Spades” roars as Smith marries through a group of gunners, the song playing loud, clear and for the full 2 minutes and 48 seconds. A full shootout, bullets against the wall and high octane never sounded so good.
3 Hesher (2010) – Rock Out
Joseph Gordon Levitt gives one of his best performances as Hesher, a temperamental heavy metal slacker who befriends a boy named TJ in the face of the loss of his estranged mother and father, slowly isolating himself in their family and introducing the boy to a life of crime. All the while he plays headbanging metal, with Motorhead’s “Rock Out” standing out in a critical link-up sequence.
The song plays as Hesher drives TJ through town in his van, with Hesher deliberately turning up the volume, banging his head, and drumming along to the song on the steering wheel. The look on TJ’s face is priceless as he doesn’t know what to do with the new stranger in his life. It’s a great character-based use of a Motorhead song that has ties to a heavy metal story.
2 Halloween II (2009) – The pursuit is better than death
Leave it to fellow metalhead Rob Zombie to perfectly place a piece of Motorhead in his polarizing horror sequel Halloween 2. Indeed, the song “The Chase is Better Than the Catch” couldn’t be a more apt description of Michael Myer’s sadistic reign of terror at Haddonfield. As the masked murderer once again sets out to end Laurie Strode’s life, the manifestation of pure evil often benefits more from the hunt than the homicide.
The song explodes as Myers literally chases a helpless target, doing so in his slow, heavy gait that always allows him to catch up to his victims at a quick sprint. Used to reflect a villain’s psychology better than most, at least Zombie Rob got the soundtrack right.
1 Sing Street (2016) – Keep Clean
Danny Boyle’s street sing is a musical coming-of-age tale that follows Conor, a young man who escapes his dreary family life in 1980s Dublin by joining a band. Before the opening tracks end, Motorhead’s “Stay Clean” kicks in and instantly establishes the chaotic new environment Conor faces when he arrives at his new Synge Street CBS school.
Another great tone, “Stay Clean” also hints at the challenges Conor faces to stay out of trouble and keep a clean image so he can do well in school. A top notch soundtrack all around, “Stay Clean” proves that Motorhead songs can hold their own with the best of them to help tell a cinematic story.
NEXT: 10 Best Coming Of Age Musical Movies Like Sing Street