By now, it’s pretty dang clear that Mad Max: Fury Road is a theatrical feat. The film raises standards for all sorts of things, especially female roles, and gets everyone to fall in love with it before it even gets halfway through. Perhaps the film’s most underrated but highly talked bit is the clip to last a lifetime. Yes, we’re talking about the ridiculousness of Doof Warrior and his flamethrower-guitar hybrid.
In honor of the absurdity of that weapon, we’ve rounded up seven of the most radical guitar scenes in our favorite movies. Tighten the strap on your air guitar and get ready. Things are about to get loud.
7. Wayne and Garth headbanging in the car in Wayne’s World (1992)
Not every radical guitar scene has to feature a guitarist. Wayne’s World saw massive success when it dropped, and nothing marked that as much as Queen’s single “Bohemian Rhapsody” shooting to the top of the charts 20 years after its original release. The SNL-spinoff was the type of simple comedy that lets friends gather round and goof off in the name of good fun.
Frankly, if someone didn’t sing along to this song with or without gusto, I’d be terrified. The multi-part vocal tracks and dramatic falsettos guarantee an easy singalong, and no one demonstrates that better than their group of friends and one sick pal in the backseat. That guitar solo, though, is what does it. The hair-everywhere headbanging doesn’t get old. Unfortunately, Freddie Mercury died a few months before the film’s release, but it’s safe to assume he’d be grinning and headbanging too.
6. Prince’s super long solo in Purple Rain (1984)
Prince‘s big-screen debut was a semi-autobiographical stop of “The Kid”. You know, someone trying to make it big within Minneapolis’ scene amidst family troubles and unavoidable insecurities. But the film went on to earn millions and the soundtrack shot to #1 on the Billboard album chart for almost half a year. When you’re Prince, magic like that comes easily.
When Prince steps onstage to play the title track, everything comes to life. He sings about how he abused those closest to him, he riffs with the band members, and, most importantly, he lets out that blisteringly long guitar solo that everyone tried to mimic for decades after. When a solo that sweet, he gets to kiss Wendy on the cheek. Prince saved the world one guitar solo at a time — and his spot at the First Avenue joint.
5. Scott Pilgrim’s bass battle in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
Scott Pilgrim has a lot of problems to deal with, and the biggest has to do with himself. The film-via-comic star gets a new image thanks to Michael Cera and sets out to win Ramona’s heart as well as fix his own. When he’s challenged to a bass battle with the uber cool bassist from his ex’s band, there’s a lot on the line. So their dramatic head-to-head riff-off has an extra level of heat to it.
This scene is as epic as comic book battles go. Not only that, but it gives bass players some well-deserved love; they’re what holds the band together as groovy glue. All the flips and blares and visual notes put an artsy spin on a lengthy tour through famous basslines. Fair warning: guitar lovers, beware. Watching a Rickenbacker snap in half is about as painful as having your own leg snap.
4. Steve Vai and Ralph Macchio’s guitar duel in Crossroads (1986)
By now, it should be clear that the mid-80s were stuffed with musical dramedys that rose to the top. Crossroads was definitely one of them. The film follows Ralph Macchio as the boy who can make a slide guitar sing, setting out alongside pro guitarist Blind Dog to make deals with anyone who asks.
Near the film’s end, he goes head-to-head with Jack Butler, aka Steve Vai, a man who sold his soul and does head-cutting guitar duels. He enters a room of people dancing to Butler’s music. When he takes the stage, plugs in his guitar, and starts the duel, it becomes clear neither will be able to out-do the other. Then he starts fingerpicking Paganini’s 5th Carprice all casual and whatnot for a solo. Nothing gets as ridiculous as that. Well, except for… Can you keep a secret? Vai is actually playing both parts here. Shhhh, don’t tell.
3. Dewey Finn’s guitar lesson in School of Rock (2003)
Dewey Finn is a nobody until he finds his passion teaching — albeit illegally at first. Jack Black brings his character to life in School of Rock, and there’s no better scene illuminating the epic guitars of this film than when he first teaches the class how to play. One by one, he gives the students lessons, prying his way through every riff you know and love from ever stepping foot into a Guitar Center, and then the five of them launch into a bright version of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”.
It’s a hilarious scene that sees Black at his best, throwing out a handful of weird facial expressions and quotable lines. Even better, he realizes he has the power to help kids grow. When Lawrence finishes his piano solo, Jack Black corrects himself: “That was perfect; you’re perfect.” D’awww. The power of rock is intense and heartfelt.
2. Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” fail in This Is Spinal Tap! (1984)
You can’t talk radical guitar scenes and not mention This Is Spinal Tap. The rock mockumentary follows the fictional British heavy metal band Spinal Tap on tour to promote their LP, Smell the Glove. They decide to perform “Stonehenge” with a massive stage show that amps up the song’s epic proportions. Instead of ordering a giant Stonehenge megalith for the performance, they accidentally mislabel the dimensions and get a tiny 18-inch tall one.
It’s made all the better by the fact that all three main actors — David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls, and Nigel Tufnel — are credited as being the film’s writers because of how much dialogue they ad libbed. Taking that into consideration during this scene, it’s hard to imagine how the cameras weren’t shaking from the crew themselves laughing. The only thing that makes a rock moment better are tiny dancers.
1. Marty’s “Johnny B. Goode” solo in Back to the Future (1985)
Marty McFly experiences the weirdest things when he goes back in time to 1955 and runs into his very own parents. Everything hangs around the pivotal moment at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance where he needs to get his parents to hook up in order to stay alive. During the dance, he watches his fingers begin to fade, time taking a different path and possibly ridding him of his future existence. So McFly does what he knows best: punks it up.
Joining the dance’s live band, he launches into Chuck Berry’s classic “Jonny B. Goode” — a song that didn’t come out until three years later. It’s as infectious then as it is now, but no matter how many retro flips and giant poofy skirts go flying, no one is ready when he launches into the rough rock n’ roll riffs of the ’80s and an over-the-top solo. Stay together for the kids, y’all.
Did we miss any face-melters? Let us know in the comments below!