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The Best Chris Cornell Songs Featured in Movies and TV

Chris Cornell wailing
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Chris Cornell, whose shocking death at age 52 has jolted the music world, may have been known best as the lead singer of Soundgarden, but his music also appeared prominently on numerous film soundtracks, and he even made the occasional onscreen cameo. Cornell’s signature high-pitched wail, either fronting his full band or as a solo artist, helped color movies across all genres, from action (The Avengers) to thriller (Pacific Heights), comedy (Wayne’s World) to drama (The Basketball Diaries), and even Tarantino (True Romance). To honor the late musician, we’ve rounded up the five best Cornell songs featured in movies.

The first time audiences heard Cornell singing on a movie soundtrack was back in 1989 during Cameron Crowe‘s classic teen romance Say Anything…, which featured the early Soundgarden tracks “Toy Box” and “Flower.” Crowe must have taken a liking to the band, and Cornell in particular, because he also picked them for his next movie, Singles.

Singles

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In this 1992 Gen-X comedy, Cornell had a brief (and wordless) cameo in a scene with Matt Dillon and Bridget Fonda. The next scene featured Soundgarden’s “Birth Ritual,” which was included on the film’s multi-platinum soundtrack. Cornell also contributed his first solo track here, “Seasons.” Cornell and the band were a natural choice here, as the film explored the burgeoning early-’90s Seattle grunge-rock scene. Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam also cameoed here, as Dillon’s bandmates in the group Citizen Dick (heh heh).

Beavis and Butt-head

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To cement their status as ’90s rock gods, Soundgarden made multiple appearances on the classic MTV show Beavis and Butt-Head. The two metal-loving dudes were big fans of Soundgarden, repeatedly telling themselves how much the band ROCKS and “KICKS A**!” Butt-Head even thought Cornell beared a strong resemblance to Jesus (and not just because of their hit “Jesus Christ Pose”).

Casino Royale

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Cornell wrote and performed the opening-credits number for 2006’s Casino Royale, called “You Know My Name.” This puts him in some esteemed company, as other musicians who’ve been tasked with opening James Bond films include Paul McCartney (“Live and Let Die”), Carly Simon (“Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me), Tina Turner (“Goldeneye”), Madonna (“Die Another Day”), Jack White & Alicia Keys (“Another Way to Die” from Quantum of Solace), and Adele (“Skyfall”), among many others.

Machine Gun Preacher

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In 2011, Cornell wrote “The Keeper” for the Gerard Butler film Machine Gun Preacher. The song was nominated for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes, but lost to Madonna’s “Masterpiece” from the little-seen W.E. The heartfelt acoustic ballad is a long way from the hard-rocking Soundgarden style, but Cornell’s uncharacteristically laid-back performance here fits the movie just right.

The Avengers

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When Soundgarden reformed in 2010 after a years-long breakup, their first official release was “Live to Rise,” which ran over the closing credits for a little flick you may know called The Avengers. The 2012 song, written specifically for the movie, was a triumphant return to form for Cornell and the band. After 15 years apart, closing out The Avengers was the perfect way for Cornell and the group to re-…assemble.

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