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You're watching a movie and abruptly you hear a familiar song. From the cue you know that shit is going to go down and it is going to go down hard. This trope is humbly dedicated to any song that has been used in so many movies that playing it in a new movie tells the audience exactly what's going to happen in the scene. Similar in spirit to Ominous Latin Chanting, but uses modern songs.

See also Standard Snippet.

Not to be confused with Bad with the Bone.

Examples of Bad to the Bone include:

  • "Back in Black" by ACDC, as seen in most action movies.
  • "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses has a slow, but distinctive, buildup to an epic opening. Expect a cool entrance.
  • Trope Namer is George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone", a traditional Badass song, used in the second Terminator film.
  • "Bodies" by Drowning Pool, if a scene is about to get violent.
  • "Born To Be Wild" and "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf.
  • Otto plays "Breaking the Law" by Judas Priest while releasing the boy students from the schoolbus in the "Girls Just Want to Have Sums" episode of The Simpsons.
  • "Cobrastyle" is used in a lot of movies with a suave protagonist, and also in Chuck.
  • "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor is used is many, many fight sequences and Training Montages in movies. Considering it comes from Rocky III, not surprising.
  • Joe Cocker and The Who will surely live out their days comfortably on the royalties from "Feelin' Alright" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" on Every. Single. Movie. Trailer.
  • "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival in any Vietnam movie or game.
    • Pretty much all their well-known songs are associated with that the era or the war specifically. If you hear CCR in a movie, it's probably 'Nam.
    • Similarly, "All Along the Watchtower" and "Gloria" will probably both be in any given 'Nam movie.
      • Don't forget "For What It's Worth"!
    • Or Gimme Shelter
  • Jacques Offenbach's "Gallope" from Orpheus in the Underworld (more commonly known as the can can music) being used for comedy movies when the wacky hijinks start getting out of control. Think overflowing washing machine, tangled electrical wires and stray parrots.
  • Music by the The Rolling Stones, especially "Gimme Shelter" in Martin Scorsese films.
  • Filter's "Hey Man Nice Shot" in movie trailers. See, for instance, the first Iron Man trailer...
  • "I Got You (I Feel Good)" by James Brown is used in many scenes with really happy people.
    • It also appeared in a lot of comedy trailers, which was parodied in an SNL skit where people suffer through an onslaught of previews, and all of the ones for comedies use this song.
  • Village People songs and "I Will Survive" will show up in every comedy involving homosexuals.
    • Also "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. And "Gonna Make You Sweat" by C+C Music Factory.
  • "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath is also used by badasses (including the Marvel Comics hero, of course).
    • Irony moment: the original song's lyrics were written by Geezer Butler specifically to avoid being sued by Marvel; as a result the song is about a time-traveller who attempts to save mankind but ends up destroying it. Which are not necessarily motives and superpowers associated with Tony Stark.
  • "I Won't Back Down", by Tom Petty, means that our hero, believe it or not, isn't going to back down.
  • "Let's Get it On" by Marvin Gaye. The title explains it all.
  • "Magic Moments" by Perry Como, specifically the whistling at the beginning.
  • Dick Dale's version of "Misirlou", specially after Pulp Fiction.
  • "O Fortuna", in the spirit of Ominous Latin Chanting.
    • Similarly, Verdi's "Dies Irae."
  • "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads, for any tongue-in-cheek movie about a serial killer. Also, "Take Me To The River", "Once In A Lifetime", and "Burning Down The House"
  • The "Ride of the Valkyries" by Richard Wagner is used to herald in a villain's Crowning Moment of Awesome or a military assault, in homage to Apocalypse Now. Bonus points if said military assault includes an attack helicopter.
  • "Right Here, Right Now" By Fatboy Slim has also been used in actions movies for Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Gary Glitter's "Rock And Roll Part One" is ridiculously common in sports movies. It's somewhat justified by the fact that both marching bands and loudspeakers often do play that song at games, but in the movies the song will just as likely be heard during moments when the crowd is supposed to be remaining silent.
  • Seth MacFarlane deliberately chose Del Amitri's "Roll to Me" for a spoof Romantic Comedy trailer in an episode of Family Guy, because he believes that song is always used in rom com trailers. He's at least 85% right.
  • "Sabotage" by The Beastie Boys.
  • "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum for movies about astronauts and space travel.
  • "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
  • Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town" for, well, scenes in which there are some boys, and they are back. In a town.
    • Was also used as a pun in early trailers of Toy Story: "The toys are back in town."
  • Expect cool stuff to happen when "The Name of the Game" by Crystal Method starts playing.
  • Snap's "The Power" used for characters using a superpower in a generally non-serious way.
  • Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" is another, being played for pretty much any product marketed to women for pretty much all of 2007.
  • "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves was used in pretty much every trailer for family comedies in the 1990s and 00s.
  • "We Are the Champions" by Queen, used to herald in really dramatic moments.
    • Also, sports victories.
    • "We Will Rock You", also by Queen, for sports-related badassery.
    • "Another One Bites the Dust". Suits The Determinator, a suiting-up scene, or displays of badassery. Used in Small Soldiers.
    • The entire soundtrack of The Highlander.
  • "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane whenever someone is under the influence of a mind-altering substance and/or hallucinating.
  • "Who Let The Dogs Out" will be used in any children's movie featuring talking dogs, and it will be used in a scene where the aforementioned canines escape from a pet pound/locked room/generally do something cool that involves knocking down something or someone.
  • Rossini's "Wilhelm Tell Overture" is always the sign of someone being extremely busy. Used for irony effect for a sex scene in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.
  • Clint Mansell's Lux Aeterna, anyone? It's been used in countless trailers, most notably the Two Towers one.
  • "Wipe Out" by The Surfaris is pretty popular for chase scenes.
    • Benny Hill's "Yakety Sax" as well, with an added comedic effect.
  • Der Schuh des Manitu gives us "Straight to Hell" as the Big Bad's theme. You know what's going to happen.
  • If shit goes down in Slow Motion, there's always "Chariots of Fire" by Vangelis.
    • Or his theme from 1492: The Conquest of Paradise.
  • If shit goes down and there's a large army or Big Damn Heroes moment involved, you might hear Europe's "The Final Countdown."
  • "Get Ready for This" by 2 Unlimited is used for just about every competition.
  • "Le Freak" by Chic in a scene involving fashion montages.
  • "La Grange" by ZZ Top is used in pretty much any bar fight scene.
  • "Tom Sawyer" by Rush
  • Is something big about to blow up? (Usually with multiple explosions?) Then the music absolutely must be the finale of "The 1812 Overture".
  • You can always count on Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World" for a bitterly ironic counterpoint to horrific destruction.
  • "Dueling Banjos" will often play to imply hillbillies or male rape, a Shout-Out to Deliverance
  • "Born to be Wild" is often used to show the seemingly-sweet character (usually female) has a rougher, edgier side that only comes out during a moment of crisis. "Herbie, Fully Loaded" comes to mind.