Whether you love Bohemian Rhapsody, hate it, or sat it out in protest of Bryan Singer’s controversial directorial credit, we can all agree that Queen is the best band of all time. Right? Since our site doesn’t have a comments section, I’m going to assume we’re all in agreement. Anyway, in honor of Queen and Farrokh Bulsara, better known as Freddie Mercury, we’re ranking every soundtrack-worthy musical moment from the biopic. From the Smile days to Live Aid, read on for the lowdown on every song used in the movie.
22. 20th Century Fox guitar riff – This special version of the iconic fanfare by Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor starts the movie off with a thrill and ensures that it’s true rock and roll from start to finish.
21. “Happy Birthday” – When Mary and the band meet Freddie’s parents for his birthday dinner, he announces he’s changed his last name to Mercury by singing happy birthday to himself. He does it almost shyly, trying the new name on as if it’s his first smudge of eyeshadow, and he ignores his family’s clear disappointment in the decision. In case the myth-making theme isn’t already obvious, he also sings “I come from London town” over his loved one’s conversation about his Parsi heritage, a line that would later appear on an A Night at the Opera track. The scene’s a bit thin, but the real problem is that during a capella moments, the contrast between Malek’s voice and the singing vocals, which throughout the film incorporate Malek, Mercury, and musician Marc Martel, is more obvious than usual.
20. “Who Wants to Live Forever” – Scenes in Bohemian Rhapsody which feature the band’s music but don’t actually show them perform tend to be weaker. The first half of this scene plays like a particularly sappy AIDS PSA as the song’s swelling arrangement drowns out closely framed news footage portraying AIDS victims. Freddie finally goes to the doctor and learns what he already knew in a muted conversation, the song still going strong in the background. It’s essential that the movie addresses AIDS directly, but this scene feels mostly detached and doesn’t hit its intended emotional tenor. Only the last section, during which a Kaposi sarcoma-afflicted patient (the only plainly visibly ill character in a movie that keeps AIDS subtextual as often as possible) recognizes Freddie and exchanges an “Ay-Oh” with him, rescues it from becoming a fully sentimental mess.
19. “Now I’m Here” – This scene isn’t bad, but it is relatively brief and unimportant. It’s one of several scenes featuring Mary’s silent anxiety about Freddie’s sexuality and fidelity, this time via a phone call during which he asks to speak to his cats and calls her stupid for asking if he misses her. There’s also a funky bit where he strikes poses in different cities, and each city’s name zooms across the screen in a colorful ‘70s font. In a movie that swings big with formal experimentation, this one comes off as more kitschy than anything else.
18. “Radio Ga Ga” (Live Aid) – It’s understandable that the folks behind Bohemian Rhapsody didn’t want to get redundant, but the band’s later hit “Radio Ga Ga,” which was written by much-teased drummer and “I’m In Love With My Car” helmer Roger Taylor, is an odd one to spend so much time on so late in the game. That being said, it’s Live Aid! The crowd is huge, people are swaying, you can’t go wrong.
17. “I Want To Break Free” – I’m just happy that this song’s campy-as-hell drag-filled music video made it into the film, if only for a moment. Fingers crossed for a full video remake in the Blu-ray bonus features!
16. “Don’t Stop Me Now” – This song plays over the movie’s end credits, and after everything we’ve seen, it sounds more like an anthem than ever. “Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time/I feel alive” Freddie sings, and if you’re able to see through your tears, there are real-life photos to accompany the encore tune.
15. “Keep Yourself Alive” – Freddie’s pretty green when he replaces the frontman of college band Smile (good old Tim left to join a band called “Humpy Bong”), and he ends up enduring a series of mishaps including an encounter with a stubborn microphone stand. Still, the energy and the vocals are there, and Freddie, who’s already begun to experiment with style and stage presence, is as endearing as he is messy.
14. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – This Elvis-inspired bop only plays briefly, as Freddie makes an over-the-top entrance to the decadent party that he asked his manager-turned-lover Paul to plan in a fit of loneliness. Still, Rami Malek’s wearing a full-on crown and royal cape, so it’s a memorable moment.
13. “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Live Aid) – The band’s opus served as their intro song at Live Aid, the unprecedented global charity concert that takes up the biopic’s finale. In the film, the band is nervous as hell after years apart, but by the time they’ve powered through the song’s first section, in a scene of unadorned close-ups that contrasts interestingly with Rhapsody’s otherwise flamboyant filmic style, they’ve captured the audience’s attention.
12. “Doing All Right” – The band Smile plays this tune to little fanfare in a pub at the film’s beginning, but the shining moment comes after they’re done. Freddie’s all jitters and false confidence when he approaches John Deacon, Roger Taylor, and Brian May to audition as their new frontman, but after busting out a few lines of their song (this is the first time audiences hear Freddie’s singing voice) it’s clear he’s the man for the job and a talent for the ages.
11. “Ay-Oh” (Live Aid) – Stadium rock’s “for the people” mantra is one of the most powerful themes of Bohemian Rhapsody, and it’s embodied perfectly by this moment, which brings a classic Mercury stage bit to life. Freddie makes some sounds to the audience, and they repeat them back, and somehow it feels life-affirming and important. In the movie, Freddie’s frequently lonely and searching for people who could feel like family. The “Ay-Oh” moment is him making 72,000 people feel like a family in a matter of seconds through sheer silliness and joy.
10. “Hammer to Fall” (Live Aid) – Bohemian Rhapsody makes the odd assertion that no one was donating to Live Aid before Queen took the stage, but by the time they get to this crowd-pleaser, the calls have started rolling in. Regardless of the factual accuracy here, this song’s a jam, and Mercury’s got a full-on strut going by this point. His enthusiasm is infectious, reaching across the globe and even into the future to rock us decades later; if you see the movie in theaters, the aural experience is enough to make the chairs shake.
9. “Fat Bottomed Girls” – Queen takes America! Freddie perfects his flirty and flamboyant stage persona as the band makes their way across the Midwest, zealously declaring their love to every city. This sequence has some killer shots of classic rock star excess, including beer being poured over a drum kit and Mercury crowd surfing in a crucifixion-like pose. These scenes are intercut with a scene during which Freddie phones Mary but ends up distracted by a trucker making come-hither eyes at him before disappearing into the men’s room.
8. “We Will Rock You” – In the movie, Mercury’s bandmates spend a ton of time waiting for the chronically late drama king to make an appearance, and when Brian May finally has enough of it and decides to start the session without him, “We Will Rock You” is the result. The stomp-stomp-clap might seem basic now, but at the time it was a revelation: a song the audience could perform themselves. The cross-editing between May’s moment of inspiration and the song’s performance at Madison Square Garden, as of that point Queen’s most legendary venue, stirs up a sense of joyful creation. The men of Queen call themselves artists and visionaries a lot throughout the movie, and mostly it sounds like marketing, but this moment sweeps us away and makes us believe them.
7. “Another One Bites the Dust” – Throughout the film, Queen bandmates are struck with inspiration for songs and leave audiences playing a guessing game before ultimately revealing the familiar hit they’ve been envisioning. This one is no different, as the band introduces it not by name, but by arguing about whether or not their next track should be disco. Freddie clarifies that it’s not disco but rather a song that mimics the pulse of a club and the feeling of bodies together. When the opening of “Another One Bites the Dust” finally plays, it sounds like a totally new song thanks to Freddie’s introduction. The song is sexy and dangerous, accompanied by Freddie’s dreamlike foray into a leather-heavy gay club that’s both irresistible and foreboding, and which marks a turning point in the film.
6. “Killer Queen” – A lot of ground is covered during this performance, which starts out on Top of the Pops and morphs into several other gigs during which Freddie introduces his all-in persona to the world. On Top of the Pops, the band is forced to lip-sync, and the TV show’s camera breaks the “above the waist” rule to get a glimpse of Freddie’s extra-tight pants. Soon, the tame lip-sync performance is replaced by the real thing portrayed in an electrifying split screen, but not before a telling rack focus shows us that both Mary and Paul have eyes for Freddie. The song leads directly into “Fat Bottomed Girls,” and together the two epic performances chart the band’s rise to superstardom.
5. “Under Pressure” – Paul Prenter has become the story’s clear villain by the time this song rolls around, and the movie cuts past the Queen-Bowie collab’s peppy exterior when applying it to Freddie’s break-up scene. The scene itself is tense, with Freddie literally turning his back on Paul as they exchange terse words and work through a brief blackmail hypothetical. The hollowness that Freddie has tried to fill with yes men is more apparent here than ever, and as he calls Paul a fruit fly drawn to his own rot, we see “the terror of knowing what this world is about” up close. Later, Freddie sees Paul giving an interview about him on TV, and as his former lover calls him a “frightened little P*ki boy who’s afraid to be alone,” the background beat of “Under Pressure” haunts the moment.
4. “Somebody to Love” – The band’s ever-building earworm soundtracks the first moments of the film, which preview Live Aid and introduce us to Malek as Mercury. We see Princess Diana in the audience, a comically specific padded case containing his medicine, cigarettes, and a microphone, and Freddie himself at home with his cats, coughing ominously. These shots are some of the most epic of the film, honing in on the famous edges and details of his body — the mustache, the white tank top, the tight jeans — as the band prepares for their set. Tracking shots follow his back as he bounces toward the stage, warming up in tandem with the song’s mounting three-minute-mark repetition. The curtain parts, we see the crowd, and then it all fades. When the lights go back up, we’re in 1970, where the story of Queen began.
3. “Love of My Life” – In an inspired choice, one of the movie’s most emotional moments is soundtracked by the Rock in Rio festival’s unforgettable performance of “Love of My Life,” which Freddie tells his wife Mary had the “largest paying audience in history.” As the massive audience sings the love song he penned years earlier for her — teary-eyed, back at the farm-built studio where A Night at the Opera was recorded — Freddie comes out to his wife as bisexual. It’s a depressing moment, as her immediate response is to correct him: he’s gay, she says, and the word bisexual is never mentioned again, squashed by a misunderstanding at this moment. The scene plays out over the entire song as Mary cries and tells Freddie he’s going to have a tough life. She takes off her wedding ring as he croons from the TV set, “Don’t take it away, you don’t know what it means to me.”
2. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen’s most enduring song includes at least four different musical acts, so it’s fitting that it comes into fruition in as many scenes. First, Freddie idly plays a few notes on the piano that would later become the heart of the song’s introduction. Later, he takes a smoke break and stares off at green grassy hills while those same piano notes play in the background, like the beginning of a thought. Later still, Freddie sings along on piano, his voice breaking with emotion when he reaches the words “wish I’d never been born at all.” Soon Roger’s belting out “Galileo!” after “Galileo!” in the recording studio in a montage that’s music-making at its most exuberant. We never hear the full song, but after a lengthy and wonderful defense of its six-minute glory to a grumpy studio exec, part of it blasts through once more with a cheeky overlay of negative press pull quotes. The song is the movie’s title for a reason; it’s wild and wonderful and larger-than-life, like Freddie himself.
1. “We Are the Champions” (Live Aid) – The band’s final Live Aid song isn’t so much a performance as a spiritual experience. The lyrics, which are too-often appropriated for cheesy purposes like sports victories, are in this context both heartfelt and heartbreaking. They’re sung with grace and strength by a dying man who signs off with “So long, goodbye! We love you!” Although Queen performed after Live Aid, they never reached those heights again, and there is no better curtain call in the history of music. In the last frames of the film, before Freddie turns back to take one last look at his band, he gives an almost imperceptible nod. There’s no doubt Freddie Mercury was a rock god, and in that moment, he saw what he had created and decided, in the tradition of gods, that it was very good.