Two Tom Petty songs, two huge movies

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Tonight I had the kids watch Jerry Maguire. My daughter left after three minutes, my son was engaged. It was, on the surface, a tricky on, because the boy is 8 and the movie is rated R. Really, though, it’s a language issue, and one sorta steamy scene with Jerry and his fiance having sex. Cursing isn’t a huge deal to us. The naked—well, I just fast forwarded past.

Anyhow, there’s a scene where Tom Cruise signs Kush, then celebrates by singing “Free Falling” on the drive away from the house. And it’s a cool moment, and the perfect use of a terrific song. But I started thinking about how, truly, there are two near-iconic movie scenes in two near-iconic films that both utilize Petty’s music.

In Jerry Maguire, we have this …

And in Silence of the Lambs, we have this …

The question is, which is better? Which scene in which flick better merges music with a moment in time? “Free Falling,” on the one hand, is a fabulous celebratory tune. It’s also pretty ubiquitous, so it’s not hard to imagine a sports agent driving his car, euphoric, knowing all the words. I know very few people (my dad, perhaps) who don’t know the song, and the lyrics to the song.

“American Girl,” meanwhile, is my favorite Petty song. It’s not as well known as “Free Falling,” but it’s well known enough that a woman in the late 1980s might be singing along to the radio. Also, it works in the moment. She’s an American Girl, living in America, enjoying the life as many know it.

So which works best?

You tell me …