Warning! SPOILERS ahead for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, director Quentin Tarantino transports audiences to 1969 Hollywood with a soundtrack of period music that is perfectly suited for each and every scene. As an ode to that bygone era, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood impeccably recreates its setting with costumes, styling, and set dressing that accurately captures Los Angeles in the late 1960s. The music is similarly on point, reflecting the tastes of the time and infusing each moment with an energy to match any given scene's mood.
Tarantino assembles another star-studded cast for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Rick Dalton, a washed up TV cowboy looking to make his comeback in movies, while Brad Pitt plays Cliff Booth, Rick's stuntman and longtime companion. Their lives slowly intertwine with that Rick's neighbor, Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate, all leading up to the now infamous August evening when the Manson Family attacked and gruesomely murdered Tate and her house guests. Of course, being a Tarantino film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood doesn't exactly stick to the true story, but it still features several real people as characters and a soundtrack of real pop hits and instrumental pieces from the late 1960s.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's soundtrack includes many, many songs in addition to several archival audio clips and commercials from Los Angeles' radio station, KHJ - a channel which revolutionized pop radio with its "Boss Radio" format of top-40 hits, station jingles, and DJ personalities. Additionally, the soundtrack also includes many pieces of music from the film scores of American Westerns, Italian Westerns (better known as Spaghetti Westerns), and more films from the period. All of this music as well as when it plays in the film is noted in detail (and to the best of our ability) in the paragraphs below. Here's every song heard in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:
- Treat Her Right - Roy Head & The Traits (1965)
- The Green Door - Jim Lowe (1956), performed by Leonardo DiCaprio
- I'll Never Say Never To Always - Charles Manson (1970)
- Mrs. Robinson - Simon & Garfunkel (1968)
- The Letter - Joe Cocker (1970)
- Summertime - Billy Stewart (1966)
- Funky Fanfare - Keith Manfield (1969)
- Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man - The Bob Seger System (1968)
- The House That Jack Built - Aretha Franklin (1968)
- MacArthur Park - Robert Goulet (1970)
- Paxton Quigley’s Had the Course - Chad & Jeremy (1968)
- Hush - Deep Purple (1968)
- Son of a Lovin’ Man - Buchanan Brothers (1969)
- Choo Choo Train - The Box Tops (1968)
- Kentucky Woman - Deep Purple (1968)
- Good Thing - Paul Revere & The Raiders (1966)
- Time for Livin' - The Association (1968)
- Hungry - Paul Revere & the Raiders (1966)
- The Circle Game - Buffy Sainte-Marie (1967)
- Jenny Take a Ride - Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels (1965)
- Can't Turn You Lose - Otis Redding (1967)
- Soul Serenade - Willie Mitchell (1968)
- Bring a Little Lovin’ - Los Bravos (1966)
- Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show - Neil Diamond (1969)
- Hey Little Girl - Dee Clark (1959)
- Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon - Paul Revere & the Raiders feat. Mark Lindsay (1969)
- Don’t Chase Me Around - Robert Corff (1970)
- California Dreamin’ - Jose Feliciano (1968)
- Dinamite Jim (English Version) - I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni (1966)
- Out of Time - The Rolling Stones (1966)
- Straight Shooter - The Mamas & The Papas (1966)
- Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon) - The Mamas & The Papas (1968)
- Snoopy vs. The Red Baron - The Royal Guardsman (1966)
- You Keep Me Hangin’ On - Vanilla Fudge (1967)
- Miss Lily Langtry - Maurice Jarre (1972)
- Judge Roy Bean’s Theme - Maurice Jarre (1972)
- Batman Theme - Neal Hefti (1966)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood begins with scenes of Rick's time as the star of Bounty Law, which uses music from the real 1960s American Western series, Have Gun -- Will Travel. From there, the film transitions to 1969 where on the radio "Treat Her Right" by Roy Head & The Traits is playing in Cliff's car as he drives Rick to an appointment, all the while Sharon and her husband, Roman Polanski (Rafał Zawierucha) arrive at LAX. Rick's appointment is a meeting with Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino), a producer who wants Rick to star in some Spaghetti Westerns, and as Schwarz recounts Rick's career there's a montage of his many roles which uses music from Against a Crooked Sky (1975), Hell River (1974), and Torn Curtain (1966). The montage also includes a bit of Rick singing and dancing to "The Green Door" on the 1960s variety show, Hullabaloo (as teased in the film's trailer).
At this point, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood begins to introduce the infamous Manson Family with a scene of the young women - among them Margaret Qualley's Pussycat - digging through dumpsters for food while singing "I'll Never Say Never To Always", a real song written by Charles Manson. Clutching that day's findings, the women begin the long walk back to Spahn Ranch - previously a filming location for old Westerns, but now where the Manson Family resides - and they cross in front of Cliff and Rick as they drive back to Rick's house following the meeting with Schwarz. As they watch the women cross the street, Cliff keenly watches Pussycat while Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" plays on the car radio. Once Cliff and Rick arrive back home, they spy Sharon and Roman - Rick's new neighbors - coming home as well. As it's happening, more music plays on the radio, like "The Letter" by Joe Cocker, "Summertime" by Billy Stewart, and Keith Manfield's "Funky Fanfare".
After dropping Rick off at home (and switching cars), Cliff drives back to his own rundown trailer behind the Van Nuys drive-in. Along his way, even more songs are heard playing on KHJ - "Hector" by The Village Callers, "Ramblin, Gamblin' Man" by Bob Seger, and "The House That Jack Built" by Aretha Franklin. Once home, Cliff turns on the TV, which shows Robert Goulet singing "MacArthur Park" on a variety program and a commercial for 1968's Three in the Attic - a real movie that's advertised a few times throughout Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and includes the song "Paxton Quigley’s Had the Course" by Chad & Jeremy, heard briefly in the TV ad. From there, the film follows Sharon and Roman on their way to a party at the Playboy Mansion. As they drive there, Deep Purple's "Hush" plays on the radio, and once they arrive, "Son of a Lovin' Man" by the Buchanan Brothers is playing at the party.
The next morning, Cliff drives Rick to set for his first day shooting on a new Western TV show, Lancer. When he drops Rick off, Cliff pumps him up by saying, "You're Rick f--king Dalton. Don't you forget it," while "Choo Choo Train" by The Box Tops plays on KHJ. Cliff then drives back to Rick's house as "Kentucky Woman" by Deep Purple is on the radio. Once there, Cliff gets to work fixing an antenna on the roof and hears "Good Thing" by Paul Revere & the Raiders playing from Sharon's house. She's inside packing, listening to a Paul Revere & the Raiders' album. Cliff then gets reminiscent and flashes back to a time on The Green Hornet set with Rick in where he gets in a fight with Bruce Lee. At a point during this flashback, "Time for Livin'" by The Association plays. Back in the present, Sharon continues listening to Paul Revere & the Raiders, this time it's the song, "Hungry", and it plays as Charles Manson is seen by Cliff driving through the neighborhood.
On the set of Lancer, several scenes use instrumental music from real films, including Sartana Non Perdona (1968), Vado L'Ammazzo E Torno (1967), Cattle Annie & Little Britches (1981), and Danger Diabolick (1968) - which has a score from one of Tarantino's favorite composers, Ennio Morricone. During these scenes there is also a clip of Rick appearing in The Great Escape (1963) in the Steve McQueen role and it features that film's score. Meanwhile, Sharon drives into the city, listening to "The Circle Game" by Buffy Sainte-Marie on her car radio. She ends up at a movie theater where she watches her latest film, The Wrecking Crew (1969). Before the film starts, a few trailers play which include the songs "Jenny Take a Ride" by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and "Can't Turn You Lose" by Otis Redding. "Soul Serenade" by Willie Mitchell is also heard around this point in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
On his way to meet Rick on set, Cliff drives while listening to "Bring a Little Lovin'" by Los Bravos. He then sees Pussycat again and offers to give her lift back to Spahn Ranch. As they drive, "Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show" by Neil Diamond and "Hey Little Girl" by Dee Clark play on KHJ. Once at Spahn Ranch, Cliff is appropriately creeped out by the Manson Family, asking to look in on the ranch's owner, George Spahn (Bruce Dern), who he knows from working there years earlier with Rick on Bounty Law. As he enters George's house, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (Dakota Fanning) is watching the variety show, It's Happening, which includes a theme song by Paul Revere & the Raiders as well as a performance of another of their songs, "Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon". Finding George to be well enough, Cliff decides to leave before things get any weirder, only to discover a knife in the tire of Rick's Cadillac. While "Don’t Chase Me Around" by Robert Corff from the film GAS-S-S-S (1970) plays, Cliff physically forces the man who stuck the knife in the tire to fix it, and once he can actually drive away, "California Dreamin'" by Jose Feliciano comes on the radio.
At this point in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the movie jumps ahead six months. During this time, Rick has been filming movies in Rome, Italy, starring in such films as Nebraska Jim - a play on the real life movie and featuring its title theme, "Dinamite Jim" by composer Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni. Back home in L.A., Rick, Cliff, and Rick's new wife, Francesca (Lorenza Izzo) settle in at home, while the now eight-and-half-month pregnant Sharon entertains a few friends next door. This is the evening of the infamous Manson Family murders, and The Rolling Stone's "Out of Time" plays as the night begins. In Sharon's house, her friend Abigail Folger (Samantha Robinson) plays the piano and sings "Straight Shooter" by The Mamas & The Papas, while another of the band's songs, "Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)" plays while Cliff takes his dog for a walk and members of the Manson Family arrive to carry out their murderous mission. During this time, Rick is in his pool, listening to "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" by The Royal Guardsman and drinking margaritas.
The final minutes of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is where the Manson Family murders come in, however, they do not happen as they did in real life. Instead of attacking Sharon and her guests, they break into Rick's home and confront Cliff, back from his dog walk and tripping on acid. The song, "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by Vanilla Fudge plays as first Cliff and then Rick engage with and kill the Manson Family members. In the aftermath of the home invasion, Rick ends up talking with Sharon's friend, Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch), explaining the incident that just took place at his home. Sharon comes on the intercom and invites Rick over. As as the two meet for the first time, "Miss Lily Langtry", a track from the film score of the western, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) starring Paul Newman, plays as the credits begin. This is followed by "Judge Roy Bean’s Theme" and then the 1966 Batman theme, ending with a radio promo for the series that features Batman and Robin themselves, Adam West and Burt Ward.