Pin It
Lost Highway
Lost Highway, David Lynch (1997)

Lost Highway at 25: the best musical moments from David Lynch’s horror

A rundown of the best tracks from David Lynch’s best jukebox movie, from David Bowie to Lou Reed to Rammstein

When Twitter users united virtual hands this year to wish David Lynch a collective “happy birthday” (the director’s 76th) in January, a few thoughts popped into my head. 

For one, what’s Lynch been up to recently aside from streaming weather reports and picking a “lucky number” every day from his home in Los Angeles? Second, what’s the latest with Wisteria (AKA Unrecorded Night) – the new series he was rumoured to be shooting for Netflix before the streaming platform apparently pulled out in 2021? And lastly, with Mulholland Drive getting a 20th anniversary restoration in 2021, how long will it be until we get a similar revival of attention for my favourite Lynch film, Lost Highway?

I’ve always felt that Lost Highway – a harrowing journey into the depths of the human psyche via the tales of an avant-jazz saxophonist and a young car mechanic, each of whom is in love with a beautiful femme fatale – is overshadowed by the acclaim proffered to Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet.

I consider the former something of a sibling feature. Whereas Mulholland Drive pursues the dreams and fantasies of a naive female actor, Lost Highway offers a masculinised narrative rooted around the perspectives of its troubled male leads. The relationship between the two films is further compounded by the prominence of a distinctive main character: the city of Los Angeles, both as a fantastic paradise and terrifying nightmare. The doppelgänger theme, meanwhile, becomes relevant when you take a close look at the beguiling narratives of each film.

Mulholland Drive is rightly considered a masterpiece, but Lost Highway, I’m certain, is at least Lynch’s best soundtrack movie.

It’s a rare film to feature music from the three glam-rock gods, Lou Reed, David Bowie and Brian Eno, who were each enjoying what was, for my money, the most interesting creative periods of their careers in the 90s (music that remains bafflingly underrated even to this day). It also features music by Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson – industrial nightmare fuel thrown generously upon Lynch’s blazing fire. Plus, there’s an ethereal, haunting and sublime number from Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie – which Lynch had once “desperately wanted” as the main theme in Blue Velvet, but failed then due to the track’s purported expense.

Read on for indisputable evidence, then, that Lost Highway – which turns 25 this weektrumps even the best musical moments from Wild at Heart (“Wicked Game), Mulholland Drive (“I’ve Told Every Little Star), Blue Velvet (”In Dreams) and even Twin Peaks (everything) to take the mantle of being Lynch’s best jukebox movie. I won’t be convinced otherwise.


The titular Lost Highway is captured up-close by a speeding camera gliding asphalt at night. “I’m Deranged” is the track that partners this opening (as well as the film’s end credits); an industrial rock highlight of David Bowie’s vastly underrated experimental electronic era of the 90s.

Penned with producer and former Roxy Music member Brian Eno (with whom Bowie also collaborated for the Berlin Trilogy of albums between 1977 and 1979, including on major hit “Heroes”), the track was a standout from 1995 album Outside, which was itself partly influenced by the narrative of Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

Bowie himself had starred in the Lynch film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me in 1992, playing the mysterious Special Agent Phillip Jeffries in a memorable supporting role. It’s only fitting, then, that Lynch would repay the favour by licensing one of Bowie’s most ghoullish works for Lost Highway in 1997. (Nine Inch Nails, who supported Bowie on the US leg of the 1995 Outside tour, appear elsewhere on the soundtrack.)

The film would premiere, by the way, just weeks after Bowie went full eye-patch-wearing, ethereal drum-and-bass lunatic with the release of “Little Wonder – another iconic 90s Bowie moment.


In a classic Lynchian subversion, Lost Highway’s most memorable scene leaves a mark not necessarily for the music that features in it, but rather the uncanny fashion in which it is taken away.

Bill Pullman’s saxophonist Fred Madison attends a fancy party soundtracked by a smooth lounge jazz number from regular Nick Cave collaborator Barry Adamson (who extensively samples Massive Attack’s 1991 track “Blue Lines here). But upon ordering a couple of slammers at the bar, Madison notices a pale figure walk in among the crowd from the other side of the room. As he approaches, the music fades away – and time seemingly stands still as a tense interaction unfolds.

The scene becomes even more terrifying when you learn that Robert Blake, who plays the Mystery Man, was tried for the murder of his wife via gunshot wound just a few years after the film’s release. He was acquitted of the crime in 2005, but the ruling remains controversial to this day. Elements of Blake’s character and the events surrounding the death of Bonnie Lee Bakley were later incorporated into Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, for the character Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).


Like Bowie, former The Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed also experienced a creative renaissance in the late 80s and early 90s, marked by the Gold-certified album New York in 1989, and the critically-acclaimed “Songs for Drella in 1990. The latter, a concept album commemorating the death of Andy Warhol, reunited Reed with his former bandmate, John Cale – prefacing an all-too-brief reuniting of The Velvet Underground in 1993, and the passing of guitarist Sterling Morrison in 1995.

It was the death of another friend during this same period that inspired Reed’s recording of “This Magic Moment”, which featured on a 1995 compilation of cover versions also featuring Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and BB King. The album was a tribute to Doc Pomus, a legendary songwriter whom Reed had befriended before his death. Reed had spoken at Pomus’ funeral in 1991, and dedicated 1992 solo album Magic & Loss to him as well.

”This Magic Moment“ occupies a captivating central scene in Lost Highway. Passionate, charismatic, and defiantly cool, Reed’s rendition of the track plays out during a delirious, time-bending sequence in which Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty – of the Getty family dynasty)’s innocent car mechanic Pete Dayton gazes upon the woman of his desires (Patricia Arquette) for the first time. The rumbling distortion beneath the intense, romantic lyrics points to sinister undertones – which will come to be realised later on.


Lynch had famously tried to secure the rights for This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren” for Blue Velvet in 1986 – and apparently even asked the performers, Cocteau Twins members Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie, to be in the film themselves. His failure (a budgetary matter) turned out to be quite fortuitous, as it provided the impetus for Lynch to partner with composer Angelo Badalamenti instead – a partnership that continues to this day.

Nonetheless, This Mortal Coil’s mercurial and devastating Tim Buckley cover – elevated to the realm of ecstasy by Fraser’s siren-esque vocals – remained on Lynch’s mind for a decade thereafter (he was still praising it asone of my all-time favourites as recently as 2020). It would play at a pivotal moment in Lost Highway: a passionate, desert-scape sex scene lit by beaming car headlights, in which Patricia Arquette’s femme fatale Alice Wakefield alludes to an unwanted truth as Fraser trills “let me enfold you”.


I tend to associate Rammstein with the halcyon days of MTV2 and Kerrang! cable TV stations – in which tracks like “Sonne” and “Ich will” would nestle loudly alongside nu metal classics like Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”, Slipknot’s “Left Behind” and Linkin Park’s “Crawling”. But the German industrial metal band actually prefaced a lot of their American neighbours by a few years – evidently catching Lynch’s attention here with an album that was recorded in 1995. 

The track (also titled “Rammstein”, which appropriately translates to “ramming stone” in English) is put to brief, but brilliant use here in a climactic, world-shattering moment for poor Pete Dayton. The scene concludes an earlier sequence that featured members of the Marilyn Manson band (who also play on the film’s soundtrack) engaging in a depraved sex ritual – another Lost Highway scene that has only become more disturbing in time, then.