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The Definitive Ranking of the Best '70s Songs in The Continental: From the World of John Wick
These funky songs will get you going, and includes the director's all-time favorite rock group.
With one of the best ‘70s soundtracks in recent memory, The Continental is a convergence of killer action sequences and funky beats that just won’t stop. From rock to disco, the John Wick prequel series embraces the musical gems of the era. Director Albert Hughes, a dedicated music fan, showcased many burgeoning hip-hop and rap artists in Menace II Society, his debut film with his brother Allen Hughes.
At the time of its release 30 years ago, the soundtrack hit number 11 on the Billboard 200. When it came to The Continental, Hughes, who is African American and Armenian, told NBC Insider, “I had a chance to explore my biracial background, with my mother listening to Pink Floyd and Credence Clearwater Revival and my father listening to James Brown and the Isley Brothers.” The upshot: We need a Continental soundtrack, stat!
Here, we look at the series’ most memorable songs and scenes by episode.
Donna Summer’s disco anthem is the perfect accompaniment to a glamorous and debauched New Year’s Eve party modeled after New York’s real-life Studio 54. This opening scene introduces us to Winston’s brother Frankie (Ben Robson) and Cormac (Mel Gibson), who holds court at a hotel booth like a true mobster.
We’re treated to the British punk band Wire following Winston’s (Colin Woodell) first fight scene, where we glimpse some of his street-tough moves. As the camera pans past the Statute of Liberty, the Twin Towers, and a creepy Cormac peering out of a hotel window, we hear the lyrics, “There’s something going on that’s not quite right.” Yup.
If muscle cars had an anthem, it would be this song by Texas blues band ZZ Top — a perfect tune for the big reveal. Uncle Charlie (Peter Greene) pulls off the cover, and we see John Wick’s 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 in mint condition. Winston gasps, “My God!” and we all think the same thing.
Funky bass licks and clucking chicken vocal stylings of Art Neville add a touch of wild absurdity to the scene where Winston is drugged up and dragged to the Continental hotel to meet Cormac for the first time, entering the building through the laundry room past bloody shirts.
The song’s electrifying opening drum beat builds anticipation as Frankie leaves the New Year’s Eve party for the subway to enact his sneaky heist of the coin press. He stands motionless and tense on the platform as revelers celebrate around him, counting down to midnight. As a piercing guitar riff comes in, he descends into the dark subway tunnel, clearly up to no good.
The scene introduces the new character Jenkins (Ray McKinnon), a sort of genteel old-school assassin who dons a beret and sips fine wine as he prepares to take out a criminal with a sniper rifle. Hiding his gun parts in a baguette, Jenkins adds a bit of levity to a homicidal scene.
The tight rhythm section puts us in a groove as we watch the fierce Dojo operator Lou (Jessica Allain) strutting down a street like a boss and chasing a young spy for a gangster rival.
“My favorite band of all time is Pink Floyd,” director Hughes told NBC Insider. He found the perfect scene for it: As Winston travels down a circular staircase from a Bowery rooftop, he is also figuratively spiraling down into the shadowy machine of the underworld.
Director Hughes revisits artists like James Brown, Heart, and Santana in more than one episode. Here, Brown’s 1976 dance hit injects super intense energy into Lou’s Chinatown fight scene as she fends off assailants, does hand-to-hand combat in a car’s truck bed, kicks out a window, and is an all-around badass.
Of all the famous odes to New York, none is so ‘70s as this version of New York Groove, covered by the lead guitarist of Kiss, that plays over the credits. “I feel so good tonight. Who cares about tomorrow?” A fitting sentiment for the end of the series.
Cormac’s power is slipping from his grasp as he desperately escapes alone to the hotel’s secret thirteenth floor. Meanwhile, we learn that Detective KD is also all alone, but in a different way. Spoiler alert: She is the little girl whose house was burned down by Frankie and Winston long ago on Cormac’s orders, and as her family’s sole survivor, she’s on her own revenge mission.
Once under Cormac’s thumb, Charon has turned against the hotel proprietor. Heart’s wicked and powerful guitar riffs set the mood as Charon reveals to Winston he has been secretly stockpiling weapons. With the line “Burn to the Wick,” Barracuda is a reminder we’re in a John Wick world.
The unmistakable beginnings of “Teenage Wasteland,” with its crazy electronic organ, always gives chills. As the hotel is about to self-destruct — and become a literal wasteland — Winston uses Cormac’s severed hand to unlock the security system and stop the destruction.
All three episodes of The Continental: From the World of John Wick ("Brothers in Arms," "Loyalty to the Master," and "Theater of Pain") are now streaming exclusively on Peacock. John Wick Chapters 1-3 are also available on the service.