Metallica have always had a symbiotic relationship with pop culture.
For instance, classics such as “One,” “The Call of Ktulu,” “Ride the Lightning” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” respectively drew from the works of Dalton Trumbo, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King and Ernest Hemingway. Likewise, Metallica have been name-dropped in numerous pieces of entertainment, including Disturbing Behavior, Barry, The Big Lebowski and Josie and the Pussycats.
That said, the greatest moments come when a Metallica song suddenly – and often subtly – appears within a TV show, movie, commercial or video game.
Case in point: The 10 examples on this list, all of which became exponentially cooler the second they incorporated the legendary quartet. Be they totally fitting or totally unexpected, each one is an awesome needle drop that we – and hopefully you – can’t wait to revisit.
Two Tunes in 'Army of Darkness' Trailer (1992)
There are dozens of reasons to love the final entry in the original Evil Dead trilogy, yet only the most diehard Metallica and/or Sam Raimi fans probably know about this one.
You see, the two-minute original trailer for 1992’s Army of Darkness was an appropriately badass overview of the film’s humor, action and horror. As such, it needed equally killer complementary music, which is why the creators peppered it with Mötley Crüe’s “Dr. Feelgood” and two Metallica tunes: “Holier Than Thou” and an instrumental reimagining of “Sad But True.”
Clearly, James Hetfield and Ash Williams make for an excellent duo.
"Motorbreath" Excites Players in 'Any Given Sunday' (1999)
The soundtrack to Oliver Stone’s testosterone-fueled sports drama Any Given Sunday is packed with suitably aggressive selections (such as P.O.D.’s “Whatever It Takes,” Godsmack’s “Why” and Hole’s “Be a Man”). Although it’s not on the album, Kill ‘Em All deep cut “Motorbreath” easily gets one of the best scenes in the movie.
Upon deciding that they’re tired of listening to electrofunk artist Zapp’s “More Bounce to the Ounce” in their shared locker room, the Maimi Sharks – led by Patrick “Madman” Kelly – swap it for the Metallica track.
As they’re rocking out, someone from another team says, “Hell, no. Not this Nazi rock shit again,” to which Kelly proudly declares: “Metallica rules! Hetfield is God. We live to serve him. You should bow down to the monsters of rock!”
Scheming to "The Memory Remains" in 'The Sopranos' (2000)
As we detailed in 2021, The Sopranos frequently repped metal, with nods to Slipknot, Pantera, Fear Factory and many other major acts popping up across its six seasons. It was only a matter of time, then, before the revered mob series brought Metallica into the fold.
In fact, it happened three times, with the use of “The Memory Remains” (from Reload) within late season two episode “The Knight in White Satin Armor” being the best.
Basically, it’s playing over the speakers of the Bada-Bing nightclub as lead antihero Tony Soprano consults his consigliere, Silvio Dante (Bruce Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt), about how to handle his “future brother-in-law,” Richie Aprile.
Considering that Dante’s response – “I generally don’t think there’s anything to gain by keeping him around” – is among the show’s most iconic lines, it’s truly a rousing moment.
"Master of Puppets" Fuels Mayhem in 'Old School' (2003)
Old School was a major entry into the slapstick/shock humor template of 2000s comedies. Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy) and starring Will Farrell, Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn, it’s easy to see why.
Like many genre films from that era, it’s full of outlandishly silly gags and events, with a particularly good one arising when the main trio of Mitch (Wilson), Beanie (Vaughn) and Frank (Farrell) cover their heads in stockings and wreak havoc recruiting 14 oblivious pledges.
What song is playing as they drive around town like relentless sources of destruction? “Master of Puppets,” of course! After all, it’s the perfect way to get audiences to share the immature characters’ reckless energy.
"All Nightmare Long" + Guest Characters in 'Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD' (2012)
The inclusion of “Whiplash” in 2004’s Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 was certainly cool, and while the game definitely plays better than 2012’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, you get more Metallica bang for your buck here.
Well, not only can you ride with Death Magnetic’s second single – “All Nightmare Long” – blasting from the speakers, but you can actually bust out tricks as James Hetfield and Robert Trujillo. There are even some music-related special moves: “Crowd Surf,” “Air Guitar,” “Guitar Smash,” “Head Bang” and “Metallica Powerslide.”
To be fair, all of that is included in the Revert DLC pack (so it cost extra and wasn’t a part of the base experience), but we’re still counting it.
Stranded in Springfield in 'The Simpsons' (2006)
It may’ve taken nearly 20 years, but the thrash foursome finally came to Springfield in the opening episode of The Simpsons’ 18th season, "The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer." In fact, all four members do their own voices.
After metalhead bus driver Otto sees their broken-down tour bus, he offers them a lift. They’re hesitant at first, but they soon reminisce about meeting at a concert years ago, with Kirk Hammett telling Otto, “I was about to quit the band when I saw your lighter. You saved me that night.”
Unfortunately, Bart steals Otto’s school bus, prompting the group to get a ride with “real fan” Hans Moleman (who “used to sleep with Lars’ grandmother”). Finally, Robert Trujillo tells Otto to “never listen to our music again!” as they drive off playing “Master of Puppets.”
It's no wonder why we integrated the clip into our 2019 “Top 10 Rock Star ‘Simpsons’ Cameos” list.
"Fuel" Helps 'House' (2009)
This clip from the sixth episode of House’s sixth season (“Known Unknowns”) is one of the most expected appearances on this list, which would earn it favor even if it wasn’t done well.
Luckily, it is, as it sees physician protagonist Dr. Gregory House comforting a teenage girl with swollen appendages and a foggy memory regarding the prior night’s events.
To help diagnose her, House shows her the “Fuel” music video, saying, “This is Lars Ulrich, the greatest metal drummer of all time. Do you know this song?” She nods and he hands her two objects that stand in for drumsticks, asking her to “rock out to the music the way you did last night. This is a classic medical test.” He air drums alongside her and encourages her to “keep time” and headbang.
See, metal can have curative effects!
Everything About 'Guitar Hero: Metallica' (2009)
We might be cheating here, but why mention one or two songs within various video games when you can highlight an entire title dedicated to the quartet?
Having already been featured in several Guitar Hero and Rock Band variations throughout the 2000s, Metallica finally got their own entry at the end of the decade.
Built upon the Guitar Hero: World Tour framework, it offered support for vocals, drums and lead and bass guitars, with the band doing motion capture for their in-game representations.
Naturally, it incorporated over two dozen songs from across their catalog (up to Death Magnetic), with standouts including “Enter Sandman,” “Fade to Black,” “Battery,” “One” and “Nothing Else Matters.”
How awesome is that?!
A Masterful Collaboration: "Master of Puppets" in 'Stranger Things' (2022)
Shoutout to the use of “The Four Horsemen” in season two’s penultimate episode (“Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer”), but we need to go with how “Master of Puppets” was handled in the season four finale: “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback.”
Beyond being magnificent in its own right, the scene of metalhead Eddie Munson performing the track to divert monsters in the Upside Down led to arguably the biggest pop culture metal moment of 2022.
For example. James Hetfield dressed as Munson for Halloween (as did myriad Stranger Things viewers) and paid respect to the character at Lollapalooza. Plus, there’s a Funko Pop! figure of Munson, and the episode got “Master of Puppets” into Spotify’s Top 50-Global chart (among other places).
According to Lars Ulrich, the collaboration was part of Metallica’s newfound willingness to “share [their] music with the world” however possible.
Running to 'Ride the Lightning' in 'The Flash' (2022)
No, we’re not talking about the new movie, but rather the TV show that ran from October 2014 to May 2023. Specifically, the 12th episode of season eight, “Death Rises,” wherein The Flash (aka Barry Allen) is rushing to stop the villainous Deathstorm from continuing his evil plans.
As he’s running, he’s talking to scientist teammate Chester P. Runk, who asks, “Are you about to do what I think you’re about to do?” Allen replies: “Yeah, it’s time to ride the lightning.” Right on cue, said Metallica track plays as Allen chases Deathstorm across the sky.
Is it cheesy? Absolutely.
Does it give us goosebumps (especially with Hetfield singing, "Flash before my eyes")? Absolutely.