All film directors, from Alfred Hitchcock to Steven Spielberg, know that music can make a moment. But few filmmakers have used pop and rock songs to create movie magic as well as Richard Linklater. Today, we’re counting down the Dazed and Confused director’s best musical moments.

Linklater is up there with Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson in the employment of music in his films. The Austin, Texas native has drawn on classical music (the Before series) and original scores (the slicing Tosca Tango Orchestra in Waking Life) for some of his projects, but the most incredible moments in his films are often backed by rock songs, both old and new.

The tunes in Dazed and Confused, Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some!! aren’t merely present to signal the time period, they speak to the characters, the setting, the action, the feeling. In his work as a humanist, Linklater captures specific feelings in his films – the thrill of the last day of school, the excitement of artistic creation, the melancholy of change. And pop music, so tied to memories of our own lives, makes these characters and their lives all the more accessible to the viewer.

The insights that Linklater brings to childhood, adulthood, parenthood, Boyhood can build commonality between different people and different generations. Many of these are shared experiences, regardless of if they happened to a millennial in the ’00s, a slacker in the ’90s, a jock in the ’80s or a burnout in the ’70s. Music is the connective tissue. You know how “your song” felt to you, so you kind of know how their song feels to them.

At its best, Richard Linklater’s work serves as both a mirror and a window. And the soundtrack kicks ass.

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