Movies and music have always gone together. Before there were voices in film, music was used to enhance the movie and today you can rarely sit through a modern movie without hearing a piece of classical music.
Certain classical pieces have become very well-known through their use in film, advertising and cartoons. Others are popular because they are associated with specific events, like graduations and weddings. This means there’s a good chance that you already know a lot of classical music, even if you don’t realize it. Below is a list of pieces you may recognize from movies.
To hear more classical music made popular by film, join us on March 21 for Sci-Fi Spectacular, an out of this world musical adventure featuring music from your favourite sci-fi hits including Star Trek, Twilight Zone, E.T., Planet of the Apes, Close Encounters and other sci-fi greats.
Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss
Where you know it from: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
When Richard Strauss conducted the preimere of his work in 1896, no one including the composer himself could have imagined that those 22 opening bars would a century later become known worldwide as the go-to music for all things space travel.
The science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick showcases a number of classical works, including Johann Strauss II’s Blue Danube Waltz and Ligeti’s Requiem and Lux Aeterna, but it’s Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra that truly defines the film.
Ritt der Walkuren (The Ride of the Valkyrie) by Richard Wagner
Where you know it from: Apocalypse Now (1979)
In what is arguably one of the greatest war films of all time, Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries is featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now when it plays on helicopter-mounted loudspeakers during an assault on a Vietnamese village. The piece was also similarly used in the Vietnam flashback scene in the 2009 film Watchmen.
O Fortuna by Carl Orff
Where you know it from: Excalibur (1981), Last of the Mohicans (1992) & more
When you hear the chorus, you know something dramatic is about to happen. Originally a medieval poem, O Fortuna was set to music by Orff in the 1930s, and has since become a staple in dramas, parodies and even television commercials. Notably used in John Boorman’s Arthurian film Excalibur, it can also be heard in numerous movies and television commercials and has become well known in popular culture, setting the mood for dramatic or catastrophic situations.
Eine kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart
Where you know it from: Alien (1979), Ace Ventura Pet Detective (1994)
Though this may be considered one of Mozart’s most popular works, it wasn’t published until over 20 years after his death. Yet it has been used often in films to establish a classy setting. Tim Burton’s Batman, Alien, Something about Mary and both Ace Ventura films are just a few.