Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Recently over at Wonders in the Dark, Sam Juliano posted an engaging piece where film buffs were invited to name their favorite movie scores of all time.

Even I had been so bold as to name the greatest film composers not so long ago here at The Schleicher Spin.

And while it’s true, many of the greatest films are also imbued with beautiful original musical scores where the moving images flow in perfect harmony with the composers’ notes…it made me wonder…

What of the artists who take a well-known existing piece of music and create moving images that become married to the music’s rhythm?

It’s been so parodied over the years…but can anyone deny the jaw-droppingly imaginative conceit of Stanley Kubrick using Richard Strauss’ “The Spoke Zarathustra” for the opening to his greatest cinematic achievement (hell, THE GREATEST CINEMATIC ACHIEVEMENT) 2001: A Space Odyssey

I invite my readers and fellow film bloggers to name their favorite marriage of pre-existing music with film.

Here are some of my most memorable moments:

  • Terrence Malick using Carl Orff’s “Musica Poetica” in Badlands
  • Malick (again) using Camille Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals” in the hypnotic opening credits to Days of Heaven
  • Martin Scorsese, the master of pop-music montages, using Derek and the Dominoes’ “Layla” during his “bodies in the meat truck” Goodfellas montage
  • Sofia Coppola, taking a cue from Pappa’s generation, and using Heart’s “Crazy on You” as the anthem for female teenage rebellion and wanton lust in The Virgin Suicides
  • David Lynch using the Oscar Hammerstein penned ditty “I’ve Told Every Little Star” (sung by Linda Scott) during that magical Mulholland Drive moment where Naomi Watts is whisked away to the big audition
  • Malick (and again) using Richard Wagner’s “Vorspiel to Das Rhiengold” for three bookmark montages in The New World

Of course, then there’s Richard Einhorn (and his Voices of Light choir) who did things in reverse and was so inspired by Carl Theodor Dreyer’s vision that he created a brand new music score for the greatest of silent films, The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Or then there’s this moment, also from Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, where the director exemplifies the bizarre dream world of his female protagonist by taking Roy Orbison’s famous ballad “Crying” and having the unknown Rebecca Del Rio sing it in Spanish.  PURE GENIUS.

Written By David H. Schleicher

Now it’s time to name your favorite music/movie moment.  Speak out and speak up in the comment form.


  1. God, there’s dozens of songs that remind me of scenes in films! A first attempt…

    * Apocalypse Now – The End
    * Broken Embraces / Werewolf
    * Clockwork Orange / Singing in the Rain
    * Death Proof / Hold Tight!
    * Do the Right Thing / Fight the Power
    * Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas / White Rabbit
    * Fight Club / Where is My Mind?
    * Goodfellas / Gimme Shelter
    * Good Will Hunting / Miss Misery
    * Great Expectations / Siren
    * Jackie Brown / Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)
    * Lost in Translation / Just Like Honey
    * Public Enemies / Bye Bye Blackbird
    * Pulp Fiction / Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon (take your pick here!)
    * Reservoir Dogs / Stuck in the Middle with You
    * The Royal Tenebaums – These Days
    * The Silence of the Lambs / Goodbye Horses
    * Synecdoche New York / Little Person
    * Trainspotting / Lust for Life

    Longman – ah, “Singing in the Rain” in A Clockword Orange…how gleefully demented. Kubrick certainly was the master of this and could put pop songs and classical music to equally good use. –DHS

  2. Great choices all, David, and an interesting topic.

    I would also say that the ‘Vorspiel to Das Rheingold’ is very well utilised in Werner Herzog’s ‘Nosferatu’ on the trip through the mountains to the castle – though not as well as in The New World, I’ll admit.

    I agree with some of Longman Oz’s picks too but I think there is a real danger of scenes becoming music videos, cut off from the whole and interrupting the flow.

    Stephen, thanks. Funny you should mention the Wagner piece in Nosferatu…even after all those years…it wasn’t until I had seen The New World and then rewatched Nosferatu that I instantly recognized the piece!

    I agree there is always a danger of turning a scene into a music video…Tarantino has been known to skirt this line very dangerously. –DHS

  3. David,

    here’s five I can think of that always stick with me.

    The Doors THE END in Apocalypse Now
    The Ronnettes – BE MY BABY in Mean Streets
    Rolling Stones – TELL ME in Mean Streets
    Steppenwolf – BORN TO BE WILD – Easy Rider
    Gershwin’s RHAPSODY IN BLUE both the opening and at the conclusion of Manhattan

    John, yes! Thanks for reminding me of the opening to Mean Streets…and Gershwin in Manhattan…sublime! –DHS

  4. Hi! D.H.Schleicher,
    I’am so ashamed to admit this in public, but I pay music scores no attention what so ever…hence,
    the reason, that I was MIA over there on Sam Juliano’s

    By the way,D.H.,I promise to email you my suggestion you can three do three things: Follow through on it…ignore it…or laugh!

    D.H. said,”Is that a piano key? D.H., I don’t know if that is a piano key and I don’t care (Ha!)…all I know is that photograph is…beautiful.

    THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC.…That face is…extraordinary. Thanks, for sharing the video Crying (This is my first-time hearing that song) and of course, 2001 A Space Odyssey, I have heard the music from the former film hundreds of time, but I have not watched the film yet…with “yet” being the operative word.
    Thanks, for sharing!
    DeeDee 😉

  5. By the way,D.H.,I promise to email you my suggestion you can three do three things…
    This is a new kind of language called…tongue twister.

    What I meant to say is…By the way, D.H.,I promise to email you my suggestion you can do three things…

    D.H.Schleicher, I really must “learn” to pay closer attention to pre-existing music and music scores. Nice post!

    DeeDee 😉

  6. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off —
    Especially if you’re a member of “The Beatle’s” generation …

    I thought of that one, too — hilarious scene! –DHS

  7. I can’t help but think of those jazz inspired moments in In the mood for love. Nat King Cole’s songs. The movie gets a distilled intensity throughout those numbers. It’s rich and soulful.

    Good call…I remember Nat King Cole being used well in 2046 too. –DHS

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