This year we celebrate 120 years of giant screens and dark rooms. So we made a list of songs with movie references because it’s a nice, thoughtful gift to cinema (and it’s cheap). This list doesn’t include songs featured in films, or songs that name drop Hollywood stars. The list just includes songs that we like and show appreciation for films. So here’s 15 times music made a tribute to the 7th art, 15 times songs hinted at a certain scene or character. Some of them have clear references, others we only got in a moment of clarity when the stars aligned.
SPOILER: there’s no Key Largo by Bertie Higgins in this list because it’s a god-awful song.
By Agnes Semaan
The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
Opening sample from L-Shaped Room (1962) | Also the album cover features Alain Delon from L’Insoumis (1964) Double cinematic reference, check.
Blink 182 – I Miss You
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) | The iconic line from the soundtrack of our teenage years “We can live like Jack and Sally and have Halloween on Christmas if we want.”
Paolo Nutini – Iron Sky
Sample from The Great Dictator (1940) | “We won’t give ourselves to unnatural men, machine men with machine minds and machine hearts, we are not machines.”
The Pixies – Debaser
Un Chien Andalou (1929) | Slicing up eyeballs and whatnot. [Yes, we’re also keeping stones in our pockets in case this list offends the intellectual bourgeoisie]
Coco Rosie – Lyla
Lilja 4-ever (2002) | “It’s hardly Yugoslavia at all..” of course, it’s Estonia.
The Clash – Red Angel Dragnet
Taxi Driver (1976) | One of these days we’re gonna get ourselves organizized too.
Alt-J – Matilda
Léon (1994) | Matilda is from alt-J’s “An Awesome Wave ” also a reference to another movie: American Psycho (2000) “I’m on the verge of tears by the time we arrive at Espace, since I’m positive we won’t have a decent table. But we do, and relief washes over me in an awesome wave.” | We can go on and on about alt-J references Every Other Freckle and Flashdance (1983)/ Nara and Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)/ Tesselate and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).. Ya, we’re fans.
Arctic Monkeys – Arabella
Barbarella (1968) and her silver swimsuit. Barberella also inspired Duran Duran’s Electric Barberella. She was something!
Gorillaz – Dirty Harry
Dirty Harry (1971) | Clint Eastwood was a theme for Gorillaz.
Talking Heads – Psycho Killer
Psycho (1960) | Qu’est-ce que c’est?
Oasis – Wonderwall
Wonderwall (1968) | It might have been an awful movie but it inspired a great song.
The Ramones – Pinhead
Freaks (1932) | Gabba gabba hey!
Deep Blue Something – Breakfast At Tiffany’s
Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961) | Here’s a 90’s classic with an unmistakable reference to Capote’s classic novel. I don’t know if they read the book but they watched the movie and they both kinda liked it.
David Bowie – Space Oddity
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) | From the title to the Also Sprach Zarathustra tone build-up, the song makes an allusion to Kubrick’s masterpiece. It was released just a few days before the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
Badlands (1973) | The (true) story of Charles Starkweather from Nebraska to Wyoming.