While we often talk about famous classic films, rarely do we consider the famous classical moments in film. Yet, some of modern film history’s most iconic scenes were scored using the triumphant, melancholic, and celebratory notes of Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Strauss.
No, we’re not only talking about Disney’s Fantasia. For decades, classical music has been a mainstay in the film and video industry—bringing drama or understated elegance to both period and modern projects alike. That’s why we’re celebrating our new Essential Classical Music Collection with a look at how some of film’s biggest names have harnessed classical compositions for their projects.
From Landis and Coppola to Kubrick and Fincher, many auteurs rely on classical music to set the stage and underscore important, climatic moments in their films. Whether used diegetically, like John McTiernan’s use of “Ode to Joy” in Die Hard, or non-diegetically, like Stanley Kubrick’s use of the song in A Clockwork Orange, these timeless scores add a new layer to each project. By tapping into the cultural consciousness of the audience, these famous and recognizable songs unite viewers around a shared cultural touchstone.
Here’s a look at some of film history’s most iconic moments that use music we’ve included in our new essential classical collection.
The Social Network – Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King”
David Fincher famously enlisted Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to score The Social Network, including a cover of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Judiciously employed throughout the Henley Royal Regatta boat race, Grieg’s composition accompanies a tense, kinetic ballet of rowers displayed in a mesmerizing tilt-shift.
Designed to key audiences into the Winklevoss twins’ heightened emotional state, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” psychically and emotionally captures their competitive strain, while providing an energetic counterpoint to the twins’ inevitable pratfall as they discover afterwards that Facebook has become an international phenomenon.
Trading Places – Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”
Perhaps one of the most famous pieces of classical music in modern history, Mozart’s overture for “The Marriage of Figaro” swells with excitement throughout the opening credits of John Landis’ iconic comedy. Playing over scenes of various Philadelphians’ morning routines—from the poorest of the poor and the poshest of the posh—Landis starts the film off invoking that most honored of time honored traditions: satirizing the conspicuous consumption of the affluent.
A modern comedy of errors, the musicality of the opening sequence highlights the already present tension between the “high” and “low” classes—and, as the overture did for the original opera, the music sets a humorous tone that cues the audience to the film’s ensuing hijinks.
Apocalypse Now – Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”
Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes in all of film history, Francis Ford Coppola’s hallmark adaptation of Heart of Darkness harnessed the energy and power of Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” Orchestrating a scene of mesmerizing wartime horror, Coppola juxtaposed the catastrophe of war with Wagner’s operatic score.
Proclaimed by Roger Ebert as “the greatest movie battle scene ever filmed,” Coppola’s addition of Wagner’s operatic “Valkyries” to the scene provides not only emotional weight and pacing, but also a broader commentary on the chaos and spectacle of war.
Classical Inspiration for Your Projects
Ready to create your own project with classical music? We rounded up a few of our most iconic classical tracks from our new collection to inspire you.
Liszt’s “Les Preludes”
Download Liszt’s “Les Preludes” from our audio library.
Vivaldi’s “L’estate” (The Four Seasons)
Download Vivaldi’s “Summer Music” from our audio library.
Geminiani’s “Concerto Grosso”
Download Geminiani’s “Concerto Grosso” from our audio library.
Find these and many more royalty-free tracks in our new collection of essential classical music—and remember, if it’s not baroque, don’t fix it.