10 Best Uses of Classical Music in Films

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


From heart-wrenching drama to edge-of-your-seat action, these are the 10 best uses of classical music in film.


Classical music has long been a favorite of filmmakers, both to create an atmosphere and to heighten the emotions of a scene. Here are ten of the best uses of classical music in films.

1. “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” in The Godfather
2. “Ride of the Valkyries” in Apocalypse Now
3. ” requiem” in The Shawshank Redemption
4. “O mio babbino caro” in To Rome with Love
5. “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” in Wall-E
6. “Clair de Lune” in Ocean’s Eleven
7. “Pomp and Circumstance” in 2001: A Space Odyssey
8. 9th Symphony in A Clockwork Orange
9. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” in The Social Network
10. “New World Symphony” in Born on the Fourth of July

The Shawshank Redemption

One of the most iconic uses of classical music in film is in The Shawshank Redemption, when prisoners Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) sit listening to an opera on the radio. The music swells as Andy contemplates his hopeless situation, and then cuts off abruptly as he makes his decision to escape. It’s a perfect use of music to convey emotion, and it’s just one of the many great moments in this classic film.

The Pianist

The Pianist is a 2002 film directed by Roman Polanski, based on the autobiography of the same name by Polish-Jewish musician Władysław Szpilman. It stars Adrien Brody as Szpilman and follows his experiences in Warsaw during World War II.

The music in The Pianist is classical, and it’s used to great effect throughout the film. Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 plays over the opening credits, setting the tone for the film. Other pieces by Chopin and Mozart are used throughout, always enhancing the emotion of the scene.

A Clockwork Orange

Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film Clockwork Orange is one of the most controversial films of all time. Based on a novel by Anthony Burgess, the film follows the story of Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell), a young man who leads a group of thugs on a night of violence and mayhem.

The film is set in a future society where crime is rampant, and Alex and his gang are some of the most notorious criminals. To prevent them from causing any more harm, the government performs an experimental procedure on them that makes them physically sick whenever they attempt to commit a crime.

While many people find the film’s violent scenes difficult to watch, there is no denying that it is a masterpiece of filmmaking. One of the things that makes it so great is its use of classical music.

Kubrick was known for his meticulous attention to detail, and he carefully selected each piece of music that appears in his films. He believed that classical music could heighten the emotions of a scene, and he was proved right in Clockwork Orange.

The film contains several pieces of classical music, including works by Beethoven, Wagner, and Rossini. Each one is used to perfectly capture the mood of the scene it accompanies.

The use of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the film’s opening credits is particularly effective. The uplifting opening movement sets the tone for the rest of the film, which descends into darkness and violence.

The menacing tone of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries accompanies a scene where Alex and his gang terrorize a helpless couple. The music perfectly conveys the feeling of menace and danger that is present in the scene.

Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie accompanies another scene where Alex commits a violent act. In this case, however, the music adds a sense of irony to the scene, as it is a cheerful piece that contrasts sharply with the brutal act taking place on screen.

Classical music has been used in many great films over the years, but its use in Clockwork Orange is truly masterful. Kubrick had a great understanding of how music could be used to enhance a film’s emotional impact, and he used it to perfection in this classic movie

The Godfather

1. The Godfather – “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso” by Ennio Morricone

2. The Pianist – “Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23” by Frédéric Chopin

3. The Lives of Others – “Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 9 in A major, Op. 47” by Ludwig van Beethoven

4. Broken Flowers – “Requiem” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

5.The Social Network – “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy

6. Amadeus – “Sinfonia concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

7. Rushmore – “Yo-Yo Ma Plays the Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007” by Johann Sebastian Bach

8. The King’s Speech – “Pomp and Circumstance Marches” by Edward Elgar

9. A Clockwork Orange – “9th Symphony, 2nd Movement” by Ludwig van Beethoven
(cue to 15:00 for the relevant section) 10 . Inception – Escape from Limbo with Time running out – “”Isorhythmic Motet No 12″” from Musikalisches Opfer BWV 1079 by Johann Sebastian Bach


Amadeus is a 1984 American period drama film directed by Miloš Forman, adapted by Peter Shaffer from his stage play of the same name. The story, set in Vienna, Austria, during the latter half of the 18th century, is a fictionalized biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Mozart’s music is used throughout to great effect, most notably in the sequences involving Salieri’s envy and spite towards Mozart.

The Social Network

The Social Network is a 2010 American biographical drama film directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin. Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires, it portrays the founding of social networking website Facebook and the resulting lawsuits. It stars Jesse Eisenberg as founder Mark Zuckerberg, along with Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Justin Timberlake as Napster co-founder Sean Parker, and Armie Hammer as twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.

The film’s score was composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of the Nine Inch Nails. In an attempt to distance himself from the conventional style of scoring films set in the recent past, Reznor instead chose to rely on licensed tracks and classical music arrangements. This is most notable during the film’s opening credits, which features a heavily distorted guitar version of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King”.

The King’s Speech

One of the most poignant uses of classical music in films is in The King’s Speech. The film tells the story of King George VI, who was thrust into the spotlight when his brother abdicated the throne. George VI suffers from a debilitating speech impediment, and the film follows his journey to overcome it with the help of his speech therapist, Lionel Logue.

The use of classical music in The King’s Speech is masterful. It is used to convey both the emotional turmoil that George VI is experiencing as well as the progress he makes in overcoming his condition. One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when George VI finally gives a speech without stuttering, to a roaring applause from the audience. The music that accompanies this scene is triumphant and uplifting, perfectly capturing the moment.

The Artist

The Artist is a 2011 French black-and-white silent film, and one of the most successful films of its kind in recent memory. The Artist tells the story of a fictional silent film star, George Valentin, who is struggling to remain relevant as the world of cinema evolves around him.

One of the most moving scenes in The Artist is when Valentin plays a clip of one of his old films for Peppy Miller, a young actress who has just achieved success in the new world of talkies. As the clips from Valentin’s old film are projected onto the screen, we hear Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1” playing in the background. The result is a bittersweet scene that evokes both the glamour and tragedy of Hollywood’s Golden Age.


In conclusion, these are some of the best uses of classical music in films. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does provide a sampling of the many great ways in which classical music can be used to enhance a film. Whether it’s for a dramatic scene, a comedic relief, or simply to set the mood, classical music has always been an integral part of film.

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