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10 amazing songs inspired by the movies

Songs based on films, revealed.

10 amazing songs inspired by the movies
Marc Chacksfield
09 January 2024

Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest of places. Anthony Hopkins modelled his Hannibal Lector walk on the movement of a cat. Salvador Dali apparently slept with a key, while Truman Capote only wrote laying down.

All of that sounds like hard work to us - well, we reckon we could get used to the Capote method - so we’d rather get our inspiration from watching a great movie, much like the following bands.

The songs we’ve selected below all have one thing in common: they were inspired in some way by the bright lights of Hollywood.

Here are our pick of amazing songs inspired by the movies - those who managed to put a beat to the bright lights of Hollywood...

Songs based on film

Songs based on film

1. The Ataris – So Long, Astoria

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Artist/Song: The Ataris – So Long, Astoria (from 2003’s So Long, Astoria)

Film: The Goonies (1985)

Quiz question: Which lovable troupe of cinematic adventurers hails from Astoria, Oregon? The answer is, of course, The Goonies. Indiana punks The Ataris named their fourth album (and its title track) in honour of them.

Image Credit: Warner Bros

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Songs based on film

2. The Clash – Red Angel Dragnet

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Artist/Song: The Clash – Red Angel Dragnet (from 1982’s Combat Rock)

Film: Taxi Driver (1976)

The last 'proper' Clash album (drummer Topper Headon was fired during production, and Mick Jones soon after), 1982's Combat Rock features the song Red Angel Dragnet. Though the song is inspired by a murder in Newark, New Jersey, its lyrics also heavily reference Taxi Driver: "Tonight it’s raining on the city/Who could have prophesised these people/Only Travis." Clash associate Kosmo Vinyl also reads passages of Travis Bickle's dialogue from the film.

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

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Songs based on film

3. alt-J – Matilda

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Artist/Song: alt-J – Matilda (from 2012’s An Awesome Wave)

Film: Léon: The Professional (1994)

Matilda, from alt-J's Mercury Prize-winning album An Awesome Wave, is inspired by Natalie Portman's character in Léon.

Image Credit: Gaumont Buena Vista International

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Songs based on film

4. R.E.M. – Imitation Of Life

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Artist/Song: R.E.M. – Imitation Of Life (from 2001’s Reveal)

Film: Imitation Of Life (1959)

R.E.M.'s Imitation Of Life takes its title from the 1959 film of the same name, starring Lana Turner. Turner plays an up and coming actress, and her struggle for fame is reflected in the lines, "That's cinnamon, that's Hollywood/c'mon c'mon no-one can see you try."

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

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Songs based on film

5. Nine Inch Nails – Only

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Artist/Song: NIN – Only (from 2005’s With Teeth)

Film: Fight Club (1999)

Nine Inch Nails' Only is based on Fight Club, and contains the line, "You were never really real to begin with, I just made you up to hurt myself".

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

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Songs based on film

6. The White Stripes – The Union Forever

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Artist/Song: The White Stripes – The Union Forever (from 2001’s White Blood Cells)

Film: Citizen Kane (1941)

The White Stripes' classic White Blood Cells contains the song The Union Forever, the lyrics to which are all lines of dialogue taken from Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. The song also features a revised version of a song that is sung in the movie.

Image Credit: RKO Radio Pictures

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Songs based on film

7. Pixies – Debaser

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Artist/Song: Pixies – Debaser (from 1989’s Doolittle)

Film: Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Debaser references the surrealist film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, Un Chien Andalou. However, it nearly referenced the Prince film Purple Rain, as Black Francis originally wanted to sing the cryptic allusion “Shed Apollonia!”. Another song by the band, Gigantic, is lyrically based on the Sissy Spacek and Diane Keaton movie Crimes Of The Heart.

Image Credit: Les Grands Films Classiques

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Songs based on film

8. Iron Maiden – Man On The Edge

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Artist/Song: Iron Maiden – Man On The Edge (from 1995’s The X Factor)

Film: Falling Down (1993)

Iron Maiden's Man On The Edge is based on the Michael Douglas classic Falling Down. Quite what D-Fens's vitriolic trudge through LA has got to do with cover art that seems to show an Orc having a lobotomy, we've no idea.

Image Credit: Warner Bros

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Songs based on film

9. Aerosmith – Walk This Way

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Artist/Song: Aerosmith – Walk This Way (from 1975’s Toys In The Attic)

Film: Young Frankenstein (1974)

No, this isn't the "good" version featuring Run DMC. Instead, it's Aerosmith's original release of Walk This Way, the lyrics and title of which was inspired by a trip to the cinema to see Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

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Songs based on film

10. Scott Walker – The Seventh Seal

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Artist/Song: Scott Walker – The Seventh Seal (from 1969’s Scott 4)

Film: The Seventh Seal (1957)

As part of The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker was a teen-pop idol. However, the title of their massive 1965 single The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore hinted at the darkness that lay ahead. Scott's solo career is moody and challenging stuff, preoccupied with high art. The opening track from his fourth solo album, Scott 4, is a retelling of Ingmar Bergman's arthouse classic The Seventh Seal.

Image Credit: AB Svensk Filmindustri

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