10 Pieces of Classical Music You Know Thanks to the Movies

Think back to the first time you heard the overture to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Were you just a kid watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in a dark cinema? Similarly, thanks to V for Vendetta, we can’t hear Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture without picturing a revolution, or Ravel’s Boléro without thinking about Bo Derek “making love” to Dudley Moore. It’s hard to list all the pieces of classical music used in soundtracks that are now inextricably associated with specific events and moods, but here are some of the most ubiquitous of the bunch.

Richard Wagner’s “Ritt der Walküren” (“The Ride of the Valkyrie”)

Watch the scene, we dare you not to shudder. Every bit of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is frightening, but providing your own epic soundtrack while bombing an entire Vietnamese village is something else. In Die Walküre, the theme accompanies the Valkyrie sisters riding flying horses as they search for fallen heroes and ever since that it has become synonymous with battle imagery. “The Ride of the Valkyrie” appears in D.W. Griffith’s silent film The Birth of a Nation, Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, and even provides the tunes for one of Elmer Fudd’s many hunts for Bugs Bunny.