10 movies inspired by great songs


Following a memorable halftime performance at the Super Bowl, Mary J. Blige was recently announced as executive producer of a new film entitled Real love, inspired by their first hit single of the same name. Blige isn’t the only one who has turned her music into a feature-length film.

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Many artists can say they act in a film, or give it their name, but few can claim to be the central creative seed from which an entire narrative grows or a film is built. There are many funny, engaging, and quirky movies that owe their creative legacy to great songs—the best of which are able to tightly integrate the themes and tone of the music into their own.

Alice’s Restaurant (Alice’s Restaurant Massacre – Arlo Guthrie)

Arlo Guthrie’s 18-minute spoken-word rhapsody begged to be turned into some sort of narrative work — a vast composition that presents an absurdist account of America’s justice system and liberty. Director Arthur Penn committed to adapting the song into a feature-length film in which Guthrie plays himself.

The song tells the story so directly that it’s easy to see how the film translates this into its own storyline. At the same time, however, the absurdity, silliness, and humor of Guthrie’s original song shine through in the retelling. The film captures many of the themes of disproportionate consequences and attempts to be autonomous in an alien society while retaining the same dark bite of its inspiration.

Across The Universe (Across The Universe – The Beatles)

through the universe is a song about the transcendent nature of life and the oneness of being that inspired a 2007 romantic comedy film of the same name. Although the film contains many Beatles tracks, through the universe was the central theme of the film, around which both the plot and the music revolve.

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Translating a love song to the universe into a personal story about a group’s struggles is compelling. What makes this film really special, however, is the predominance of Beatles music and references within the plot – a path through the entire Beatles catalog through the anthological themes that arose in the song’s story.

The Player (The Player – Kenny Rogers)

An example of the film and music industries overlapping was the 1980s The player. Like the Kenny Rogers song it is inspired by, the film creates themes of life, love, loss and the analogy poker and gambling have with the broader existence as a human being.

While the song lends itself to a movie, the business aspects of cashing in on a big hit should also be considered. In fact, the full title of the film is Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, a nod to production studios looking to capitalize on both Rogers’ musical talent and fame. This effort was successful as, incredibly, this song spawned an entire franchise of five direct-to-tv films.

Dinner for Schmucks (A Fool On The Hill – The Beatles)

When Jay Roach’s comedy full of misfits was released, Beatles fans were shocked: The original recording of A fool on the hill plays over the opening credits, a tremendous feat given the exclusivity of the music licensing surrounding the music of the Fab Four. The plot is loosely based on the French film Le Diner de Consbut the Beatles hit is central to its delivery.

In order to explain: Roach called Paul McCartney himselfto beg the use of the song, building on a filmography inspired by the Liverpool foursome (ie: the The night of a hard day inspired the direction of Austin Powers Trilogy). What’s compelling here is not only the obvious importance of the Beatles in Roach’s films, but also the subtle way in which this is done A fool on the hill touches on the aesthetics and tone of dinner for jewelry.

Factory Girl (Factory Girl – The Rolling Stones)

The Rolling Stones’ ballad is about wildly contrasting aspects of romantic relationships and inspired the 2006 film of the same name about the fiery relationship between pop icons Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. Sienna Miller plays Sedgwick in a performance that encompasses the entire relationship.

The adaptation is more than a conceptual translation, however – the song is used as an embodiment of the film’s central core, bringing together true historical events into a coherent narrative about the themes of opposing characters in a romantic relationship. factory girl (the song) thus provides a guide to the film and its content as well as its central theme.

The Indian Runner (Highway Patrolman – Bruce Springsteen)

Sean Penn’s directorial debut was based on the Bruce Springsteen song, highway cop, a story of two brothers who find themselves in a compromising situation on either side of the law. Penn’s film reconstructs the plot with additional details provided by an all-star cast (Viggo Mortensen, Sandy Denis and Charles Bronson).

What makes the adaptation compelling, however, is the way it blends its inspiration with Penn’s own artistic license (although the film and Bruce Springsteen’s work differ significantly in places). By re-staging a song, not only can we understand Springsteen’s work; but also what it means to Penn and how he gets into the song deeply enough to make a film about it.

Ode to Billy Joe (Ode to Billy Joe – Bobby Gentry)

Bobby Gentry’s 1967 hit Ode to Billy Joe became the impetus for a self-titled film adaptation in 1976. The song tells the story of a suicide in a small Mississippi town and the ensuing reaction of local people. With major additions to the song’s story, the film was met with much fanfare, exceeding its budget by 20 times.

The film version had an interesting development as it was closely associated with Gentry in its production (with the Artist who needs reassurances that her story is being treated appropriately). The result was a film that came close to the songwriter’s vision and even went beyond the song to answer the many questions the song raises.

The Hitcher (Riders On The Storm – The Doors)

1986 the hitter was an early project by writer Eric Red. The 2.5-hour thriller follows a chilling hitchhiker who pursues a young man across West Texas. However, the inspiration for the film was was the classic by The Doors, Riders in the Storm, that Red heard as he drove across the States. His appreciation of the song’s cinematic elements both thought-provoking and brought out the author the hitter.

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Fascinating, the hitter is an example of a film that takes shape entirely through the relationship between the writer and the song – not simply extracting a narrative from the story, but trying to work out how the song felt inside it. From the quietly dramatic sounds of rain to Jim Morrison’s ethereal and disembodied storytelling, The Doors’ song shines in aesthetics, content and tone The Hitcher – shows how interpretive song-to-film adaptations can be.

The night the lights went out in Georgia (The nights the lights went out in Georgia – Vicki Lawrence)

A story of cross-fertilization by the media is The night the lights went out in Georgia the 1981 musical drama directed by Ronald F. Maxwell (starring young Mark Hamill). The film was inspired and titled by Vicki Lawrence’s 1972 song of the same name.

The film’s production is packed with cross-media features: although the film is based on Vicki Lawrence’s song, the film also features its own version of the track, re-recorded with revised lyrics to fit the film’s plot. This hopping between medium and version makes for a really interesting piece of film and music history, showing how even original source material can be reworked for the purposes of the art it inspires.

Brazil (Aquarelo Do Brasil – Ary Borroso)

Among the films inspired by music Brazil is special. The 1985 feature film directed by Terry Gilliam lasts Inspiration from the song Aquarelo Do Brasil – a vibrant Brazilian folk ballad about the wonders of the country – to create a dark comedy about a dystopian, hyper-bureaucratic society; and the relationship between the individual and the state.

what does Brazil remarkable? The fact that its plot and content are thematically antagonistic to the song, yet undeniably still inspired by it. The title tracks (original and film re-recording) are used to emphasize the disconnect between the human longing of the film’s characters and the reality of their settings. Gilliam’s vision of the future is cold and callous as the song portrays the film’s characters through glimpses of life and humanity.

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