Music Break: Mozart in the Movies

Today January 27th 2012, marks the 256th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birth. I listen to classical NPR to and from work a lot and they’re promoting a special program commemorating this event. Well, as my two of my all time favorite music genres are classical and soundtracks, I thought I’d sort of combine the two in today’s music break post.

Tom Hulce as Mozart in AMADEUS

Just a bit of history on one of the greatest classical composers of all time… Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria and started composing from the age of five and already performed before European royalty at such a young age. He only lived until the age of 35, but in such a short life he was incredibly prolific and influential. Per Wikipedia, he composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers and his music will always remain timeless.

Whether you notice it or not, you’ve likely have heard Mozart’s music in all kinds of films. Whatever the genre, Mozart’s music seems to have a place in a variety of them. This forum from a few years ago compiled over 400 movie titles from all over the world that uses Mozart’s music. And this site actually compiles a list of how many times Mozart’s work has been used in dozens of films.

This piece called Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music) is the most widely used, 13 times as of 2006, in movies ranging from Ace Ventura, Bonfire of the Vanities to Nikita, and of course it’s part of the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning film about the musical genius, Amadeus (1984) .


If you haven’t seen Amadeus, I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not a fan of classical music, it’s still a fascinating story and the film was amazingly done. It won 8 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham for his superb performance as Antonio Salieri, Mozart’s main rival. Tom Hulce in the title role was also nominated for an Oscar. The film is told in flashback mode by Salieri who’s now confined to an insane asylum. Check out the trailer below:


My introduction to Mozart in movies is actually courtesy of an unlikely source, a James Bond film! Ahah, yes, it was The Spy Who Loved Me as it’s played in this scene where Bond’s arch nemesis Stromberg played Piano Concerto No. 21 as his octopus-like hideout rises from the sea. I didn’t even know it was a Mozart piece until much later as I was only a wee kid at the time. I was mesmerized by that music… and Jaws’ teeth 😀 It remains one of my all time favorites to this day.


Alexandre Desplat’s Oscar-nominated soundtrack for The King’s Speech also uses Mozart’s piece La Nozze di Figaro. One of my favorite parts about this film is definitely the music, and naturally classical music is fitting for the subject matter.


So those are just some of my favorite Mozart’s music in movies. Do you have one? Please do share in the comments.

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25 thoughts on “Music Break: Mozart in the Movies

  1. Ted S.

    Love Mozart’s music, so beautiful and relaxing. I think I’ve seen bits and pieces of Amadeus but never the whole film. Might have to rent it and watch the whole thing soon.

    1. It is indeed Ted. I listen to classical NPR every day now and I don’t miss contemporary music all that much, well unless it’s part of a soundtrack 🙂 Amadeus is great, I saw clips of them last night and was reminded of how marvelous the performances were.

  2. The scene in A Clockwork Orange where Alex turns on the other droogs along the river. Mozart’s The Thieving Magpie plays in the background.

    There is some violence in this clip but it’s fairly mild considering the rest of movie.

      1. Yeah the film is kind of rough to sit through even for me. Still it’s Kubrick and an iconic film. Speaking of hard to sit through I just watched We Need To Talk About Kevin. Disturbing stuff. Can’t believe they left Tilda Swinton of the Best Actress list. Shame on the Academy. To not nominate Fassbinder for Shame either is no surprise. The conservative Academy likes to play it safe. I read a quote from an anonymous Academy member years ago that basically said that Goodfellas was never going to win Best Picture back in ’91 because they wouldn’t support a film with all that violence. Ironically enough Scorsese won for the Departed which was equally violent but by that time they started looking idiotic for ignoring him all those years and had to give him an Oscar.

        Wow Ruth not a lot of Mozart fans out there. Here’s probably not only my favorite Mozart piece used in a movie but probably one my favorite pieces ever used in a movie. The Marriage of Figaro Duettino – Sull ‘Aria from The Shawshank Redemption”. What a beautiful, moving scene where Andy Dufresne brings the prison to a halt by sharing Mozart’s aria over the loudspeaker full well knowing the harsh repercussions that the warden is going reign down on him. Then add the “smooth” voice of Morgan Freeman narrating the scene…. it’s as beautiful a moment as you’ll ever see on film.

          1. Yeah Adam… the Oscars. I guess I still pay attention because there’s still some entertainment value in there. All I can say is thank god Billy Crystal is back after last year’s fiasco. Poor Anne Hathaway. I like James Franco but he was doing his best impersonation of his stoned out character Daniel Desario from Freeks and Geeks. lol.

        1. Oh that is definitely a GREAT, touching scene, thanks for including the clip, Dave. Yes, that aria is definitely memorable. And yes, there is little wonder why Morgan Freeman is basically synonymous with ‘iconic voice.’

          I will rent ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ as it becomes available. The subject matter does sound disturbing but I’m very curious about it.

  3. Name dropping Desplat in an article on Mozart? I approve, Desplat is an excellent composer as is Mozart, of course.

    Amadeus is one of the finest films of the eighties, I think, Hulce and Abraham are just fantastic.

    1. Deplat’s work is sooo my kind of music. He’s quite underrated I think but his body of work is amazing.

      Glad you’ve seen Amadeus, I need to rewatch that again. Thanks Andrew.

      1. Really? The 80’s Austrian sensation better known as Falco who rocked the New Wave dance floor with hits like “Der Kommisar” and “Rock Me Amadeus”!

        Here’s the extended remix version for your listening pleasure. An 80’s classic!:

        1. Good lord, this song will haunt me the rest of my days. In music instruction during grammar school we listened to it EVERY class when our teacher was out ill for a couple of months.

  4. Nice post. I’ve only seen The King’s Speech of the movies you list. However, Mozart was truly one one of the great genius in mankind’s history. It’s mind-blowing how many of his tunes have made it into the public consciousness and half the time, you don’t even realize it’s from him!

    1. You should give Amadeus a try sometime Castor, it’s really a great film that gives a bit of insight into the genius and bratty-ness of this classic music legend.

  5. Pingback: Filmplicity » Blog Archive » LINK LOVE: COMMENT WORTHY CONTENT WELL WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK!

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