In the wake of music legend David Bowie’s passing, we run through ten of our favourite uses of his music in TV and film.
Please note: this list is, by no means, a top 10. Compiling such a list would be, quite frankly, impossible.
1) “Space Oddity,” Mad Men (2015)
Bowie’s classic “Space Oddity” is perfectly paired with this scene, which ends the third to last (also known as antepenultimate – we didn’t know that either) ever episode of the show. Just like Major Tom, Don Draper is leaving the world as he knows it behind him, signalling a huge turning point for his character, and the finale of the series.
2) “Starman”, The Martian (2015)
“Starman” is very appropriately used in Ridley Scott’s The Martian, a film about an astronaut stranded on Mars. The space theme is prevalent throughout Bowie’s career, with his first album titled Space Oddity, and his last Blackstar. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield famouslly covered “Space Oddity” back in 2013, while orbiting Earth aboard the space station. Bowie gave the rendition his seal of approval, calling it “the most poignant version of the song ever created.”
3) “Magic Dance”, Labyrinth (1986)
Bowie recorded five songs for this slightly bonkers cult classic: “Underground”, “Magic Dance”, “Chilly Down”, “As the World Falls Down”, and “Within You”. “Magic Dance” is a funky little dance number performed by Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King, with the help of his goblin followers. Random fact: The baby noises in the song are actually made by David Bowie. He didn’t feel the recordings of the real baby sounded good enough.
4) “Lust For Life”, Trainspotting (1996
Touted as one of the best uses of music in cinema, this classic piece co-written by Iggy Pop and David Bowie (Bowie providing the music (written on a ukulele), and Pop the lyric), provides the soundtrack to Ewan McGregor’s epic opening monologue of the film Trainspotting.
5) “Life On Mars”, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
David Bowie, Bill Murray, and Wes Anderson – could there be a more perfect formula? The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou is full of Bowie tracks, predominantly performed in Portuguese by Seu Jorge, who plays Pelé. This use of the original recording is one of Anderson’s music supervisor Randall Poster’s favourite. He says:
“It’s a classic cinematic moment. David Bowie is such an important part of the movie, and it was great to hear his voice at that juncture in the film. It wasn’t preconceived. It was something that we landed on while we were in editorial. The great story about that was that [Bowie’s producer] Tony Visconti was able to give us the original track, so we were able to do some sound editing with it and tailor it to the scene. We got to listen to the splits. There was this great moment we heard in the course of listening to the song: You can hear a phone ring in the studio on the tape.
I think what really happens is that we enter in Zissou’s head. It’s so psychological, and, lyrically, it’s kind of sci-fi in a way. And I think that it transcends the action and let’s us take a step into this character’s mind.”
6) “Let’s Dance”, Zoolander (2001)
The music may only last a few seconds, but Bowie’s appearance in Zoolander is an essential addition to this list. Who else could be adequately equipped to judge a walk off between Derek Zoolander and Hansel?
7) “Changes”, Shrek 2 (2004)
This recent version of “Changes”, from the album Hunky Dory (1971), performed by Butterfly Boucher & David Bowie, is the perfect addition to DreamWorks’ Shrek 2. It features alongside classics such as Chic’s “Le Freak”, and Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown”.
8) “Under Pressure”, World’s Greatest Dad (2009)
One of the most memorable uses of this collaboration between Queen and David Bowie comes in this dark comedy starring Robin Williams. The track is used at the point where Williams’ character confesses to staging his son’s suicide.
9) “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”, Inglorious Basterds (2009)
This is a classic example of Tarantino’s penchant for using past soundtracks in his movies. Originally recorded for horror film Cat People, this track is used rather ingeniously in a scene for Inglorious Basterds.
10) “Little Fat Man”, Extras (2007)
Remember that time David Bowie mocked Ricky Gervais’ ‘fat face’ on Extras? Their friendship began after someone gave Bowie a copy of The Office and he emailed Gervais. “He’s a hero, and I feel obliged to admit how important he has been to me. Apart from Mohammed Ali, there hasn’t been anyone else who has come close as an icon. I’ve been a fan for about 35 years and now a friend for a couple”, says Gervais.
RIP David Bowie (1947 – 2016)