Inspiration for songs come from all sorts of places. While it typically comes from one’s own experiences, sometimes it can come from other forms of media or events. One unique form of inspiration is from movies. Whether it’s lightly referenced or written to fit a movie plot exactly, we’ve collected some of our favorite songs inspired by movies.
“2012” - The Word Alive
Metalcore band The Word Alive is always looking for ways to experiment with their sound. While many of their songs come from personal experiences, especially those from their vocalist Tyler “Telle” Smith, their song “2012” off of their Deceiver album was inspired by the 2009 film Law Abiding Citizen starring Jamie Foxx. Smith said about the song, "When we wrote '2012' I knew right away that I wanted the song to be very intense...something where anyone could get a pretty clear meaning of what it's about. I had watched the movie Law Abiding Citizen right before I wrote '2012' and it was fresh in my mind. I wanted to put into words the way that movie made me feel, from the main character's point of view." The song became one of the band’s most popular songs. “2012” features Miss May I singer Levi Benton, making it even bigger within the metalcore scene upon its release.
“A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me” - Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy is known for their long and witty song titles on their classic albums like From Under the Cork Tree and Infinity on High. While “A Little Less Than Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me” clearly falls into that category, it also references the popular 80s movie, Sixteen Candles. Much like the movie, the song contains themes of teen drama and unrequited love. The members of Fall Out Boy also grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, where all of Hughes' films take place, given them a personal connection to the movies. The song title not only references Sixteen Candles, but it also references Elvis’ song “Little Less Conversation” and Samantha Fox and The Doors song “Touch Me.” Combining all these together, it’s a song meant to say, instead of a wholesome teen drama of Sixteen Candles, they want a little wilder of a story. In essence, the song is a combination of a bunch of references to things the band loves. It’s also a great song worth checking out if you haven’t yet.
“Thank God It’s Friday” - Ice Nine Kills
“Thank God It’s Friday” is just one song of an entire album referencing movies, more specifically, horror movies. Ice Nine Kills’ album The Silver Scream follows a fictional storyline where the singer of the band is being accused of murder since many of the songs cover content related to high-profile killers such as Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, and many more. This specific song is a direct reference to the Friday the 13th franchise. As it follows the curse and anger that Jason holds from drowning as a kid, the chorus tells listeners, “Fueled by the flood, we pay in blood/The curse of Crystal Lake/He's down there deep within/We've found there's no escape.” The song also features a woman’s voice imitating Jason’s mother in the first film asking listeners, “Did you know my son drowned in this lake?” After watching the music video, you’ll have no doubts of its references to Friday the 13th.
“Only” - Nine Inch Nails
The inspiration behind this song is more subjective than the other songs on this list. The director of the music video for this song was David Fincher, who also directed Fight Club. It’s been said that this song is based on the movie. Lyrics like, "You were never really real to begin with, I just made you up to hurt myself" point to the main character in the film and his alter-ego Tyler Durden. This song is a fan-favorite and said to also reference Trent Reznor's personal life in the song too. Listen to the song below.
“So Long Astoria” - The Ataris
The song title itself is a direct reference to The Goonies as Astoria is the town from the 1985 movie. The lead singer Kris Roe said that his inspiration came from his childhood memories, and the adventures the children in The Goonies take are very nostalgic. The line, "This is my wish and I'm taking it back, I'm taking 'em all back" is a lyric from the line and from the movie. There was a fan made video where the song was put to scenes from The Goonies. You can watch it below.
“Union Forever” - The White Stripes
This song by The White Stripes is not only inspired by the 1941 movie Citizen Kane, but it also uses direct lines from the film for the lyrics. This song strings together lots of different moments from Citizen Kane including: "It can't be love, for there is no true love" (Referrring to the jazz singer at the picnic/barbecue who sings this in the movie), "Sure, I'm C.F.K, but you gotta love me" (C.F.K.'s (Charles Foster Kane's) wife Susan says this to him in an argument), and "There is a man, a certain man, who for the poor you may be sure that he'll do all he can...I bet you five you're not alive if you don't know his name" (A song sung to him in celebration of Kane's newspaper). These are just a few of many references the song has.
Since the song borrows so directly from the movie, Warner Brothers considered a copyright infringement lawsuit against the band. In their defense, The White Stripes said it does not merely copy the film but takes bits and pieces of the film and transforms them into a song. Doing so does not reduce sales or otherwise affect the “market” for the film (Source). It doesn’t appear the lawsuit ever went through as little information is available online. What do you think? Is it copyright infringement or a creative reinvention?
“Alien” - The Devil Wears Prada. Inspired by Alien.
From the metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada’s Space EP which focuses entirely on space came the song “Alien.” Can you take a guess which movie it references? The attacking alien in this song was said to be inspired by Ridley Scott's depiction of the creatures in the 1979 movie Alien. Mike Hranica describes the alien in his song as, "10-feet tall, drenched in saliva. It's attacking, coming through the window, game over." He also said he wanted a fast-paced hard-hitting song about an alien attack, and that’s just what they delivered. The music video features a woman being abducted by an alien and becoming a part of a scary experiment. You can take a listen and watch the music video below.
“Don’t Wake Me” - Skillet
From the album Awake, “Don’t Wake Me” has cited inspiration for the song from the movie Braveheart. In the movie, the main character’s wife was killed, and he had dreams about his wife where she urges him to wake up. He tells her that he doesn't want to wake up. The lyrics follow this same line of thinking saying, “When it’s you I’m dreaming of, I don’t want to wake up.” The band has also said that the song is also a reference to how their singer was feeling after his grandfather got sick and passed away. For a year, he had dreams about him all the time that he didn’t want to wake up from because he greatly missed him. Listen to the song.
“Scissorhands (The Last Snow) - Motionless in White
Examples of all things dark and mysterious whether it’s in their music, their appearance, or their stage performances, Motionless in White writing a song inspired by Edward Scissorhands is very on brand for the band. The whole song is about Scissorhands, but one of the lines that feels most directly referenced to the movie is, “I'm a man with scissors for hands, I long for a love that I know I can't have.” Chris Motionless, the band’s singer, said about the song, “Out of all the characters in the world of books and movies, Edward Scissorhands is the one I most identify with. That movie spoke to me so much and changed my life, so I wanted my favorite and most important song on this record to be about him.” The band wanted to maintain the same feeling that Tim Burton and Danny Elfman brought into the movie, and upon listening to the song, it’s definitely the same sort of vibe. Give it a listen.
“Man on the Edge” - Iron Maiden
Coming from the album X Factor, “Man on the Edge” was inspired by the 1993 Michael Douglas film Falling Down. The film tells the story of a defense industry engineer who becomes overly agitated with everyday interactions after he loses his job. After that, Foster becomes psychotic and violent as he begins to lash out. The Iron Maiden lead singer Blaze Bayley said that he saw the film as a parable for the frustrations that can come with losing a job. The song explores the loss of identity that can come from unemployment. Blaze Bayley says about the song, "One of the key lyrics is 'cannibal state,' where the system of government consumes the individual and the materialistic society consumes the individual and digests him and spits him out, so his identity is completely gone." This isn’t the first time that Iron Maiden has written songs inspired by media, but it is definitely a favorite.
Learning the background and inspiration behind songs can change the meaning of songs, but hopefully in the cases of these songs, it’s for the better. I personally had no idea about the inspiration behind Skillet’s song “Don’t Wake Me” and was happy to learn it. Which song from our list are you happy you learned about the inspiration of? Do you have a favorite song inspired by a movie that we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading!
Written by Kristen Petronio