Music has always played a crucial role in film. It sets scenes, it builds suspense and manipulates our emotions. It’s almost impossible to imagine a movie without any musical influence. And just as influence is rarely one-sided, there’s a host of songs born from movies. Musicians occasionally become so inspired by a film or character that they write a song about it. In some circumstances, the song immediately reminds the listener of the respective film, but in other instances, the song can become much more popular than the film that inspired it.
Either way it goes, we love to see music so inspired by film. Here are nine great songs inspired by movie characters.
9. “Forrest Gump” performed by Frank Ocean
Film: Forrest Gump
Released in 2012 on his debut album Channel Orange, “Forrest Gump” is written in the style of a love letter from the perspective of Jenny. The song became the center of a lot of conversation as he released the album soon after publicly announcing he was gay. Listening to Ocean sing a love song to a male subject was farther than some of his fans were willing to go. Despite the controversy, it’s a sweet and beautiful song that captures the narrative of the movie and character of Forrest quite well.
My fingertips and my lips
They burn from the cigarettes
Forrest Gump you run my mind boy
Running on my mind boy
8. “Ben” performed by Michael Jackson
“Ben” was Michael Jackson’s first number one solo hit, earning a Golden Globe Award and Oscar nomination for the Best Song categories. Surprisingly, the soulful ballad that topped U.S. pop charts is about a rat. It was written for the film of the same name about a young boy named Danny and the bond he forms with his pet rat, Ben. Ben is the leader of a telepathic rat colony but the two find an unexpected friendship in each other and a world where they thought they were alone. As silly as it sounds, the end credits, during which the song plays, will without a doubt, leave you misty-eyed.
Ben, most people would turn you away
I don’t listen to a word they say
They don’t see you as I do
I wish they would try to
I’m sure they’d think again
If they had a friend like Ben
7. “Tin Man” performed by The Avett Brothers
Film: The Wizard of Oz
Character: Tin Man
Another Wizard of Oz-inspired tune, “Tin Man” was the 10th track on The Avett Brothers’ major label debut album, I and Love and You. Released in 2009, the album was given much praise although some felt like “Tin Man” was one of the weaker songs. Still, it perfectly captures the sadness of the character, a man who cannot feel.
I’m as worn as a stone
I keep it steady as I can
I see pain but I don’t feel it
I am like the old tin man
6. “Ordinary Day” performed by Vanessa Carlton
Film: Walt Disney’s Peter Pan (1953)
Character: Peter Pan
Written by Vanessa Carlton at 17, it’s no wonder the song appears to have some childhood nostalgia. While she has never come out to say the song is about Peter Pan, the lyrics permit no other interpretation. Carlton sings a song about a boy who shines like a shooting star. He comes to her, possibly in a dream, and invites her on an adventure, telling her to “live while [she] can.” The song peaked at number 30 on Billboard charts and was completely overshadowed by the notorious single “A Thousand Miles,” but it’s a well-written song that captures Wendy’s experience.
And he said take my hand,
Live while you can
Don’t you see your dreams lie right in the palm of your hand
In the palm of your hand.
5. “The Union Forever” performed by The White Stripes
Film: Citizen Kane
Character: Charles Foster Kane
The song, released in 2001 off The White Stripes third studio album, was so influenced by the film, Citizen Kane, Jack White was sued for copyright infringement. Reportedly one of White’s favorite movies, almost every line in the song comes from the film, describing Kane and his megalomaniacal ways to perfection.
Sure I’m C.F.K.
But you gotta love me
The cost no man can say
But you gotta love me
4. “Dorothy at Forty” performed by Cursive
Film: The Wizard of Oz
Character: Dorothy Gale
“Dorothy at Forty” was first single from Cursive’s album Happy Hollow. The song is obviously inspired by the film The Wizard of Oz, however, the themes of optimism are lost in this song. The band spends the three minutes of the song telling Dorothy that now that she’s grown up, she must let go of dreams and recognize reality. It’s actually quite depressing, but the song has a nice beat.
Dorothy, I know you’ve had amazing dreams
We can’t go chasing down each golden street
Each and every rainbow, each passion, each unattainable goal
We’re not in dreamland anymore
3. “Goldfinger” performed by Shirley Bassey
Character: Auric Goldfinger
The song was recorded for Goldfinger, the third Bond film in the series and was released in 1964. The writers, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley were asked to write a song for the upcoming film. They weren’t offered any scripts or clips of the film for inspiration but were told about the death of Jill Masterson by way of epidermal suffocation when she was covered with gold paint.
The duo said once they came up with “the Midas touch” as a lyric, the rest of the song was easy to write. Shirley Bassey recenty performed the song at the 2013 Academy Awards show to the reception of a standing ovation.
“From Mister Goldfinger
Pretty girl, beware of his heart of gold
This heart is cold
He loves only gold”
2. “Blade Runner (I think I love You)” performed by Bastian
Characters:Rick Deckard and Rachael
The song, an upbeat disco tune recorded by Bastian, is not a song that one would expect to be influenced by Ridley Scott’s sci-fi action movie. However, once you listen to the lyrics there’s no denying this song was inspired by the forbidden love between Deckard and Rachael.
“Baby you’re a Replicant
And maybe I am too
I know I should kill you
But I can’t cuz I’m so hot for you”
1. “Mrs. Robinson” performed by Simon & Garfinkle
Film: The Graduate
Character: Mrs. Robinson
“Mrs. Robinson” was a massive hit that arguably became more popular than the movie it appeared in. It was originally called Mrs. Roosevelt and was not intended for the film but when the director of The Graduate, Mike Nichols, heard it he insisted the name be changed and it appear in the film. An early version of the chorus can be heard in The Graduate released in 1967, however Simon & Garfunkel subsequently rerecorded the song and expanded the lyrics forming the 1968 single that reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray