Tribute – The Top 10 David Bowie Moments in Film

I suspect there’s a reason why the passing of David Bowie has had such an impact on the world, and it’s not just his legacy as a performer. It’s not that he spoke for the underdog and the outsider, or that he began the trend of creating stage personas in the music industry, but it’s because we’ve never thought of him in human terms before. He spoke to us all in a way that most songwriters could never hope to, with an emotional resonance and sense of individuality that made him feel like he had a special insight unique to him. Today we’re going to count down ten moments the works of David Bowie made the art of film that extra bit special.

In order to add a twist, we’re limiting this to those small moments we’re a film has been improved by a song or performance. So no big roles like Labyrinth or The Man Who Fell to Earth.

10. The Breakfast Club

Let’s start simple. The Breakfast Club is the definitive teenager movie, capturing that confusing time of life when young people yearn to discover who they are and who they want to be without being condescending or cheesy. Kicking off the story are the lyrics from Bowie’s song ‘Changes’, setting the stage of the drama and comedy to follow.

9. Trainspotting

Wait, what? Yeah, I was surprised when I found this out as well. ‘Lust For Life’ is performed by Iggy Pop and he wrote the lyrics, but that heart pounding backing music was written by and performed on ukulele by David Bowie. Danny Boyle has always been spot on with his soundtracks and this is one of his best picks, contributing to one of the most memorable opening scenes in cinema. The opening drum beat has been imitated many times since, but it will always be best associated with this sequence.

8. Clueless

The scene that made everyone think to themselves “finally, someone said it!” Cher waxes on the ridiculous male fashion of the era. Crappy baseball caps and baggy pants hanging around their knees is supported by Mott the Hoople playing ‘All the Young Dudes’, a song 20 years old and still speaking volumes. Which, as you may have guessed, was written by David Bowie. Between him and Prince they wrote every song ever written.

7. American Psycho and Memento


David Bowie’s lesser known track ‘Something in the Air’ must’ve struck a chord with some people – specifically Mary Harron and Christopher Nolan. Both of whom were looking for that perfect track to close of a deadly confession from their protagonist before rolling credits. Released a year apart, both films used the song to wrap up their mind-bending classics. Speaking of Christopher Nolan…

6. The Prestige

Going for an acting cameo rather than a soundtrack contribution, David Bowie was an unusual but spot-on choice for the equally oddball Nicolas Tesla. It’s a very nuanced and introverted performance from Bowie, playing a historical character in a dark fantasy tale of competing magicians. Although he’s sharing a screen with gifted performers Hugh Jackman and Andy Serkis he steals every scene he’s in. Plus he gets one of the best entrances ever.

5. American Horror Story: Freak Show

The best moments of American Horror Story may be behind us but it occasionally has a great scene. Cue Jessica Lange taking to stage to belt out a pained, introspective cover of ‘Life on Mars?’ I’m 90% sure they set the fourth season of the show in a freakshow with a tragic character named Elsa Mars for the sole purpose of having Lange perform this number.

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

In Emma Watson’s most memorable role that doesn’t involve being a teenage witch, she declares ‘Heroes’ to he the perfect song. In context she declares it the perfect so to play while hanging out the sun hatch on a car while driving through a tunnel. She’s not wrong, it’s a damn good song.

3. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

This may not be the best of Wes Anderson’s films, but it has some great moments. Most notably this dialogue free panning shot that uses a simple performance and ‘Life on Mars?’ to speak volumes about the emotional state of titular Steve Zissou when he discovers he might have a son. Damn, that’s good.

2. Inglourious Basterds

What is it about a character gearing up for a showdown that cinema goers love? Some of our favourite montages in cinema are centred around our hero getting ready to kick all of the ass. After every Shosanna has been through, the emotional weight of her family’s death at the hands of the Jew Hunter, and the chance to take down Hitler himself knowing that it’s very likely going to be a suicide mission…’Cat People’ is the perfect track to remind us of how awesome this character is and how determined she is to see it through.

1. The Martian

A very recent entry for our list – it’s still showing in some cinemas – but a damn fine movie. From Matt Damon’s perfect comedic timing to the hauntingly beautiful landscapes of Mars, the only thing Ridley Scott needed to round this out was a soundtrack. Among the many excellent choices we have Bowie’s ‘Starman’ perfectly encapsulating Mark Whatney’s plight. Stranded millions of miles from Earth and with little chance of rescue this song added a sharp emotional edge.

So that’s it. For decades David Bowie have given our lives a beautiful, surreal spin and it made the world of cinema is brighter for it. If there’s one thing we learned from Bowie, it’s that we need to break to rules. So, one more entry to see him out on…

R.I.P. David Bowie (1947-2016)