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Memo to Moviemakers: Let’s Have a Moratorium on this Overused Song

Memo to Moviemakers: Let's Have a Moratorium on this Overused Song

Given that it’s now kind of part of an Oscar-winning score, Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” has earned all the prestige it has ever needed. And it didn’t even need much more before landing in the brilliant Henley Royal Regatta scene of “The Social Network,” as arranged by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Since being composed 135 years ago (for Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt”), the epic tune has been one of the most well known pieces of classical music ever. Or do I only think that because it’s been used in so many films and trailers in my lifetime that it’s up there as seemingly one of the most significant works ever written? Covers by bands such as The Who, Electric Light Orchestra and pretty much any prog rock group ever only adds to its familiarity and status. But right now its presence is in overload.

Yesterday I saw the new documentary “The Revenge of the Electric Car,” Chris Paine’s sequel to his own 2006 film “Who Killed the Electric Car?,” which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival this month. And it opens with “Mountain King.” I started to laugh, partly because Cinema Blend‘s Katey Rich and I had already discovered and discussed an overabundance of the piece in films lately. I’ll list them all in a moment. But the reason it was particularly ridiculous yesterday is that I had just happened to watch a trailer for a SXSW movie, which also employs “Mountain King” throughout that ad. Watch this trailer, for Matt D’Elia’s “American Animal” after the jump.

Whatever, right? It’s also appeared in trailers for “Corpse Bride,” “Funny Games,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Beetlejuice,” “Bride Wars,” “Rat Race,” “Friday After Next,” “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian” and last year’s “Dinner for Schmucks.” And that’s just what Wikipedia tells me. And it’s been used in favorite documentaries like “Man on Wire” and “King of Kong,” classics like Fritz Lang’s “M” and an episode of “Mad Men.”

But somehow the usage in “The Social Network” still seemed so necessary and perfect for that one scene. Let’s watch it again to recall how wonderful it is:

I guess the next time I thought about the song was when it played during “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” but in that circumstance it was notable because it seemed out of place and certainly replaceable or otherwise disposable. It’s build-up structure fits the film’s montage displaying Bieber’s rise and chaotic increase of fanbase, but there must be some other song that could have worked just as well.

Around the same time, Katey Rich referenced the abundance of the song after seeing “Hanna,” which has now just opened this weekend (and which I have not yet seen) and apparently includes it. She also reminded me that it shows up in Morgan Spurlock’s “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” and now even features over the doc’s trailer:

Sick of it yet? Surprisingly, “Revenge of the Electric Car” does not use the song in its trailer, choosing instead a classic piece that’s, in my opinion, more appropriate to the film. It’s also a widely (over)used work, Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna”:

I have one more video for you, because out of all the 2011 films so far to use “Mountain King” — and Jordan Raup of The Film Stage is certain there will be plenty more — one of them is best suited for the tune: Andre Ovredal’s “The Troll Hunter,” which also will play this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. As Spout’s own Daniel Walber reminded me yesterday, the song refers to a kind of troll, which figures into Ibsen’s play. So of course it should appear in a film about trolls. Here’s a video on the making of the film’s special effects, which features a version of the tune:

Troll Hunter VFX – Ringlefinch from Rig to Render from Rune Spaans on Vimeo.

So, Hollywood and other moviemakers, here’s the thing: from now on it’s only acceptable to use Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” for films about actual trolls and films about the Internet (where there are other kinds of trolls). Maybe there’s another of my favorite tunes you can drive into the ground, like Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” overture, perhaps?


Since I posted this memo, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” has shown up in more ads, trailers and films. I think people are now doing it just to torment us. Here are some of the additions:

The trailer for Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip”:

There was also a bumper (pre-show thingy) during the Tribeca Film Festival that used the tune. I can’t seem to find that one online, though.

Stay tuned, as we’re sure to see this trend continue.


A sequence in the film history documentary “American Grindhouse”:

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