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Where have I heard that tune before? The music behind recent film trailers

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Because film trailers are sometimes cut before the full music score of a film can be completed, additional music from elsewhere has to be sourced and used instead.

Over the years, there have been many cases where music from other films has been licensed and recut (and sometimes rearranged) as the ‘trailer theme’ of a new film.

Take The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, for example, which completely re-tooled and re-recorded Clint Mansell’s eerie score for Requiem for a Dream so it could work in their trailer.

This trend has reached new heights over recent months - here are some recent examples of re-used scores and recognisable tunes used to establish forthcoming movies: 

Film Trailer: Cinderella

Trailer Music: ‘Morning Passages’ from the score for The Hours by Philip Glass

Kenneth Branagh’s sumptuous-looking new ‘vision’ (as Disney like to call it) of the classic fairytale hits cinemas this month, and it’s quite likely the studio are hoping to repeat their massive success with Tim Burton’s live-action Alice in Wonderland in 2010 (which took over a billion). For the trailer, the studio have sidestepped using the film’s original score by Patrick Doyle and have instead harnessed the music of Philip Glass.

Specifically, his composition ‘Morning Passages’ from his score for Stephen Daldry’s film The Hours, performed by the Lyric Quartet. Listen to it here. 


Film Trailer: Fantastic Four

Trailer Music: ‘Broadchurch Main Title’ from the score for Broadchurch by Ólafur Arnalds

A bit of an odd one this. Why on earth Twentieth Century Fox chose to use the iconic and haunting main theme to Broadchurch as the prominent leading track in their Fantastic Four trailer is anyone’s guess.

Sure, Arnald’s original music for the show is superb and he is a genius composer, but as the trailer was released during the height of the show’s second series, it’s no wonder fans were confused. It’s quite effective, but makes you feel as if David Tennant or Olivia Colman might arrive any second to investigate the death of one of the superheroes.

Also, by coincidence (considering our previous pick), the original score for the film will be written by Philip Glass. Listen to the full track here.


Film Trailer: Mad Max: Fury Road

Trailer Music: ‘Dies Irae (Requiem)’ by Giuseppe Verdi

 A famous choral piece, epic in scale and slightly enhanced to fit the trailer, Mad Max: Fury Road, ramps up the strange, operatic and bonkers feel it seems to be going for with some Verdi.

Itself an adaptation of the Roman Catholic mass (Requiem), it’s not surprising the music has an almost spiritual quality; breathtaking in scope and power. It’s use in the trailer certainly packs a punch. Listen to the original piece of music here.


Film Trailer: Godzilla

Trailer Music: ‘Requiem’ by György Ligeti

It’s amazing how much of an influence on music (and movie trailers, as a result) the Roman Catholic mass has had. Those who said ‘the devil has the best tunes’ was actually talking rubbish.

God has the best tunes, though it’s hard to call Ligeti’s discordant, hellish, unsettling-to-the-point-of-terrifying adaptation of the Requiem tuneful. Coincidentally, once again, he uses the 'Dies Irae', not that it’s very recognisable, but the more intense part of the long track is perfect for conjuring up a sense of impending doom needed for Godzilla.

The finished film featured a nuanced and beautifully written score by in-demand Oscar and BAFTA winner (and Harry Potter composer) Alexandre Desplat. Listen to the full piece of music here.


Film Trailer: Need for Speed

Trailer Music: ‘Sarajevo’ by Max Ritcher

Max Ritcher’s music has been compared to Philip Glass and other minimalist composers due to his repetitive developing themes, so a lot of his music (like Glass) features a heavy romantic and filmic influence.

His track ‘Sarejevo’ has proved popular with film trailers. Performed by the BBC Philharmonic, it’s portentious and operatic quality has been used for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, but it’s most recent incarnation has been as the theme for last year’s Need for Speed movie. The music seems way to serious for the daftness of the film (get over yourselves! You’re a video-game movie with dubious morals) and doesn’t quite work. But the music is epic.


Film Trailer: The Theory of Everything

Trailer Music: ‘Runaway Horses’ by Philip Glass

We just can’t get away from Philip Glass, can we. He is amazing and it’s no wonder why trailer makers turn to his back-catalogue so readily when cutting together their promos.

The track they chose for Stephen Hawking drama The Theory of Everything is actually not too dissimilar from Jóhann Jóhannsson (and the film also used some tracks from a flamingo documentary, The Crimson Wing, composed by The Cinematic Orchestra). 'Runaway Horses' has some classic Glass energy (and unusually optimistic in tone). A perfect choice. Listen to the full piece of music here.


Film Trailer: X Men: Days of Future Past

Trailer Music: ‘Adagio in D Minor’ form the original score for Sunshine by John Murphy, and ‘Journey to the Line’ from the original score for The Thin Red Line by Hans Zimmer

Two movies get their scores reused in the trailer for Bryan Singer’s X Men: Days of Future Past. One is Danny Boyle’s underrated science fiction thriller Sunshine, a movie that has lived on more through its music than anything else.

In fact, its score has been used in everything from the trailers for Gravity and The Adjustment Bureau, to being integrated (in a hit or miss way) into the scores of Kick-Ass and The Walking Dead, and even an advert for movie website It’s now becoming a trailer-cliche.

The other track sampled is from Hans Zimmer’s score to The Thin Red Line. It’s appropriate thanks to its emotive, everything’s-gonna-end-and-go-bang-and-we’ll-all-cry feel. 

Listen to ‘Adagio in D Minor’ here.

Listen to ‘Journey to the Line’ here.

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