movies, music, scores

Films Love Debussy


What do the following films have in common?

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Twilight (s) 2008,2011

Atonement (2007)

Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) & Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Man on Fire (2004)

Dog Soldiers (2002)

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Seven Years in Tibet (1997)

The Game (1997)

Frankie and Johnny (1991)

The Right Stuff (1983)

Giant (1956)

They all contain Claude Debussy’s third movement of Suite bergamasque called “Clair de Lune” (1890), French, for the pale-green moon. No idea what I’m talking about? Well, if you have five minutes, watch this cut scene from Disney’s Fantasia (1940).


I wonder if there’s a more used tune in filmology?

I love this animated version where you can “see” the music. This is Debussy’s “First Arabesque” with a similar tone.

The diversity of films which contain “Clair de Lune” amazes me. In an ugly film like Dog Soldiers, do they need to insert beauty as a relief to balance out the scene? In films like Atonement, the haunting classical movement evokes longing and enhances the elegance of the film. Why else would so many genres employ Claude’s work?

DogSoldiers_1554 atonement

Do you agree?

Which song or classical movement have you heard countless times in films?

13 thoughts on “Films Love Debussy”

  1. WOW, this is quite educational Cindy. I had never heard of “Clair de Lune” nor Debussy but yeah, I certainly have heard of this work in various films. I LOVE the score of Atonement, it’s quite elegant and haunting.


    1. I was awestruck at the beauty of this piece and having been a devout Rachmoninov fan, it has been wonderful getting to know and fall in love with Debussy’s work. Then, I recalled a few films with that theme and went exploring and discovered how many films employed this awesome theme. 🙂


  2. I love Debussy, but I have mixed feelings about Clair de Lune being popularized by so many movies which could have used other pieces, and they are the culprits in making the piece a cliché. ( Guess this is the purist in me reacting.) On an another note–ha, pun–one vote here for Rachmaninoff. 🙂


    1. I am glad for your comment, Opalla. I agree but will be an optimist and say I am glad people come to appreciate classical music by any medium. Movies are a powerful teacher and a great way to expose beauty to everyone…my complaint would be select other pieces for he is FAB in many ways….


  3. It’s a wonderful piano piece, for sure. And it’s well represented in film, as you’ve detailed. Oh, and it’s Gimme Shelter that I keep hearing all over the place ;-).


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