The Best Uses Of David Bowie’s Discography In Cinema

Labyrinth  Year: 1986  Director: Jim Henson  David Bowie

Labyrinth Year: 1986 Director: Jim Henson David Bowie

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

The world was dealt a major blow when we all learned that David Bowie passed away at 69-years-old. Cancer robbed us of the multi-talent, however, his legacy and artistry lives on for new generations to discover. He changed the face of music, art and performance. His indelible iconography still thrives. In fact, he had just released a new album only a few weeks ago. Needless to say, this news comes as quite the shock.

Since most of us around here are genuinely heartbroken, surprised and emotionally raw about Bowie’s sudden passing, I thought it necessary to take a moment with an open heart to gush about the use of his music in cinema. He’s starred in, composed, produced and directed numerous films. But what I want to discuss is the way other filmmakers have tapped into his melodic emotions to help execute their own sound and vision.

“Modern Love” is a modern classic and filmmakers love it. It’s easy to hear (and see) why.

I can’t find clips but it was also used recently in the kids’ birthday party sequence in SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE, when the couple crashes their married friends’ child’s birthday party whilst “rolling on molly.” Hilarity ensues.

“Let’s Dance” is used very briefly in ZOOLANDER, a cult comedy Bowie makes an unexpected cameo in.

I suppose if we count ZOOLANDER, we must count LABYRINTH.


“Fashion” makes an indelible appearance in CLUELESS as Cher (Alicia Silverstone) figures out her daily wardrobe culled from her covetable closet.

A KNIGHT’S TALE did a cover of “Golden Years” that led into Bowie’s version.

Director Baz Luhrmann looked to Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” for this delirious sequence in MOULIN ROUGE.

Director Quentin Tarantino loved Bowie’s song “Cat People (Putting Out Fire) from CAT PEOPLE so much that he put it in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

Other good uses of Bowie’s music (that I can’t find the clips from):

– “Young Americans” from SIXTEEN CANDLES, played as the family loads into the car for the wedding to find Long Duk Dong (Gedde Wantanabe) “drunk as a skunk” on the front lawn. It was also used in DOGVILLE, MANDERLAY, and LORD OF WAR.
– “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” over the end credits of SEVEN, post chilling, haunting horrors unfolding.
– “China Girl” used in THE WEDDING SINGER as Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s characters bond in a clu and fall in love.
– “Starman” in THE MARTIAN during a long montage.

There are many, many, many more cinematic sequences that have used Bowie’s magic to enhance their effectiveness. What are some of your favorites?

RIP, David Bowie. It’s us that are hitting an all-time low.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.