Thursday, May 21, 2015

But That's All in the Movies, It Won't Happen to You: Films Based on Songs

Lots of movies and songs share the same name, mostly because the latter was written purposely for the former. Movies that are based on songs are a rarer breed, and run the gamut from exploitive to silly to art-house serious. Herewith are some of the best (and worst).

1. The Indian Runner/"Highway Patrolman", Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen's work has always had a cinematic feel, and a lot of his best songs would make great movies. Certified Bruce Pal Sean Penn wrote and directed this 1991 drama that features Viggo Mortensen and David Morse as Frank and Joe Roberts, the ill-fated brothers in Springsteen's song. 

2. Ode to Billy Joe, Bobby Gentry

This weird, moody song gave me shivers as a kid. The TV movie tried to make sense of the lyrics, but failed to undo the song's mystery.

3. The Legend of Tom Dooley/"Tom Dooley", The Kingston Trio

Folk songs have nothing on horror films when it comes to violence and murder, and "Tom Dooley" is no exception.

4. Bad Romance, Lady Gaga

This 2011 film is in fact based on Mother Monster's hit.

5. Born in East L.A., Cheech Marin

Technically based on two songs: Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" and Cheech's own parody. The video for the song was hilarious, but stretching the joke out to movie-length was pushing it.

6. Harper Valley PTA, Jeannie C. Riley

This goofy tune not only inspired a TV film but also a failed TV series, both starring I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden.

7. The Gambler, Kenny Rogers

The first song on this list to feature the singer in the lead role of the film adaptation, of which there were several.

Laura Schetelich adds:

Alice's Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie

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