A National Anthem is like the offically recognized Theme Song of a country, usually (but not always) officially recognized by the government. Due to their iconic status they tend to show up in media a lot.
The usage may vary: Sometimes they are used straight, as a kind of Regional Riff or because the story takes place in a context (such as a sports event or ceremony) where a National Anthem would normally be played. Often fictional countries are given equally fictional National Anthems. Sometimes real ones (or the tendency for people to sing them very badly) are mocked.
A common (and Truth in Television) joke is that no one knows all the verses of their National Anthem. Usually only one or two verses are sung, and the contents of later verses might often shock people.
Some songs are NOT National Anthems but are often confused for them.
Many countries with monarchies also has a separate Royal Anthem that is basically the monarch's personal Leitmotif. The UK is somewhat unusual in that the royal anthem is also the National Anthem. This is tied to individual countries of the UK all having their own de facto anthem, played at sporting events.
See also Patriotic Fervor. Quite often involves a kind of Scenery Porn in the lyrics.
A national anthem being used straight:Anime and Manga
One strip in Axis Powers Hetalia plays with the fact that the National Anthems of England and Lichtenstein have the very same melody, based in a real football event the characters were reenacting.
Casablanca has a famous scene: The German soldiers at Rick's are singing Die Wacht am Rhein, effectively lording their superiority over everyone; in response, the infuriated French expatriates, sympathizers, and loyalists drown them out with La Marseillaise. (Actually, Die Wacht am Rhein wasn't the Third Reich's national anthem, but Das Horst-Wessel-Lied was under copyright to the Nazi Party, and might have gotten Warner Brothers in legal trouble if the film was played in neutral nations, so they changed it out. It still worked, however, because Die Wacht am Rhein is specifically a German patriotic anthem about fighting against the French.)
Horst Wessel was the anthem of the Nazi Party, not of Germany itself during World War II, although the it was often played at official functions as if it was the national anthem. The official national anthem of Germany was, as it still is, Deutschlandlied.
It's important to note that since the second world war was ongoing while Casablanca was film the French extras in the bar were actually terrified as they though the actors playing German were real Germans. Indeed, most of the refugees from the Nazis in that movie are played by genuine refugees from the Nazis.
The film of The Hunt for Red October features the Soviet National Anthem being sung by the crew of Red October when the silent drive is first engaged, resulting in Jonesy, the sonar operator of USS Dallas, hearing a brief snatch of this on his sonar.
It's also playing in Admiral Padorin's office.
Also in Waterloo, Nino Rota uses Deutschlandlied as a menacing and ominous Leitmotif for Field Marschal Blücher and the Prussian army. This is wrong on several levels, as Joseph Haydn's tune at the time of the battle (1815) was used only as the Austrian anthem, the text of the Deutschlandlied was only written in 1841, it only became the official German national anthem in 1922, and the national anthem of Prussia actually was Heil Dir im Siegerkranz, which is set to the tune of God Save the King.
In the Irish film The Wind That Shakes the Barley, the main characters have been imprisoned in a small jail by the British Army, and as one of their number is taken away for torture, they sing the Irish National Anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann, to help him endure. However, Amhrán na bhFiann was not adopted as the national anthem until 1926, 5 years after the movie takes place.
In La Vie En Rose, a young Edith Piaf is told to "do something" for the crowd by her street performer father, and after a brief hesitation, she lets loose with a brassy, powerful rendition of "La Marseillaise." See it here.
The main characters in Canadian Bacon mock the Canadian national anthem when they visit for a hockey game. No one cares, until the Americans insult Canadian beer...
Played for Laughs in Tora! Tora! Tora!. The band at Pearl Harbor is playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" when the Japanese attack, and the conductor makes them finish up quickly before they run for their lives.
In Stephen King's The Stand, a virus wipes out 99% of the population of America (and presumably the rest of the world). The survivors group in Boulder and try to form a state. At the end of their first meeting, they sing "The Star-Spangled Banner", which leaves half of the people in tears, since America is no more.
In Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and many movie scores, such as that to Sergey Bondarchuk's Waterloo (1970), La Marseillaise is used as a Leitmotif for Napoleon, his Empire and/or his Army. This is actually incorrect - the tune was banned for most of his reign (the official anthem of the First Empire was Veillons au salut de l'Empire), and Napoleon only suffered it to be played again when France was invaded in 1814.
1812 Overture incorporates elements of the Tsarist-era Russian national anthem to signify Russian triumph. As this was frowned upon during the Soviet era, tune from another piece of popular patriotic music was often substituted in its place when it was performed in USSR. Ironically, the music that was substituted is titled Life for the Tsar, composed by ardent monarchist Mikhail Glinka.
During the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila had won, but the Japanese orchestra played their national anthem during his victory rather than Ethiopia's because they didn't know it (and didn't expect an Ethiopian to win).
In the classic Mel Brooks sketch, the 2000-year-old man recalls that his cave's national anthem was "Let 'Em All Go To Hell Except Cave 76".
Les Luthiers give us two examples: the "Song to the Independence of Feudalia" (a country as independent as you'd expect from its name), and "La Comision", in which Hilarity Ensues when two corrupt politicians and one inept musician have to modify the national anthem of their (unnamed) country to include propaganda for the ruling party.
Top Secret! has a fake East German national anthem. The real one is actually kind of neat.
Hail, hail East Germany, land of fruit and grape Land where you'll regret if you try to escape No matter if you tunnel under or take a running jump at the wall Forget it, the guards will kill you, if the electrified fence doesn't first.
In one of John Sladek's satirical science fiction novels note That's right, this troper remembered the quote but forgot the exact source it's mentioned that some people are singing different lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner", viz:
The original Battlestar Galactica theme was used as the basis for the anthem of the Twelve Colonies in the reimagined series. Before unification, each Colony had its own anthem. We hear that of Caprica on couple occasions.
The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Take Me Out To the Holosuite" has, (what is assumed to be) the Federation national anthem played before the game.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake contained a casette tape which played the Zanzibar Land National Anthem. If soldiers heard this, they'd freeze in place to salute for the duration of the song (which lasted thirty seconds - presumably it was the song's opening or final bars). If played too often, the tape will warp and skip, and soldiers will stop responding to it and merely investigate the source of the music. There's a fanfic where Snake was actually singing it, and wrote the lyrics. The anthem sounds suspiciously like We Wish You a Merry Christmas, of all things.
YouTube commentator: Big Boss wishes you a Merry Christmas!
In one of his winquotes in Advance Wars: Dual Strike, Olaf sings the Blue Moon national anthem, which is apparently "O Canada" with Blue Moon instead of Canada. Seriously, it goes "Oh, Blue Moon, my home and native land..."
In Ace Combat 04, after destroying the Aegir fleet, the pilots in the air begin to sing the Usean anthem, complete with "WOOHOO!" at the end.
In Futurama, Bender enters the Olympics as a competitor from the fictional country Robonia. At the medals ceremony, he sings its national anthem:
Hail, hail Robonia A land I didn't make up
In the episode of Phineas and Ferb called "Hail Doofania!", Doofenshmirtz writes the national anthem for Doofania, a city he builds for himself to get away from his brother.
In the Animaniacs episode "King Yakko," the Anvilania national anthem, which simply consists of singing "Anvilania" three times to music that puts listeners to sleep, is featured.
Songs that are not national anthems but sometimes confused for them:Film
In at least one movie, The Internationale was called the Soviet Anthem — and "The Internationale" was the Soviet Anthem from the founding of the USSR to 1944. However, there is nothing national about The Internationale, so it was replaced with a real national anthem, whose melody is now used for the Russian national anthem. Of course, the USSR was most interesting after WWII. The anthem used to be a poem about Stalin's glory and Bad Ass -ness. Nikita Khrushchev unpersoned Joseph Stalin and for 24 years, the USSR had a national anthem with a tune but no words. An awesome tune, but still...no words.
Used for a gag in the Australian film The Dish: the US ambassador to Australia is attending a reception in the middle-of-nowhere township of Parkes, since the local radio telescope is to be used to relay the TV broadcast from Apollo 11 the next day. The MC announces the US national anthem, and the ambassador straightens up and puts his hand on his heart, only for the clueless local band to launch into the theme tune for Hawaii Five-O. Cue very awkward looks all round.
"Rule Britania" will sometimes be used as a British theme in place of "God Save the Queen" (probably because "God Save the Queen" uses the same tune as "My Country 'Tis of Thee").
In Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, a group of Americans, in a moment of Patriotic Fervor, sings "Yankee Doodle''. Admittedly, at the time Verne was writing, the United States did not have a national anthem.
At the 1920 Olympic Games "O Sole Mio" was performed instead of the Italian National Anthem.
Apparently many seem to be under the impression that "Waltzing Matilda" is the Australian National Anthem. There have been genuine calls to make it the Australian anthem, however, and it is thought of by some as an "unofficial national anthem". Under conservative Malcolm Fraser's Prime Ministership, Waltzing Matilda was one of four official Australian National Anthems, as well as the current one, God Save the Queen, and... some other one. This confused situation was instituted due to a conservative desire to retain God Save the Queen (swapped by previous PM Whitlam for what exists now), and was basically a quirky compromise. (Eventually, Australia adopted the same, less-quirky compromise as Canada and the rest of the Commonwealth, whereby "God Save the Queen" is the country's "royal anthem" used for state occasions where the monarch or viceroy is there; this leaves Waltzing Matilda entirely out of luck.)
Due to the difficulty of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (as well as the fact that, true story, it wasn't adopted until 1931 as the official Anthem), earlier works may have "My Country, 'Tis of Thee,"note which is To The Tune Of "God Save the Queen/King," for extra confusion "Hail, Columbia," "America the Beautiful" or "The Stars and Stripes Forever" instead.
"Flower of Scotland" is used more often than "Scotland the Brave" for the anthem of Scotland, especially during sports. That's because, while there is no official anthem, there was a poll conducted by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and it beat out Scotland the Brave.
In Rugby Union tests, Ireland's national team sings "Ireland's Call", an anthem written specifically for them, as the team represents both Northern Irelandnote for whom the national anthem would be "God Save the Queen", as it is part of the UK and the Republic of Irelandnote whose national anthem is "The Soldier's Song". In countries where rugby is popular but other contact with Ireland is infrequent, such as "the Tri Nations" of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, "Ireland's Call" is often confused for Ireland's national anthem.
See above for the status of Horst Wessel in Nazi Germany. To be fair, Nazis did use the song like the national anthem and they did run the country.
Back on Axis Powers Hetalia, in one of the Canada strips... well, isn't exactly the inability of his people of sing his anthem, but their inability of coordinately sing the anthem in the same language...
The aliens on 3rd Rock from the Sun start to sing their home-world's anthem in one episode. None of them can remember the lyrics after the first few lines so they just sort of hum it until they reach the end, which they all remember as "something something ...spaceship!"
They also screw up the American anthem in the episode "Red, White, & Dick", which is about them discovering Patriotic Fervor. Note they had somehow never heard it after having lived on Earth in America for six years, which is just one example of how the Fish out of Water premise had been stretched beyond all logic by that point.
An episode of 30 Rock included a flashback where Tracy attempts to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a sporting event. See here for the results.
In a Hannah Montana episode, Miley gets her wires crossed whilst rehearsing for a production of Romeo and Juliet, and accidentally adds "Through yonder window breaks" to "The Star-Spangled Banner"
In The Simpsons episode "Lisa on Ice", Krusty the Clown tries to sing the American anthem at Bart and Lisa's hockey game, but it doesn't go well. As he gets booed, he mutters "I shouldn't have turned down those cue cards...".
Former Conservative Secretary of State for Wales John Redwood has never lived down his attempt to fake his way through the Welsh National Anthem at a televised event in 1993. Although, to his credit, he did later learn the words. His successor, William Hague, didn't want to repeat that experience, so asked a civil servant in Wales, Ffion Jenkins, to teach him the words. Hague then married her. So I'm sure he was grateful for Redwood's slip up.
The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team were criticised in 1994 for not singing along with the national anthem at the beginning of tests. This famous Bob Brockie cartoon makes several suggestions why.
Televised sporting events. Some of the more notable screw-ups for the US Anthem are as follows:
This woman at a hockey game forgets the words part-way in, leading her to retreat and get cue cards. But then, when she comes back out, she slips on the ice.
At the 2011 Super Bowl, Christina Aguilera did a pretty good job with the actual singing part... but the lines she missed were definitely noticeable.
Not exactly a screwup, but: At Game 4 of the 2011 World Series, Zooey Deschanelsang it in her typically soulful, kind of melancholic way. This caused a bit of controversy among those expecting a more traditional, "triumphant" rendition, and led to criticisms of her version as too quiet and "dirge-like" and therefore unpatriotic. Never mind that the "Star-Spangled Banner" is actually kind of a bittersweet song if you look at the lyrics (it boils down to "Oh my God, oh my God, we're going to lose this battle...but wait! There's the flag! We haven't lost...yet.", which is the story of the Battle of Fort McHenry. They do win, by the way...but not for a few more hours).
Not a screw-up, but at an NHL game in Montreal, the Canadian audience (not all, but a noticeable portion) booed the US anthemnote This took place shortly after the controversial announcement that the NHL commissioner (an American) would not support the reformation of the Quebec Nordiques, either as a new team or by moving one of the struggling American teams to Canada.. The commentators spent the rest of the game apologizing for it.
Possibly an intentional screw-up: Sweden hosted the world cup in skiing. Norway won, and the Norwegian national anthem had to be performed. The Swedish band managed to get the chords wrong, and the result was so lame, it resulted in a lot of snarks and insults from the Norwegian side. Only to underline the point that not even the harmonies of a national anthem should be messed with.