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Public Domain Soundtrack
"American movie makers have always held a deep reverence for composers whose works lie in the public domain."
Cecil Adams

Classical music and folk songs seem to show up an awful lot as background music. Sometimes it conveys culture or time period. Sometimes they just sound cool or appropriate. Sometimes the answer lies in legalities. There's just less red tape in the public domain.

Music in the public domain has no need to license the melody or a Suspiciously Similar Song. There has also been an emergence of free music, some of which even has a free license for commercial use.

See the subtrope: Amazing Freaking Grace.

For those pieces with well-entrenched meanings, see Standard Snippet. Rock Me, Amadeus! is a related trope where classical music (public domain or otherwise) gets sampled or remixed.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Multiple Media 
  • Independent media in general, particularly student or other amateur projects, out of necessity due to having No Budget. Kevin Mac Leod of Incompetech probably makes a good half of his income supplying library music for such endeavours.
    Anime 
  • The founder of anime as we know it, Osamu Tezuka, based two animated works on this trope. His 1966 Pictures at an exhibition is an animated interpretation of Musorgsky's suite of the same name. And his last (and unfinished) animated work, "Legend of the forest'', is a Tear Jerker story (coupled with a history of animation itself) set to Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony (Tezuka apparently intended to animate the entire symphony, but only the First and Fourth Movements were completed before Author Existence Failure).
  • The final episode of Irresponsible Captain Tylor makes EPIC use of Suppe's "Light Cavalry Overture" for one of the greatest Bait and Switch of all time. It has to seen to be believed.
  • The ending theme to Dragon Half is a medley of Beethoven symphonies... with newly written lyrics about omelettes. (No, seriously.)
  • Digimon Adventure featured Ravel's "Bolero".
  • Fate/stay night uses the "Lacrimosa" from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem in a flashback in the fourth episode. (You'll hear his name a lot on this page.)
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion uses the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" in its 22nd episode, and "Ode To Joy" (Beethoven's Ninth, Fourth Movement) in its 24th. There's a fair amount of Lyrical Dissonance: Asuka's Mind Rape by an Angel is set to"Hallelujah," and"Ode To Joy" amounts to Kaworu's theme and plays as he almost destroys the world.
  • Not wanting Evangelion's reputation for Soundtrack Dissonance to come into question, the second Rebuild of Evangelion film is sure to make soul-searing use of not one, but two Japanese folk songs.
  • Episode 6 of Azumanga Daioh, the field day episode, has a field day with this trope: "Csikos Post," "Camptown Races," Offenbach's "Infernal Gallop" ("The Cancan Song"), "Clarinet Polka," Kabalevsky's Comedians, and "Turkey in the Straw" are all featured as background music.
    • Aren't they typical tunes played at Japanese school athletic festivals? Turkey in the Straw is anyway.
  • Mahou Shoujo-Tai Arusu (Tweeny Witches) has a peppy J-Pop ending theme based on "The Beautiful Blue Danube".
  • The Area 88 TV series used a techno remix of Bach's "Little Fugue in G Minor" for its opening theme song.
    • As did the series Nazca.
  • Other than the opening and ending themes, Legend of Galactic Heroes uses classical music for the entirety of its soundtrack.
    • Mahler's 6th and 3rd are associated with the Empire.
  • The theme of Iketeru Futari is a J Pop song called "Fall in YOU" — which suddenly takes up the tune of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for ten seconds in the middle. Seriously!
  • One of the episodes of Sailor Moon has Sailor Uranus searching for Sailor Neptune and ending up getting damaged, and to the tune of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, no less.
  • The song "Journey to the Sun" from Endless Waltz uses the familiar ten-note refrain from "Jingle Bells"; appropriate, since the movie's events center on Christmas.
  • Princess Tutu, being themed around ballet, uses plenty of classical themes.
  • The same counts for Nodame Cantabile, which makes sense for a series about classical musicians.
  • Kemeko Deluxe! used Beethoven's "Ode To Joy"note  when Izumi's bikini top falls off and she lands an Armor-Piercing Slap on Sanpeita.
  • The Big O utilizes Chopin's Prelude No. 15, aka "The Raindrop Prelude".
  • Giant Robo The Animation has "Una Furtiva Lagrima" from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. It also has an original composition based on "Dies Irae" that briefly features the melody of the original hymn.
  • Black Butler uses the "Queen of the Night's Revenge" aria from Mozart's opera The Magic Flute at the start of Episode 5.
    • The OST of .hack//Roots features a song based on this aria as well.
  • Ghost Stories Episode 4 prominently features Beethoven's famous piano composition, "Fur Elise".
  • FLCL used Kabalevsky's "Comedians" for a hectic chase scene.
  • In Black Cat, main villain Creed Disketh played the Third Movement to Giovanni Battista Pescetti's "Sonata in C Minor" for piano several times.
  • The final episode of the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist contains two arrangements of Chopin's Etude #3 as background music.
    • The First Movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony can be heard in Episodes 49 and 50 as well.
    • In the English dub, Zolf J. Kimblee can be heard humming Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in Episode 39.
  • Ride Back features "The Great Gate of Kiev" from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" as a recurring motif.
  • Excel♥Saga uses Beethoven's Ode to Joy in Episode 2 where Menchi tries to escape. She's surrounded by a rainbow and cherubs while the track plays. Skip to 5:00 and 6:20 to see.
  • Gunslinger Girl plays "Ode to Joy" in one episode, making that moment work much better than just reading the words did in the manga.
    • One episode of the second season features an arrangement of "Scarborough Fair".
  • Obscure anime Fighting Foodons used the tune of Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld Overture" for its dub theme song.
  • Gankutsuou likes this trope, too. Tchaikovsky's "Manfred Symphony" is used a lot—the First Movement is the Count's own theme and excerpts from latter movements are also used here and there. Eugénie plays the First Movement (edited, though) of Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2" and Schumann's "Traumerei" during her performance in the Opera, on Luna Albert and Franz meet the Count during a performance of "Lucia di Lammermoor", later in Paris the Count invites Albert to a performance of "Robert le Diable"... and the opening theme song is based partly on Chopin's "Etude Op.10 No.3."
  • Done wonderfully in the R-18 rated Shoujo Sect, in which Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", Debussy's "Claire de Lune", Bach's "Little Fugue in G Minor" were used.
  • The "Moonlight Sonata" also features on Detective Conan, as part of a mystery.
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya uses Tchaikovsky's Fourth, Shostakovich's Seventh, and music from Ravel's ballet Daphnis et Chloé in "The Day of Sagittarius" and Mahler's Eighth in the finale. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya features Satie's Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes along with "Je te veux".
  • Black Lagoon uses Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" from the opera "Die Walküre" in episode 6.
  • The Naruto OST features a piece based on the fugue from Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor".
    • Bleach's soundtrack also has two pieces that use segments of the above piece.
  • One Piece Episode 86 very appropriately uses Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria".
    • In Episode 126, Antonín Dvořák's "From the New World" is played when Luffy and Crocodile launch their final attacks on each other.
  • Episode 6 of Ouran High School Host Club used Mozart's "Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major".
  • Not quite background music, but still: The use of Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" in the fourth Ranma 1/2 opening.
  • Tegami Bachi frequently features Johann Sebastian Bach's "Air in D Major" from Orchestral Suite No. 3 as background music, as well as his Sonata for "Solo Violin No. 1 in G Minor".
  • Romeox Juliet uses the aria "Lascia ch'io pianga" from George Frederic Handel's opera "Rinaldo".
  • The score of Puella Magi Madoka Magica features arrangements of a few classical pieces, including the Bach/Gounod "Ave Maria", Claude Debussy's "La Fille aux Chevaux de Lin", and Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise Op. 34 No. 14".
  • The OVA of Kaze to Ki no Uta has a lot of classical pieces, fittingly enough. The most notable is Chopin's "Étude Op. 25 No. 11".
  • Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine uses an arrangement of J. S. Bach's "Invention 13 in A minor".
  • The Familiar of Zero Season 2 Episode 6 uses the "Largo" from Handel's opera "Xerxes".
  • Blood+ features Chopin's "Raindrop Prelude", Brahms' "Lullaby", the Second Movement of Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 21", and Haydn's "Emperor" string quartet and "Surprise" symphony.
  • Hyouka uses Bach's "Air on the G String" and Gabriel Fauré's "Sicilienne" frequently.
  • Minami-ke uses the first movement of Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings in C Major Op. 48" whenever Hosaka gets a little over the top.
  • Fairy Tail has some rather frequent public domain tracks:
    • "Habanera" from Carmen is most frequently used as the leitmotif of the Magic Council.
    • The Cancan Song typically plays whenever there's a Bar Brawl.
    • One of the official soundtracks has a track titled "Ifuu Doudou". Its meaning? "Pomp and Circumstance", aka the "Graduation Song".
    • "Air on the G String" plays during Juvia's first appearance in Episode 21.
    • Expect to hear "Also Sprach Zarathustra" when Juvia starts Chewing the Scenery, such as when she mistakes Lucy for her rival for Gray's affections in Episode 25.
    • Another official track, "Rakuen no Tou", is actually a shortened version of Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2".
    • Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" plays during one of Juvia's Imagine Spots on Sirius Island.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey was renowned for its use of classical music in its soundtrack, and most people will automatically identify the song "Also Sprach Zarathustra" with the movie — with one exception (see below).
    • Though it wasn't all public domain — Györgi Ligeti's music was altered and used without his permission, and Ligeti threatened to sue Kubrick and MGM.
    • Originally the classical pieces were merely used to set the general pace for an original score by Alex North, but Kubrick obviously knew awesome when he heard it.
  • Kubrick, a lover of classical music, used this trope frequently and masterfully. The entirety of the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange is comprised of classical pieces (fittingly, since the protagonist is expressly stated to be a classical music buff, which even becomes a plot point), some of them arranged for a moog synthesizer to lend them a surreal, nightmarish quality. The Shining did the same.
  • In Dr. Strangelove, every scene of the bomber crew is accompanied by an orchestral arrangement of When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again/Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya, two folksongs which share a tune, but very different tones.
  • Spielberg imitated Kubrick in Minority Report, using "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and Schubert's "Unfinished" symphony.
  • Both The Hudsucker Proxy and Ice Age 2 use Adagio from Spartacus.
  • The song "Classico" in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny is a medley of numerous classical tunes, with very profane lyrics.
  • The Japanese film Tampopo uses excerpts of Mahler symphonies and Liszt's "Les Preludes".
  • Kramer Vs Kramer used Vivaldi's Concerto in C major for mandolin and strings.
  • Partial example: While The Wizard of Oz contains many original songs, the background music also includes arrangements of Felix Mendelssohn's "Scherzo in E minor" and Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain".
  • Gattaca used a modified version of Franz Schubert's Impromptu in G-flat major, Op. 90, No. 3 with extra notes added for a concert scene involving a pianist genetically engineered with 12 fingers.
  • The above examples are only a very small sample: the use of classical music in Hollywood films is VERY frequent. Here is a more comprehensive (though not exhaustive) list.
  • Trailers for films (though mostly for TV Spots) use "Hall of the Mountain King" A LOT. Although in the UK the music is heavily associated with the Alton Towers theme park, so it always seems odd when it turns up anywhere else- for example the recent Windows Phone 7 advert, which has confused a lot of people (especially as it includes a clip of people on a rollercoaster).
    • Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" is very heavily used in trailers, particularly after a movie had debuted in theaters and is a box-office and/or critical success.
  • Hopscotch stars actor Walter Matthau and composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Puccini and Rossini make cameo appearances as well.
  • The original Dawn of the Dead features mostly library tracks for music. The Italian cut features additional original music by the band Goblin.
  • The King's Speech utilizes several pieces of classical music, including the Overture to Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and the allegretto from Beethoven's 7th Symphony.
  • The Baz Luhrmann Romeo + Juliet uses Mozart's 25th Symphony for the scene where the Capulets are preparing for their ball, though most of the rest of the music is original.
  • The entire soundtrack to Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is based off of "Swan Lake".
  • The 2010 remake of True Grit uses "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" as the theme for Mattie Ross, the main character, among other hymns. Unfortunately, because they were all pre-composed music, Mr. Carter Burwell was denied an Academy Award nomination.
  • The original Rollerball is notable for its use of classic music such as "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" and the "Adagio in G minor."
  • Help! was a showcase for a lot of Beatles songs, and much of the soundtrack was their tunes done in a James Bond style—but then they also used Wagner's 'Lohengrin', Tchaikovsky's '1812 Overture', Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy', and Rossini's 'Barber of Seville'.
  • The Flash Gordon (serial) used Franz Liszt's Les Preludes as its theme, eliciting the Cecil Adams page quote.
  • Most of Bloodbeat's soundtrack is made of public domain music, culminating in a climax with "Carmina Burana" blastig in the background.
  • Most of the background music of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is arrangements of "Poor Wandering One" from The Pirates of Penzance, including a Scare Chord moment when a radio alarm clock goes off. The father and son also sing from H.M.S. Pinafore while dad is shaving in the morning.
  • Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations plays at the end of ''Australia.

     Live Action TV 
  • Sousa's "Liberty Bell March" became the Monty Python's Flying Circus theme. Even the (ancient) recording they used must have been in the public domain.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Ravel's "Bolero" was used in "The Impossible Planet".
    • In the commentary for "The Christmas Invasion," Russell T Davies noted how happy composer Murray Gold was that "Jingle Bells" was out of copyright, and so could be rescored as incidental music in that episode.
    • Strauss's "Emperor Waltz" is the "soothing music" played in the Tardis in "Vincent and the Doctor."
  • Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" was used in the Scrubs episode "My Female Trouble".
  • Charles Gounod's Funeral March of a Marionette is more commonly known as the theme song to Alfred Hitchcock Presents
  • The restrictiveness of the scope of public domain music is parodied in Mystery Science Theater 3000 with the Mads' karaoke machine that plays only public domain songs, such as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", the immortal "Baa Baa Black Sheep", the turgid and bittersweet Gregorian Chant #5, the impish "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and Mozart's The Magic Flute.
  • The soundtrack to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is primarily public-domain easy listening music. Originally done because the show had a low budget, it's usually in contrast with the show's subject matter.
  • Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata was used in Forever Knight. Strains of it can be heard in the music used when Baltar is looking around the Cylon baseship in "Torn".
    • It is also used in the final moments of a biography of Tupac Shakur.
  • Unusual example: Lexx's Musical Episode wove a tragedy of love and loss out of German nursery rhyme tunes unfamiliar to English-speaking audiences. Other episodes had comedic versions of "Greensleeves" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat".
  • Lampshaded on iCarly, when Spencer is trapped in a heating vent and trying to amuse himself, "And now, a medley of your favorite songs from the public domain!"
    • And before that in iSpy a Mean Teacher, when Carly, Freddie, and Sam get caught in Ms. Briggs house they act like they were there to surprise her for her birthday, "Let's sing our public domain birthday song!"
  • An odd version occurred in Kamen Rider Decade, where fans were disappointed to discover that several awesome tracks weren't included on the official soundtrack (particularly from the World of Black RX arc). Eventually it was discovered that they were part of a public domain library...when someone heard one of the songs on Minute to Win It.
  • Mentioned on 30 Rock, when Jack states that it's "public domain week" on America's Kidz Got Singing:
    Jack: This week, America's kids sing really old songs that everyone knows and NBC doesn't have to pay for. It's brilliant!
  • The theme song of Barney & Friends is "Yankee Doodle". "I Love You" is "This Old Man".
  • Despite decades of wonderful original music composed for Sesame Street, what tune is used (with altered lyrics) to end every Elmo's World segment? "Jingle Bells."
    • Many preschool series (animated or live-action) will more often than not feature a number of, if not many traditional nursery rhymes, etc, including the above two shows.
  • Wings' Theme Tune was Franz Shubert's "Piano Sonata Number 20."
  • JAG: "Anchors Aweigh" and "The Marines Hymn" are played several times.
    • In "Boot", "The Marines Hymn" is sung by female Marines during an exercise.
    • In "Heroes", both Harm and Mac get to whistle their respective service song.

     Pinball 

     Professional Wrestling 
  • Whereas film lovers will identify "Also sprach Zarathustra" with 2001, in the mind of the wrestling fan, the song is synonymous with Ric Flair.
  • Jerry "The King" Lawler has long used Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" (Great Gate of Kiev Movement) as his entrance theme.
  • WWE wrestler The Undertaker's most common and well-known theme is a variation of Chopin's funeral march.
  • And who can forget Doink the Clown entering to "Entry of the Gladiators"? (as much as we wish we could.)
  • For a brief period at the height of his "American blueblood" gimmick, the WWF's Hunter Hearst Helmsley (better known today as Triple H) made his entrance to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".
  • Don't forget Randy Savage coming out to Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" (otherwise known as "the graduation song").
    • AKA "Land of Hope and Glory".
  • Much in the same line of Ric Flair, Daniel Bryan is now the definitive example of "Ride of the Valkyries" in the wrestling community.

    Radio 
  • The Lone Ranger on both radio and television used the finale of Rossini's William Tell overture ("March of the Swiss Soldiers") as its opening theme. To this day, one tongue-in-cheek definition of a "highbrow" is, "someone who can listent to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger."
    • And the radio series The Green Hornet used Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Flight of the Bumblebee'' for its opening theme, and a number of classical works as regular soundtrack bits. Both series were created by WXYZ's George W. Trendle, a notorious cheapskate, who was well known in the radio broadcast business for pinching his pennies in the production of his radio dramas. The film serials also used a classical soundtrack, unless the action on-screen demanded something else.
      • It worked beautifully, though, especially in The Lone Ranger. Who can forget Liszt's "Prelude to a Silver Bullet", and Mendelssohn's "Rustler's Cave Overture"? The damn thing was perfect. Few people can listen to "March of the Swiss Soldiers" without at least thinking "Hi-yo Silver!"
  • The opening music to You'll Have Had Your Tea: The Doings of Hamish And Dougal is a pipe version of the Rondo from Mozart's 4th Horn Concerto.

     Video Games 
  • Offenbach's "Infernal Gallop" (perhaps better known as "The Cancan Song"), from Orpheus in the Underworld, shows up a lot:
    • Lemmings, which also uses, among others, "How Much Is That Doggy In The Window,"(actually more of a Suspiciously Similar Song) "She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain," Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca, Pachelbel's Canon, Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and Swan Lake... you get the idea.
      • Oh No! More Lemmings had an original soundtrack in its Amiga/PC release. Its Acorn Archimedes port, however, had a rewritten soundtrack with an absolute crapload of public domain songs, even more than in the original game: "The Trumpet Hornpipe" (better known as the Captain Pugwash theme), "K-K-K-Katy", "Camptown Races", "Three Blind Mice", the Finale from the William Tell overture, "Greensleeves", "Old McDonald", "Waltzing Matilda", "The British Grenadiers", "On Ilka Moor Baht 'at", "Trepak", "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor", "Don't Dilly-Dally on the Way" (also used in the Master System and Game Gear ports of the first game), "Rule, Britannia!", "Sobre las Olas" (also used in Lemmings 2), "Yakety Sax", "Country Gardens" (also appearing in the SNES port of Lemmings 2), and finally "Portsmouth".
    • Parodius (for the Hot Lips boss), which uses even more than Lemmings, if that's even believable.
    • Mr. Do!.
    • Super Mario Land's invincibility music.
    • The boss music in Tiny Toon Adventures: Montana's Movie Madness. A minor-key variation is used for the between-stage interludes.
    • O2Jam, where it was one of the most popular songs.
    • Jubeat features a Eurobeat rendition titled "Heaven or Hell".
    • A remixed version plays during the credits roll of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom (unless you win as Roll).
    • Although the Ninja Hattori-Kun Famicom game's main theme is mostly an original tune, it quotes a few bars of "Orpheus in the Underworld".
    • The Japanese version of Crash Bash (retitled Crash Bandicoot Carnival) used a techno remix in the Dot Dash and Splash Dash minigames (the Western versions use a remix of Dingodile's theme from Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped).
  • The DSiWare downloadable Soul Of Darkness, Gameloft's Castlevania clone, uses the "Dies Irae" from Mozart's Requiem Mass for its credits music.
  • Space shooter ''Phoenix'' should be counted as one of the earliest examples, with its short excerpts of Romance de Amor and Beethoven's Für Elise.
  • Khatchaturian's Sabre Dance is another one that shows up pretty often, showing up in, among other places, the SNES Bonk game. And Parodius.
  • Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King shows up quite often as well, including Manic Miner for ZX Spectrum, Hunt the Wumpus for TI-99/4A, and... you guessed it... Parodius.
    • Also in the old space-sim-trader Elite.
  • ...Y'know what? Just check out The Other Wiki's entry on the music in Parodius.
    • Word of God is that, for the original MSX Parodius, the use of public domain music was due to the composer given a very strict deadline. This carried over to Parodius da!, and before long it was a series staple.
    • In La-Mulana, the PR3 Mini-Game parodies many elements of the original Parodius, right down to remixing classical songs; "Pomp and Circumstance" for the pre-stage area, "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" for the stage itself, and "Sabre Dance" for the boss.
  • Another TI-99/4A game, Alpiner, featured as its main music another song from Grieg's Peer Gynt soundtrack, "Anitra's Dance".
  • Did anyone know that iconic Spanish guitar solo in the beginning cutscene in Ace Combat 04, titled "Prelude", is actually Agustin Barrios Mangore's "La Catedral, 1st Movement" (hence "Prelude")? Some of his works are also featured in the cutscenes, such as "Una Limosnita Por (el) Amor de Dios" ("An Alm for the Love of God").
  • Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik starts off the arcade Mario Bros. game.
  • Frogger plays a snippet of Camptown Races whenever the title character dies, while levels are introduced by a variety of classical themes.
    • The "game start" jingle is "Inu no Omawari-san" ("The Dog Policeman"), which is a traditional Japanese nursery rhyme. The line the game plays is the first one, which goes "Maigo no maigo no koneko-chan. Anata no ouchi wa doko desu ka?" ("Lost, lost kitten, where is your address?")
    • The Commodore 64 version employs a sort of mash-up/medley theme that very notably includes Yankee Doodle. Yankee Doodle also appears in the arcade version.
  • In Earthworm Jim, the background music in the second level, "What the Heck?", starts off with Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain before switching suddenly to elevator music.
  • Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata provides two backing tracks in Earthworm Jim 2; another level uses a medley of "Funiculi, Funicula" and "Tarantella".
  • Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (First Movement) also shows up in the title screen and ending of Thexder (and its more fully-scored sequel Fire Hawk), as well as Jet Set Willy.
  • The NES version of Tetris used Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy"... and, on the victory screen, the Soldiers' Chorus from Bizet's Carmen. The Game Boy version, on the other hand, used the Russian folk song "Korobeiniki" (and another Tchiakovsky piece, "Trepak" from The Nutcracker as victory music). In fact, the Tetris Company has trademarked the use of "Korobeiniki." Also, Type C in the Game Boy version is a Minuet in B Minor from one of J.S. Bach's French Suites.
  • Yoshi's Cookie, in the spirit of puzzle games, uses "Csikós Post" as background music in all three versions (it's Action Music B in the SNES version and 2P Music C in the NES and Game Boy versions).
  • The Super Solvers Edutainment Games' soundtracks consisted entirely of classical music:
    • Midnight Rescue used "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "In The Halls of the Mountain King".
    • OutNumbered used two movements of Mozart's 40th Symphony.
    • Treasure Mountain plays C.P.E. Bach's "Solfeggietto" on the title screen and upon reaching the top of the mountain. One of Beethoven's country dances was used as a level theme.
  • Frontier: Elite uses a variety of classical themes, including Johann Strauss' "Beautiful Blue Danube" and Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries".
    • The original Elite also used "On the Beautiful Blue Danube" on the opening screen, and (on some platforms) when the player's ship is performing auto-docking. This latter use is a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Gyruss uses a rocked-out arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. With power chords. Compared to the "beep boop BIP beep" soundtrack many other video games of the era had, it's actually pretty amazing.
  • Army Men II's soundtrack almost entirely uses well known songs excluding the main menu and boot camp. Almost delves into Soundtrack Dissonance when you have to defend a tank depot while listening to Spring Song of all things.
  • The LucasArts adventure Loom uses melodies from Swan Lake.
    • Justified Trope: The character's mother and several other characters were turned into swans.
  • Nushi Tsuri Adventure: Kite no Bouken (part of the Legend of the River King series) appears to have Auld Lang Syne as the main title theme. It also contains another Standard Snippet when the main characters discover a bottle with a paper inside it.
  • The Mystic Cave Zone theme in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is based on Julius FučĂ­k's "Entry of the Gladiators" (also known as "that circus theme").
    • Also present in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, in the Carnival Night Zone, which also sampled Michael Jackson's "Jam," which makes sense since Jackson's songwriters and those who worked with him composed the soundtrack for this game.
  • Star Fox used various folk melodies in the Out of this Dimension level.
  • The PlayStation game Wild9 using "Amazing Grace" on its Game Over screen. The somber mood is soon broken up by the laughter of the little green aliens you spend most of the game fighting...
  • Nasen Jack, a German game for Atari 8-Bit Computers, played "Greensleeves" when the player collected all the letters in the word EXTRA.
    • "Greensleeves" is also played throughout Black Lamp, a British game for Atari 8-bit computers.
  • In Zool 2 for Amiga and DOS, the first level is named "Swan Lake". Guess what the background music's a remix of...
  • Hudson Soft's Famicom game Binary Land uses Erik Satie's "Je Te Veux" as its background music, and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as the victory music.
  • The arcade and NES game City Connection uses Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1 as its background music... but in a rock arrangement. Even better, though, when one runs over a cat in the game, a little polka plays; the Japanese name of that tune translates as, appropriately enough, "I stepped on the cat".
  • Richard Wellington, the primary witness for the first case of the second Ace Attorney game, has Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor as his cell phone ringtone. Before that, in the same case, it's used for major effect in the Phoenix Wright's nightmare, and later, when the witness is found as the definitive culprit of the murder.
  • For Metal Gear Solid, composer Tappi Iwadere tried to do this to "The Winter Road" by Georgey Syridov, using it as the games' main theme. After ten years of Metal Gear Solid games, the song turned out to be not as public domain as the composer thought...
  • beatmania IIDX is home to "V," a remix of the Winter Movement of Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons".
    • Bemani loves this one. Consider: any "Classic" song in Pop'n Music (all medleys), any "Classic Party" song in Guitar Freaks/Drummania (ditto), "End of the Century (Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"), and last but not least, "Kakumei" (Chopin's Revolutionary Etude, and a damn good translation pun - "kakumei" means "revolution(ary)", and that it's the One-Hit-Point Wonder boss on a Dance Dance Revolution game too).
    • And then you have songs that subvert this by actually being original works, like "A" and "Piano Concerto No. 1 'Anti-Ares'". The latter's supposed composer, Virkato Wakhmaninov (an alias of Jun Wakita, one of Konami's current in-house music artists), even has a brief fictional biography about him.
  • Return Fire uses "Dies Irae" by Verdi, "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Grieg, "Mars" (from the Planets) by Holst, and "Ride of the Valkyries" by Wagner for its soundtrack.
  • Hamtaro Ham Ham Heartbreak has "Moonlight Sonata" and "Waltz of the Flowers" as unlockable Ham-Jam themes. /Its predecessor, Ham-Hams Unite!, uses Ravel's "Bolero" and "Csikós Post" (the latter referred to as "Postman's Rush").
  • During the last two levels of Call of Duty World at War, one can hear a German military march (the Königgrätzer Marsch, to be exact) playing in the background in specific areas. Considering that it's been around since 1866, it's almost certainly in the public domain by now.
    • The game's original soundtrack also incorporates some real music; the song played at the very end of the Soviet campaign's last mission incorporates a snippet of the Hymn of the Soviet Union.
    • The popular Dies Irae also pops up briefly in the mission "Eviction".
    • Call of Duty 4 has a portion of the Soviet anthem play when you win a match as the Spetsnaz.
  • Most Paradox Interactive games up to and including Victoria had soundtrack consisting mostly of classical music. Hearts of Iron's intro theme is "Ride of the Valkyries", while EU2's soundtrack is filled by somewhat bizarre period music. (including one involving whips, and the infamous falalalalan)
  • In Banjo-Kazooie, Grunty's theme (and thus, the music heard everywhere through her lair, the Hub Level) is actually a minor-key version of "Teddy Bears' Picnic". Since both The Hero, Banjo, and the Damsel in Distress, Tootie, are bears, it's actually fitting... if not rather odd.
  • The Konami game Magician's Quest: Mysterious Times/Enchanted Folk and the School of Wizardry takes this almost to the point of abuse. Almost all of the overworld and event music is based on existing classical pieces, ranging from the well-known (like "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy" and "Beautiful Dreamer"), there are also some lesser-known oddballs thrown in (such as the "Love" theme being Debussy's "Petite Suite"). However, the game also provides a large assortment of original compositions for you to play on your in-game instruments, so, there you go.
  • Wii Music had a soundtrack composed almost entirely of public domain songs.
  • Samurai Shodown 6 uses Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" as a background theme for the USA stage, rearranged as a military march. The arranged version adds the national anthem ["The Star-Spangled Banner"] in the beginning, then goes into a rock version of "Stars and Stripes Forever".
  • The Halo 3 Believe ad campaign (at least the 90-second one that had no live action) used Chopin's Prelude No. 15 in D-Flat Major, though all other music from the game and ads were original compositions
  • The original 1980s version of Sid Meier’s Pirates! featured short snippets of classical music to accompany certain events. Many came from Handel's Water Music. For the 1990s version, Pirates! Gold, music was taken from the works of J.S. Bach (and credited to him). The 2004 remake features loads of classical music, with several "cover" versions for each tune. Firaxis Games were developing Civilization IV at the same time, and so several tunes ended up in both games.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2's theme for Haunted Hall borrows from "Night on Bald Mountain" in places.
  • The music played for Megaman Juno's final form in the first Mega Man Legends is a rather chilling remix of Johann Bach's ''Little Fugue
    • The music played while in the Sulfur Bottom in the sequel is Vivaldi's Spring.
  • The Famicom/NES game Tetrastar: The Fighter uses several classical music pieces, including Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" and Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance".
  • The boss music in Castle of Deceit is the fugue movement of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue". The main action themes also sound like Bach pieces.
  • The game Jigsaw on the Action52 cartridge uses "Long Long Ago" for its theme.
  • In the "Waterloo World" level of Psychonauts, the "1812 Overture" can be heard.
  • The Sachen game Pyramid (a Tetris knockoff) uses "The Streets of Cairo" (aka "There's a Place in France").
  • The DOS first-person wireframe Pac-Man clone 3-Demon uses several Scott Joplin songs, including "The Entertainer", for its soundtrack.
    • Speaking of Scott Joplin, the arcade game Domino Man uses Maple Leaf Rag as its main gameplay theme.
  • The entire soundtrack of Little King's Story is classical music.
  • Most of the soundtrack to The Oregon Trail games is country folk songs.
  • Runman's soundtrack.
  • The Midway Arcade Game Satan's Hollow incorporates Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" in various places.
  • Tapper/Root Beer Tapper features "Oh! Susanna" in the first level.
    • "Oh! Susanna" also plays in the arcade game Pooyan, when Mama rescues her piglets for the second time.
  • The NES version of Punch-Out!! uses "Sakura, Sakura", a traditional Japanese folk song for Piston Honda's ring entrance. This is referenced in the Wii game (where he was renamed "Piston Hondo").
    • "Ride of the Valkyries" was used as the themes to Von Kaiser and a couple other boxers.
    • Glass Joe's entrance theme is La Marsellaise, the French National Anthem.
    • Don Flamenco's theme is an excerpt from the Georges Bizet's opera Carmen.
    • Soda Popinski's theme is "Song of the Volga Boatman".
  • The arcade game Battlezone plays a snippet of the "1812 Overture" when you make the high score list.
  • Crystal Castles plays two different parts of the "Nutcracker March". The one that plays depends on whether or not Bentley Bear or the enemies get the last gem.
  • Depending on high the player gets, Beethoven's Fifth (specifically the famous four-note opening) is one of the themes plays when you make the high score list in Stargate (AKA: Defender II).
  • The NES game Might and Magic: Secret of the Inner Sanctum uses a surprisingly-long arrangement of Pachelbel's Canon in D on its title screen.
  • The Battle of Olympus plays Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor inside the Temple.
  • Super Famicom game Violinist of Hameln's soundtrack consists mostly (if not entirely) of classical music — most immediately apparent, Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is the town theme.
  • The Space tribe's theme in Lemmings 2 is J. Strauss's Blue Danube, a Shout-Out to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Most of the soundtrack to Flower, Sun and Rain consists of pop/techno remixes of classical and jazz pieces; most of the chapters in the game are even named after the music that appears in them.
  • Successful completion of each level in Peggle is met with a rousing rendition of "Ode to Joy". Renfield's theme is "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor", and "Morning Mood" plays when the game is launched.
  • The NES version of The Adventures of Captain Comic has a soundtrack consisting of badly mixed classical music.
  • Mega Blast, an old arcade shoot-em-up from Taito, has an FM synth arrangement of Chopin's piano piece, Fantasie Impromptu in C-sharp. It doesn't show up during the game itself, but in the attract mode. Beethoven's Ode to Joy accompanies the ending cast roll.
  • The New World Symphony plays during the boss battle against Augus in Asura's Wrath.
  • Antarctic Adventure uses the "Skater's Waltz" as its in-game music.
  • Miner 2049er during its intro plays a version of "Clementine," a song alluded to by the game's title.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], while hailing from a series known for having its very own share of awesome tracks in the first place, has three pieces of classic music in its soundtrack because of one of its worlds representing Fantasianote . note 
  • Catherine features lots of classical music for its puzzle segments, including "Jupiter" from Holst's "Planets Suite", Bach's "Tocatta en Fugue", and Dvořák's "From the New World". Most of the bosses use "Baba Yaga's Hut" from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" (except Doom's Bride and Shadow Vincent, which use a piece by Atlus composer Shoji Meguro, and the final boss, which uses Chopin's "Revolutionary Etude").
  • Combine that with Soundtrack Dissonance in Brain Dead 13: In the Conservatory Room, as Lance tries to avoid getting strangled by Mongo the Marionette or pounced upon by Fritz, the music played here kinda sounds like "The Trepak Dance" from The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
    • Also combined with Soundtrack Dissonance in Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp: The soundtrack that plays entirely in the background of Level 5 while you avoid getting eaten by a fire-breathing cat is the first part of Symphony No. 5 in C minor (Allegro con brio) by Ludwig van Beethoven. This also counts as a Genius Bonus when you notice that the song number is the same as the level number.
  • Here's another trope also combined with Soundtrack Dissonance and Standard Snippet: In Batman: Arkham Origins, The Joker's more theatrical moments of cruelty are often underscored by classical music typical of cartoons - his "Sleigh Ride" in the Royal Hotel ballroom plays a warped organ version of Julius FučĂ­k's "Entry of the Gladiators", he fussily selects the detonator for one of his bombs to Gioachino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville", and his hallucinatory fight in the comedy club has an arranged section of the overture from Rossini's "The Thieving Magpie".
  • In addition to The Cancan Song used during the actual levels, Mr. Do! also features Beethoven's Turkish March (Also known as the Theme from El Chavo del ocho, and not to be confused with Mozart's Turkish March) in the results screen that appears after clear three "scenes".
  • Mr. Passion, a mid-boss in Chapter 2 of Mother 3, is a ghostly composer, so, naturally, his battle theme is comprised of a medley of various classical music excerpts.note  If you know when to come back and challenge him again as Lord Passion, he'll have a brand new battle theme with different classical pieces.note 
    • In addition to that, there's also "Leder's Gymnopédie", which is actually Erik Satie's Gymnopédie N*1, used to great effect when Leder tells Lucas and his friends about the true history of the world.
  • The dancing girls in Final Fantasy IV perform their routine to Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance".
  • The main theme of EV Nova is "Mars, the Bringer of War" from Gustav Holst's The Planets Suite.
  • Some of the background music in Thwaite appears at first to be Suspiciously Similar Songs to parts of the Animal Crossing soundtrack. A listen with a classically trained ear reveals that it's actually pieced together from Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique.
  • Eternal Sonata features several Chopin pieces for the segments detailing his life. A remix of "Revolutionary Etude" serves as the game's final boss theme.
  • The Artdink game Arctic uses the Rondo from Mozart's Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 570 (at least in the Famicom version).
  • The trailer for the Cthulhu Mythos/World War I themed Turn-Based Tactics game Call Of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land begins with the chorus of "It's A Long Way To Tipperary", a song from this era which was very famous in British ranks. The main menu's theme is a loop of this chorus; both version are accompanied by some subtle creepy sound effects in background. The ending credits are also set to this chorus, but without the creepy sound effects.
    • The game's official soundtrack included a cover of the full song.
  • Kerbal Space Program's main theme -heard on the start screen and in most official trailer videos- was composed especially for the game, but all the other background tracks are royalty-free library music.
  • Dwarf Fortress is a slightly strange case; the official background music is not an example, being composed and performed by the developer himself, but a popular third-party sound engine called Sound Sense uses this trope rather extensively.
  • In the old Hudson Soft game Challenger, the Stop The Express stage uses an upbeat take on Franz Schubert's "Military March" for its background music, mixed with train whistle sound effects. (Some may know it better as the theme for Drill Man's stage in Rockman 4 Minus Infinity.)
  • In the GameCube Animal Crossing, "Auld Lang Syne" plays on your way home from the New Year's celebration.

    Visual Novel 
  • G-Senjou no Maou uses "Air on a G-String" as a motif and the title screen music, as evidenced by the title ("The Devil on G-String"). "Songs My Mother Taught Me" and "Ride of the Valkyries" are also used as background music for Kanon's figure-skating competition. In fact, the former is an important motif and the title for Kanon's chapter.
    • Almost of the background music in G-Senjou no Maou are remixed versions of various classical pieces.

     Web Original 

     Western Animation 
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show frequently used Romantic Era music in the background; Tchiakovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Dvořák's Symphony #9 "From the New World" were particularly popular.
    • The yodeling song used in the title card for "The Boy Who Cried Rat" was later used in The Mighty B! episode "Bee Afraid" and SpongeBob SquarePants' "Truth or Square".
    • Pretty much every music cue/background song from Ren and Stimpy has been used in many other cartoons, Sponge Bob Square Pants being the most notable.
  • The Road Runner's theme in Looney Tunes is from Smetana's Bartered Bride. A great deal of Looney Tunes music are actually classical tunes. Examples include tunes from Rossini's Barber of Seville and Liszt's second Hungarian Rhapsody, and Felix Mendelssohn's "Spring Song".
  • The Smurfs has this so smurfing much. See The Other Wiki for more details.
  • Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles uses a remix of Beethoven's "'Pathetique' Sonata #8 Op. 13".
  • Disney's Mickey Mouse Symphony Hour (1942) is about Mickey conducting an orchestra that plays Suppe's Light Cavalry Overture. The rehearsal suits the trope fully. while for the main concert, the instruments become a problem and the soundtrack is a bit... strange.
  • The made for video Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers had songs with music from various classical pieces, including Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Offenbach's The Cancan Song, and Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Reed Flutes. The finale took place during an opera made up of selections of operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan.
  • Disney's version of Sleeping Beauty uses music from Tchaikovsky's ballet version of the same story.
  • Fantasia. (The movie wasn't a success when first released in 1940; this was acknowledged in one edition of The Man Who Came to Dinner which had Sheridan Whiteside consoling Walt Disney over the phone: "Don't worry about Fantasia. It wasn't your fault... Beethoven hasn't had a hit for years.")
    • Also Fantasia 2000, though several of the pieces are actually still under copyright.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man has made great use of public domain music, mostly in ending credits, to play with a theme (holidays were the most frequent). One episode had Spidey beat up bad guys to Mozart. Yes, it was awesome!
  • SpongeBob SquarePants uses a portion of Vivaldi's Spring from the Four Seasons suite, a version of Johann Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz, Jacques Offenbach's Infernal Galop (The Cancan Song) and a number of others.
    • Also, the NFL song "The Lineman" is probably better known as the theme of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy than its original use.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog incorporates both "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and "Flight of the Bumblebee" in the opening theme.
  • One of the songs on the Street Fighter cartoon's soundtrack is a rendition of "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor", which notably plays over M. Bison's infamous "YES! YES!" scene.
  • While they did a few original songs (most notably, "Witch Doctor"), the 1960s-era Chipmunks otherwise did mostly public domain songs, albeit their own personal takes on them (e.g., "Old Macdonald Cha-Cha-Cha").
  • Invoked/parodied in an episode of American Dad! when Roger joins Steve's band and plays rock n roll version of "Jimmy Cracked Corn" and "Ba Ba Black Sheep". He even goes on to say they have over a hundred hits already.
  • In episode 33, "May The Best Pet Win!" of My Little Pony Friendshipis Magic, "Ride of the Valkyries" plays when Rainbow Dash races the candidates for her pet in Ghastly Gorge.
  • Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish has a musical number sung to the tune of the second "Hungarian Rhapsody".
    • Being a nod to the classic shorts (as was Tiny Toon Adventures in a way), a lot of the background music in Animaniacs had nods to popular pieces of the Romantic Era, and a huge portion of the songs were based on classical pieces too. Making a full list would take too way, way too long.
  • Danger Mouse was known to use public domain music for its background score. A piece composed by Charles Williams for BBC radio, "The Devil's Gallop" was used in two episodes' chase scenes (as well as two episodes of Monty Python).
    • When Wufgang Bach makes his appearance in "Play It Again, Wufgang," he is performing Toccata And Fugue In D Minor on the organ.
  • In the most memorable part of A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Schroeder plays most of the Second Movement (Adagio cantabile) of Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Sonata Pathétique), and during that time, many Disney Acid Sequences occur, which is pretty creepy.

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