And now: the six merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail, in their rendition of the Cell Block Tango...Like a few other types of music, tango music is often used in fiction for creepiness. Unlike genres such as jazz and rock, tango music isn't exactly "rebellious". In fact, the reason it is played for creepiness in fiction may be because of how elegant it sounds. The tune itself is tantalizing, captivating, and decadent within its melancholic vibe. It has a syncopated march rhythm, which gives the air of mystery and uncertainty. It helps that it's usually played in a specific chord progression making use of minor chords, which are generally associated with negative things (see the "Multiple Ensemble" section in Mood Motif). The music is typically associated with Wicked Cultured characters, due to its elegant mood. But because the dances are usually intimate, it is also often associated with seductive characters, such as Femme Fatales. After all, Evil Is Sexy! Contrast Creepy Jazz Music, which is also conducive to dancing, and Rotten Rock & Roll.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
Film - Live-Action
- Addams Family Values has Gomez and Morticia doing a Tango that is equal parts sinister and sexy.
- The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus features a brief tango between Mister Nick (played by Tom Waits) and Valentina (played by Lily Cole).
- Once Bitten opens with a Tango number as Sebastian gets his vampire mistress all done up for an evening of hunting virgins.
- Sunset Boulevard: Tango music plays as Norma Desmond forces protagonist Joe Gillis to dance with her.
- True Lies plays with the trope. Arnold's character has a weakness for the Tango and dances it with his sexy but evil target. At the end, he dances another with the wife he loves, inconveniencing their partner in the van.
- In 12 Monkeys (by Terry Gilliam, who also directed the aforementioned Doctor Parnassus), the title theme is also the leitmotif of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, the Animal Wrongs Group believed responsible for causing the apocalypse. It's written and performed by legendary tango musician Astor Piazzolla.
- Waking Life: Most of the soundtrack is tango music—and so when The Dreamer starts to become more and more unhinged and the visuals become (literally) more nightmarish as the movie nears its climax, this Trope is pretty much in play.
- In Galavant, when Galavant attempts to win back his former lover Madalena, (who has undergone a Face–Heel Turn and become an evil queen) his declaration of love is accompanied by heartfelt, swelling chords while Madalena's reply ("I love you... as much as someone like me could love anyone") is a hot and heavy tango number and Madalena goes into full seduction mode as she tries to win Galavant over to her side.
- There are shades of this in Ares' seductive song in the Xena: Warrior Princess Musical Episode Bitter Suite.
- The Cell Block Tango from Chicago is a Villain Song sung by the female prisoners about their motives for committing murder.
- In Pokémon Live!, Jessie, James, and Meowth get a tango Villain Song called "The Best at Being the Worst." Unusually, the song is about the villains berating themselves, yet at the same time, they seem to take pride in how incompetent they are.
- In The Threepenny Opera Macheath and Jenny have a "romantic" tango song about their past relationship when he used to pimp her, which is mildly sinister in the traditional but bowdlerised Blitzstein English translation. The German original and later more accurate translations go even further by referring to violent abuse and back-street abortion.
- In Turnabout Musical, Dee Vasquez's testimony song, "Battle of Wits," is in the form of a tango.
- The opening sequence of The Adventures of Figaro Pho, which shows Figaro being frightened and chased by some of the monsters that appear in the show, is accompanied by a classy-sounding tango tune.
- Littlest Pet Shop (2012) has an episode wherein Pepper and Blythe duet "The Guilty Tango" and the animation goes all dark and gloomy.