A national anthem is essentially the Theme Song of an entire 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. For more, see British National Anthems.
A national anthem being used straight:
- Casablanca has a famous scene: The German officers 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 Warner Brothers would have been forced to pay royalties to them (the movie was produced before Pearl Harbor), 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.)
- The Horst-Wessel-Lied was the anthem of the Nazi Party, not of Germany itself during World War II, although it was played at official functions after the Deutschlandlied as a kind of second national anthem.
- A similar juxtaposition of Die Wacht am Rhein and La Marseillaise occurred in The Grand Illusion when first the prison camp guards and then the prisoners of war (and not just the French ones) react to the news that Fort Douaumont (near Verdun) was taken by their side by intoning their respective patriotic song. During World War I Die Wacht am Rhein was indeed played and sung a lot in Germany, having the advantage of a more dramatic tune then the official Prussian and German anthem, Heil Dir im Siegerkranz, which uses the same tune as God Save the King (or Queen). (French actor Marcel Dalio has the distinction of appearing in both films).
- Rocky IV plays the Soviet National Anthem.
- 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.
- In The Sum of All Fears, The Star Spangled Banner is performed before the Super Bowl. What is unique about the performance is that it is using the lyrics from the fourth verse of the song, including lyrics "...and conquer we must, for our cause it is just..." This verse has rarely if ever been performed at such events.
- 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 (not Prussian) 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.
- "Hatikvah" appears three times in Exodus as a Leitmotif. First, it is played in an epic, orchestrated instrumental version as the Jews aboard the Exodus throw the food overboard (initiating a hunger strike) and hoist the flag of Israel. Secondly, it's played on a car radio in a jazz-influenced arrangement when Akiva dies of his wounds. In the last instance, it's sung as a spontaneous Crowd Song after Partition is announced.
- 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.
- Candid Camera once did a prank where they set up a fake Canadian border crossing in the middle of nowhere in the United States, and then proceeded to harass victims who happen to use that road into singing "O Canada" (which of course, since the road is used by Americans, many don't even know the lyrics to), among other things.
- 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.
- The 1812 Overture incorporates elements of the God Save the Czar to signify Russian triumph; however, that was only adopted as the Russian national anthem in 1833 (and may not even have existed as text or tune in 1812). As this was frowned upon during the Soviet era, the 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 comes from the opera A Life for the Tsar (retitled Ivan Sussanin after 1917), composed by ardent monarchist Mikhail Glinka.
- Sweden's unofficial national anthem "Du gamla, du fria" has been covered by several Swedish rock and metal bands.
- On the Queen album A Night at the Opera Brian May plays a guitar rendition of God Save the Queen.
- Command & Conquer: Generals used the Chinese National Anthem (March of the Volunteers) during the intro and ending of the Chinese campaign.
- The theme to Wolfenstein 3D is the real national anthem of Nazi Germany, "The Horst Wessel Song".
- The GBA port of Wings plays the German national anthem if you choose to fly for the Kaiser.
- One of the soundtracks of Stupid Invaders (the video game adapted from Space Goofs) is a Muzak-like Marseillaise.
- Grim Trigger plays a lot of national anthems in the books, but Romania's anthem, Deșteaptă-te, române!, is heard on the main menu.
- The Terrance and Phillip episode of South Park "Not Without My Anus" used the song "O Canada" as a plot device.
- In one episode of The Simpsons after resolving the conflict the town decides to celebrate by joining hands and singing Oh Canada! on the grounds that it's much more peaceful than The Star Spangled Banner.
- The first notes of the hymn of France, la Marseillaise, can be heard on several occasions in the French cartoon Oggy and the Cockroaches; notably in the title card of the "French Fries" episode.
- 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).
- Lift Every Voice And Sing is considered to be the African-American National Anthem.
- Before the adoption of the third verse of the Deutschlandlied as the national anthem of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1952, the 1948 Carnival song Wir sind die Eingeborenen von Trizonesien ("We're the Aborigines of Trizonesia") was used at many sports events involving teams from West Germany (then the "Trizone" consisiting of the British, French and U.S. zones of occupation).
- The French National Assembly spontaneously began singing La Marseillaise in response to 2 terrorist attacks in the same week of January 2015 (which included the Charlie Hebdo Shootings). It was as if to make a statement that despite being in their nation's darkest hour since World War II until a few months later, and again the following year, France will not abandon its ideals in retaliation to these attacks.
- "Hatikvah" is not only the national anthem of Israel, but the de facto anthem of the Jewish people.
A fictional national anthem:
- The Big O: Union has its own national anthem, which sounds more or less like a Suspiciously Similar Song of the French national anthem "La Marseillaise."
- Code Geass has "All Hail Britannia" the Britannian national anthem, which is in English, though you'd never be able to guess by listening to it.
- Macross Plus regales us with the National Anthem of Macross.
- In Legend of Galactic Heroes, the Free Planets Alliance has an English national anthem, titled "Free Flag, Free People, Revolution of the Heart".
- 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.
- In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, the national anthem assigned to the Expy of South Africa is a thinly disguised version of Bok van Blerk's Afrikanerhart anthem. It isn't an official anthem on either world. But people moved to sing it put real passion into the words. More than they do into the official anthem. note
- 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.
- Hail! Hail Freedonia! Land of the brave! And! Free!
- There have been two or three implications (no more than that!) in the Star Wars EU that the Imperial National Anthem is actually the Imperial March.
- In Borat, the title character sings the "Kazakhstan National Anthem," the first verse of which is as follows:
Kazakhstan greatest country in the world.
All other countries are run by little girls.
Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium.
Other countries have inferior potassium.
- The movie version of The Princess Diaries gives us the national anthem of Genovia (which oddly enough is in English):
The land I call my home,
Forever will your banner wave!
- Water (1985). The natives of the Caribbean island of Cascara imitate various swimming styles when singing their anthem, as they're all descended from shipwrecked sailors.
- In Follow That Bird, Oscar the Grouch has the Grouch Anthem (for which you stay sitting down, naturally).
- The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle introduces Pottsylvania's.
- The movie adaptation of The Hunger Games has The Horn of Plenty as Panem's national anthem.
- The anthem of Grand Fenwick is basically Men of Harlech with the serial numbers filed off.
- Terry Pratchett loves this trope.
- Borogravia is given a national anthem in Monstrous Regiment. It starts off "Awake!", which Vimes notes is never a good sign, and is basically about how the Borogravians are prepared to slaughter all their enemies, i.e. everyone else in the world.
- So as to conform to the opening quote, the Ankh-Morpork National Anthem has a second verse that LITERALLY goes "nrh, nrh, nrh, nrh..." because no one is expected to remember it.
We bankrupt all invaders, we sell them souvenirsWe ner ner ner ner ner, hner ner hner by the earsEr hner we ner ner ner ner nerNer ner her ner ner ner hner the nerEr ner ner hner ner, nher hner ner ner (etc.)Ner hner ner, your gleaming swordsWe mortgaged to the hiltMorporkia! Morporkia!Hner ner ner ner ner nerWe can rule you wholesaleCredit where it's due.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four has "Oceania, 'Tis For Thee," as memorably realized by Dominic Muldowney.
- Animal Farm has "Beasts of England." It is replaced by a different song after The Purge.
- This reflects the way Stalin replaced the cosmopolitan Internationale with the more nationalist (and at first Stalin-adulating) State Hymn of the Soviet Union in 1944.
- In one of John Sladek's satirical science fiction novels note it's mentioned that some people are singing different lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner", viz:
Ofay can you peeBy the dong's surly blightWhat you probably inhaledAt the toilet's last cleaning
- 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.
- The Goon Show:
- In "The Sleeping Prince" Seagoon becomes the president of a fictional republic. A Running Gag involves the playing of "Our glorious National Anthem". According to a later documentary, Spike Milligan complained that the original version sounded far too good, and asked for it to be changed so that only one instrument was playing at a time.
- Another episode plays the drumroll that the audience would associate with God Save the Queen, only for the tune to segue into Bloodnok's leitmotif.
- 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 commenter: 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 Final Fantasy VIII there is Cactus Jack, the theme that plays during President Deling's speech near the beginning of the game.
- In the Final Fantasy XIV expansion Stormblood, Garlean soldiers sing Garlemald's anthem, "The Measure of Our Reach" as the son of the emperor heads to his throne. It's later revealed that this is a bastardized rewriting of the Ala Mhigo national anthem, "the Measure of His Reach". After reclaiming Ala Mhigo from the Empire, the resistance sings the true anthem in celebration.
- Republic: The Revolution uses the national anthem of its fictional setting of a country, Novistrana, as its main menu theme. It was composed by James Hannigan, written in an invented language, and performed by a professional operatic soprano, Miranda Keys.
- And Avatar: The Last Airbender has the Fire Nation national anthem sung by Foreign Wrestling Heel Fire Nation Man in The Blind Bandit.
"Firelord! My Flame burns for thee!"
- 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.
- In the Mike, Lu & Og episode "Sultans of Swat", Mike introduces the natives to baseball and tries to start a game by singing "The Star-Spangled Banner", only for her friends to sing their island's own anthem.
- In the 2017 Ducktales episode Jaw$!, Dewey prepares to dive in the money bin, as Louie does his best Olympic commentator voice claiming him to be the diver from Dewdonia. Huey also briefly sings their anthemnote .
Songs that are not national anthems but sometimes confused for them:
- 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 badass -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 less because "God Save the Queen" uses the same tune as "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and the national anthem of Liechtenstein, but because "Rule Britannia" has the more rousing tune and projects a nationalist message rather than one of loyalty to one's monarch. ("My Country 'Tis of Thee" is virtually unknown outside the United States, which led to it being turned into Heil Dir im Siegerkranz (the royal Prussian and imperial German anthem) in the German dub of The Great Race.
- The Sound of Music: Everybody say it with me now: Edelweiss is NOT the national anthem of Austria. It was a song written exclusively for the movie, though it sometimes suffers Adaptation Displacement and the song gets put into stage revivals anyway.
- In Zulu, the Welsh soldiers sing "Men of Harlech". Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (translating to "Land of My Fathers") is the Welsh anthem. "Harlech" is a better song, so Rule of Cool.
- 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.
- In the television film Raid On Entebbe, the IDF commando team on the flight to the rescue mission, in a moment of Patriotic Fervor (and perhaps as a Song of Courage) sing "Hine Ma Tov." This isn't Israel's National Anthem, that would be "Hatikva," but "Hine Ma Tov" is a beloved song in Israel and among Jews everywhere. It's reprised at the end, when the hostages land safely in Israel.
- 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 "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 and the Republic of Irelandnote . 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.
- To be more accurate, the Ireland team will sing one or two anthems depending on where the game is played. If it's in the Republic (pretty much always in Dublin), the Republic's anthem is sung first, followed by "Ireland's Call". Outside the Republic, including very rare home matches in Northern Ireland, only "Ireland's Call" is sung.
- See above for the status of the Horst Wessel Song in Nazi Germany. To be fair, the Nazis always had their party anthem played or sung as a follow-up whenever the Deutschlandlied was performed, and they did run the country.
- Outside of Denmark, Kong Kristian stod ved højen mast ("King Christian stood by the high mast") is often thought to be the Danish national anthem, but it is in fact the royal anthem. The actual national anthem is Der er et yndigt land ("There is a lovely country").
- While Scotland and Wales have their own official national anthems, England lacks one. Quite often it is assumed that Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Number One (with words, Land Of Hope And Glory) is England's anthem. It isn't. Similarly, the musical setting of William Blake's Jerusalem is sung with enough passion by organisations as disparate as the Labour Party, the Womens' Institute, and at England's rugby union fixtures, for it to be a valid contender. It isn't, either.
- Then there is the furore in South Africa that emerged over two patriotic anthems performed by Afrikaaner singer Bok van Blerk. Afrikanerhart and De La Rey, both ballads about the doomed cause of the Boer War, caused alarm in the new majority black government and were taken as signs that the whites were getting mutinous. The chorus of De la Rey, with a repeating line calling for a man with the stature of General de La Rey to come and lead the Boer people today in their hour of need, was especially alarming and caused both songs to be banned from performance on public radio as "inflammatory". But they caught the imagination of Afrikaaners and if they are sung at a gathering of expats, for instance, they are sung with real fire and passion. This alarms some people and is cheered by others. South Africa's actual National Anthem is a fusion of two songs, "Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika" (in English, "God Save Africa") and "The Call of South Africa," and the lyrics are in Xhosa (first two lines), Zulu (second two lines), Sethoso (second stanza), Afrikaans (third stanza), and English (fourth stanza). Because it combines two songs, it shifts key in the middle...and is still easier to sing than "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Occasions where the inability to sing your national anthem is mocked:
- In The Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin pretends to be the famous opera singer Enrico Palazzo, and proceeds to sing the American anthem painfully out of key, much to the real one's abject horror.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun:
- The aliens 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 (fittingly titled "O Say, Can You Remember the Words?"), Miley had been partnered with Oliver to perform Romeo and Juliet, but in the meantime, had to perform the U.S. anthem at a sporting event. She gets her wires crossed and accidentally sings one line as "Through yonder window breaks", and it falls apart from there.
- A Victorious episode has Tori singing the Star Spangled Banner at a college basketball game and all her friends warn her that forgetting the lyrics would be a Never Live It Down moment for her. When Tori sings it, she doesn't mess up the words, but the school's mascot, a large St. Bernard, ends up dragging her across the stadium halfway through the song.
- On The Satanic Sketches album, The D Generation mocks the inability of Australians to remember the words of "Advance Australia Fair. After asking everyone to be upstanding for the national anthem, they begin singing:
Australians all, let us rejoice,For something, something free"
- Adam Hill jokingly refers to how no one remembers the lyrics to the second verse in his sketch where is sets Advance Australia Fair to the tune of the Jimmy Barnes's "Working Class Man" note
- 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...".
- A Running Gag in the House of Mouse episode "Salute to Sports" has Goofy trying to sing the national anthem, only to sing another song instead. He finally gets it eventually, but the episode ends before he can finish the first line.
Oh, the national anthem goes like this, doo-dah, doo-dahThe national anthem goes like this, oh the doo-dah day
- In an episode of The Fairly OddParents!, Timmy wishes for his fairies to switch his terrible singing voice with that of Chip Skylark's. Unfortunately for Chip, he was due to sing at the World Series that night.
- 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:
- Carl Lewis. He tried his hardest, but man...
- In 1968, Aretha Franklin was invited to sing the anthem at a televised baseball game. She turned it into a gospel hymn in a long, loose rubato style with plenty of melismatic improvisation. This was at the height of The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, and "patriotic Americans" were furious at what they saw as sacrilege in the name of leftist, Black Power and anti-war subversion of our precious bodily fluids. Someone even wrote an outraged letter to TV Guide. It was just Aretha being Aretha. She did it again in 2016 at a Lions-Vikings game, stretched it out to almost five minutes, and both teams had to repeat their warmup.
- Also in 1968, Jose Feliciano was asked to sing the anthem at Game 5 of the Cardinals/Tigers World series. As a blind Puerto Rican American, Feliciano took this very seriously and his version was intended as grateful, thoughtful, even dreamlike. There were no cheers from the stands, just booing and ominous rumbling. "Real, patriotic" Americans were outraged. Most record stores stopped selling his records, and most radio stations stopped playing him. But an unauthorized recording actually hit the Billboard charts and sold over 50,000 copies in Detroit alone. On October 14, 2012, Feliciano once again sang the anthem at the NLCS, and this time no one booed.
- Rosseanne Barr did a satirical version at a Padres game in 1990... It didn't go over well.
- Kate DeLuna takes the opportunity to show off a bit. The crowd doesn't like it.
- R. Kelly tries to sex it up a little.
- 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 Deschanel sang it in her typically soulful, kind of melancholic way. This caused a bit of controversy among those expecting a more traditional, "triumphant" renditionnote , 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 . 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.
- Spanish bicyclist Alberto Contador, upon winning the 2009 Tour de France and the 2011 Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) had the wrong national anthem played in his honour both times.
- There's a film of a basketball game opening that occasionally gets shown on ESPN where a young man gets to the third line, messes up the lyrics very badly and lets out a sorrowful "Oh, shiiiiiit!" It happened in 1993.