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The Film of the Song

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The Film of the Song is, yes, a film that’s in some way based on a song, or at least its title, and is a rare sister of The Film of the Book or The Book of the Film. Bonus points if the song in question is NOT used in the movie soundtrack. While there are numerous examples of The Film of the Book, since songs tend to be short and sweet, films are rarely made from songs; they need a lot of expansion out to feature length. So if it does happen, it's all the more interesting.


Note that this discussion is (mostly) restricted to feature-length films of some sort, such as films that take the actual plot from the song and expand it — music videos don't count, as they are generally more or less illustrations of the songs, not standalone media products in their own right. Nor does it count if the film’s Theme Tune becomes a hit in its own right — although if the tune becomes better known than the movie (it happens), and if it’s an Expository Theme Tune, it can be hard to tell the difference.

There are three subtypes of this trope:

  • Type A - Classic The Full Story Of The Song: An expansion of the song's narrative content into a movie.
  • Type B - Song Name The Movie: Named for a song, but not related by content; likely it's to capitalize on a recent hit
  • Type C - Their Greatest Hit The Movie: A Biopic of a notable singer or band, the movie is named for one of the singer's hits. Biopics named after the singer or band themselves don't count.

Examples - Type A (The Full Story Of The Song):

  • Alice's Restaurant
  • The Black Fly Song, made into cartoon Blackfly
  • Born in East L.A.
  • The Cat Came Back
  • Convoy
  • Frosty The Snowman was a song before it was a television special.
  • The Erl King
  • The Gambler turned into an entire series of Made-for-TV movies starring Kenny Rogers.
  • Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
  • Harper Valley PTA, which later became a TV show.
  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  • Is There Life Out There, a 1994 CBS TV movie starring Reba McEntire, based on her 1992 song of the same name
  • The Indian Runner
  • Jolene
  • The Legend of Tom Dooley
  • The Log Driver's Waltz
  • Ode to Billy Joe
  • Purple People Eater
  • Rovaniemen markkinoilla, a Finnish 1951 film based on a song by the same name. It was the Genre Popularizer for the Rillumarei film and live entertainment genre that drew from the musical couplet genre of light, cleverly written, often satirical songs. Many of these films were based on an existing song, or a song was specifically written to be the foundation of a film.
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  • "Unanswered Prayers", a Lifetime Movie of the Week based on the Garth Brooks song.
  • Yellow Submarine: A bit of a borderline case, as it does expand on the song and illustrates it at the same time.
  • Santa, Baby!, an animated Christmas special starring Eartha Kitt, the original performer of the song.
  • 1945 song "Tubby the Tuba", about a tuba who dreams of playing melodies, was adapted into film twice. In 1947 came the Stop Motion animated short "Tubby the Tuba", which was followed by the cel animation feature Tubby the Tuba in 1975.

Counterexamples that you might expect to fit here, only they don't:

Movies that are very close to this:

  • Arguably, The Hunting of the Snark musical by Jeff Beck is a close relative, as it's "The Musical of the Poem".
  • Also, film versions of ancient epics, such as The Odyssey or The Divine Comedy, would apply, since the original is essentially a very long song.
  • Linear (2009), a 58-minute film by Anton Corbijn, is effectively "The Film of the Album" of U2's No Line on the Horizon (2009), featuring 10 of the 11 songs from the album and one other song that was cut from the final album. Corbijn has insisted that the film is not an extended music video, but rather "a new way to listen to a record — a new way to use film to connect to music," making it an example of this.

Examples - Type B (Song Name The Movie):

Examples - Type C (Their Greatest Hit The Movie)


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