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Referenced By / David Bowie

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A list of references, shout-outs, homages, parodies... to David Bowie. For references to his role as Jareth the Goblin King, see Labyrinth.

Anime & Manga

Audio Play

Comic Books

  • Doctor Who (Titan):
    • The Eleventh Doctor's companion John Jones is a blatant No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Bowie. As well as sharing Bowie's real surname, he is an unsuccessful sixties blues musician who is fated to become famed as "Xavi Moonburst" and "The Tall Pale Earl", and much of his dialogue consists of direct quotations or parodies of Bowie lyrics.
    • Cover A (the newsstand cover) of The Twelfth Doctor Issue 2.9 is a parody of the cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Doctor and the TARDIS take the places of Bowie and the red phone box, and the name of the street is changed from K. West to C. Oswald, the latter referring to this Doctor's first companion. Earlier in 2016, an alternate Twelfth Doctor cover was a spoof of the "Heroes" cover, with the Doctor again replacing Bowie. (The art for this cover was revealed prior to Bowie's death. Incidentally, Twelve's actor, Peter Capaldi, said in an interview that Bowie would be his dream guest star for Doctor Who shortly before the latter's passing.)

Fan Fiction

Films — Animated

  • Shrek 2: A cover version of Bowie's "Changes" by Butterfly Boucher, featuring a Bowie guest appearance, turns up on the soundtrack.

Films — Live Action

  • Almost Famous: Fans waiting in the lobby of a hotel in Cleveland think they spot Bowie sneaking into an elevator.
  • In An American Pickle, Fish out of Temporal Water Herschel looks in confusion at pictures of Bowie on the wall of his great-grandson Ben's apartment and asks Ben if it's his father, to a negative response. Then he points at a picture of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust period and asks Ben if it's his mother.
  • Any Way The Wind Blows: Two characters have a conversation of how Bowie's output in the 1980s was far better than most people want you to believe.
  • The Breakfast Club: The Title Card sports a quote from "Changes", which symbolizes the teens' constant neglect and abuse that they take not just from their parents but from the other adults around them.
    "...and these children that you spit on, as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They're quite aware of what they're going through..." — David Bowie
  • Control: Ian Curtis listens to "The Jean Genie" on his radio, tying into how the real Curtis and the rest of Joy Division cited Bowie as a major influence on their output (to the point where Joy Division's original name was Warsaw, taken from Bowie's "Warszawa").
  • Deadpool 2: The titular protagonist, oblivious to Bowie's passing, laments that the late artist is one of the few things keeping him going following his girlfriend's murder. His friends, not wanting to break the man even further, held out on informing him about Bowie's death.
  • Darren Aronofsky described the astronaut period in The Fountain as an homage to "Space Oddity"; the protagonist's name "Tom" originating from the Major Tom of the popular song.
  • Frances Ha has the title character running down the street at one point while Bowie's "Modern Love" plays over the soundtrack.note 
  • In Glass Onion, Miles cues up "Star" and "Starman" during the after-dinner party. Later, when fuming over the destruction of the Glass Onion, he alludes to "Moonage Daydream" by mockingly describing Helen with the line "I'm an alligator."
  • As part of the Anachronism Stew in Golden Queens Commando, one of the film's main characters, Black Cat, spends the entire film dressed as 80s-David Bowie. In a movie set in World War II. The one on the right, by the way.
  • Hunky Dory is named after Bowie's album, and during the finale, Davy (played by Aneurin Barnard, who wears make-up to appear more androgynous) and Stella sing "Life on Mars?" for their school's play/musical.
  • Jojo Rabbit: "'Helden'", the German version of "'Heroes'", plays over the end credits.
  • In the opening of Justice League, a tabloid newspaper from Metropolis asks the question "DID THEY RETURN TO THEIR PLANET?" with three pictures — Bowie, Superman and Prince. Both Bowie and Prince passed away the same year in Real Life — 2016, when the film was in the making.
  • In the film version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the song Sam is looking for (the song that makes her want to stand up in her brother's car while he's driving) is "Heroes".
  • Red, White & Royal Blue: Prince Henry named his pet dog David after Bowie.
  • Linda from Snatched (2017) has a David Bowie ticket stub in her scrapbook.
  • In Velvet Goldmine, Brian Slade is a clear fictionalisation of Bowie. He is a bisexual seventies glam rock star who rises to fame in the stage persona of pansexual alien "Maxwell Demon", and fakes his own death on stage before returning to fame in the eighties under a new identity as a cheesy stadium rock star (a reference to the sense of betrayal felt by many seventies Bowie fans during his mass-market-light-entertainment Let's Dance era).
  • Bowie appears in the credits montage of Watchmen when Ozymandias visits Studio 54.

Literature — Fiction

  • Eric Idle's 1999 novel The Road to Mars takes place in a future where a Ridiculously Human Robot of choice is the BowieBot android. Carlton, one of the 4.5 models — looking like Bowie in his Let's Dance days — serves as a secretary to the heroes (a comedy team) and has the book's primary subplot, in which it explores the concept/history of humor and whether an artificial intelligence can ever acquire a sense of it. (This book started as an unproduced screenplay; Idle is a friend of Bowie's and wrote the concept/part for him to play.)
  • In Trainspotting, Mark Renton is a big fan, noting that he owns every album of his. One chapter is even called "Station to Station". In the film, Diane has a poster of him on her wall. In fact, she was supposed to sing "Golden Years" in the shower, but they went with "Temptation" by New Order.
  • Bill from I Think I Love You once got a David Bowie haircut in a failed attempt to look like Ziggy Stardust.
  • In You Look Different in Real Life, the protagonists listen to David Bowie in the car. Justine tries to remember if the song is called "We Can Be Heroes" or just "Heroes."
  • In Planet Earth Is Blue, "Space Oddity" is Bridget and Nova's favorite song. Nova has a T-shirt from Bowie's 1978 World Tour which she and Bridget found at a thrift shop. In one scene, Joanie sings along to "Let's Dance" on the radio while Nova taps her knees.
  • Adam from Clade used to be a David Bowie fan when he was in university. He remembers driving around to "Queen Bitch."
  • The character of Wonko the Sane in Douglas Adams' novel So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish is said to sort-of resemble a David Bowie stuck on top of another David Bowie and with two more David Bowies attached to the end of each arm. He is, however, human.
  • The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester: Billy Clement, who died in The '80s, was a huge David Bowie fan. His favorite song was "Space Oddity." He and his girlfriend once posed for pictures dressed as Jareth and Sarah from Labyrinth, and they also included Fame and Fashion in their Time Capsule.
  • Wonder: Miranda frequently listens to "Space Oddity", and some of the lyrics serve as an epigraph to Olivia's narrative chapter.

Literature — Non Fiction

  • Christiane F.: Christiane F. mentioned she went to a Bowie concert. This is dramatized in the film adaptation, with Bowie appearing as himself.

Live-Action TV

  • In the Flight of the Conchords TV series, he appears in the aptly-titled episode "Bowie" as a Gandalf-esque figure (portrayed by Jermaine) who appears to Bret in three dreams, each time in the guise of a different character: Ziggy Stardust, the Pierrot from "Ashes to Ashes", and Jareth. The fun continues in the song "Bowie", which references a number of Bowie songs and music videos.
  • Spitting Image: He was one of the many British celebrities made into a puppet by this show. One sketch had him and Mick Jagger sing and dance together in a parody of the music video of "Dancing in The Street". Then suddenly vicar Ian Paisley interrupts and claims it's time for "shouting in the street", causing the entire background to collapse. The Bowie puppet also appeared in a spoof of Absolute Beginners.
  • Saturday Night Live's eleventh season poked fun at the "Dancing in the Street" video via a Dennis Miller "Weekend Update" commentary.
  • The Sifl and Olly Show claims the Great Pyramids of Egypt were built in anticipation of Bowie's arrival.
  • Life on Mars (2006) as well as Ashes to Ashes (2008) were named after Bowie songs and prominently featured them. The latter even had a Monster Clown resembling Bowie's Pierrot turn up. Gene Hunt would often call himself "The Gene Genie".
  • Jimmy Fallon has an impersonation of Bowie in his repertoire and has used it on several occasions.
    • In Saturday Night Live skits in the late 1990s he poked fun at his NetAid appearance and his "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" duet with Bing Crosby.
    • When openly-Christian American football player Tim Tebow was making sports headlines in 2012-13, Fallon opened several episodes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as "Tebowie", who dressed like a football-themed Ziggy Stardust and sang parodies of songs like "Space Oddity" and "Ziggy Stardust" to follow Tebow's Real Life rise and fall in the NFL. The "Space Oddity" spoof was released as a vinyl single for Record Store Day 2012 and later appeared on Fallon's album Blow Your Pants Off.
  • Classic Albums: One episode was devoted to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
  • The Young Ones: In the episode "Nasty" the young ones conduct a funeral ceremony. As the vicar says "ashes to ashes" Rick sings "Funk to funky, we know Major Tom's a junkie", in references to "Ashes To Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).
  • Doctor Who:
  • Two recurring villains in Fringe are named in honour of him or characters he played. One is given his birth name, David Robert Jones, and the other is given the name of his character in The Man Who Fell to Earth, Thomas Jerome Newton. (Note that both of these characters are always referred to by Full-Name Basis, with all three names given).
  • American Horror Story: Freak Show: In the first episode, Elsa sings David Bowie's "Life on Mars."


  • Murdoc from Gorillaz has mismatched eyes, in reference to Bowie's eyesnote .
  • The Title Track of The Man Who Sold the World was covered by Nirvana and can be heard on MTV Unplugged in New York.
  • Frank Zappa, who held a grudge against Bowie following his "poaching" of guitarist Adrian Belew in 1978, poked fun at the music videos of "Let's Dance" and "China Girl" in his song "Be In My Video", from Them or Us (1984).
    Let's dance the bloooooz (oh yes) let's dance the blooooz (we'll dance them very much) let's dance the blooooooz (sure we will) under the megawatt moonlight.
  • The 1977 EP Bowi by Nick Lowe was a Pun-Based Title on the Bowie album Low. Lowe did this because Low seemed a pun on his name, without the final letter "e". So he did the same with Bowie's name.
  • Joy Division:
    • The band initially called themselves "Warsaw", after the Bowie song "Warszawa".
    • Closer references Station to Station twice: the album cover recreates that of the Bowie album, while the intro to "The Eternal" replicates that of the Bowie album's Title Track.
  • Philip Glass based both his "1st Symphony "Low"" (1992) and "4th Symphony "Heroes"" (1996) on the Bowie albums of the same name. Even the individual movements of those compositions are named after songs from these albums.
  • Eddie And The Hot Rods based their song "Always Crashing In The Same Bar" on Bowie's "Always Crashing In The Same Car".
  • "Car Thief" from Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique has the line
    You be doing nose candy on the Bowie coke mirror
  • The punk band Crass was named after the line "the kids were just crass" from the song "Ziggy Stardust" from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers: In the music video of "Dani California" from Stadium Arcadium the band dresses up as several rock bands, representing different music genres. At one point Flea dresses up like Ziggy Stardust.
  • The final track on Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, "Vampire Money", by My Chemical Romance has the line "sparkle like Bowie in the morning sun" serving as a Shout-Out to Bowie's famous liberal use of glitter during his Glam period and also a Take That! to a certain franchise's depiction of bloodsuckers.
  • Shortly after Bowie's death, Gavin Dunne, better known as Miracle of Sound, released a tribute song to him: "The Man Who Rocked the World".
    And now I look to the stars/Oh with an ache in my heart/For now the man who rocked the world/Is going home
  • In Neil Cicierega's Mouth Silence, the track "Transmission" recreates a numbers station using samples from "Space Oddity" (specifically the guitar riff and countdown). The numbers generated are all ASCII codes, which when converted into characters spells out "SMASH MOUTH".
  • Echo & the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch's solo song "Me and David Bowie" is a homage to the singer and his influence.
  • Chumbawamba name-check Bowie in "How To Get Your Band on Television" as one of the many Live Aid participants that they disdain, singling out his connections with the fashion industry (infamous for its use of sweatshops) and his sponsorship deals.


  • Starmania: The character Ziggy in this Rock Opera is an obsessive Bowie fan, whose name is obviously a shout-out to Ziggy Stardust.

Video Games

  • Bowie's music, naturally, appears in several Rhythm Games:
    • The first Guitar Hero has a cover of "Ziggy Stardust" as a mid-tier difficulty song. Guitar Hero 5 has both "Fame" and then "Under Pressure" as an encore song. "Fame" is notably the only song in the game to have a unique challenge: as a singer, the player must hit all of the descending "Fame"'s near the end of the song.
    • The first DJ Hero has "Let's Dance", used for two mash-ups: one with 50 Cent's "Disco Inferno" and another with Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine".
    • Rock Band 1 contains "Suffragette City" and 3 has "Space Oddity". Most notably, the LEGO spinoff not only has "Let's Dance" on the setlist, but even features a LEGO version of Bowie himself performing the song. As for DLC, his songs include: "Queen Bitch" and "'Heroes'" (both covers), "Moonage Daydream", "Modern Love", "Blue Jean", "Ziggy Stardust", "Young Americans", "Fame", and "Under Pressure".
  • Hideo Kojima loves David Bowie, which is heavily reflected in his Metal Gear series:
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, one of the first lines protagonist Snake says on the radio to his commanding officer is "Can you hear me, Major Tom?". "Space Oddity" was intended to be the credits theme when the plot of the game had a larger emphasis on space travel.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain stars Snake's new PMC, Diamond Dogs, and the game's Abandoned Hospital Awakening opening is practically a Whole-Plot Reference to the lyrics of the song. Originally, the game was even intended to open to "Diamond Dogs", but the final product instead uses a Midge Ure cover of another Bowie song, "The Man Who Sold the World". Another reference comes with the year the game takes place — 1984, which, besides the obvious Orwellian reference, was a track on Diamond Dogs.
    • It's gotten to the point where Kojima's fans have half-jokingly suggested that every character in the series is based on a version of Bowie from some point in his decades-long career, including stage personas, stage costumes, and characters in his material.
  • EarthBound: Carbon Dog's second form is named Diamond Dog.
  • The title of Space Invaders may be a reference to the opening lines in "Moonage Daydream":
    "I'm an alligator
    I'm a mama-papa coming for you
    I'm a space invader
    I'll be a rock and rollin' bitch for you."
  • Shin Megami Tensei's Louis Cyphre looks remarkably like David Bowie, right down to the mismatched eyes.
  • Bowie was the main inspiration for the design of Albert Wesker of the Resident Evil series.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's Blood and Wine expansion has a sidequest named "Turn and Face the Strange", named after a lyric from the song "Changes".

Web Animation

Web Original

Western Animation


  • On most platforms, the singer emoji family is designed to reference Bowie's appearance on the cover of Aladdin Sane.