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Soundtrack Dissonance / What a Wonderful World

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Louis Armstrong's version of "What a Wonderful World" is musical choice most often used to prove a cruel, mocking, and bitterly ironic counterpoint to the Crapsack World setting and the horrific action on screen. An effect helped by the fact that the song itself is haunting enough to be a Tear Jerker despite its upbeat lyrics. Furthermore, the song itself was written to try to distract people from what a crappy world was portrayed on the news at the time. That it's been used in the purpose of this trope is significant Irony.


  • The Trope Codifier (though not the first use of the song in this context) is played by Adrian Cronauer, as portrayed by Robin Williams, on his radio show in Good Morning, Vietnam; the song runs over a montage of troops fighting in the field, officers at base looking reflective (and for once content with his music choice), a village being carpet bombed, a group of suspected Viet Cong arrested and summarily executed in an alley, and antiwar protesters clashing with police forces in the streets of Saigon.
  • Parodied in the Reduced Shakespeare Company's play, Completely Hollywood, where they end their major mash up of all movies with the Big Bad and hero confronting each other in slow motion. This very song is played as the hero dodges all of the villain's shots before killing him with one lucky one (as per cliched Hollywood action movie ending).
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  • Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine plays the original recording in a sequence that portrays the dictatorships the US government installed or backed during the Cold War and ends with perfectly synchronized video of the attacks on the World Trade Center. In addition, the film also uses Joey Ramone's version, from his solo album Don't Worry About Me, over the credits.
  • A cover version plays during the climax of the final episode of Dark (2017) as a montage shows everyone in the fractured timelines disintegrating into specks of light after the cycle is broken.
  • The trailer for the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "What a wonderful..." Kablam!!!
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a long history of abusing "What a Wonderful World." It replaced "Journey of the Sorcerer" as the music over the credits at the end of the first radio series, where Ford and Arthur, displaced in time, wonder at how beautiful the prehistoric Earth is, conscious that it'll be gone in two million years. The same scene appears in the TV adaptation, shifting into a readout on the Guide, floating through space, to explicitly remind us that in the show's "present", the Earth is destroyed.
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  • A long-running Irish road safety ad had this as its theme. Apparently, no-one told Renault, who a few years later put an upbeat version as the theme of one of their ads...
  • Even anime gets in on the act here. The Whole Episode Flashback exploring Meia's tragic Backstory in the first season of Vandread featured this song extensively. Then they subvert Soundtrack Dissonance by playing it completely straight at the end of the episode. Turns out, it really is A Wonderful World.
  • Even when the song isn't directly used, it can still be used to highlight what a Crapsack World we're living in. The final chapter of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean is called "What a Wonderful World", one of the select few instances where the many, many music references is used exclusively as a chapter title, and features the main antagonist, Enrico Pucci, using his fully-evolved Stand of Made in Heaven to speed up time until the universe collapses and resets, until he ends up getting killed and having the universe stabilize into a new reality. The caveat is that he killed all of the main protagonists (with the exception of Emporio), resulting in either them being reincarnated into new people without their former memories, or because Pucci created them, they straight-up no longer exist. Because Emporio is the only one who lived and still has memories of the old universe, he's absolutely heartbroken when nobody remembers him anymore. What a Wonderful World, indeed, but at what cost?
  • The Fan Vid "Satchmo's Lie" combined "What a Wonderful World" and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • At Otakon 1995, someone combined this song with Fist of the North Star for comic effect. It was the definite CMOA of the music video contest.
  • Not even animated family films are immune. Madagascar uses it when Alex runs away after realizing that he might eat his friends. To hammer the point home, the others see a progression of cute little animals get eaten while the song plays. It seems that it is a wonderful world...just for the predators.
  • Spitting Image used a parody version called "We've Ruined the World", sung by a weeping puppet caricature of Armstrong. The lyrics would fit the original tune, but for legal reasons the show was forced to use a different one.
  • 12 Monkeys used the song extensively in what is almost a subversion of the trope, to highlight the beauty of the soon-to-be-ruined world.
  • The manhwa Hotel: Since 2079 and its one-shot manga spinoff used this song multiple times. While the world ended. And an A.I sat around for millions of years, trying to preserve against nigh-impossible odds the stores of non-human DNA that it was tasked with protecting, as it waited for the humans to come back.
  • The final episode of The Job used the Ramones version, over the discovery of a murdered old woman's body, among other things.
  • The jazz-themed Japanese film Swing Girls uses the song over a montage of the girls being chased by bears in the forest.
  • The Mexican film Un Mundo Maravilloso (which appropriately translates as "A Wonderful World"), at the beginning, when we see the protagonist (a homeless, jobless hobo) wandering the streets at night seeking shelter from the rain and looking at the rich and middle class people in their homes from the outside. And the final shot in which after invading and taking over a middle class house with his buddies and family, the camera shows them celebrating while panning to the house owner's bodies in the yard.
  • Similarly, Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World", likely the second most popular recording of either, is almost exclusively used for a Tear Jerker. To be fair, the song itself is one for many people since the musician's early death.
  • Seems to zigzag in the old commercial for Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. On one hand, we've got "What a Wonderful World" playing to mass destruction. On the other hand, that destruction is awesome. Then you start thinking that this is a commercial with a Repurposed Pop Song, so maybe the new version keeps it from qualifying for this trope... and then the commercial ends with the promise of even worse damage, conflicting with this upbeat version of WaWW. This is when you realize that Kerwan is pretty screwed, so it probably doesn't qualify as a "wonderful world" at all, anymore.
    For a wonderful world.
    Save it.
  • Oliver Stone 's W.. plays this song during a montage of the start of the Iraq War of 2003.
  • In the Season 4 premiere of Sons of Anarchy, the Alison Mosshart cover of the song is played by the band at Opie and Lyla's wedding, then it goes non-diegetic as the scene switches over to the rest of SAMCRO slaughtering The Mafiya.
  • The trailer for the Russian movie Stalingrad (2013) utilizes an altered and grim version of this song. Dark irony as it is.
  • Mild example in the JonTron episode "Home Alone Games", where Jon loudly sings part of it while cooking nuts so badly they explode. The explosions cut him off both times.
  • An Ad Council PSA uses Willie Nelson's version of this song to promote recycling.
  • Parodied in Team Four Star's abridged version of Lord Slug, wherein the titular villain, upon regaining his youth, strength and "impeccable singing voice", proceeds to sing his own dark parody of the song as he has a dark cloud engulfing the earth.
    I see trees of brown, and skies of black, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world...
  • Played during the introduction of The Burning Grail, which slowly pans across a post-apocalyptic wasteland containing wrecked cars, vicious beasts and mutants being killed by humans in several different ways, among other things.
  • British experimental black metal group The Meads of Asphodel play a modified cover on their Damascus Steel album, throwing in some dissonant chords to the string section and putting a viciously cynical spin on Armstrong's lyrics:
    "I see ethnic cleansing / Pain beyond belief / Whole nations murdered / Sorrow and grief / And I think to myself what a wonderful world..."
  • Subverted in the climax of Finding Dory where, while the initial situation it appears in (a truck flying off of a freeway and landing into the ocean) is certainly calamitous, the progression of events (all the Cleveland-bound marine life being freed and Dory reuniting with her family) complement the meaning of the song.
  • This is played at the end of the Hawaii Five-0 episode "Ka Pa'ani Nui" as the Five-0 task force raid the apartment and arrest the villains.
  • The Season 4 trailer for Black Mirror uses the song in its last two-thirds, but the trope is more zigzagged as it plays over as much scary or ominous moments the series is infamous for as it does funny, heartwarming, and emotional moments.
    "At least we'll be entertained while the world's going to hell." - Adam Chitwood : Collider
  • The Boys (2019) features the song as a man is influenced by negative news to the point his paranoia leads him to shoot the local store clerk, fearing he is a Super-Terrorist.
  • A Reference Overdosed story-driven YouTube Poop by user 64marj064 entitled Final Hours zigzags this. When the end of the world ends up not happening, everybody heads home disappointedly, and King Harkinian debates what to do in the very moment, before deciding to also head back home. As he walks back, the credits roll with this song in the background and the sun rising. It's a touching way to end off the video and show that the world is still a place to be loved and cherished... until one realizes that Scout is still laying on the ground after he was kicked by Rainbow Dash, only to wake up declaring, "What the hell was that crap?!"


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