The world lost a giant of music, art, fashion and film on Monday with the surprise passing of David Bowie. Soundtracking columnist Shane McNeil looks at the mammoth impact Bowie’s music had on some of the best-loved films of a few generations.

Originally appeared on, Jan. 11, 2016

The world continues to mourn the surprising loss of David Bowie, who succumbed to cancer Monday. But as the shock and grief begin to ebb, his mammoth achievements in music, art and film are coming to the forefront in a career that has touched generations.

While Bowie’s cinematic legacy may more obviously be felt through his bold and often bizarre acting career, his music has also served as the soundtrack to some of the greatest films of a few generations.

It would be exhaustive (nearly impossible) to catalogue The Thin White Duke’s complete contributions. However, a few select moments and films stand out. Here are the highlights.

His greatest songs seem to have taken on a cinematic life of their own. It’s hard these days to hear “China Girl” without also thinking about Drew Barrymore singing the line “Just you shut your mouth” in The Wedding Singer. Bowie remixed his 1975 hit “Fame” for 1990’s Pretty Woman. Meanwhile, last year’s soundtrack smash The Guardians of the Galaxy appropriated the “Ziggy Stardust” album-cut “Moonage Daydream” onto the StarLord’s own Awesome Mix Vol. 1.

But of all his songs, “Heroes” may be the one that’s gotten the greatest cinematic mileage. Forgetting (if one can) the regrettable cover by The Wallflowers featured in 1998’s Godzilla, the song has graced the soundtracks of films as varied as Horns, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Cove.

Wes Anderson has emerged as the master of the 21st Century soundtrack, finding ways to seamlessly blend everything from ‘60s and ‘70s pop to early new wave to French chanteuses to balalaika scores. As such it’s unsurprising that he found a distinct use for Bowie’s catalogue.

His fourth feature – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – took a double-barreled approach. Not only did the story of Bill Murray playing a hapless Cousteau use Bowie favourites such as “Life on Mars?” and “Queen Bitch” but also found a new spin on the entire catalogue. Among the crew of the Belafonte was Pele dos Santos, portrayed by Brazilian singer Seu Jorge. He spends the better part of the movie putting his own bossa nova spin on Bowie favourites such as “Rock N’ Roll Suicide” and “Rebel Rebel.”

As far as cathartic lifetime moments go – and Bowie was doubtless the source of many in the lives of his fans – the best comes courtesy of 1997’s Grosse Pointe Blank. At a high school reunion he never had any intention of attending, standing at an emotional and professional crossroads Martin Blank (John Cusack) is goaded into holding a classmate’s baby as Bowie’s voice swells over the gymnasium speakers.

Fittingly, it’s his collaboration with Queen, “Under Pressure” reminding Blank that “love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night, and love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves.”

For all that is made of Bowie’s career as a musical chameleon, it was often his words that resonated the loudest. Heck, we can probably thank him for the entirety of The Breakfast Club.

But, of course these few examples don’t even begin to scrape Bowie’s imprint on the last 50 years of moviemaking. There are the films where he provided brand new song-scores, to say nothing of the songs he wrote and simply gave away or wrote, played on and produced for his friends.

Have a listen to the playlist below and give thanks that Bowie was – at least for 69 years – a Man that Fell to Earth.

Soundtracking: David Bowie – Tracklist

Queen Bitch – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Modern Love – Frances Ha

Lust for Life (by Iggy Pop) – Trainspotting

Golden Years – A Knight’s Tale

Kooks – Hanna

China Girl – The Wedding Singer

The Heart’s Filthy Lesson – Se7en

Cat People (Putting Out Fire) – Inglourious Basterds

Lady Grinning Soul – The Runaways

Fame 90 – Pretty Woman

Moonage Daydream – Guardians of the Galaxy

Nature Boy – Moulin Rouge!

Under Pressure (with Queen) – Grosse Pointe Blank

All The Young Dudes (by Mott the Hoople) – Juno

Heroes – The Perks of Being a Wallflower