A List of Beethoven's Music That Has Appeared in the Movies

You Will Hear Beethoven Often on the Silver Screen

Beethoven Statue
Beethoven's timeless music are a continuing source of inspiration for filmmakers of every stripe. mrtom-uk / Getty Images

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) is one of the world's most famous and influential composers of classical music. His music has been played all over the world for two centuries. Even if you've never been in a concert hall, if you've seen a movie—any movie—in your life, chances are you've heard music by Beethoven. As we will see, Beethoven's music is used extensively on the silver screen. 

The Soundtrack of "Immortal Beloved"

As you might expect, the movie made about the life of Beethoven features much of the composer's best-known work.

The 1994 movie "Immortal Beloved," starring Gary Oldman as Beethoven, includes the following pieces.

  • Violin Concerto, Movement 1
  • Fur Elise
  • Piano Sonata No 8, Movement 2
  • Piano Sonata No. 14, Movement 1
  • Symphony No. 5
  • Symphony No. 6
  • Symphony No. 7
  • Symphony No. 9

Beethoven Music in the Movies

According to IMDB, Beethoven's music has well over 1,200 credits in movies, television, and documentaries. Some of his music has been used more than others, though any of his sonatas, concertos, and symphonies are perfect background music for whatever action is on the screen.

This is just a small sampling of some of the most popular movie soundtracks that have used Beethoven's work.

  • "Along Came Polly" (2004) - Cello Sonata No. 2
  • "Colonel Chabert" (1994) - Piano Trio No. 5, Movement 2
  • "Crimson Tide" (1995) - Piano Sonata No. 14
  • "Fantasia" (1940) - Symphony No. 6
  • "Hard Target" (1993) - Piano Sonata No. 23, Movement 3
  • "Hilary and Jackie" (1998) - Piano Trio No. 7 "Archduke"
  • "The Horse Whisperer" (1998) - Beethoven's Cello Sonata No. 1
  • "Kalifornia" (1993) - Symphony No. 8, Movement 2
  • "Lincoln" (2012) - Overture to Egmont Op. 84
  • "Misery" (1990) - Piano Sonata No. 14, Movement 1
  • "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" (2015) - Symphony No. 3
  • "Traffic" (2000) - Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor
  • "The Zookeeper's Wife" (2017) - Piano Sonata No. 1, Movement 2, Op. 2

Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5

Popularly known as the "Emperor Concerto," Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat Major, Opus 73" has many wonderful sections that are perfect for film soundtracks. Written for Archduke Rudolf between 1809 and 1811, this concerto has many lively orchestral phrases as well as soft piano features for filmmakers to choose from.

  • "Crime of Padre Armano" (2002) 
  • "Dead Poets Society" (1989) -  Movement 2
  • "Elysium" (2013) 
  • "Fearless" (1993) - Movement 3
  • "The King's Speech" (2010)

Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8

The "Sonata Pathétique," as it is commonly called is formally Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Opus 13." It was one of the highlights of the composer's early years, written when he was just 27. Many musical scholars still contend that it is one of his best works.

Written in three movements, each offers filmmakers many inspiring sections, from quick action to mellow contemplation. The opening of Movement 2, the "Adagio cantabile" is particularly popular, especially for highly dramatic moments in a film.

  • "The Age of Innocence" (1993) - Movement 2
  • "Before Sunrise" (1995) - Movement 3
  • "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002)
  • "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997) - Movement 2
  • "Star Trek: Insurrection" (1998) - Movement 1

Beethoven's String Quartets

In his lifetime, Beethoven wrote 16 string quartets. When looking for a dramatic effect, filmmakers can rely on these well-known and highly acclaimed pieces of music. The layering of cello, viola, and the stimulating violins can easily give any soundtrack new life.

  • "Daddy Day Care" (2003) - String Quartet Op. 18, No. 5
  • "George of the Jungle" (1997) - String Quartet, Op. 18, No. 6
  • "Sour Grapes" (1998) - String Quartet No. 2 and No. 7

Beethoven's Symphony No. 5

Written between 1804 and 1808, "Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Opus 67" is recognizable from the first notes. It is the "da da da dum" orchestral piece that even people who aren't familiar with classical music know very well.

Beyond the well-known first movement, "Allegro con brio," there are other fascinating sections of this symphony that you will recognize in countless films.

  • "Austin Powers in Goldmember" (2002)
  • "The Breakfast Club" (1985)
  • "Howards End" (1992)
  • "The Peanuts Movie" (2015)

Beethoven's Symphony No. 7

Another of Beethoven's major symphonies, "Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Opus 92" was first performed in 1813. Each of these movies features the second movement, "Allegretto," which has a strong emphasis on the strings and is a lively melody that is tossed back and forth between the main string sections. 

  • "Frances" (1982)
  • "The King's Speech" (2010) 
  • "Mr. Hollands Opus" (1995)
  • "X-Men: Apocalypse" (2017) 

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

Beethoven took two years (1822–1824) to write what many people believe to be his best work. "Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125" is a choral symphony and you may be more familiar with it as "Ode to Joy."

This symphony is a favorite for music students, classical music fans, and filmmakers alike. This single symphony offers high drama, soft melodies, and lots of action, giving movie directors so more than enough to work with.

  • "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" (1994)
  • "A Clockwork Orange" (1971)
  • "Cruel Intentions" (1999)
  • "Dead Poets Society" (1989)
  • "Die Hard" (1988)
  • "Mr. Jones" (1993)

Beethoven's Für Elise

Though you may know it by the title "Für Elise," this Beethoven masterpiece is formally called "Bagatelle No. 25 in A Minor." It is yet another you will recognize on the first piano notes with its light, lovely melody that repeats throughout.

Für Elise is a solo piano that Beethoven wrote around 1810, but it was not discovered until 1867, 40 years after his death. You will also hear it with an orchestral arrangement in the background.

  • "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989)
  • "Django Unchained" (2012)
  • "Patch Adams" (1998)
  • "Rosemary's Baby" (1968)