Sound + Vision: 12 Great David Bowie Soundtrack Cuts

From space operas to WWII revenge epics, some of the best uses of Bowie's music in movies

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David Bowie
(Harrison Funk/Zuma/Corbis)

David Bowie's contributions to the film world are both essential and well documented (check out our list of his best screen roles), but his pop culture presence was simply too immense to be confined to just the movies in which he appeared. Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane and the other fragments of his infinite persona have provided the soundtracks of our lives for more than 40 years, and have sporadically contributed to the soundtracks of our films for almost as many. From space operas to medieval jousting movies, Bowie songs have never felt out of place on a soundtrack. His music was as malleable as the man who wrote it, and the best of his tracks will never lose their inexplicable power to make the alien feel ordinary, and the ordinary feel alien.

There are very few films that wouldn't be made better by the right Bowie song, or even the wrong one. For the vast majority of his working life, however, Bowie was unfortunately — if understandably — reluctant to lend his music to other artists. It wasn't until the Nineties, when the Man Who Sold the World also found the smartest way to license it, that Bowie softened his stance. Predicting that technology was going to permanently reshape the music industry and annihilate the value of pre-existing copyright laws, Bowie realized that "Authorship and intellectual property is in for a bashing," and decided not to get in its way. As a result, the last two decades have seen a sharp uptick in the number of movies that have been graced with his voice.

So, with a slight emphasis on the last 20 years (and disqualifying the songs that he wrote, but didn't sing — all apologies, "Lust for Life"), we've cued up the 12 best Bowie music moments in movie history. Prepare for the best in sound + vision.

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