Carl Orff's O Fortuna in popular culture

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In 1935–36, the 13th-century poem "O Fortuna" was set to music by the German composer Carl Orff for his twenty-four-movement cantata Carmina Burana. The composition appears in numerous films and television commercials[1] and has become a staple in popular culture, setting the mood for dramatic or cataclysmic situations.[2] For instance, it is used to portray the torment of Jim Morrison's drug addiction in the film The Doors.[3] In 1983, Doors' keyboardist Ray Manzarek released his third solo album, Carmina Burana, which is an interpretation of the piece in a contemporary framework.

"O Fortuna" has been called "the most overused piece of music in film history",[4] and Harper's Magazine columnist Scott Horton has commented that "Orff’s setting may have been spoiled by its popularization" and its use "in movies and commercials often as a jingle, detached in any meaningful way from its powerful message."[5]

In popular culture[edit]

In film[edit]

In film trailers[edit]

In TV series and specials[edit]

In live and reality TV and radio[edit]

In advertisements[edit]

In videogames[edit]

In sports[edit]

Other uses[edit]

Bands and artists who have covered or sampled the work[edit]


In 1991, when the Belgian group Apotheosis produced a heavily re-sampled version of "O Fortuna", the estate of Carl Orff successfully sued to stop the distribution of the record on the grounds of copyright infringement.[17][18] The verdict also affected the version by Fortuna featuring Satenig, which in the week of the verdict had just reached the #1 position in the Dutch charts Nationale Top 100, while Apotheosis was at #3.[19] Within two weeks, the two songs began quickly slipping off the chart.[20]