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-five-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] Its contemporary usage is often joking or satirical in nature, owing to its oversaturation in popular culture.

In popular culture[edit]

In film[edit]

Also, "O Verona", track 2 on the so-called (mainly orchestral) "Volume 2" of the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, is composer Craig Armstrong's pastiche of "O Fortuna", although not a direct version of it.

In film trailers[edit]

  • 1989: In the trailer for the 1989 film Glory, although the actual film score was composed by James Horner and sung by The Boys' Choir of Harlem. (Orff's Carmina Burana is not used in the finished film.)
  • 1989: In the trailer for the 1989 film Warlock.
  • 1994: Used in the cinematic trailer for the film Léon: The Professional.
  • 1999: In the trailer for the film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
  • 2009: In the trailer for the film Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
  • 2017: In the trailer for the film Fist Fight.

In TV series and specials[edit]

In live and reality TV and radio[edit]

In advertisements[edit]

In video games[edit]

  • In The Sims Medieval video game, used several times including a quest of the name and a book entitled, "O, For Tuna!".
  • In the video game "The Battle Cats", there is a boss theme that closely resembles "O Fortuna".
  • In the classic video game Final Fantasy VII, the final boss theme "One-Winged Angel" borrows lyrics from O Fortuna.

In sports[edit]

Other uses[edit]

  • 1987: The Ozzy Osbourne live album Tribute, compiled from recordings of his 1981 tour, opens with "O Fortuna" as Osbourne arrives on the stage. This was typical for his live performances of that era. "O Fortuna" was omitted from the album's 1995 remaster.
  • 2008: In the 2008 Qlimax, performed by a choir
  • 2009: Long-running webcomic Schlock Mercenary has hundreds of construction robots singing "O Fortuna" while they work, freaking out the crew.[7]
  • 2010: At the 2010 Classic Brit Awards, performed by Rhydian and Only Men Aloud!.
  • 2011: On the opening ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of the Struga Poetry Evenings (2011), on August 25, 2011, performed by a chamber orchestra.
  • By Rooster Teeth when showing a backwards slow motion clip of Gavin Free crashing through a wall of 200 coke cans. This was shown at the RTX event in Austin, Texas.
  • At the matriculation ceremony of the University of Oslo every year.
  • F.X. Calderia, the editor of Ship of Theseus, is claimed to have enjoyed listening to this when Calderia wrote up to 30 unpublished novel; doing so as a reminder of Ship of Theseus author, V. M. Straka who adored the music.

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


  1. ^ Eric Friesen, "Carmina Burana: The Big Mac of Classical Music?", Queen's Quarterly, Summer 2011  – via Questia (subscription required).
  2. ^ "The Answer Is Almost Always "O Fortuna" - Kickass Classical Forums". Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  3. ^ IMDB entry for soundtrack of Oliver Stone's film The Doors
  4. ^ Jeff Bond, Review of Mission Impossible 2 Archived January 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Film Score Monthly, July 2000, p. 35.
  5. ^ Scott Horton, "O Fortuna!", Harper's Magazine, September 7, 2008.
  6. ^ The Big Beer Ad on YouTube
  7. ^ "Tuesday 13 October 2009". Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  8. ^ Apoptygma Berzerk – Love Never Dies on YouTube
  9. ^ Bullet For My Valentine – Waking the Demon + intro live on YouTube
  10. ^ "Dreadzone's 'Little Britain' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  11. ^ Cam'ron feat Hell Rell JR Writer & Jim Jones – Get Em Daddy on YouTube
  12. ^ "DJ Paul ft. Lord Infamous – U Don't Want It – Listen Now". Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  13. ^ Mars – The Gate – Enigma. NASA on YouTube
  14. ^ Epica – The Classical Conspiracy – "O Fortuna" (Live) on YouTube
  15. ^ Era – The Mass on YouTube
  16. ^ Amacher, Julie (December 12, 2007). "New Classical Tracks: Contemporary carols with a familiar ring". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  17. ^ Trans-Siberian Orchestra – "O Fortuna" (Live) on YouTube