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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 cantataCarmina Burana. The composition appears in numerous films and television commercials and has become a staple in popular culture, setting the mood for dramatic or cataclysmic situations. For instance, it is used to portray the torment of Jim Morrison's drug addiction in the film The Doors. 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", 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."
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.)
1990: In The Far Side (1990) animated special, it was played in a scene where a man fell into a pen of gorillas at a zoo.
1990: Plays throughout the entire trailer for the low budget Canadian horror film, Cursed (1990), advertised as Gargoyle.
1991: In The Doors, Oliver Stone's biographical film of the American rock band.
1992: The opening bars were used as a theme for the first three seasons of Rox beginning in 1992.
1999: In Detroit Rock City (film) The scene where the 4 boys, after losing their concert tickets, and apparently no way of recovering them, beat each other up to make it appear as though they had been mugged so they can get into the concert.
In Only Fools and Horses (BBC sitcom), whenever Rodney sees his nephew Damien, who was named after the child in The Omen. This has led to a common false belief that the piece appears in The Omen film, although it is not present on the soundtrack of that movie.
Before the start of The X Factor, and also as the entrance theme for the judges.
2015: For a Domino's commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLIX, a piece from the ending cantata is heard as explosives tear down a Domino's Pizza sign and the announcer says they are dropping the word "Pizza" from their name to emphasize their non-pizza products.
Bands and artists who have covered or sampled the work
In 1991, when the Belgian group named 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. The verdict also affected the version by Fortuna ft. Satenig, which in the week of the verdict just reached the #1 position in the Dutch charts Nationale Top 100, while Apotheosis was at #3. The week after, the two songs began quickly slipping off the chart.