What makes a great movie great? A good director, talented actors, astonishing cinematography and so on. Although I understand that all of this are vital to creating successful movies for me music has always been a major player in the movie. Does not matter if it is the most famous director with amazing cast that made a film rewarded with all possible awards, if the film does not have good soundtrack, FORGET IT! I do not want to sound too dramatic, I say as I continue proving my point, but there is nothing that makes a film better than good soundtrack or a mesmerizing music scene, especially one featuring a piano. For a film fanatic and piano lover there is no combination more sweet and awe-inducing than an amazing film with a beautiful piano scene, NONE. That is why I have compiled a very short, not so comprehensive and absolutely subjective list of some of the greatest movies with memorable piano scenes.
The Legend of 1900
The first film that comes to my mind is a magical and beautiful story of Danny Boodman T. D. Lemon 1900 (yes, that is his actual name). Just a little baby abandoned on the ship, 1900 grows up without ever leaving the ship, traveling across Atlantic for years. He has a unique talent in music and in this scene featuring Jelly Roll Morton, famous jazz pianist who challenged 1900 to a duel you can see why this movie is great not only because of this scene but overall narrative:
Now let’s talk about a less dramatic and intense scene which is nevertheless as memorable. Josh, played by Tom Hanks, one day wishes on a “magical” (well, it is actually magical in the movie) Zoltar machine to be an adult. The next day he wakes up a fully grown man and long story short he gets a job (doubt he dreamed of working 9-5) and a lot more transpires. In this scene Josh plays “Heart and Soul” on a gigantic keyboard with the CEO of a huge toy company. Although the film is not music based as much this scene is quite memorable because of the sentiments and nostalgia that is evokes (at least in me).
I do not even know if this movie needs an introduction, but here we go: Wladyslaw Szpilman, played by Adrien Brody who won an Oscar for his part, is a musician trying to survive World War II in Warsaw ghetto. In this scene he is discovered by a German officer who tells him to play on the grand piano. Szpilman performs Chopin’s “Ballade in G minor” which moves the officer so much that he allows Wladyslaw to hide and promises to help him survive. The scene is extremely moving and shows how music represents all the beauty in the world and can touch everyone, no matter which side of the war they are on.
A fictional biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that follows his rival Salieri. As old Salieri is taken to an asylum he confesses to the murder of Mozart and tells the story of Mozart’s life and his rivalry with him through from his own perspective. This scene depicts Mozart showing his skills and having a sort of a musical duel with Salieri:
Burton’s “Corpse Bride” is about a groom who accidentally marries a corpse (guess now you do not think your marriage was a mistake). Jokes aside, this has to be one of my favorite films to watch on Christmas or Halloween, or you know… any other day because it is that amazing. The Burtonian aura of this scene is mesmerizing and if you have somehow gone years without watching this film you should definitely find some time, at least after watching this kind of a piano scene:
After suffering a breakdown or two and going through awful times, Helfgott ends up in a restaurant where he is mocked for his decrepit state and sort of audacity that he is sitting at a piano and attempting to play. BUT as soon as his fingers touch the piano keys the entire room goes quiet as the audience is dumbfounded by mastery of his performance as he plays “Flight of the Bumblebee” with a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
La La Land
Okay, I want to finish this list with a more recent film (if you have not noticed most of these films are 10-20 years old). This film is about Mia, an aspiring actress and Sebas, jazz pianist and their love story (yeah, yeah I know…). But it so much more than that, it is about dreamers who love film and love music and struggle to becoming great at their crafts. So in this scene we see Mia seeing Sebas perform in a restaurant where no one is paying him any attention and Chazelle’s (director) ability to make this scene transcendental only proves how much he loves not just film but music too.
Anyway, I know this list might cause some of you to say “but you did not include this movie” or “that trash should not be even mentioned in anything that has “best” in the name” but as I have mentioned this is sort of a subjective list that you can enjoy if you want and maybe if you have not seen some of them take your chances and get going.