Why this creepy melody is in so many movies

  • Published: 16 September 2019
  • This deathly 13th-century song shows up everywhere.

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    Correction: Mozart’s Requiem isn’t a symphony, it’s a requiem: a type of Catholic mass for the dead. It was initially written for mass but later popularized and performed outside the church, as was Verdi's.

    Think back to some of the most dramatic scenes in film history — from The Lion King, The Shining, It’s a Wonderful Life. Besides being sad or scary, they have something else in common: the dies irae. “Dies irae” translates from Latin to “Day of Wrath” — it’s a 13th-century Gregorian chant describing the day Catholics believe God will judge the living and the dead and send them to heaven or hell. And it was sung during one specific mass: funerals.

    As Catholicism permeated world culture, the melody of the chant was repurposed into classical music, where it was used to convey a deathly, eerie tone. From there it worked its way into films — and if you don’t already know it, you’ve almost certainly heard it before: It’s played over and over in our scariest and most dramatic cinematic moments.

    Here’s Alex Ludwig’s original supercut of movies featuring the dies irae: teamrock.pro/video/GLGa6vfDTIM/video.html

    There are so many references to the dies irae in classical music that we couldn’t include. One is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s 1908 “symphonic poem” Isle of the Dead (teamrock.pro/video/dbbtmskCRUY/video.html?t=1032). He was inspired by this painting from Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin that shows a coffin and white figure on their way to a small island (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isle_of_the_Dead_(painting)).

    Alex briefly touched on the differences between the ancient dorian mode and the modern minor mode. There’s a ton written online about them, but here’s a good place to start if you’re curious: musical-u.com/learn/get-familiar-with-the-dorian-mode/#

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Comments • 2 102

  • Vox
    Vox   4 weeks back

    Correction: Mozart’s Requiem isn’t a symphony, it’s a requiem: a type of Catholic mass for the dead. It was initially written for mass but later popularized and performed outside the church, as was Verdi's.

    • Deltron
      Deltron  4 days back


    • Sebastian-Benedict Flore
      Sebastian-Benedict Flore  1 weeks back

      @JTagStudios Yeah lol that one wasn't even the Dies Irae

    • Sebastian-Benedict Flore
      Sebastian-Benedict Flore  1 weeks back

      @Simon du Toit Did you know that using a semitone interval in a melody makes the listener feel uncomfortable? Thanks Vox

    • Sebastian-Benedict Flore
      Sebastian-Benedict Flore  1 weeks back

      You should probably delete the whole video because it's got a lot that is just not quite right m8

  • July Qn
    July Qn  3 days back

    It‘s also in riverdale in every episode !!

    • joachim lewyy
      joachim lewyy  3 days back

      Did you really said LINST ?


      • Jordan Elizabeth
        Jordan Elizabeth  4 days back

        I'm singing that song in choir rn lol

        • God Himself
          God Himself  5 days back

          Di-es irae di-es irae!!!

          • Victoria the green cheek conure

            I think this was in jarassic park

            • BloodGuzzler
              BloodGuzzler  5 days back

              Most iconic use is in The Shining? Who Wants to be a Millionaire begs to differ

              • xenontesla122
                xenontesla122  6 days back

                5:12 The track from the exorcist (Tubular Bells) wasn't made for the movie and wasn't intended to be creepy, so it probably isn't a modified version of Dies Irae.

                • josiah
                  josiah  6 days back

                  i love it so much in the shining, it's so stark!!

                  • asteadydecline
                    asteadydecline  7 days back

                    My friend brought it to my attention that it's also in Clerks II as Elias is explaining "Pillow Pants" to Randal. I checked and it's also uncredited.

                    • Mr. Gigan
                      Mr. Gigan  7 days back

                      2:06 so that's where they got the shining theme.🤔

                      • Gayle Cheung
                        Gayle Cheung  1 weeks back


                        • TheVoiceOfTruth
                          TheVoiceOfTruth  1 weeks back

                          So basically it was created to be apart of their nwo rituals to sacrifice to Remphan, Moloch, and Dagon. It has nasty dark undertones because that is exactly what it is

                          • Sebastian-Benedict Flore

                            I do not feel uncomfortable listening to the Dies Irae melody. It can be very calming and soothing.

                            • Sebastian-Benedict Flore

                              Dramaalert is more accurate than Vox

                              • Sebastian-Benedict Flore

                                According to this video, using a semitone (half-step) interval, not even together but consecutively, is displeasing to the ear. Ok sure then

                                • Sebastian-Benedict Flore

                                  So, basically, this I'd the proto-lick?

                                  • Sebastian-Benedict Flore

                                    At 20 seconds, I recognise that melody from Liszt Totentanz. It's the main theme of his death dance, used exactly like that in every variation. The melody is unchanging

                                    • Sebastian-Benedict Flore
                                      Sebastian-Benedict Flore  1 weeks back

                                      Oh I just got to the point in the video where they mention Liszt. Yeah obviously it's all dies irae. I like Britten's

                                  • Phoebe Wolf
                                    Phoebe Wolf  1 weeks back

                                    This sounds like (I'm not sure if this is true) the Disney channel theme song but in a minor key

                                    • Niklas Soderstrom
                                      Niklas Soderstrom  1 weeks back

                                      So it’s like the lick but less funny

                                      • Zander Seventy Two
                                        Zander Seventy Two  1 weeks back

                                        "The Exorcist theme" is a stretch, given it wasn't composed for that film. It is, in fact, Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. It is possible that these notes could appear in a piece purely by coincidence (there's only four of them) - but you'd have to ask Mike Oldfield to be sure.

                                        • QuantumBraced
                                          QuantumBraced  1 weeks back

                                          Jeez, SPOILER ALERT!

                                          • brivnii
                                            brivnii  1 weeks back

                                            I believe these notes are in the new Joker movie as well.

                                            • David Layton
                                              David Layton  1 weeks back

                                              The theme from "10 Cloverfield Lane" uses it heavily.

                                              • Ryan Douglas
                                                Ryan Douglas  2 weeks back

                                                6.6m subs but still records audio on an iphone?

                                                • The Gayest Dryer
                                                  The Gayest Dryer  2 weeks back

                                                  OMG my choir teacher just taught us about this! We even played a song called "dies irae" that had those 4 notes a lot!

                                                  • DARTH VADER
                                                    DARTH VADER  2 weeks back

                                                    Lord of the rings extended it

                                                    • Xser Gods
                                                      Xser Gods  2 weeks back

                                                      4:20 to say Dorian mode is Minor mode is like saying oranges are apples, they are completely different

                                                      • Raphael Cavalcanti
                                                        Raphael Cavalcanti  2 weeks back

                                                        I first heard this chanted by two choirmen in a small chapel in the first requiem I've ever attended, reading the lyrics and the translation as they sung. It was chilling, I felt at unease.

                                                        • Timothy White
                                                          Timothy White  2 weeks back

                                                          Who gets inspiration from a Painting depicting suffering and death?

                                                          • Matthew Forte
                                                            Matthew Forte  2 weeks back

                                                            Hey, Vox, can we get someone to read these music ones who can pronounce Mozart's name correctly? Or Liszt's? Is that a possibility? I do not want to be too hoighty toighty, but it is hard to take this 'music expertise' stuff seriously when you cannot even pronounce the names of the figures you are alluding to correctly.

                                                            • Jude Al-Safadi
                                                              Jude Al-Safadi  2 weeks back

                                                              4:21 Who made this work of art? Is it a painting by Memling maybe?

                                                              • Bo Inman
                                                                Bo Inman  2 weeks back

                                                                We are singing “Dies Irae” in choir

                                                                • matteste
                                                                  matteste  2 weeks back

                                                                  It was also used in the visual novel Dies Irae (obviously)

                                                                  • Michael Keenan
                                                                    Michael Keenan  2 weeks back

                                                                    Link to the chant at 1:00 please?

                                                                    • ShoogaMoogaMan
                                                                      ShoogaMoogaMan  2 weeks back

                                                                      Now currently used as the theme for both Final Space and Dead by Daylight

                                                                      • Lesly Rodriguez
                                                                        Lesly Rodriguez  2 weeks back

                                                                        I’m sure there is more stuff involved there is not many ways to arrange notes...

                                                                        • BinStolz - AufDich
                                                                          BinStolz - AufDich  2 weeks back

                                                                          The best use of the theme is in the star wars song: Anikans betrayal. 😊

                                                                          • Alessandro Di Piazza
                                                                            Alessandro Di Piazza  2 weeks back

                                                                            I recognised it gg

                                                                            • John Barreiros
                                                                              John Barreiros  2 weeks back

                                                                              This video for some reason totally fascinated me..

                                                                              • cinetic_ clips
                                                                                cinetic_ clips  2 weeks back

                                                                                5:10 Ah, I see the Exorcist theme and Chocolate Rain are very similar! Thanks Vox.

                                                                                • IGitzDiz Music
                                                                                  IGitzDiz Music  2 weeks back

                                                                                  It's used in Home Alone.

                                                                                  • Communist Propagandist
                                                                                    Communist Propagandist  3 weeks back

                                                                                    If you like these kind of videos check out the channel Sideways, he does practically this video plus a bunch of other great videos.

                                                                                    • Requiredfields2
                                                                                      Requiredfields2  3 weeks back

                                                                                      You have made me rethink music.

                                                                                      • シFloofie_Pan
                                                                                        シFloofie_Pan  3 weeks back

                                                                                        DONT FORGET MONSTER HIGH

                                                                                        • jupiter is a bean
                                                                                          jupiter is a bean  3 weeks back

                                                                                          this is actually so cool

                                                                                          • Silver Addie Fun Pack
                                                                                            Silver Addie Fun Pack  3 weeks back

                                                                                            It’s also in Jack’s Lament from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
                                                                                            He’s already dead anyway.

                                                                                            • NJMProductions
                                                                                              NJMProductions  3 weeks back

                                                                                              frick u vox pewdipe is best