As an icon, who has cast a long shadow on our cultural landscape since the ‘60s, Leonard Cohen’s songs have appeared in the soundtrack of a large number of movies and TV shows. Here are some notable examples.
*The evocative The Stranger Song, Sisters of Mercy and Winter Lady created
the period atmosphere in Robert Altman’s revisionist western McCabe and Mrs Miller.
*Natural Born Killers, Oliver Stone’s controversial film about a spree-killing couple, featured Waiting for the miracle, Anthem and The future. While the first is used to establish the brooding atmosphere in the opening scene set in the New Mexico desert, the other two songs offer narration of, and commentary on, the movie’s action.
*Bird on a wire inspired many covers, including a funk version by The Neville Brothers. This song was featured on the
soundtrack of 1990’s ill-fated romantic comedy Bird on a Wire, starring Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn.
*Secretary, the 2002 erotic romance film, used Cohen’s I’m your man to successfully play up the dark humour of the sequence which sees the secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal) giving in wholeheartedly to the submissive role demanded by the sadomasochistic relationship she shares with her boss (James Spader).
*Renaldo and Clara, Bob Dylan’s self-indulgently experimental film, had a soundtrack that was dominated by Dylan’s own music. There were some notable exceptions including Cohen’s Suzanne, performed by
*Suzanne also features in the soundtrack of the 2014 movie Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her relationship with her mother, Bobbi. Director Jean-Marc Vallee revealed in an interview that while he had used the song because he wanted to include music that Bobbi would have played to her children in the ’70s, he was later astonished to discover that she had been friends with Suzanne Verdal, the inspiration for
*One Cohen song that has acquired a life of its own is Hallelujah; astonishing given how little the song was noticed when it was released in 1984. Hallelujah ended up being covered by a number of other musicians, but it is the 1994 Jeff Buckley cover that remains the most enduring. It was this cover that eventually propelled Hallelujah to becoming the go-to song for any scene that needs to convey wistfulness and heartbreak. It has been used in movies such as Shrek (which used the Buckley cover in the movie and the John Cale cover in the album), Watchmen, Basquiat, not to mention TV shows such as The West Wing, The OC, Scrubs, The L Word, House MD, Lost, Ugly Betty and ER.