When we watch our favorite films, television series, and video games, we often praise the…
While soundtracks often provide a beautiful backdrop to films and heighten the emotional resonance of a scene, there are also rare occasions when powerful vocal performances surprise and stun the viewer. In films that are not considered musicals, seeing a character suddenly belt out a song can catch us off guard. The unforeseen nature of the scene can add to its power and impact, searing the performance in our memories long after.
Here are five films with unexpected vocal performances that are nearly impossible to forget.
Diva Plavalaguna – The Fifth Element
The “space opera” subgenre is defined by adventure, intergalactic war, and romance. Opera music itself rarely factors into the equation. French director Luc Besson broke that mold when he had the blue alien Plavalaguna perform on a hotel spaceship in his film The Fifth Element. The diva captivates her audience with a beautiful operatic aria, and even moves the main character to tears. Inva Mula, an Albanian opera soprano, lent her voice to the character and delivered a breathtaking performance. When we later learn of the diva’s significance to the galaxy’s salvation, the emotion with which she shares her song is even more meaningful. The music and style surprisingly shifts halfway through, transitioning from traditional opera to quasi-hip hop. Intermixed with scenes of the film’s heroine fighting off enemy aliens, the diva hits chill-inducing high notes in the highlight of this 90’s sci-fi epic.
Pippin Took – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
With an enormous cast of fantastic characters, Peregrin Took (also known as Pippin), a hobbit, is often overlooked. The last film of The Lord of the Rings series, The Return of the King,gives him one big moment to shine. Pippin begins the series as a happy-go-lucky hobbit who adds levity to the dark and dramatic series. After the loss of multiple friends and a personal encounter with the main villain, Sauron, Pippin begins to lose his childlike innocence. In this particular scene, he is asked to sing a song by the embittered Denethor, who just sent his last surviving son on a suicide mission. This song comes from a poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien (the author of the books in which the movie series is based on) about hope and adventure. In the film, it is incorporated into scenes of battle, and the haunting rendition by Billy Boyd (the actor who plays Pippin) turns them into something much more melancholy. The emotion on Pippin’s face plays beautifully with the song, showing the character’s yearning for happier times and the realization that things may never be the same again.
Patrick Verona – 10 Things I Hate About You
What do you get when you combine William Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew with a 1990’s era high school drama? The result is one of that generation’s most well-known rom-coms that also helped launch the careers of its stars. In the scene, the “shrew” character, played by Julia Stiles, is angry at Heath Ledger’s character, Patrick. To earn her forgiveness, Patrick decides to stage an impromptu serenade. With the help of the high school’s marching band, Patrick sings the 1960’s song by Frankie Valli, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” and in doing so, he sheds a little bit of his bad boy persona. It’s a lighthearted and feel-good performance, but it’s Ledger’s endless charm that really sells it. It is safe to say that with this iconic performance, Patrick won the heart of more than just his on-screen love interest.
Shug Avery – The Color Purple
Alice Walker’s famous novel is filled with women finding their strength. At the same time, The Color Purple is also about family and healing old wounds. Shug Avery is a blues singer of ill repute who was disowned by her pastor father. Throughout the film, Shug makes various attempts to reconcile with him to no avail. Near the film’s conclusion, Shug is singing at the local juke bar when her performance is interrupted by her father’s church choir. She recognizes the song as “God Is Trying To Tell You Something,” and it stirs something within her. She begins singing along and then makes her way to the church. Once inside, Shug pours her everything into the performance, made even more powerful by the unified singing of the church choir and her jazz bandmates. Shug’s father has no choice but to see her and listen to her incredible voice. The emotional scene ends with Shug embracing her father after winning his approval, and saying “You see Daddy? Sinners have soul too.”
The Townspeople – It’s a Wonderful Life
There are a few American movies that never fail to put you in the holiday spirit; this is one of them. It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey, a loan banker who has lost the will to live after a series of mishaps. Like the ghosts of A Christmas Carol, a spirit guide arrives to remind Bailey of the good he has done and the importance of his life to those around him. George proceeds to get a glimpse of a world in which he never existed. The town of Bedford Falls is crime-ridden and dangerous without George’s helping hand. His loved ones are either dead, imprisoned, or unhappy without him. Realizing his worth, George faces his problems head-on and is taken aback by the townsfolk’s sudden generosity. To prevent his pending arrest, they collectively raise the money he had previously lost. In the midst of this act of kindness, the townsfolk sing “Auld Lang Syne,” an old folk song about farewells. It perfectly encapsulates George’s feelings of letting go of his past mistakes while looking forward to a brighter future surrounded by his family and friends.