Turntables have made many appearances in films, sometimes even playing a crucial role in the plot, or to the development of central characters.
Surprised? Don’t be. Here are 10 of the best turntable moments in movies.
In this compelling 1994 drama, Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a banker who’s incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. After years of writing to the state, he’s finally sent crates full of books and records. The delight from the unexpected delivery prompts Andy to lock himself in the warden’s office, where he plays Mozart’s Duettino-Sull’aria — and then broadcasts the aria over the prison’s PA system. As the music plays, all the inmates stop to listen, as Andy gives them a moment of hope and freedom. Check it out here.
This 1987 anti-war film stars Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer, an irreverent, wise-cracking DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service who is on the brink of having a nervous breakdown. The pounding tones of Adam Faith’s single “It’s Alright” serves as the soundtrack to this riveting scene, with Cronauer tossing records around the control room as he himself begins to spin out of control. Check it out here.
This Stanley Kubrick masterpiece presents a bleak glimpse into the future as we follow the wild adventures and musings of Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a criminal with a keen interest in classical music, particularly Beethoven. His love for the composer is exhibited in this scene, where Alex plays the 9th Symphony (Second Movement) as his inner monologue runs amuck. (True, he’s playing it from what appears to be an early DAT tape, but a garish turntable sits front and center in his onscreen audio system.) Violent and gruesome images follow — a study in contrast to the beautiful musical underpinning. Check it out here.
What’s a bath without a record playing? In this scene, Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) is listening to a phonograph recording of Benny Goodman’s swing jazz tune “You’re a Sweet Little Headache” while supposedly running a bath. However, it’s actually a cover for a raid on Indiana Jones’ (Harrison Ford) room in a search for the Grail Diary. At this point in the movie, Jones doesn’t yet know that he and Elsa aren’t on the same side — and the pair kiss. Check it out here.
Grandma Florence Norris’ (Sylvia Sidney) record player is the only thing stopping the aliens from taking over the earth. In this hilarious scene, Florence is listening to Slim Whitman’s album Indian Love Call through headphones; however, as the Martians attack, her headphones become unplugged. It’s at this moment when the aliens’ heads begin exploding, and the world is safe once again. Check it out here.
In this classic 1975 adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel of the same name, a young Jack Nicholson plays R.P. McMurphy, a new patient at a mental institution. One particular day, McMurphy finds the classical music that the nurses play while giving out medication to be insufferable. He asks Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher, who plays the role with just the right amount of self-righteous sadism) to turn it down and she declines … and in a way that’s so patronizing, we can almost sense the battle of wills that’s about to unfold. Check it out here.
The record player plays a pivotal role in Almost Famous — largely because William Miller’s (Patrick Fugit) mother doesn’t allow her children to listen to music in the house. Feeling suffocated, William’s big sister moves out, telling her brother “one day, you’ll be cool” and leaving him her collection of vinyl LPs, along with a note urging him to listen to the Who’s Tommy because it will let him see his “entire future.” Sure enough, the moment William puts the album on his turntable is the moment he falls in love with rock music. Check it out here.
After graduating from high school, Enid (Thora Birch) is trying to figure out what to do with her life. She meets vinyl enthusiast Seymour (Steve Buscemi) at a garage sale, and buys a blues record — Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” — from him. Later, she finally gets around to putting it on her turntable … and has an epiphany as she listens to it over and over again. Check it out here.
He’s a bit of a recluse, but the one mainstay in assassin Arthur Bishop’s (Jason Statham) life is his turntable, which becomes a vital part of his routine. Every time Bishop finishes a job, he goes home and plays a record to unwind. His favorite? Franz Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E Flat Major — a gentle piece of music that serves to underscore a particularly violent hit. Check it out here.
In The Royal Tenenbaums, the turntable is part of the story from the outset, something that adopted daughter Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) turns to for solace and comfort. In this pivotal scene, she and her brother Richie (Luke Wilson) listen to the Rolling Stones song “She Smiled Sweetly” as they have an intimate conversation and reveal their love for each other. Check it out here.
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