There are few things better than escaping the sub-zero temperatures with a bowl of popcorn and a good movie or series. Netflix has some pretty specific categories and recommendation algorithms, but something tells me that it doesn’t have a section for movies or shows with prominent clarinet solos in the story line or soundtrack. So, I’ve gone ahead and put together a list for your viewing pleasure!
- Arthème Swallows His Clarinet (1912) – Equally bizarre and funny, this silent film unveils one of clarinetists’ greatest fears!
- The Cocoanuts (1929) – Harpo Marx plays “When My Dreams Come True” on clarinet about 20 minutes into this film, and he’s also featured doing this in a few other Marx Brothers films. (Check out this video of Harpo Marx goofing off with Benny Goodman and Reginald Kell)
- Second Chorus (1940) – Two college students, Danny O’Neill and Hank Taylor, get jobs with Artie Shaw’s band.
- We Make Music (1942) – This German musical comedy features part of the Stamitz clarinet concerto.
- Stage Door Canteen (1943) – “Benny Goodman and his orchestra play “Why Don’t You Do Right?” The singer is Peggy Lee.” (Thanks Steve S. for sharing this one in the comments!)
- Song of the Thin Man (1947) – This crime thriller features Buddy Hollis, a jazz clarinetist.
- The Man in the Raincoat (1957) – This French-Italian film has Fernandel playing clarinet.
- Jaws (1975) – A deleted scene shows a beginning clarinetist at a music store.
- The Eiger Sanction (1975) – Clint Eastwood has a great line, “Of course you may have trouble playing the clarinet for a while” after stepping on someone’s hands.
- Manhattan (1979) – What better way to start a movie than with our famous clarinet solo in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue?
- Vabank (1981) – Polish comedy with some great jazzy clarinet solos.
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – It has the classic “never had a lesson” scene.
- Home Alone (1990) – There’s a clarinetist in the polka band towards the end of the film.
- Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) – Check out the inspirational clarinet scene.
- Benny & Joon (1993) – Great film, great clarinet music!
- Beyond Silence (1996) – Jenseits der Stille is the German film about a young girl with deaf parents who plays clarinet and goes to a conservatory in Berlin.
- l’Homme est une femme comme les autres (1998) – Music performed by the talented Giora Feidman.
- The Terminal (2004) – Here’s my performance of this great solo. If you love the music, you can buy John Williams’ “The Tale of Viktor Navorski.”
- The Good Life (2008) – This Chilean film (La Buena Vida) features Luis Rossi playing clarinet.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Theme (2016)
Television Shows & Other Series
- Star Trek – Harry Kim plays clarinet in many of the episodes throughout the series.
- Cheers – the theme song and closing credits feature clarinet
- Leave it to Beaver “Music Lesson” (1958) – Beaver lies about making the school band and carries his clarinet to school every day so his family won’t find out.
- Barney Miller (1975-1982) – Hal Linden performed clarinet in an episode.
- Cheers (1982-1993) – The theme song and closing credits have a jazzy clarinet solo.
- The Cosby Show “Play It Again, Vanessa” (1984) – Vanessa learns to play the clarinet.
- Diagnosis Murder (1993-2001) – The theme song features Dick Van Dyke “playing” clarinet.
- Midsomer Murders (1997-present) – The haunting theme features the unusual combination of bass clarinet and theremin.
- Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants (1999-present). Can you even call yourself a clarinetist if you aren’t familiar with Squidward? (Fun fact: in the French version of Spongebob, Squidward’s name is Carlo Tentacule.)
- Arthur “Brother, Can You Spare a Clarinet?” (2001) – Binky waffles over auditioning for the Young Person’s Orchestra, and another character practices her Stradivarius (???) violin.
- 30 Rock (2006-2013) – Lots of the soundtrack includes clarinet and bass clarinet.
- Inspector Lewis “The Gift of Promise” (2011) – The theme song for each episode (by Barrington Phelong) has a beautiful clarinet melody. In this episode, a teenage girl performs the Mozart Concerto and is an important character.
- Monk (Season 1, Episode 12) – The titular character plays clarinet, accompanied by Willie Nelson.
- NCIS “Musical Chairs” (Season 17, Episode 8) – A clarinetist from the elite Navy band is murdered by a poisoned reed. (Maybe he practiced too much altissimo?)
- SpongeBob SquarePants “Squidward in Clarinetland” – Squidward enters a bizarre world of clarinets after storing his clarinet in a locker at work.
- Murder, She Wrote “Murder to a Jazz Beat” (Season 1, Episode 12) – New Orleans band leader and clarinetist Ben Coleman dies mysteriously during a performance.
- Mad Men (Season 3, Episode 3) – Charleston dance scene (thanks Kerry M. for this addition!)
- The Lady and the Clarinet by Michael Christopher (1980) – Spoiler alert: the clarinet isn’t the main character! A woman awaits a male dinner guest while the clarinetist provides background music. Clarinetist David Singer played clarinet onstage during show.
Instances of Mozart’s clarinet music (because it’s apparently an overwhelming favorite and warrants its own category) :
- Soylent Green (1973) – Kegelstatt Trio in the famous eating scene.
- American Gigolo (1980) – Concerto
- M*A*S*H “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” (1983) – Quintet at the end of the final episode (Fun fact: Alan Alda’s wife is a clarinetist – he met her while she performed the Quintet)
- Out of Africa (1985) – Concerto
- Ironweed (1987) – Concerto, mvt II
- Columbo “Uneasy Lies the Crown” (1990) – Quintet
- The Transporter (2002) – Concerto
- 27 Dresses (2008) – Concerto, mvt II
- The King’s Speech (2010) – Concerto
- Chrisley Knows Best (2014-present)- snippets of the Concerto throughout various episodes
- Hannibal (2013) – Season 1 Episode 5 uses the second movement of the concerto
I haven’t seen all of these films, but I’ve collected the titles over the years based on friends’ recommendations. By no means is this a comprehensive list, so be sure to leave a comment with more films and series so I can add them to the list!