There are approximately 73 films which quote from the music of this composer who, with Frederic Chopin and Robert Schumann, was a father of the grand Romantic piano style. The passions and pathos of Liszt's life are explored and outrageously amplified to the point of the cartoonishly surreal in Ken Russell's splendid Lisztomania (1975). His Hungarian patriotism, his playboy star-status (a crazed scene with fans riding a giant prop penis), his later turn toward religion and his struggle against the Faustian "demon" Wagner -- all are accompanied by perfectly chosen selections from the composer's oeuvre. The earlier Hungarian drama Szerelmi álmok -- Liszt (The Loves of Liszt, 1970) is considerably tamer.
One of Liszt's most popular concert compositions, the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 is found in at least 11 films: the wonderful abstract animation An Optical Poem (1937), the Deanna Durbin comedy One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937), the cartoons Rhapsody in Rivets (1941), Rhapsody Rabbit (1946), The Cat Concerto (1947), and Color Rhapsodie (1948); the short with Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Xavier Cugat, and many other famous pop singers and instrumentalists, Moments in Music (1950); one of the great Cantinflas comedies, Si Yo Fuera Diputado (1951); and even the animated live-action comedy Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). The piece's moods range from heroic to lilting to ecstatic.
The moody orchestral-tone poem Les Preludes found its way into Edgar Ulmer's eerie The Black Cat (1934, which also quotes the Sonata in B minor and the tone poem Tasso); the Russian sci-fi film Kosmicheskij Rejs (Cosmic Journey, 1935); the American sci-fi fantasy Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940, aka Perils From the Planet Mongo, Purple Death From Outer Space [re-make 1966], and Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe [TV title, 1955]); and throughout the legendary television series The Lone Ranger (1949).
The lyrical melodist side of Liszt is represented by his popular Liebestraum in E flat (Dream of Love) in Ave Sin Rumbo (1937, aka Wandering Bird), The Girl of the Golden West (1938), Las Cinco Advertencias de Satanás (1945), the dramatic Bette Davis and Anne Baxter vehicle All About Eve (1950), and, of course, the mystery thriller Liebestraum (1991). The tune also occurs in the bizarre comedy Witch Hunt about an alternative 1940s Los Angeles where everybody employs magic toward their own ends.
À la Place du Coeur (Where the Heart Is, 1998) beautifully laces Liszt's Nocturnes Nos. 1, 2, and 3 throughout. Excerpts from the three books of the exquisitely impressionistic Les Anneés de Pelerinage (The Wandering Years) enhance the Maureen O'Hara and Dick Haymes musical Do You Love Me? (1946).
Liszt's music also graces Captain Blood (1935), Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948), Interlude (1957), Once More, With Feeling (1960), Karl May (1974), Extraordinaire Ascension de Maurice Bellange (1979), Impromptu (1991), Das Geschriebene Gesicht (The Written Face, 1995), Shine (1996), Eyes Wide Shut (1999), and Hamlet (2000).