Do Hollywood villains have a fondness for classical music? Are we the baddies?

Byvu lita

Jun 15, 2023

Hollywood has always been obsessed with pairing villainy with classical music – Norman Bates practices Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ in Psycho II, Dr Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs liked Bach, and different Bond villains couldn’t get enough Mozart, Chopin, and Wagner in their life.

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On ABC Classic Breakfast, Dr Megan Burslem asked the burning question: “Are we the baddies?”

The yes vote

  • Not baddies — evil geniuses is more my thing! — Lisa
  • Yes people who listen to classic music are neurotic odd balls with violent tendencies. Whereas jazz lovers are laid back, cool types. Like me. — Ken
  • Yes we are, yet we will never have bad taste — Christine
  • I have also thought about this a lot. One of the reasons why I like classical music is because it is dispassionate and free from unnecessary emotions. I find it relaxing. I have been called distant by others. I vote yes, some of us are the bad guys — anon
  • Such an interesting question. Almost like the baddies in Hollywood movies always have an English accent. Maybe it’s about refinement and protecting one’s own disadvantage such as the comments that you must be a snob, be from a wealthy family, privileged upbringing etc if you like classical music. It’s a way of coping with injustice or unfairness by labelling lovers of classical music lovers. Hardly close to the truth in reality. It’s the hijacking of classical music by the elite I think that contributes to Baddies loving classical in film — Nick

The no vote

  • Inspector Morse and I say no — Charles
  • Morse and Sherlock Holmes listened to classical music. We are not the baddies — Josette, Adelaide
  • I like to think I am an evil genius, but I suspect I am just a nice idiot who likes a bit of classical. I do have an English accent — Fred
  • We’re not baddies — we just like to think of possibilities and have grand imaginations and classical music both stimulates the mind and calms it so you can cope with not achieving world domination! Emilie, Adelaide.
  • No, not the bad guys. Neither are stamp collectors, gardeners, or people with obscure obsessions who are often the people of interest in whodunnits — Ian
  • Not at all. Even baddies can have good taste. Shame that their excellent choice in music doesn’t extend to other lifestyle choices — Gillian
  • No, we are the good guys. The bad guys are shown to like classical music to throw their evil nature into sharp relief, as it says somewhere in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Chris
  • Three points. 1. Major baddies are often highly intelligent and worldly….just as WE music fans are! 2. They also need the healing powers of music as we do. 3. For THAT MOMENT whilst listening, they may feel NORMAL! — Susannah
  • If one feels thinks, experiences the diverse range of emotions more deeply & music facilitates that expression than we are all of humanity — sometimes the good, sometimes the bad, sometimes the ugly — anonymous
  • It’s exactly like mashed avocado was portrayed by certain politicians as elitist and exclusive. An easy, unexamined cliche by mostly American screenwriters — Jane
  • No, we are not the baddies!! [Those who don’t listen to classical music] are unfortunate victims of inadequate music education programs in schools — Fay
  • Villains are associated with classical music for the purposes of placing them as an ‘other’ in a contemporary society where the hero is meant to be representative of the general, popular ideas of the times. Kurosawa posed the idea that a villain exists in a fixed state whereas the hero is in a state of change. The use of classical, then, is a way of signifying a constant state, perhaps, music that hasn’t changed. At any rate, the dramatic range of classical music is the perfect tool for describing narrative themes. ps. No, we are not the villains — Paul

Those on the fence

  • Bad people listen to good music thinking it justifies what they do — anon
  • It’s all about intelligence. Most baddies (Hannibal) are very intelligent — Juliet
  • Many will probably come up with the William Congreve quote from “The Mourning Bride” (17th century play) … “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast.” Something in that for all of us — Vincent
  • Maybe it’s to show that the ‘baddies’ have a sensitive human side to them as well? — anon
  • I can’t think of better music to plan world domination to — anon
  • I think classical music is so complex that it can reach so many parts of us, including both shadowy parts and light — Ann Maree


Megan Burslem, Presenter

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