8 Memorably Disastrous Movie Performances Of The Star Spangled Banner


Happy 4th of July, fellow patriots!

Sorry – it’s just such an exciting day. That time every year were we can come together as Americans and watch a Jaws marathon in our basement den before screaming the national anthem on the front lawn at 3am without fear of prosecution… at least not without at least one verbal warning from the cops.

And on that note, here’s a list of movie renditions of the “Star Spangled Banner” sung in the way our founding fathers intended: under great duress and during something terrible.

8. Iron Man Rocks a B.B. King Concert in Heart And Souls

This is the most adorably stupid film in the entire world. As you watch Robert Downey Jr. gets harassed by a team of ghost friends you can’t help but to – for some ungodly reason – enjoy yourself. Like a library basement puppet show, you know you’re probably a little too old to be watching it without accompanying a child, but you don’t give a shit either.

And by the time he’s possessed by Ghost Charles Grodin at a B.B. King concert in order to sing the national anthem you’ve completely accepted the situation, because whatever – it’s ghosts. The performance goes fine, but – like all great impromptu performances -it  ends with an arrest.


7. The Post-Fight, Pre-Game Anthem in Slapshot

From the Hanson Brother’s ultraviolent antics to Paul Newman’s amazing full leather suit, there isn’t a moment of this movie that isn’t incredibly endearing. For someone who doesn’t gravitate toward sports movies but loves alcohol-induced violence, this is the pinnacle right here. A hockey film following a team that learns the only thing more important than winning is making sure the other guy goes home a pulp stack.

Like our previous entry, the anthem itself goes off without a hitch – however is preambled by a horribly violent fight that happens before the refs even make it onto the ice, making it a disaster before it even began.


6. The Launching Of Santa Claus in Christmas Vacation

This is one of those films that plays every year but no one remembers the ending to – or maybe that’s just me. Either way, considering that it closes with a shit-fueled sleigh E.T.ing the night sky after a gas explosion, it really should be a scene to remember.

As Santa goes soaring to spread Christmas cheer, the family – led by their crazy aunt – delivers a festive rendition of our glorious anthem as the film comes to a confusing close.


5. A Fight Is Dispersed in Junior Bonner

Junior Bonner

Considering that he had just come off making Straw Dogs, it totally makes sense that Sam Peckinpah’s next movie would be 80% dudes talking, and 19% drawn-out rodeo scenes. It must have been a nice break.

The final 1% there is a lovely bar brawl that, like its rodeo counterpart, lasts way too long. It’s finally broken up when the band plays the “Star Spangled Banner,” settling the crowd long enough for only a few more hits – followed by some small-town drinking. After that, another lengthy rodeo scene follows not far after. This is an interesting film.


4. The Anthem Almost Kills The Entire Government in Eagle Eye

We should attach a new tradition to our national anthem where every public performance of it ends with Shia LaBeouf getting shot in the torso. Nothing fatal, of course – we’re not monsters or anything like that – but just a little shot to the shoulder to keep our country emotionally on the up and up.

This film came out the same year as Get Smart, and features the exact same Looney Tunes-borrowed plot device where an explosion is triggered by hitting a certain note during a public performance. The only difference is that Get Smart was an over-the-top comedy and Eagle Eye was an attempt at being a political thriller. It’s kind of like if two people drew the same terrible-looking picture, only one of them was an art student and the other was a drunk dog.


3. The Kazakhstan National Anthem in Borat

Only just slightly painful to watch – our “foreign” hero performs his version of the national anthem in front of a booing rodeo audience. Ok, it’s extremely painful to watch as the crowd eats him alive for taking the tune of the Star Spangled Banner and inserting his own lyrics about the country of Kazakhstan over it. It’s also funny.

Is it just me, or did Borat see the end of the long-standing tradition of overly-quoted comedies? Perhaps after this film along with The Anchorman and Napoleon Dynamite we finally tired ourselves out – which is surprising considering that we managed through three Austin Powers films.


2. “Enrico Pallazzo” Performs in The Naked Gun

In all of my research, two things became clear to me: not only is it very rare to hear the American national anthem in films,  it’s even more rare to have a scene where it goes terribly wrong. My guess has to be that after the first Naked Gun film there simply wasn’t a need to compete with Leslie Nielsen, who positively slaughters it.

And while the results may have been slightly better than in Borat, the following mind control assassination attempt/baseball pig pile/parade stomping surely puts this far above it on the disaster rankings. There’s really only one thing that could be worse…


1. The Stadium Explosion Scene in The Dark Knight Rises

Let’s take a second to think about this. You’re a kid and you’ve been invited to sing the national anthem at a major sporting event in one of the largest cities in the world. Your family, friends, and the whole world watches.

It goes beautifully. And right as you’re taking it all in, just as you’re basking in your sweet success, the whole freaking football field turns into hell’s gaping jaws and suddenly a madman dressed like he raided an Army surplus store completely fucking upstages you. What a big, stupid drag. If the kid didn’t die, you know damn well that no one will be talking about his performance. He’s Gotham’s Our American Cousin – but it’s okay, because at least he had a “lovely, lovely, voice.”

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David is a video editor, writer, and movie fanatic. After graduating from Full Sail University he now spends his days in Western Massachusetts working as a freelance article and sketch writer, as well as a comedy workshop moderator for Cracked.com. (Click Here to View David's work on Cracked.com) He enjoys over-analyzing movies, punk rock, and referring to himself in the third person.

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