• Film

Iconic Vinyl Record Scenes on Screen

Music has always been considered the primary vehicle of human memories. Each August 12, music enthusiasts celebrate National Vinyl Day to recognize an invention that has allowed people to capture their memories forever.

Just a bit of a background story: the first vinyl ever (also known as a phonograph record) was created by American inventor Emile Berliner in the 1890s. By 1895, record players were available to a wider audience. In 1909, Odeon Records released the Nutcracker Suite, by Tchaikovsky. It was the world’s very first album.

The golden age of vinyl reached its peak in the 1960s – 1970s. The compact disc (CD) technology that emerged in 1974 nearly drained the vinyl market by 1988. However, vinyl records have made a huge comeback in recent times. As we speak, we are in the midst of has been called “The Vinyl Revival”. Besides, vinyl has always been an essential part of our cinematic experience.

For instance, in Surface, a recent Apple TV+ psychological thriller, Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Sophie, a young woman suffering from extreme memory loss caused by a traumatic head injury. She starts to believe that it’s all the result of a suicide attempt. In an attempt to put the pieces of her life back together, Sophie’s husband suggests that she starts listening to their once favorite vinyl record.


There are plenty of ways to celebrate the positive vibes we get via vinyl records. You can visit a local record store and delight yourself in the unique sound of a new record. You can rediscover a long-forgotten single or LP from your own private collection, now stuffed silent in a boxed and hiding in the garage. Or you can watch a movie with a memorable vinyl scene. Here is a look at five options.

Golden Globe-nominated drama The Shawshank Redemption, led by Golden Globe winners Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, features many memorable moments. One of the best ones is the scene when Robbins, as Andre Dufresne, walks into the warden’s office and plays the recording of the letter duet in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on the prison’s loudspeakers. Creating a sense of euphoria throughout a space built for incarceration, this pivotal moment is also a symbol of Dufresne’s defiance. It changes the remaining course of the film.


Mike Mills’ coming-of-age story of 20th Century Women released in 2016 and starring Golden Globe winners Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, and Greta Gerwig, features quite an unforgettable vinyl scene.

The film centers on Dorothea Fields (Bening), a single mother in her mid-50s raising an adolescent son in 1979 Santa Barbara. In the scene, one of her boarders, played by Golden Globe nominee Billy Crudup, decides that they should listen to her son’s vinyl collection. They start with Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown. Their endeavor to understand the lyrics and dance to the music is a smart moment of fun created by Mills to underline the generation gap between Dorothea and her son.


One of the most frisson-inducing vinyl scenes is undoubtedly featured in the Golden Globe-nominated Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Golden Globe nominee Wes Anderson and released in 2012.


Outcasts Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) hatch a plan to run away into the woods together and set up a camp on a remote beach. An important point in their relationship comes when they decide to dance once Suzy puts the needle down on her record player, set to Francoise Hardy’s Les Temps de l’Amour. The visually stunning scene of the first kiss has become iconic in modern cinema. PS – The collection of great vinyl scenes would not be complete without that great moment of communion and understanding in The Royal Tenenbaums, when Margot (Golden Globes winner Gwyneth Paltrow) and Richie (Luke Wilson) listen to a recording by The Rolling Stones. 


Speaking about record stores, word on the street is that they are facing extinction. Luckily, they will be memorialized in films forever. Including: the brief but sweet scene in the Golden Globe-nominated (500) Days of Summer, led by Golden Globe nominees Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.


High Fidelity, directed by Golden Globe nominee Stephen Frears, is based on the 1995 British novel of the same name by Nick Hornby – only the location changed, from London to Chicago.

The story is led by John Cusack, who garnered a Golden Globe nomination in 2001 for the role of a 30-year-old heartbroken record store owner Rob Gordon. High Fidelity features quite a lot of scenes with that unique vinyl store vibe. When Rob (the quintessential music elitist who enjoys mocking his ignorant customers) is dumped by his girlfriend, he decides to keep his vinyl collection organized not alphabetically or chronologically, but autobiographically.


One of the roles in Frears’ High Fidelity was played by Lisa Bonet. Twenty years later, Hulu released a gender-bending, modern reimagining of the original film led by Bonet’s daughter, Zoë Kravitz. She plays Rob, a pop culture-obsessed owner of a record store. When she spoke to HFPA about the TV series, Kravitz mentioned that she “grew up on vinyl in the house”. Her father, Lenny Kravitz, always had record players. For her, going to the record store was “an after-school activity, especially living in New York”. She added: “I met people there and I would discover new music. I would sit for hours at the listening stations and listen to music.”