10 iconic musical instruments from the movies



2017-03-07 15:41:22

You can’t separate music and movies.

The two are inextricably linked. From the strains of Dick Dale in Pulp Fiction to the opening chords of As Time Goes By in Casablanca, music imbues the action onscreen with a raw emotional power.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 of the most iconic instruments ever seen in movies.

10. The Spinal Tap bass

Spinal Tap is the portrait of rock excess so accurate that many of the bands it parodied admit they struggled to watch it.

Spinal Tap

Spinal Tap's bassist Derrick Smalls plays this double-head bass during the song Big Bottom - Image: Julien's Auctions

The accuracy isn’t limited to the on and off stage antics of 80s hair metal bands. They got the guitars bang on too.

A case in point is this ludicrous BC Rich double necked bass guitar, which realised $9,375 at Profiles in History in 2013.

9. The executioner’s drum from Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon is the technicolour acid trip that unleashed a winged Brian Blessed on a largely unsuspecting world.

The drum can be seen in the execution scene at Ming

The drum can be seen in the execution scene at Ming's palace - Image: Profiles in History

This drum appears in the scene where the eponymous Flash is readying himself for his execution.

It achieved $300 in a 2006 sale.

8. The guitar from Apocalypse Now

Robert Duvall’s extraordinary performance as the deranged Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now has gone down in history.

Very few props have survived from Apocalypse Now - Image: Profiles in History

Very few props have survived from Apocalypse Now - Image: Profiles in History

He played this guitar at one point in the film when the men are sat around a campfire.

It’s one of very few surviving pieces of memorabilia from the famously fraught and chaotic production, which ballooned from six weeks to 68 and nearly killed director Francis Ford Coppola.

7. The snake saxophone from The Addams Family

The cobra sadly isn

The cobra sadly isn't playable as a saxaphone - Image: Profiles in History

While you could probably get a sound out of most of the lots on this list, you might struggle with the snake saxophone from 1991 hit comedy The Addams Family.  

It can be seen being blown by a 12-fingered saxophonist during the movie’s ballroom scene.

6. The accordion from The Godfather

This accordion is in a key scene in the Godfather - Image:

This accordion appears in a key scene in The Godfather - Image: Premiere Props 

This accordion is the one played during the scene where Fredo (John Cazale) takes his brother Michael (Al Pacino) to a Las Vegas bar and encourages the band to launch into For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow - much to Michael’s annoyance.

The accordion was actually owned by the accordionist in the movie, session musician Bertram Buddy Lambert.

It sold for $9,000 at Premier Props in 2013.

5. The harmonica from The Blues Brothers

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd came up with the characters of The Blues Brothers for Saturday Night Live in 1978.

Dan Ackroyd played this harmonica in the Blues Brothers - Image:

Dan Ackroyd played this harmonica in The Blues Brothers - Image: Profiles in History

The skit was a huge hit and eventually led to a bidding war for a feature film in 1980. The wildly chaotic production saw the studio portion off part of the film’s budget to supply cast and crew with cocaine. 

Aykroyd’s harmonica, used in at least one onscreen sequence, sold for $3,585 in 2007.

4. The guitar from Black Snake Moan

Black Snake Moan (2006) starred Samuel L Jackson as a blues singer who chains Christina Ricci to a radiator in an attempt to relieve her of her demons through the power of music.

The Gibson archtop is an eye-catching shade of purple - Image:

The Gibson archtop is an eye-catching shade of purple - Image: Profiles in History

His distinctive guitar, a purple Gibson archtop, is used throughout the movie.

It realised $1,600 in 2007.

3. The synthesizer from Close Encounters

The enormous, room-sized ARP 2500 synthesizer used to communicate with the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) is a huge prize for both movie lovers and synth nerds.


They don't make em like this anymore - Image: Matrixsynth

It was employed as a prop and a sound tool in the movie and was also used to compose sound effects for the original Star Wars movies.

It sold for an undisclosed sum in 2008.

2. Yoda’s flute from Star Wars

While we never see Yoda play his flute, it’s a key part of his costume.

Who knows what blissls actually sound like - Image: Profiles in History

Who knows what blissls actually sound like - Image: Profiles in History

The piece is known as a blissl within the Star Wars canon and apparently sounds much like a pan pipe.

This example appears in both The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi and made $10,000 at Profiles in History in 2005.

1. The piano from Casablanca

When it comes to instruments in movies, there is none as iconic as the piano in Casablanca.


The piano is one of the most expensive pieces of movie memorabilia ever sold - Image: Bonhams 

It plays a central role in the drama, with Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) using the lid to stash the movie’s famous McGuffin – the letters of transit that allow the bearer to travel freely across Nazi-occupied Europe.

Perhaps most memorable though is the scene where Ingrid Bergman gives her famous command to "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By'.”

This extraordinary piece of film history sold for a record $3.4m in 2014.

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