The music of this controversial composer has been quoted in approximately 215 films, discounting numerous newsreels and documentaries. Wagner's music has been appreciated for its transcendentally romantic and noble textures, its innovative orchestration, harmonic and melodic originality, and the Gesamtkunstwerk concept (an artistic effort coordinating all the arts, the very definition of a motion picture), yet his opera plots have been criticized for "paganism," absurdity, and proto-Fascist tendencies.
The Ride of the Valkyrie from Die Walküre has occurred in at least 27 films, one of the earliest being D.W. Griffith's controversial The Birth of a Nation (1915) (aka The Clansman), admired for its epic brilliance and innovative techniques, and infamous for its racism. This music underscores other breast-beating heroism (pro and con) in Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) and Apocalypse Now Redux (2001), and Education for Death (1943). The theme comically chimes in as the Chicago police force racing after bluesmen Jake and Elwood are joined by local neo-Nazis in a hilarious car chase in The Blues Brothers (1980). In the cartoon What's Opera, Doc? (1957), Ride of the Valkyrie appears at the onset as Elmer Fudd, in Viking outfit, casts a huge shadow while conducting a storm scene. He finds a rabbit hole and stabs at it with his spear singing, "Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!" Bugs Bunny inquires, to the tune of Siegfried's Horn Call, "Oh mighty warrior of great fighting stock, might I inquire to ask, eh, what's up, doc?" Bugs later appears as dashing blonde Brunhilde riding a white horse to the tune of the Pilgrim's Chorus from Tannhäuser.