Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward started their band the way any gang of kids from the rough street of Birmingham might; they had nothing else to do. Bored with the idea of football hooliganism and petty vandalism, the band instead decided to team up and create a group that, unbeknownst to them, would go on to define an entire generation and lay the foundations for an entire genre of artists. They would become Black Sabbath.
Having previously been named Earth, the band decided to change their name after Geezer Butler had written a song titled ‘Black Sabbath’, a homage to the B-movie from Boris Karloff of the same name. The song was centred on a dark apparition that Butler claims to have seen that had similar characteristics to the titular spectre in the movie. It wouldn’t be the only time the band have interwoven their iconography with the silver screen.
Ever since they arrived on the rock scene in 1969 and began building their own version of the industry brick by bloody brick, Black Sabbath have operated outside of the mainstream. The group are perennial outsiders who, despite their huge fame during the seventies and eighties, have never truly been accepted in Hollywood. An act as big as Black Sabbath should have countless movie credits but, so far, it hasn’t been the case.
It’s confusing because the band’s sound is so purposeful and powerful. Black Sabbath make huge tracks capable of shaking the house down, and this is usually perfect fodder for filmmakers. Despite being comparatively neglected in Hollywood, the band have made some appearances and always made the movie better by doing so. Below, we’ve picked out our favourites.
Many of the films listed here have made the leap to get Black Sabbath on board and, in doing so, usually include two or three different songs in their project. However, to keep things fair, we’ve made sure that no film and no Sabbath song can be entered onto our list twice.
So, sit back, and enjoy the moments Black Sabbath made films better.
Best Black Sabbath moments in movies:
‘Iron Man’ in Iron Man
Of course, it would be hard to avoid this one. Robert Downey Jr’s career-resurrecting role as Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, was always going to feature Sabbath’s song of the same name. That doesn’t make it any less satisfying when the song does kick in.
The film is awash with classic rock numbers from Black Sabbath’s one-time rivals, including a particularly rousing implementation of ‘Back in Black’. But the film’s director, Jon Favreau, saved the Sabbath track to close out the film following the improvised finale.
‘Time Machine’ in Wayne’s World
If one film was always destined to feature Black Sabbath, then Mike Myers and Dana Carvey’s classic rock headbanging staple, Wayne’s World, was it. The film is jam-packed with tributes to the heroes gone by, including an extra special homage to Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
However, one of the more eclectic song choices on the film’s famed soundtrack is Sabbath’s magnetic song ‘Time Machine’. The track was specially adapted for the 1992 film and featured a unique version of the song’s famous solo that is worthwhile for any diehard Sabbath fan.
‘Into the Void’ in Dogtown and Z boys
Few films are as capable of making you want to travel back in time as 2001’s documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. The film, which focuses on the skateboarding subculture that was exploding in California in the seventies, uses two Black Sabbath songs to make their rebellious point, but the placement of ‘Into the Void’, the tripped-out gem, is the best moment in the film.
The film follows a group as they continue to try and skate bowls, valleys and other gnarly sets. However, they struggle to establish themselves in the mainstream and operate as perennial rebels. For this reason alone, the use of Black Sabbath is a perfect allegory for the skaters.
‘Sweet Leaf’ in Almost Famous
Cameron Crowe’s homage to the classic rock golden age, Almost Famous, will go down as one of the greatest rock films of all time. There are countless moments within the film that pay tribute to the genre’s finest heroes, let alone the use of the infamous phrase “I am the golden God!” but one of the more poignant moments comes with the introduction of Sabbath’s song ‘Sweet Leaf’.
The ode to marijuana plays out as William, the new Rolling Stone journalists tasked with following the band on their extensive US tour, heads for Los Angeles and bids his farewells before leaving for pastures new.
‘War Pigs’ in 300: Rise of an Empire
Not quite the titanic arrival as its prequel, 300, the bloodthirsty film was still primed and ready for a Black Sabbath track and, given the circumstances, there is no better fit than their iconic number ‘War Pigs’. Used in both the trailer and the end credits, Osbourne’s landmark vocal performance provides the perfect rallying cry for battle.
Hearing Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ for the very first time is an experience that very few forget. Alongside Osbourne’s delivery, the song is punctuated by some of the hardest riffs and rhythms the music world has ever seen. It makes the perfect backdrop for the story of 300: Rise of an Empire.
‘End of the Beginning’ in This is the End
This is the End is the kind of film you’d expect to be wholly awful. Written by Seth Rogen and aimed directly at the stoner market, the film centres on a group of comedic stars, all playing themselves, who are trying to survive the apocalypse. However, despite this, the movie is certainly worth a watch, if for nothing else than the few moments Sabbath makes an appearance.
The most famous of which is certainly ‘War Pigs’, which plays out as the group try to board up James Franco’s house. But there’s another moment that feels particularly well placed when ‘End of the Beginning’ plays over the end credits.
‘N.I.B’ in The Hangover Part III
The fact that Black Sabbath have managed to make The Hangover Part III even a little bit more watchable is a testament to the band’s power. The film is a disaster and far off the pleasant experience of the first movie, but it doesn’t have a deeper cut from Sabbath for a pivotal scene.
As Phil and Alan try to find Mr Chow within the strobe-lit penthouse, Sabbath’s song ‘N.I.B’ plays out, and the movie gets a lot better. The culmination of this scene arrives as Mr Chow jumps off the balcony with a parachute.
‘Paranoid’ in Dazed and Confused
Richard Linklater’s masterpiece Dazed and Confused has more than a few rocking moments captured within it. Despite being named after a classic Led Zeppelin song, it doesn’t actually feature any songs from the band.
That’s to be expected, given the somewhat chaotic nature of the film itself. The stoner cult classic is a series of different stories loosely connected by the last day of high school. It’s a film that relies heavily on nostalgia and the desperate attempts to recapture a feeling of youthful exuberance we all lose someday. One of the best ways to achieve that is by using notorious rock anthems like Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’, which arrives as Fred O’Bannion and Benny O’Donnell chase Hirschfelder to paddle him.