Bruce Springsteen has championed the cinematic art form throughout his trailblazing career, often claiming that it is a source of constant inspiration for his own artistic investigations. Over the years, the music icon has drawn inspiration from a wide variety of films – ranging from American classics to New Hollywood gems.
In fact, Springsteen even considers his songs to be like short films and his narrative style is highly influenced by the storytelling of the masters of cinema. While looking back on his oeuvre, he stated that his body of work is very similar to a filmography of a director since it traces the evolution of his narrative methods.
“One of the differences between film and music is music is a very compact form,” Springsteen once said. “In other words, ‘I will play you my movie in four minutes.’ And you can do it because of the way that music bends time and allows you to compress things to get an enormous amount of experience – someone’s entire life – in three or four verses.”
Springsteen has been influenced by the likes of John Ford whose films such as The Grapes of Wrath remained embedded in his mind when he experienced them for the first time. However, he was more deeply moved by the works of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola who captured the dynamic portraits of modern America.
Talking about the impact of the New Hollywood era, Springsteen declared: “Those were just pictures that came right at a certain moment when I was creating my own work and so there was something – the existential nature of a lot of them just rang true for me and it was something I tried to make a part of my own musical persona and what I was creating.”
The influences of older as well as contemporary directors can be found throughout his body of work, evident to the fans of filmmakers like Terrence Malick. There is one classic film, however, which influenced Bruce Springsteen’s greatest song of all time and he hadn’t even seen the movie at the time.
That film was none other than Arthur Ripley’s 1958 gem Thunder Road which inspired Springsteen’s eponymous song. He borrowed the name from the film’s poster but when he eventually saw it, it quickly became one of his personal favourites. “It’s a great noir picture, and I saw all of those at the time,” Springsteen reflected. “So a lot of it came out of that.”