Many movies rely on songs to set the mood, and there are some that are relied upon a lot – what we like to call ‘Soundtrack Staples’. Nena’s 99 Luftballons – aka 99 Red Balloons – was a slice of perfect pop with a message…
Mind you, most missed the specifics of its strong anti-war tale as the German version was the one that was the big hit, even though you only had to flip the single to get the English version. Even if you made that Herculean effort, the lyrics there took many liberties in translation – going beyond the need to allow for those pesky extra German syllables to introduce colour to the Anglicised balloons.
It was proof that it didn’t really matter what you sang as long as it was catchy, plus there was a certain exoticness to words like “schlauerlloyd” (erm, actually “schlaue leute”, or “intelligent people” – irony noted), and we were forever left wondering just why Fritz was so eager. This seemingly also distracted us from the fact that the song didn’t even really have a chorus. Genius!
The band themselves have admitted that they regretted releasing the English version, so they’d likely love us Aussies (and the Kiwis, Americans, Japanese, Germans, Austrians, Belgians, Dutch, Swedish and Swiss) for taking the German version to our hearts – and the top of our charts. Those in the UK, Canada and Ireland instead took the English take to the tops of their charts.
When we researched movie soundtrack appearances of the song, we were actually surprised to only find 14 – and only a handful of them the English version.
Anyway here’s the video – the German mix, of course – with the movies that it’s appeared in further down (plus a bonus deleted scene version)…
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
The wonderfully dark comedy starring John Cusack and Minnie Driver decided to soundtrack the disposal of a body with Nena’s song. It was an inspired, off-the-wall choice (although the track did, of course, fit the 1986 class reunion that was going on fairly well.)
Boogie Nights (1997)
Another violent scene using 99 Luftballons ironically? He’s a sneaky one, that Paul Thomas Anderson… Oh yeah, LANGUAGE WARNING x lots.
The Wedding Singer (1998)
One of two German language songs to appear on the soundtrack of this fabulous feel-good flick – the other being Austrian Falco’s Der Kommissar – Julia (Drew Barrymore) is havin’ a grand old singalong when YIPES!
Wedding Crashers (2005)
This was deleted from the final cut – possibly because Wilson and Vaughn can’t sing for shhh – but found its way onto the home release. It’s the English version, but the German one obviously wouldn’t have fitted the scene. Prepare thine ears…
My Best Friend’s Girl (2008)
While some may argue that New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle would have been the obvious fit here, 99 Red Balloons proves that it’s suited for most any soundtrack occasion, even a Dane Cook, Kate Hudson and Jason Biggs comedy.
Just to mix things up a little, here’s 99 Luftballons in Zack Snyder’s epic comic book adaptation.
Mr Nobody (2009)
This Sliding Doors-styled fantasy romance proved that you’re never too young to bop along to Nena.
We’re not sure where they used 99 Luftballons in this arty German post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror experience, but the trailer hasn’t put it super-high on our must-see list. Your mileage may vary, of course.
“Hey soundtrack supervisor person, this scene has the lads visiting Hamburg. Be a darling and come up with something suitable, yeah?”
“Ah stuff it, that balloon song’ll do – it was German, right? I’m off down the pub.”
Atomic Blonde (2017)
Ooh, we’ve gone full circle back to assassin movies – this one being so into 99 Luftballons that it not only featured Nena’s ace original, but also this version by English duo Kaleida which – speaking of assassination – goes the modern “let’s suck every possible breath of life out of it” soundtrack approach that Gary Jules started the trend for with his assault on Tears for Fears’ Mad World. Mate, we’d like to have a few words with you…
Bingo: The King of the Mornings (2017)
Hey, even the Brazilians get the Nena thing, although with this being a movie about a freaky-looking clown the clip below is as close as we’ll be getting to watching the movie. It’s based on the lives of real people, but the names have been changed to protect the, erm, filmmakers. There’s no 99 in this trailer, but we do get a fab stomping glam beat…
Despicable Me 3 (2017)
If you have to start your day by having your dreams ever-so-rudely dashed by an alarm clock, you can at least hit it by waking to poptastic waves of Nena. Just ask former ’80s child star Balthazar Bratt!
Sunday’s Illness (2018)
Whoa, this one looks sad! This Spanish drama tells of a mother and daughter, who collide once more after some 30 years. Luckily Nena are around to cheer us up (even if not in the trailer).
Little White Lies 2 (2019)
Popping over to France, this sequel dramedy has a wild soundtrack that sees Nena bumping up against everybody from Bryan Ferry and Cyndi Lauper to Crowded House and Donna Summer.
My Spy (2020)
This silly-fun Dave Bautista action comedy doesn’t waste any time getting into a spot of 99 Luftballons as chase music – although we must question Dave’s musical taste, as he quickly changes the channel. Boo!