Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is one of the most over-used, over-played songs on TV and in film, at least that’s what the songwriter thought. “I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it,” the Canadian singer remarked during an interview with The Guardian in 2009. But now, as the world continues to mourn Cohen’s passing, “Hallelujah” marks his impact and legacy.
The song can heard through various covers on shows like Ugly Betty, The O.C., Without a Trace, Criminal Minds, and NCIS. With film, it can be found on the soundtracks for Lord of War, Feast of Love, and (perhaps the most widely recognized of all) Shrek.
Here are some of the most memorable uses of “Hallelujah” on TV and in film.
“Hallelujah” was heard in the first film of the animated franchise, as covered by Rufus Wainwright. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Shrek lashes out at Donkey and Fiona and storms off to continue his life of solitude.
2. The West Wing
One of the most famous uses on television was on The West Wing, when C.J. Cregg received some tragic news about one of her friends and fellow White House workers. Keep in mind the video above is pretty spoilery.
The “Hallelujah” moment in Watchmen is the NSFW sex scene you don’t want to watch with your grandparents sitting next to you, so we won’t embed it here. Cohen had said, “I was reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it, and the reviewer said, ‘Can we please have a moratorium on ‘Hallelujah’ in movies and television shows?’ and I kind of feel the same way.”
4. The O.C.
Another spoilery moment from a TV show, Cohen’s song accompanied the death of Marissa (Mischa Barton) in the season 3 finale. It was an emotional scene for fans as they watched her final words spill out on screen.
5. One Tree Hill
Kate Voegele gave the song a country spin when she performed “Hallelujah” on One Tree Hill. She also released a more formal music video of the cover in 2009.
6. So You Think You Can Dance
In season 7 of the dancing competition show, Alex Wong and Allison Holker performed a contemporary dance routine to the track that brought tears to the judges’ eyes.
“Hallelujah” seemed to become a trend among hospital dramas — even a comedy like Scrubs — and it often accompanied painful moments or memories. Here, we see J.D. having an emotional reaction to one of his patients.
8. General Hospital
Another hospital drama, General Hospital, tapped “Hallelujah” for a similar tragedy: a ski trip gone horribly wrong. The song is performed acoustically on the bus heading up a wintry mountain, and it plays again in the aftermath of the crash.