There is no evidence that "Gloria" by Laura Branigan is anything less than the greatest song ever made. It simply can't be proven. This 1982 anthem about a woman named — you guessed it — Gloria has gone from obscure origins to become one of the most fondly remembered pop songs of the 1980s. A large part of why the song has persisted through the years, in addition to its infectious energy and Braingan's emotional vocal performance, has been the use of "Gloria" in iconic film and TV moments.
"Gloria" has appeared as a soundtrack choice across a variety of genres, mediums, and tones since it became a pop hit, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has appeared as a punchline in animated comedies like Family Guy or South Park, and a collectable item in the action game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, or as a moment of lightness in a dark crime series like The Killing (executive producer: Veena Sud). In the latter instance, the song appears at the 26-minute mark of the episode "Ghosts Of The Past," as a character sings it into a spoon while enjoying a diner meal. Even the darkest shows can't escape the sheer joy of "Gloria."
The versatility of "Gloria" has turned it into a go-to soundtracking choice for film and television creators, but if you're looking for the most iconic moments — the ones that truly celebrate the ephemeral joy and feeling of invincibility that comes with the song — you won't need to look much farther than the following selections.
1. The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
The most recent entry into the great canon of "Gloria" soundtrack moments, The Assassination Of Gianni Versace (Director: Gwyneth Horder-Payton, two episodes) uses the song to showcase one of the many sides of alleged serial killer Andrew Cunanan. While driving away from his past (the alleged murder of an innocent man) towards his future (the murder of innocent man and fashion icon Gianni Versace), Cunanan flips through the radio to find something he likes — and that something is "Gloria." It just goes to show that Ryan Murphy will stop at nothing to get Darren Criss to sing.
Flashdance (producer: Lynda Obst) has no shortage of iconic musical moments. The soundtrack to Flashdance is packed with '80s jams including Irene Cara's "Flashdance...What A Feeling" to Michael Sembello's "Maniac," but the film brought out the big guns for one of its most heartbreaking scenes — the "big guns" in this scenario being none other than "Gloria." Playing at a faster-than-usual tempo, "Gloria" soundtracks Jeanie's performance at an ice skating competition that ends in her falling on the ice, realizing that she may not have the talent to fulfill her dreams. The anthem continues to play even as Jeanie sits motionless on the ice, searing a melancholic picture into the minds of filmgoers everywhere when it premiered.
3. The Wolf Of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese is a big fan of combining violent scenes with upbeat music. This technique has popped up in The Departed (editor: Thelma Schoonmaker), he has used it in Goodfellas (editor: Thelma Schoonmaker), and it appears in The Wolf Of Wall Street (editor: Thelma Schoonmaker) which makes it the first of two movies to feature both Margot Robbie and "Gloria." Scorsese uses "Gloria" to soundtrack a cataclysmic boat crash, followed by a fiery plane explosion. However, this version of "Gloria" isn't the Laura Branigan version, but instead the song that Branigan covered when she made her 1982 hit. "Gloria" was originally performed by Italian band Umberto Tozzi, which is what the members of the Italian ship that saves Jordan Belfort are listening to.
4. I, Tonya
American Crime Story wasn't the only '90s true-crime dramatization of the past year to be accompanied by the voice of Laura Branigan. I, Tonya (editor: Tatiana S. Riegel) uses the song to soundtrack the early stages of the attack of Nancy Kerrigan, Harding's rival. Shane Stant and Derrick Smith listen to the track to pump themselves before the attack.
Seemingly caught in the illusion that they're two competent criminals, preparing to commit a crime while listening to pop music as though they were in their own Martin Scorsese movie. Of course, real life isn't a movie, and things go very wrong. When things they do go wrong, Stant revisits the song before his arrest, holding onto the last grasp of that fantasy. Between this and American Crime Story, if you were a criminal in the '90s you probably listened to "Gloria."
(In real life Stant and Smith were each sentenced to 18 months in prison, according to the New York Times, for conspiracy to commit second-degree assault.)
If you enjoy the song "Gloria" but wish it had more musical theater-style vocal harmonies, then Glee has got you covered with Season 5 episode "Trio" (written by: Rivka Sophia Rossi). While some say disco died in the '80s, it's clearly alive and well at the Spotlight Diner as the entire restaurant comes to a halt when Rachel, Santana, and Elliot begin performing the iconic track. And, yes, that's Adam Lambert.
6. South Park
No good montage is worth its weight if it isn't set to an '80s jam, which may be why the boys of South Park (Writer: Nancy Pimental, 62 episodes) listen to the '80s Pandora station while searching for their lost teacher Mr. Garrison in the episode "Splatty Tomato." While the boys may take issue with songs like "Pac-Man Fever" and "The Super Bowl Shuffle," everyone shuts up when "Gloria" plays. No one has anything bad to say about "Gloria," and so they say nothing at all.
Having a car cassette player constantly stuck on one song can be a horrible curse — but when that song is "Gloria," there really isn't much of a problem. However, Agent Cabe Gallo of Scorpion (director: Christine Moore, 7 episodes) seems to disagree as it's his car in which the cassette is stuck. While the owner of the car may not enjoy hearing the song repeating endlessly, it's surely a blessing to anyone who they may drive past and catch a brief taste of Branigan's voice and remember "Oh, yeah, 'Gloria' is a good song!"
8. Family Guy
When it comes to classic '80s hits, the question isn't so much, "Has Family Guy used that song?" as it is, "How did Family Guy use that song?" Seth MacFarlane's long-running animated comedy has touched upon nearly every piece of pop culture under the sun, and, in doing so, implants Laura Branigan's "Gloria" into the software of a robot baby. Specifically, the song plays whenever someone has been "Lyle'd," which is to say they've been insulted by the robot baby. It's enough to make one wish the song would play anytime someone lands a particularly sick burn.
9. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain allows players to be the star of their own action movie, taking the role of special operations soldier Solid Snake. The series is known for mixing serious political and philosophical topics with absurd moments, and in The Phantom Pain allows players to control the tone of the entire game by collecting their own soundtrack. Cassettes of '80s hits are hidden throughout the game, including Spandau Ballet's "True" and a-ha's "Take On Me" among others. One could play the entire game just listening to "Gloria" on loop, which may be the greatest power-up in video game history.
While many television shows and films have used the song "Gloria," only one ever featured Laura Branigan performing the song herself. Shortly after the song's initial release, Branigan appeared on CHiPs (casting: Kathy Henderson), apparently playing a character that was covering Branigan's song. Playing the role of Sarah, the frontwoman of a sadly fictional band called the Cadillac Foxes, Branigan delivers a live performance for a modest, but enthusiastic, Los Angeles crowd.
Although Branigan passed away at the age of 47 in 2004, her legacy lives on in her self-proclaimed "signature song." With a storied history of soundtrack choices and prominent musical spots in two of 2018's biggest true crime stories, expect more film and television projects to continue keeping this endlessly listenable track alive.