Songs That Could Be Movies: The Smiths

We've got a feeling that one day, Hollywood will run out of books, comics and other films to adapt, and they'll turn to music, weaving movie trilogies from three-minute pop songs.

We've already decided which David Bowie tracks could be movies . Then, we used our film-pitching skills on Blur's music .

Now, we’re focusing on the originators of the current indie-music scene, the so-called Manchester miserablists and all-round über-geniuses we know as The Smiths.

As always, we claim copyright on the following pitches.

This Charming Man (1983)

The song that first introduced The Smiths to television audiences, This Charming Man saw Morrissey and his mates take their flower collection onto The Tube, Top Of The Pops and, as seen above, on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1983.

As for the album version, it was recorded twice after Rough Trade records executive Geoff Travis decided the first go was rubbish.

The film will ignore all that.

The Movie:

When loser salesman Dean James buys a self-improvement CD from a mysterious antiques shop, his life is changed forever.

Listening to the CD as he goes to sleep, James wakes up to find that people will literally do whatever he says.

When he says jump, strangers don’t waste time asking how high, they simply leap as high as they are physically able.

At first, James abuses his new power.

He tells his office crush Helen that she should throw all of her clothes away, in the hope that she will come to work naked the next day.

But he quickly finds that every time he orders people to do something, it backfires in some way.

Helen does indeed throw away her clothes, but as a result she’s too embarrassed to leave the house, and James doesn’t see her at work again.

But when James tries to stop using his power, he finds it’s difficult to get through the day without telling people what to do.

Will James manage to win Helen’s heart without using his power? And what happens when it wears off?

The Cast:

A type-cast Ricky Gervais as Dean James, a naked-for-90-per-cent-of-the-film Jessica Alba as Helen.

Sample Dialogue:

Helen: “I would go out tonight, but I haven’t got a stitch to wear.”

Next: The Headmaster Ritual


The Headmaster Ritual (1985)

Johnny Marr wrote the music in homage to The Beatles’ Day Tripper, but the lyrical content couldn’t be further from that song’s breezy nature.

Starting out as a venomous attack on his old headmaster at St Mary’s (Vincent ‘Jet’ Morgan), Morrissey’s condemnation of corporal punishment expands as a metaphor that criticises all violent schools.

It’s a very serious song. The film won’t be.

The Movie:

An ‘80s style demonic horror about a satanic cult of slavering fiends posing as teachers at a Manchester school.

The demon teachers are stealing spines from their students, and using them for their nefarious satanic practices.

Our schoolkid heroes Stephen Patrick and his best friend John Maher uncover the cult, but no-one believes their claims.

So they’re forced to battle the demons using only their wits, a couple of catapults and some holy water they pump through the sports hall showers as weapons.

Eventually, they turn to the friendly headmaster for help, not knowing that he’s the ultimate demon, and the ringleader behind the whole plot – Lucifer himself.

The Cast:

We use special CGI to make Jason Statham school-age – we’ll need him for the key scene where one of the teachers knees him in the groin, elbows him in the face and hands him bruises bigger than dinner plates.

Sample Dialogue:

Stephen: “Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools!”

Next: There Is A Light That Never Goes Out


There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (1986)

Continuing Morrissey’s fondness for lyrically juxtaposing relationships and transport (heard previously in This Charming Man and That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore) and nodding towards the light in the eyes of the protagonist in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, this is, for many, The Smiths’ ultimate love song.

The Movie:

When an asteroid hits the earth while he’s on a solo mission to construct a mining colony on Mars, Frank Shankly becomes the last man alive.

He’d signed onto the mission knowing that he would never return to earth – his job would take a lifetime to achieve.

As a result, he’s got food and water, and a comfortable settlement with plenty of entertainment to survive on until he dies of old age.

Frank decided to leave his home planet after his wife was killed by a ten ton bus, an event that broke his heart forever.

He is sad that the world has ended, but not devastated. He was never going to go back there anyway, so in a way, it ended when he left it.

However, human rights law specified that he had to have a spaceship docked in Mars’ orbit – in case he ever changed his mind and wanted to return home.

Frank can see the abandoned ship floating high in the sky, and realises that he will now definitely never step onto it – he no longer has an option to return home.

The thought doesn’t bother him. He was already quite sure that he would never have gone onboard the ship.

That is, until one of the window lights on the ship turns on, and doesn’t go out.

There should be no-one on the ship – it didn’t have a crew, and was designed for Frank’s use only.

After seven days of seeing the strange light floating in the sky, Frank decides to investigate. He presses the button that orders the ship to land...

The Cast:

Sam Rockwell as Frank, to cast anyone else would spoil the twist.

Sample Dialogue:

Frank: “I never never want to go home because I haven't got one anymore.”

Next: Panic


Panic (1986)

A protest song written after Morrissey and Marr heard a radio DJ follow a news bulletin about the Chernobyl disaster with Wham!’s ‘I’m Your Man’, its repeated refrain of ‘Hang the DJ' is probably a bit of a harsh punishment for editorial insensitivity.

Brilliant, though.

The Movie:

An outbreak of extreme panic attacks sends the world into chaos.

Planes drop out of the air when pilots suddenly become aware of how high in the sky they are, soldiers fire their guns randomly when they realise that their lives are in constant danger and policemen break down in tears when confronted with criminals.

Ex-brain surgeon Andy Joyce was struck off when his colleagues discovered his alcoholism – but now he has become humanity’s only hope, when he tracks the source of the virus (nicknamed Panic! by the media) to a signal coming from a local radio station.

He breaks into the station and discovers a vicious cult of maniac DJs, intent on bringing society to its knees until their demands are met (no adverts, the right to play whatever they want, the right to be homophobic and sexist during live broadcasts, N-Dubz to disband, 600 million listeners to tune in every minute of every hour)

As Panic! starts to take control of his body, can Joyce take down the DJs and make it out alive?

The Cast:

Kurt Russell as Joyce, Chris Moyles, Nicky Campbell and Fearne Cotton as themselves. John Carpenter directs.

Sample Dialogue:

Newscaster: “Panic on the streets of London! Panic on the streets of Birmingham!”

Next: Hand In Glove


Hand In Glove (1983)

Composed by Johnny Marr in his bedroom on “a crappy guitar”, The Smiths’ guitarist accidentally hit upon a riff so potent he had to immediately drive to his mate Morrissey’s house to get it on tape, because he didn’t have any recording equipment.

Luckily Morrissey was home (but then he didn’t go out very often in those days) and music history was made.

It’s the finest first single ever released.

The Movie:

When superhero Captain Strange defeats the last criminal in New York City, he instantly makes himself redundant. Suddenly, he has more time than he knows what to do with.

First, he tries taking on a day job; but his powers make him unpopular with the other workers. Next, he tries charity work – but he’s able to fix the world’s problems in an afternoon, putting him out of work yet again.

Finally, his sidekick sets him the ultimate challenge faced by humanity – to fall in love and maintain a relationship.

Captain Strange meets a waitress named Pat Phoenix and embarks on a neurotic union with her, it’s difficult, but the feeling he gets when she puts her hand in his glove makes all the doubts and sudden self-loathing worthwhile.

It’s essentially Annie Hall meets Spider-Man.

The Cast:

Woody Allen as Captain Strange, Scarlett Johansson as Pat Phoenix.

Sample Dialogue:

Pat: “If the people stare, let the people stare.”

Next: That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore


That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore (1985)

Johnny Marr’s favourite Smiths song.

The chorus is already a movie adaptation of sorts – it's a rephrase of a line from the 1935 film Alice Adams (“I’ve seen it happen in other people’s lives, and now it’s happening in ours.”)

The Movie:

After the success of Judd Apatow’s Funny People a whole host of dark stand-up comedy movies are greenlit.

This is the best of them all.

Once popular stand-up comic William Ruffian loses his touch whilst recording a high profile HBO live show.

During the hour-long programme every gag is greeted by a totally silent audience.

Ruffian realises that his success and happiness has made him lose his edge – so he decides to break up with his wife, alienate his kids and give away all of his money, in the hope that he’ll get back the thing that truly drives him; the sound of other people laughing.

But when he still bombs on stage at a flea-pit venue, he realises that he hasn’t done enough, he needs to be really miserable.

Ruffian embarks on a spiral of self-destruction that sees him getting addicted to dirty heroin, getting stabbed in the shoulder by an angry sailor and recording an embarrassing duet with Amy Winehouse.

In the final scene Ruffian steps onto stage, bruised, battered and alone. But will he make the audience laugh?

The Cast:

Russell Brand plays William, Scary Spice plays his wife, Eddie Murphy plays his manager.

Sample Dialogue:

William: “I’ve seen this happen in other people’s lives, and now it’s happening in mine.”

Next: Girl Afraid


Girl Afraid (1984)

One of The Smiths greatest b-sides (later rescued from obscurity by rarities album Hatful Of Hollow) this tale of the mutual insecurity inherent within all relationships feels like it was written for everyone that hears it.

The film will be a bit different.

The Movie:

When Sheila Bow meets the boy of her dreams, Steve Street, she thinks she’s going to be happy for the rest of her life.

But shortly after they move in together, Steve comes home in the middle of the night, covered in blood. He says he hit a deer in his car, and had to carry it to the vet.

Shelia believes him.

But when he comes home in the same state a further six times in one week, Sheila starts to worry that either he’s really unlucky with deer-related car accidents, or he’s a serial killer.

Sheila decides to follow Steve, and what she finds out about him changes her life forever.

Steve is a monster hunter. Once he discovers that Sheila is following him and he sees how terrified she is, he decides to use her as bait, because the pheromones she excretes when she’s scared attracts more monsters to him.

With Sheila by his side, Steve kills ten times more monsters in one night than he managed in the previous week. He decides to take Sheila out with him for every hunt.

But little does he know that Sheila is hiding a secret of her own...

The Cast:

George A Romero directs Liv Tyler as Sheila and Mark Wahlberg as Steve, from a Stephen King script.

Sample Dialogue:

Shelia: “I'll never make that mistake again!”

Next: Asleep


Asleep (1985)

Despite a sharp sense of humour forming the spine of the majority of Smiths songs, Morrissey has a reputation for being constantly miserable.

Perhaps its because The Smiths more downbeat songs were so memorable, with this ode to suicide being the saddest and most stunning of them all.

The movie version will be a little less delicate.

The Movie:

Mad scientist William Whitelaw decides that humanity would be better off asleep, as he prefers a world of dreams to reality.

Whitelaw believes that world peace would be achieved if everyone existed in their own inner world.

So he develops a machine that sends out a signal that slowly sends everyone in the world into a permanent sleep.

People start to drop off one by one, but Morris Sea doesn’t want to go to sleep – he suffers from terrible nightmares, and a lifetime of bad dreams is too much to bear.

So he leaves his bedroom and resolves to track down Whitelaw, as people fall asleep all around him…

The Cast:

Danny Boyle directs this unofficial follow-up to 28 Days Later, Cillian Murphy stars as Morris Sea, Brian Cox is William Whitelaw.

Sample Dialogue:

Whitelaw: “There is another world! There is a better world!”

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Sam Ashurst is a London-based film maker, journalist, and podcast host. He's the director of Frankenstein's Creature, A Little More Flesh + A Little More Flesh 2, and co-hosts the Arrow Podcast. His words have appeared on HuffPost, MSN, The Independent, Yahoo, Cosmopolitan, and many more, as well as of course for us here at GamesRadar+.