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"Nanny Ogg reasoned that it would be easy money because national anthems only ever have one verse or, rather, all have the same second verse, which goes 'nur'hnur'mur'nur nur, hnur'nur'nur, hnur' at some length until everyone remembers the last line of the first verse and sings it as loudly as they can."
A National Anthem is like the offically recognized Theme Song of a country, usually (but not always) officially recognized by the government. Due to their iconic status they tend to show up in media a lot.
The usage may vary: Sometimes they are used straight, as a kind of Regional Riff or because the story takes place in a context (such as a sports event or ceremony) where a National Anthem would normally be played. Often fictional countries are given equally fictional National Anthems. Sometimes real ones (or the tendency for people to sing them very badly) are mocked.
A common (and Truth in Television) joke is that no one knows all the verses of their National Anthem. Usually only one or two verses are sung, and the contents of later verses might often shock people.
Some songs are NOT National Anthems but are often confused for them.
Many countries with monarchies also has a separate Royal Anthem that is basically the monarch's personal Leitmotif. The UK is somewhat unusual in that the royal anthem is also the National Anthem. This is tied to individual countries of the UK all having their own de facto athem, played at sporting events.
A national anthem being used straight:
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- One strip in Axis Powers Hetalia plays with the fact that the National Anthems of England and Lichtenstein have the very same melody, based in a real football event the characters were reenacting.
- Casablanca has a famous scene: The German soldiers at Rick's are singing Die Wacht am Rhein, effectively lording their superiority over everyone; in response, the infuriated French expatriates, sympathizers, and loyalists drown them out with La Marseillaise. (Actually, Die Wacht am Rhein wasn't the Third Reich's national anthem, but Das Horst-Wessel-Lied was under copyright to the Nazi Party, and might have gotten Warner Brothers in legal trouble if the film was played in neutral nations, so they changed it out.)
- Rocky IV plays the Soviet National Anthem.
- The film of The Hunt for Red October features the Soviet National Anthem being sung by the crew of Red October when the silent drive is first engaged, resulting in Jonesy, the sonar operator of USS Dallas, hearing a brief snatch of this on his sonar.
- Also in Waterloo, Nino Rota uses Deutschlandlied as a menacing and ominous Leitmotif for Field Marschal Blücher and the Prussian army. This is wrong on several levels, as Joseph Haydn's tune at the time of the battle (1815) was used only as the Austrian anthem, the text of the Deutschlandlied was only written in 1841, it only became the official German national anthem in 1922, and the national anthem of Prussia actually was Heil Dir im Siegerkranz, which is set to the tune of God Save the King.
- In the Irish film The Wind That Shakes the Barley, the main characters have been imprisoned in a small jail by the British Army, and as one of their number is taken away for torture, they sing the Irish National Anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann, to help him endure. However, Amhrán na bhFiann was not adopted as the national anthem until 1926, 5 years after the movie takes place.
- In La Vie En Rose, a young Edith Piaf is told to "do something" for the crowd by her street performer father, and after a brief hesitation, she lets loose with a brassy, powerful rendition of "La Marseillaise." See it here.
- In Stephen King's The Stand, a virus wipes out 99% of the population of America (and presumably the rest of the world). The survivors group in Boulder and try to form a state. At the end of their first meeting, they sing "The Star-Spangled Banner", which leaves half of the people in tears, since America is no more.
- In Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and many movie scores, such as that to Sergey Bondarchuk's Waterloo (1970), La Marseillaise is used as a Leitmotif for Napoleon, his Empire and/or his Army. This is actually incorrect - the tune was banned for most of his reign (the official anthem of the First Empire was Veillons au salut de l'Empire), and Napoleon only suffered it to be played again when France was invaded in 1814.
- The Terrance and Phillip episode of South Park "Not Without My Anus" used the song "O Canada" as a plot device.
- Command and Conquer Generals used the Chinese National Anthem (March of the Volunteers) during the intro and ending of the Chinese campaign.
- The theme to Wolfenstein 3D is the real national anthem of Nazi Germany, "The Horst Wessel Song"
- During the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila had won, but the Japanese orchestra played their national anthem during his victory rather than Ethiopia's because they didn't know it (and didn't expect an Ethiopian to win).
A fictional national anthem:
- The Big O: Union has its own national anthem, which sounds more or less like The Jimmy Hart Version of the French national anthem "La Marseillaise."
- Code Geass has "All Hail Britannia" the Britannian National Anthem, which is in English, though you'd never be able to guess by listening to it.
- Macross Plus regales us with the National Anthem of Macross.
- In the classic Mel Brooks sketch, the 2000-year-old man recalls that his cave's national anthem was "Let 'Em All Go To Hell Except Cave 76".
- Les Luthiers give us two examples: the "Song to the Independence of Feudalia" (a country as independent as you'd expect from its name), and "La Comision", in which Hilarity Ensues when two corrupt politicians and one inept musician have to modify the national anthem of their (unnamed) country to include propaganda for the ruling party.
- Top Secret has a fake East German national anthem. The real one is actually kind of neat.
Hail, hail East Germany, land of fruit and grape
- Hail! Hail Freedonia! Land of the brave! And! Free!
- There have been two or three implications (no more than that!) in the Star Wars EU that the Imperial National Anthem is actually the Imperial March.
- In Borat, the title character sings the "Kazakhstan National Anthem," the first verse of which is as follows:
Kazakhstan greatest country in the world.
- The movie version of The Princess Diaries gives us the national anthem of Genovia (which oddly enough is in English):
- Water. The natives of the Caribbean island of Cascara imitate various swimming styles when singing their anthem, as they're all descended from shipwrecked sailors.
- In Follow That Bird, Oscar the Grouch has the Grouch Anthem (for which you stay sitting down, naturally).
- The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle introduces Pottsylvania's.
- The movie adaptation of The Hunger Games has The Horn of Plenty as Panem's national anthem.
- Terry Pratchett loves this trope.
We bankrupt all invaders, we sell them souvenirs
- Nineteen Eighty-Four has "Oceania, 'Tis For Thee," as memorably realized by Dominic Muldowney.
- Animal Farm has "Beasts of England." It is replaced by a different song after The Purge.
- The original Battlestar Galactica Classic theme was used as the basis for the anthem of the Twelve Colonies in the reimagined series. Before unification, each Colony had its own anthem. We hear that of Caprica on couple occasions.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Take Me Out To the Holosuite" has, (what is assumed to be) the Federation national anthem played before the game.
- In one episode of The Goon Show, Seagoon becomes the president of a fictional republic. A Running Gag involves the playing of "Our glorious National Anthem". According to a later documentary, Spike Milligan complained that the original version sounded far too good, and asked for it to be changed so that only one instrument was playing at a time.
- In the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins, Samuel Byck tells us of the "other National Anthem", which is actually a metaphor for the emptiness of the American dream.
- Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake contained a casette tape which played the Zanzibar Land National Anthem. If soldiers heard this, they'd freeze in place to salute for the duration of the song (which lasted thirty seconds - presumably it was the song's opening or final bars). If played too often, the tape will warp and skip, and soldiers will stop responding to it and merely investigate the source of the music. I've seen one fanfic which claimed Snake was actually singing it, and wrote lyrics. The anthem sounds suspiciously like We Wish You a Merry Christmas, of all things.
- In one of his winquotes in Advance Wars: Dual Strike, Olaf sings the Blue Moon national anthem, which is apparently "O Canada" with Blue Moon instead of Canada. Seriously, it goes "Oh, Blue Moon, my home and native land..."
- In Ace Combat 04, after destroying the Aegir fleet, the pilots in the air begin to sing the Usean anthem, complete with "WOOHOO!" at the end.
- In Final Fantasy VIII there is Cactus Jack, the theme that plays during President Deling's speech near the beginning of the game.
- And Avatar: The Last Airbender has the Fire Nation National Anthem sung by Fire Nation Guy in The Blind Bandit.
"Firelord! My Flame burns for thee!"
- In Futurama, Bender enters the Olympics as a competitor from the fictional country Robonia. At the medals ceremony, he sings its national anthem:
Hail, hail Robonia
- In the episode of Phineas and Ferb called "Hail Doofania!", Doofenshmirtz writes the national anthem for Doofania, a city he builds for himself to get away from his brother.
Songs that are not national anthems but sometimes confused for them:
- In at least one movie, The Internationale was called the Soviet Anthem -- and "The Internationale" was the Soviet Anthem from the founding of the USSR to 1944. However, there is nothing national about The Internationale, so it was replaced with a real national anthem, whose melody is now used for the Russian national anthem. Of course, the USSR was most interesting after WWII. The anthem used to be a poem about Stalin's glory and Badass -ness. Nikita Khrushchev unpersoned Joseph Stalin and for 24 years, the USSR had a national anthem with a tune but no words. An awesome tune, but still...no words.
- Used for a gag in the Australian film The Dish: the US ambassador to Australia is attending a reception in the middle-of-nowhere township of Parkes, since the local radio telescope is to be used to relay the TV broadcast from Apollo 11 the next day. The MC announces the US national anthem, and the ambassador straightens up and puts his hand on his heart, only for the clueless local band to launch into the theme tune for Hawaii Five-O. Cue very awkward looks all round.
- "Rule Britania" will sometimes be used as a British theme in place of "God Save the Queen"
- Everybody say it with me now: Edelweiss is NOT the national anthem of Austria. It was a song written exclusively for the movie, though it sometimes suffers Adaptation Displacement and the song gets put into stage revivals anyway.
- In Zulu, the Welsh soldiers sing 'Men of Harlech'. 'Land of my Fathers' is the Welsh anthem. 'Harlech' is a better song, so Rule of Cool.
- In Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, a group of Americans, in a moment of Patriotic Fervor, sings "Yankee Doodle. Admittedly, at the time Verne was writing, the United States did not have a national anthem.
- At the 1920 Olympic Games "O Sole Mio" was performed instead of the Italian National Anthem.
- Apparently many seem to be under the impression that "Waltzing Matilda" is the Australian National Anthem. There have been genuine calls to make it the Australian anthem, however, and it is thought of by some as an "unofficial national anthem". Under conservative Malcolm Fraser's Prime Ministership, Waltzing Matilda was one of four official Australian National Anthems, as well as the current one, God Save the Queen, and... some other one. This confused situation was instituted due to a conservative desire to retain God Save the Queen (swapped by previous PM Whitlam for what exists now), and was basically a quirky compromise.
- Due to the difficulty of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (as well as the fact that, true story, it wasn't adopted until 1931 as the official Anthem), earlier works may have "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," "Hail, Columbia," "America the Beautiful" or "The Stars and Stripes Forever" instead.
- "Flower of Scotland" is used more often than "Scotland the Brave" for the anthem of Scotland, especially during sports. That's because, while there is no official anthem, there was a poll conducted by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and it beat out Scotland the Brave.
Occasions where the inability to sing your National Anthem is mocked:
- Back on Axis Powers Hetalia, in one of the Canada strips... well, isn't exactly the inability of his people of sing his anthem, but their inability of coordinately sing the anthem in the same language...
- In The Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin pretends to be the famous opera singer Enrico Palazzo, and proceeds to sing the American anthem painfully out of key, much to the real one's abject horror.
- The aliens on 3rd Rock from the Sun start to sing their home-world's anthem in one episode. None of them can remember the lyrics after the first few lines so they just sort of hum it until they reach the end, which they all remember as "something something …spaceship!"
- In The Simpsons episode "Lisa on Ice", Krusty the Clown tries to sing the American anthem at Bart and Lisa's hockey game, but it doesn't go well. As he gets booed, he mutters "I shouldn't have turned down those cue cards...".
- Former Conservative Secretary of State for Wales John Redwood has never lived down his attempt to fake his way through the Welsh National Anthem at a televised event in 1993. Although, to his credit, he did later learn the words. His successor, William Hague, didn't want to repeat that experience, so asked a civil servant in Wales, Ffion Jenkins, to teach him the words. Hague then married her. So I'm sure he was grateful for Redwood's slip up.
- Televised sporting events. Some of the more notable screw-ups for the US Anthem are as follows:
- Carl Lewis. He tried his hardest, but man...
- Rosseanne Barr did a satirical version at a Padres game in 1990... It didn't go over well.
- Kate DeLuna takes the opportunity to show off a bit. The crowd doesn't like it.
- R. Kelly tries to sex it up a little.
- At the 2011 Super Bowl, Christina Aguilera did a pretty good job with the actual singing part... but the lines she missed were definitely noticeable.