The William Tell Overture’s Massive Pop Culture Crossover

By David Salazar

Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell” is quite a unique case. Premiering on August 3, 1829, the opera is considered by many to contain some of Rossini’s greatest dramatic genius. And yet the opera has never quite held a proper place in the operatic canon the way that his “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” or even “La Cenerentola” have.

And yet, in some ways, it is his most widely known work, thanks to the famous overture that has made its way into pop culture. But how popular is the opera’s overture? Here’s a look at how it has made its way into pop culture.

The Lone Ranger 

Without a doubt, this is the most famous association that the opera has with any piece of popular entertainment, the fourth section (also known as the March of the Swiss Soldiers) of the overture featuring prominently as the theme song for the famed character.

Here is the original arrangement followed by Hans Zimmer’s remake for the new Disney movie:

The Adventures of William Tell

The British TV series also prominently showcased an arrangement of the theme by Rossini. In fact, the TV’s version included lyrics with the song entitled The Freedom Song – “Marching Behind William Tell.”


The overture has appeared in a number of cartoons, including “The Band Concert,” “Bugs Bunny’s Overtures to Disaster, Yankee Doodle Daffy,” and “The Flintstones.” The third section of the overture, known as the “Ranz des Vaches” appears in “Bambi Meets Godzilla.”


There is a laundry list of commercials that have employed this famous piece of musical genius. Reebok and Honda have utilized it as has Jeno’s Pizza Rolls. Lark Cigarettes also employed the famous commercial.


Stanley Kubrick’s famous film “A Clockwork Orange” prominently used Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony but also found some time to squeeze in Rossini’s famed overture in a rather bizarre and humorous fashion. The same happened in “The Princess Diaries.”

The Price is Right

The final part of the overture also got featured during “The Price is Right’s” Hurdles event. 

The Best Timeout in College Basketball

Indiana University has an entire routine dedicated to the overture during the third television time-out of its basketball games with the pep band and cheerleading squad performing the piece. This event is often referred to “The Best Time Out in College Basketball.”


On This DaySpecial Features