This is the popular name of one of Ludwig van Beethoven's most popular compositions "Bagatelle in A Minor." Anyone who's come across a child practicing piano has most likely heard this.
"Für Elise" (Or in English "For Elise") wasn't written for Elise at all. Beethoven's autographed manuscript reads: "Fur Therese am 27 zur Erinnerung and L v Bthvn" ("For Therese on the 27th April in remembrance of L. V Bthvn."), the Therese being Therese Malfatti (1792–1851), with whom Beethoven was in love. However the copyist misread Beethoven's untidy scrawl and gave his new piano piece the dedication "Für Elise." Therese Malfatti was a friend and student of Beethoven's to whom he proposed in 1810. Sadly, for Beethoven, she turned him down and later married the Austrian nobleman and state official Wilhelm von Droßdik in 1816.
American rapper Nas' 2002 hit single, "I Can
," was built around samples of this piece.
Among the movies this has been used in was Gus Van Sant's 2003 distillation of teenage alienation, Elephant, in which this piece serves as a haunting refrain throughout.
In the American comedy series Two and a Half Men, Jon Cryer's character, Alan Harper, has this piece as his cell phone's ringtone. A running gag of the show is Alan's cell phone ringing at awkward moments.
The Peanuts character Schroeder performs this in the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, which many American families watch every Christmas season. As a result, the piece is often associated with Christmas and shows up on some Christmas playlists.