The score is one of the most important elements in film making, for without a suitable melody to accompany the moving picture, an entire dimension is lost. When done correctly the soundtrack should perfectly underline all the necessary and iconic moments, for example if the sound is chosen to make the viewer feel afraid, then the video contains disturbing or depressing moments. Conversely, if the screen shows something grand and momentous, creators pick epic and inspiring melodies to give the scene more emotional intensity. Consider, for a moment, the shivers that you experienced when you first heard the iconic croak in the grudge accompanied by the haunting quartet; without the instrumentation it would simply be a scene with no identity. Below are our choices for the top ten movie soundtracks of all time, some for their sentimental value and others for the sheer compositional craft.
Conceived as a major component of the film, the soundtrack recording for O Brother, Where Art Thou? actually started before anything else, giving producer T Bone Burnett time to meticulously pick the score that would bring the motion pictures to life, rather than resigning it background music. Through his catalogue of Appalachian bluegrass, rustic American folk and more contemporary country inspired tracks, the story of three runaway fugitives caught in the madness of America’s Deep South is one beautifully captured with satire, irony and despair. The opening shot features our 3 protagonists, desperately attempting to escape their work camp as they fumble and collide together; chained together at the ankles and wrists. As the camera slowly follows behind, the tune of Harry Mclintock’s big rock candy mountain plays in the background’, a whimsically ironic tale in which an old man expresses his quest to find his salvation, which highlights the on scene synergy that the Cohen brothers and Burnett where able to achieve.
Whilst the score may not be original, the guardians of the galaxy soundtrack holds an extremely important role within the storyline. Star-Lord or Peter Quill (Played by Chris Pratt) will usually start a song before any ensuing carnage commences, signalling the start of any action packed scene that millions flock to see. Composer Tyler Bates wanted to build a strong affinity to Quill and his Walkman by choosing songs from the 1960’s and 70’s; evoking memories from the last time he was on earth before it was destroyed. From David Bowie to The Jackson Five, the score contains and endless list of timeless classics; I mean who wouldn’t want to blast a bit of 10cc out while saving the galaxy?
Now for a film with the highest IMDB rating of any in the world, it comes as no surprise that Thomas Newmans chilling and uplifting original composition is on our list. Set in the late 1940’s The film follows the story of Andy Dufresne, a wealthy banker who is wrongly accused of killing his wife and sent to one America’s most notorious prisons to serve out his lengthy sentence. As you would expect his experience is marred with apprehension, paranoia and mystery, with few tones of joy. For those who haven’t seen it, the ending plays out to one of the most memorable twists of all time, with the aftermath containing one of my favourite classic pieces of all time “So Was Red”. Newmans signature melody style is unparalleled, contorting glissando violins to almost act like voices as the scenes cut and twist; a 90’s masterpiece.
As one of the best biopics of all time, 8 Mile’s soundtrack completely smashed the charts, debuting at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Albums Chart that year with over 702,000 copies sold in the 1st week and 510,000 copies sold in the 2nd week. The score contains features from the likes of Nas, Jay Z and Mr Porter among many other acclaimed artists, bringing a rich sense of culture to a film about one mans rise up the industry ladder through years of adversity. Featuring Eminems worldwide chart-topping single ‘Lose Yourself’, the end rap battle is up there with one of the most iconic scenes of all time, from lyricism to sheer emotion, each song in this soundtrack successfully portrays the feeling within the scene. The theme of being from a dysfunctional background can be empathised by a lot of people, which is why, along with its originality, it became such a cult classic.
One of my favourite films growing up, The Blues Brothers 3 hour blockbuster has one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time, both on screen and off it. the journey is an adaptation of the duos popular Saturday night live sketch, featuring cameos from James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker. Rumour has it, Franklin wasn’t accustomed to lip-synching her songs at the time which meant her iconic performance required several takes, whereas James Brown insisted everything be done live to stay true to the original version. From stand by your man to Minnie the moocher, John Landis cult classic wasn’t just a brilliant accompaniment, but a pinnacle part of the films success.
For those who are about to rock, I salute you – just one of Jack Black’s one liners in a film drenched with character. To keep the film as authentic as possible, director Richard Linklater Scouted the country for talented 11-year-old musicians to feature on the soundtrack and in the film. The title track features The Moony Suzuki drummer Sammy James Jr, leading into classics like Led Zeppelin, Stevie Knicks and T-Rex to give the on stage presence from the kids more credibility. For anyone who used to be involved in the music department at school, the battle of the bands scene at the end is a true homage to what every kid dreamed about; hundreds of screaming fans, beautifully crisp sound-system and just the music between them both.
Written and directed by man behind shaun of the dead and hit fuzz, baby driver features Ansel Elgort as a young, musically driven getaway driver seeking freedom from a life of crime with his lover. Taking its name from Simon And Garfunkel’s classic album Bridge Over Troubled Water, the soundtrack offers a diverse and sonic insight into the protagonists psyche, signalling clear emotional changes on screen without the need for dialogue; for instance as the car chase begins the intensity of the track imitates. Including the likes of Blur, Queen, Beck and Focus, the soundtrack didn’t receive the critical acclaim I feel it deserves, though it did win an Empire Award for Best Soundtrack.
Basing the soundtrack loosely on music from the 1960’s – 1980’s, Tarentino’s violent mobster classic innovated the film score, setting the soundtrack up as a fictional radio station that broadcast deadpan comedy segments and 70’s music; contains only a couple of original tracks, played by The Bedlams. An unusual feature of the soundtrack was the directors choice songs, selecting tracks that would acts a counterpoint to the on-screen violence and action. The best example within the film would be ‘Mr Blonde’ jovially torturing a rival gang member to the tune of Steeler’s Wheel’s ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’, a startling juxtaposition to the disturbing and uncomfortable scene on screen. However it is this originality that gives Tarentino’s films such prowess and this I believe is his finest example.
Coming from the esteemed pair of Wes Anderson and Devo cofounder Mark Mothersbaugh, this uncouth tale of a kooky oceanographer who sets out to inflict revenge on the “jaguar shark” that ate his partner Esteban. Played by Brazilian Pop/Samba artist Seu Jorge, the soundtrack features a number of titles from David Bowie’s timeless catalogue, including Rock and Roll Suicide, Life On Mars? and 5 Years. The beautifully dynamic cinematography is also gifted with a number of instrumental pieces composed by Sven Libaek for the on scene underwater documentary television series Inner Space; not only is this score outlandish, but it’s a dazzling example of simplicity.
Going on to become a pop culture phenomenon, the Trainspotting soundtrack focused on 3 unique eras of music; 70’s pop, 90’s britpop and 90’s techno. Featuring the likes of Iggy Pop, Goldie and Primal Scream, Danny Boyle aimed to champion the alternative music legacy of 1996 Britain with a focus on presenting electronic music on equal footing with rock music. The soundtrack gained critical reception, with the editors of Vanity Fair magazine ranking it the 7th best motion picture soundtrack in history. The on screen shenanigans are wild enough to demand an energetic and active since accompaniment; and my word it doesn’t disappoint.