When watching a film, you’re engaged with the action on screen, but the music behind the scene can often slip by without you realising it. But well composed or selected soundtracks are key to making a good film a great film, and have you leaving the cinema not with the image of Channing Tatum’s chiselled abs racing through your head but the sounds that accompanied them. Excluding musicals and films with a highly musical focus (such as Whiplash), we compiled a list of our favourite movie soundtracks of the modern era, trying to shed a light on some of the music which doesn’t often get the recognition it deserves.
There are countless factors that make this film amazing- great concept, great acting, great script -but Antonio Sánchez’s score is, mesmerizing and often underappreciated. The Mexican-American jazz drummer’s improvisational wizardry is the perfect accompaniment for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s masterpiece, providing dynamically varying beats and riffs that permeate the background with their frantic, tense, and relentless rhythms. Winning a Golden Globe for best original score, Birdman delivers on every.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
This movie basically redefined the superhero-movie soundtrack genre. It is the reason recent flops like Suicide Squad have tried and failed to rescue a shit film with niche and eclectic (but often over the top) music, and hits like Deadpool have prospered by rejecting traditional, climactic classical scores for a hard-hitting soundtrack that matches the action on screen. Its nostalgic snapshot of 70s music captures the films informal style, and is the key ingredient in GOTG‘s ability to not take itself too seriously. The sexy vibes of Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ that open proceedings are all it took to get a generation of millenials Hooked on a Feeling.
Although ‘The Ecstacy of Gold’ from The Good the Bad and the Ugly is often considered as one of the best film compositions of all time, it is Ennio Morricone’s work in Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight that earned him a coveted Oscar for best original score. ‘L’Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock’ is one of those eerie pieces of music that haunts your ears throughout a film, making you feel like your sat an a knife edge rather than in the arms of a premier ODEON seat. Morricone admitted to disliking Tarantino’s use of music in his films- too chopped up and cut short before it has the chance to develop -but their decision to join forces in The Hateful Eight, we think, was a pretty good one.
There’s a formulae to feel good films, and in 2014 Chef mastered that formulae, most importantly thanks to its luscious soundtrack of soul and samba. Following the travels of a boy and his chef father across America, the sounds of Pete Rodriguez’s ‘I Like It Like That’ and ‘C.R.E.A.M’ by El Michels Affair drench the film in an authentic and rich dressing. As such, it’s hard to tell which part of this film is tastier- its delicious soundtrack or the mouth-watering food porn it abuses us with.
Imagine Psycho‘s shower scene without the discordant musical shrieks mirroring the downward force of the kitchen knife, or Insidious without its unnecessarily ear-breaking, fucked-sideways by a violin jump scare opening. Half the terror would disappear. It’s for that reason that behind every good horror film is a good soundtrack, and the main theme to Halloween is one of the best. Its disorientating concoction of synth notes, strings and off-tune piano is enough to make even the most battle-hardened of scary movie veterans sweat.
Potentially the worst inclusion in the Star Wars franchise, this terrible spectacle of pod-racing and midichlorian bashing is saved only by the genius of John Williams. While Ewan McGregor was busy chopping a mutant in half, and Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley were pissing around giving Jar Jar Binks the codes to the Death Star, John Williams was off in his studio creating magic. The result was a mind blowing score, culminating in the awesomeness of ‘Duel of the Fates’. Only this song could make a lightsaber battle look any cooler, and prevent this film from dropping below a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The only thing more beautiful than this film is its soundtrack. It carries so much grace, delicate yet with a delightful strength, a real testament to the continued importance of original scores in modern cinema. ‘Comptine D’un Autre Été’ stands out as a real work of art, with real beauty in its simplicity. While putting together a playlist of the greatest 70s hits to accompany a superhero battle in a fictional galaxy is all well and good, Yann Tiersen captures a serene moment in his score. And it’s all so very, very French.
Gives Hans Zimmer a grain of sand and he will turn it into gold. In Inception, Christopher Nolan gave him an idea- whether it was planted there by Dominic Cobb is up for debate -and got an incredible score in return. A brilliant work of cinematography by its own standards, it is Zimmer’s music that keeps Inception flowing from scene to scene, instilling it with emotional impact and an anthem in ‘Time’ that could make even an episode of Dora The Explorer look inspiring.
9. (500) Days of Summer
This film made ‘Sweet Disposition’ cool before it was cool to like The Temper Trap. It was every noughties indie head’s ultimate fantasy, a perfect playlist of so-hip-they-hurt tracks to make you fall in love to. Featuring the likes of Regina Spektor, The Smiths, and Feist, it’s not hard to see why 500 Days of Summer captured so many hearts.
10. The Nice Guys
What’s cooler than a moustached Ryan Gosling and a rough-looking Russell Crowe kicking dick in the criminal underbelly of LA? A soundtrack that features the oh so smooth ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’, a selection of Earth, Wind & Fire’s silkiest hits, and some well placed Kool and the Gang. A film that mostly went under the radar last year, The Nice Guys has one of the sexiest movie soundtracks of the 21st Century
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off- It’s the quintessential coming of age film, with a soundtrack to match. It’s often quiet, revelling in its compelling dialogue. But when Yello’ ‘Oh Yeah’ kicks in… perfection.
Trainspotting- Film and Music come together here in absolute harmony, both shaping and reflecting each other, pairing a heroin overdose with Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’.
The Graduate- Simon and Garfunkel provided the music for this iconic Hollywood New Wave production, treating the world with ‘The Sound Of Silence’ and ‘Mrs Robinson’.
Reservoir Dogs- Just for that torture scene and the utter brilliance of ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’. Never has dismemberment ever been accompanied by such chilled out vibes.
Jaws- John Williams. Two notes. Genius.
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