The soundtrack dates back to the 1940s when movie companies started using them in a promotional effort. The logic was if someone was willing to pay money to see a movie, they will also be inclined to purchase a record with the songs from the film.
Soundtracks are a crucial element as they set the atmosphere and tone of the story conveyed. For instance, horror movies tend to be scary due to the eerie sounds in the background. The viewer does not even realize the effect music has on the movie watching experience. To understand how important the soundtrack is for setting a particular mood, watch any action scene on mute. The stunts, even if they are visually interesting, will not have your heart pounding as they normally would. Moreover, the music chosen for a film gives subtext to the action and can even become a character unto itself.
The songs chosen for a movie range from top 40 radio hit songs to sounds engineered by a technician in post-production. Movie soundtracks have different types including the musicals, film scores, and the aforementioned collection of songs from the radio. I have several music soundtracks playing every other day whether I am studying or reading, and I thought I could share some of my personal favorites. Also, before you start sending hate mail, I omitted to include any Quentin Tarantino soundtrack because they deserve a list of their own.
Coraline is a weird movie to say the least as it has dark undertones and almost nightmarish visuals. It is hard to believe some of this material was even meant for kids as they can give the creeps to most adults. The film was even described as a fantasy horror film.
The song chosen for the opening scene is a beautiful lullaby, similar to one found in a children’s CD, but it is also menacing as it plays while the villain is planning to kidnap our main character. Some of the songs are even in a foreign language and, even though the listener does not understand the lyrics, the atmosphere of the music conveys the intended emotion.
14. The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street is a rarity: a 3-hour long movie which does not drag. It is incredible Martin Scorsese managed to keep the audience attention for so long, especially in today’s era of constant movement and distractions.
Part of the entertainment is due to the amazing soundtrack which is just as fun as the movie itself. It gives the scenes of debauchery an extra dose of energy and makes the tone uplifting and carefree. It is easy to forget how the main character is a crooked and greedy person who benefits of people’s naivety when the songs chosen to convey his rise to fame are so catchy and energetic.
Trainspotting starts with Marc Renton (Ewan McGregor) running away from cops with Iggy Pop‘s “Lust for Life” playing in the background. This scene sets the tone immediately for the movie as it showcases how the main character has a primitive need to live life to the fullest with a complete disregard for everyone else, including his own friends and family.
What’s more, the songs chosen for the movie seem to have been selected by Renton himself as they all reflect an emotion he is feeling at a particular moment. For instance, when he is looking for a potential lover in a club, Heaven 17’s “Temptation” is blasting in the background.
As the movie turns 20 years old, Trainspotting‘s soundtrack is bound to make anyone nostalgic as it includes some of the best acts from the 90s . I personally love the song “Mile End” by Pulp as it is an amusing telling of how it feels to leave the family nest.
12. Sing Street
Sing Street’s soundtrack is right up my alley and I had it on repeat even before the movie came out. The songs chosen are a mix of hit songs from the 80s and songs written for the movie.
Even though I love to listen to The Cure and The Jam, what makes this soundtrack stand out is just how good the original tracks are. I honestly can’t pick favorites as each one of them has an incredible amount of effort put into the writing. Clearly, the people who composed them are avid fans of ’80s indie bands.
It is kind of depressing to know there won’t be any other songs from Sing Street as they are not, sadly, a real band. I already talked about how much I dig this movie in a previous article and I urge you to, at least, listen to the soundtrack on Spotify.
11.Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a movie intended for a millennial audience as it is an adaptation of a graphic novel beloved by young adults. Its dialogue is sarcastic and witty which might leave older people rolling their eyes out of sheer second-hand embarrassment. That’s alright since this movie does not care about the “mainstream” and almost feels like it is pandering to hipsters. What’s more, in a true to form Internet fashion, the movie is highly influenced by anime, video games, and geek culture.
The characters are all in their twenties which is the prime time for bar bands and underground music festivals. The soundtrack feels very D.I.Y and fits the atmosphere of the movie perfectly. It is a generational compilation of songs and their rough edges will not bother their audience. Threshold, the first song on the playlist, is so aggressive and explosive one can only headbang to it till a severe neck injury ensues.
10. Fantastic Mr.Fox
Wes Anderson seems to be highly reminiscent of the late 60s and early 70s, a time he is far too young to have experienced. He is almost romanticizing the whole area and his movies are deeply inspired by the fashion and musical landscape of the period. None is a better example of this trend than his 2009 stop-motion movie Fantastic Mr. Fox, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book published in 1970.
Throughout the movie, Mr. Fox wears a brown, velvet suit and his wife always wears a yellow short dress. The songs chosen for the soundtrack are also straight out of the ’60s and features legendary acts such as The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys. However, the compilation is not overly cliché as forgotten artists such as Bobby Fuller Four and Burl Ives are included. The soundtrack was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
Juno is a movie about the confusion created when one falls in love for the first time. The characters are not desperately devoted to each other, but they are more than friends. It is a cute little flick about coming of age and the decisions that come along with becoming an adult. The dialogue is quirky and highly self-aware. The movie’s soundtrack was almost as popular as the movie itself and won a Grammy award.
The songs are neo-folk love ballads performed by Kimya Dawson and her bands Antsy Pants and The Moldy Peaches. The lyrics are relatable and convey the character’s feelings effectively to the audience.
My personal favorite is “All I Want is You” because of its utterly clever writing. The singer compares himself to his lover by using analogies. The metaphors do not rely on overused cliches and the listener instantly understands the singer’s feelings towards their significant other. I love this soundtrack because it is a raw portrayal of emotions.
8. 500 Days of Summer
The soundtrack for 500 Days of Summer starts with a narrator telling the listener the following is not meant to be a love story. It feels as if someone was making a homemade tape and decided to introduce it to whoever happen to stumble upon it.
If you are unfamiliar with the story, it is a young guy who falls in love with a girl who is not emotionally invested with him. Sure, she fools around with him, but she does not want to be attached. It is a tale of learning how to get out of a toxic relationship.
The Smiths are highly featured in the soundtrack, an obvious move as there is nothing more melancholic than Morrissey‘s writing. All of the tracks chosen describe how having one’s heart broken in different ways. You should avoid listening to this compilation if you are currently going through a break-up.
7. Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max is an intense thrill ride which will leave you out of breath and in need for a soothing tea after experiencing it. Its soundtrack, amongst other things, is the reason why this movie creates excitement and a sense of emergency.
The score composed by Tom Holkenbord (aka Junkie XL) is heavily inspired by heavy metal and industrial music. These music genres also inspired the character’s costumes and overall artistic direction of the film. Mad Max soundtrack adds layer to the main plot line as it serves to convey an emotion the characters are experiencing.
A lot of people were taken aback by the lack of dialogue in this movie as it is an unusual move for a mainstream release. However, those critics disregarded the role of technical aspects in the film’s narrative. Mad Max‘s soundtrack is the prime example of the effects a great musical score can have in the movie watching experience.
6.Rocky Horror Picture Show
When I watched Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time, I was confused. I am sure I am not the only one who found the melting pot of different styles hard to get accustomed to. However, with the course of time, I started to understand the movie’s appeal and, with some effort, its plot line.
The film is a telling of how rock and roll music urges people to misbehave. To convey how contagious music can be, producer Richard Hartley composed the catchiest songs from the 1970s. This an astonishing exploit as the decade gave birth to the most renowned artists in popular culture.
Moreover, Tim Curry‘s voice will blow anyone away. His singing borrows from Freddy Mercury and is one of the very few actors who are worthy of being compared to such a talented performer. Rocky Horror Picture Show became a cult movie in part due to its incredible soundtrack.
I was very close to including Guardian of the Galaxy‘s soundtrack as it was everywhere when it came out and even was one of the best selling CDs of 2014. Despite its omnipresence, I can’t honestly say I’ve listened to it in recent memory as the songs chosen for the soundtrack, although great, seem to be chosen at random and do not flow particularly well.
I bring this up as people had similar criticism of Watchmen‘s song selection as it is highly eclectic and includes folk songs from the ’60s and emo songs from 2006. However, the selection does not bother me like Guardians of the Galaxy‘s did as it fits the existentialism of Watchmen‘s story.
Although from different genres, the songs chosen have a similar theme as to their lyrics which are intense and question those who are in power. It is exactly what a Watchmen adaptation’s soundtrack should be: angry and politically charged.
Nicholas Winding Refn is a polarizing director and seems to confuse more than one moviegoer with his movies. However, no one can deny how great Drive‘s soundtrack is. It has become a cult compilation of songs and whenever someone hears them, Ryan Gosling wearing a bomber jacket is the first thing that comes to mind.
Besides, the soundtrack will introduce even the most avid music follower to new indie artists who deserve to seek out. A song like “Nightcall” by Kavinsky, which plays during the title sequence of the movie, fits Refn’s world perfectly as it is mysterious and beautifully dark.
I especially like when the singer says “there is something about you” as there is more than meets the eye with Drive‘s main character. You should play this soundtrack before going out as the songs will give you a longing to have a night filled with
3. We Are The Best!
We are the Best is a Swedish movie about 13-year-old punk girls in the ’80s. These girls might seem cute, but they are filled with teenage angst and rage against the machine. They are entirely devoted to punk culture and will disregard anything that is not somewhat linked to the lifestyle. They even start a band out of spite just to anger some bullies.
The soundtrack features songs performed by Swedish punk artists, a genre I did not know existed before watching this movie. Apparently, I was living under a rock as the tracks from this compilation are great if you like to headbang and mosh-pit around with friends. These jams are similar to the characters as they are angry and intense to the point of self-parody. They are catchy and “Vad Sak du Bli” by Ebba Gron should be playing in every single rock party you attend.
Grease is a musical with an iconic status mainly due to its soundtrack and not its story. These songs need no introduction and have become omnipresent in our cultural landscape. They transcend the test of time and have become more popular than the movie itself.
It makes perfect sense as the film is forgettable and a cinematic train wreck. However, the songs are beloved by everyone even those who say they hate them. We all know that “You’re the One that I Want” will get any crowd singing along. Even though John Travolta‘s singing is subpar at best, his charisma carries the songs along. Having a great singing voice is not enough to be memorable, a show-stopping performer is able of transmitting his or her personality to the listener. Grease‘s whole is not as good as the sum of its parts, but its soundtrack is its strongest asset along with its sheer amusement.
Musicals are especially hard to produce as having character break into song, for seemingly unjustifiable reasons, takes moviegoers away from the action. To overcome this issue, Chicago introduces a dream-like stage, where characters perform after a turn of event urges them to.
The songs advance the story by revealing valuable information to the audience. A track like Cell Block Tango, performed partially by the amazing Catherine Zeta-Jones, explains why her character committed murder. It is a crucial detail of the movie as revenge is an omnipresent theme in it. Each track is fundamental to the narrative and without it, the story would be incomplete.
Chicago won the academy award for best movie, an incredible achievement for a musical. Since half of the story is told through the means of song, its soundtrack was a crucial factor which warranted the movie’s Academy Award win.