Film and music are two of my favourite things in this world. However, certain films transcend above expectations (certainly for me), when the perfect blend of both makes a motion picture into an unforgettable cinematic experience. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) is released this week, and I remember seeing the first film and thinking how brilliant the soundtrack was that made the film a unique experience. Especially in terms of what you would expect from a Marvel movie (because let’s be honest, most of the music in those films are quite bland). So I got to thinking about some of the best film soundtracks I have heard over the years, and how much they enhanced the viewing experience to make something truly memorable. And although everyone has their own personal favourites, today is just my personal selection. Honourable mentions go to The Warriors (1979) for its brilliant synth soundtrack. Blue Velvet (1986) for its perfect use of old school music. That opening scene really creeps me out in a lot of ways, just see for yourself and you can see how unsettling it is.
10. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Coen brothers are among the most prestigious directors in Hollywood. And although this entry wouldn’t be as popular as Fargo (1996) or No Country for Old Men (2007), in terms of soundtracks, this one makes the list. Not being a big fan of American country music, I am however a huge fan of Delta blues, folk and Bluegrass. From the opening scene of the prisoners singing in unison to po’ Lazerus, to the ‘Soggy Bottom Boys’ track Man of Constant Sorrow, my appreciation for southern American music increases significantly every single viewing.
9. Suspiria (1977)
People may not be familiar with the work of Italian Director Dario Argento. But Suspiria is one of those films that has to be experienced. With a score composed by prog rock band Goblin, the whole film plays out like a haunted house movie. But the music from the opening moments is just so unsettling and intense, it really is a treat for the viewer to witness this film for the first time. Although people may not be a big fan of the film in terms of story, it is more a film for the senses. The beautifully lit set pieces and strange story are enough as it is, but that score makes it a much more terrifying experience.
8. Halloween (1978)
John Carpenter has made some of my favourite horror movies ever. Halloween being one of the reasons I fell in love with the genre as it was the first film to truly freak the shit out of me (which makes sense). However, I doubt the film would have had the same effect if Carpenter didn’t also include the score which he performed himself. It is just one of the most intense, unsettling, and creepiest soundtracks to a film ever. The main theme is enough to send a chill down your spine, but even some of the more intense moments are helped along with the plodding piano that adds to the atmosphere of dread. I’ve seen this one a thousand times but I would not like to hear that music on a walk home in the dark.
7. Drive (2011)
I know not everyone is a fan of Drive, or even any work from Nicholas Winding Refn for that matter. But I actually fell in love with the soundtrack for this film. And it all boils down to the fact it is done by Cliff Martinez, who was a former drummer for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers during some of my favourite albums of their canon (which unfortunately not a lot of people know about). For a film of this nature to be full of ridiculous stunts and over the top Hip-Hop music (nothing against Hip-Hop), it was just nice to see something much more simple, with a soundtrack that was just super smooth and brimming with cool.
6. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
I have to give another spot to the Coen brothers. I’m sure some of you are annoyed but quite frankly I absolutely adore this soundtrack. When I went to see the film, the opening scene of Oscar Isaac playing Hang Me, oh Hang Me just sunk its teeth straight into me, and I was hooked. The folk soundtrack was just something I wasn’t expecting to be so haunting in many ways. Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song) and The Auld Triangle are just some of the highlights for pure music enthusiasts, even if they were performed by people I wouldn’t be a big fan of, that was the best part about it.
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
I’ve talked about Dazed and Confused a bunch of times before so I’ll try not to talk too much about it this time. All I need to mention is the fact that the film itself really highlighted how good the 1970s were in terms of music unbeknown to certain characters (who said they cannot wait for the 1980s). When you have Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top and Alice Cooper with tracks all in the one film, you bet your ass it is going to be a classic. Although I wouldn’t be big on compilation albums for this sort of music, this one time I would make an exception.
4. Trainspotting (1996)
Trainspotting is one of the greatest films of the 1990s, and this is made even truer when you consider how good the soundtrack is. I remember I was quite young when this came out, but Born Slippy was played almost every day either around my house, or just around my neighbourhood, people couldn’t get enough of it. Then the Iggy Pop classic Lust for Life soon followed as a belter of an anthem. With further appearances from Primal Scream, Blur and Pulp, it really is a film for the 1990s that was an important part of that decade, and a soundtrack that gave it that extra edge to make it a pure classic.
3. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
I’m sure the first thing you are thinking about is Stuck in the Middle with You as Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) hacks off a coppers ear. It’s funny how you can associate a song to a specific moment. But Tarantino is such a master at his craft, the soundtrack to Dogs I can listen to and it takes me back to specific moments in the film. It was actually one of the first soundtracks I ever bought on CD, and still every once in a while I stick it on if I’m in the mood. The smooth introduction leading to Little Green Bag is just the starting point of the nostalgia trip I take with this film. Although other people would much prefer Pulp Fiction (1994) in a lot of ways even other than the soundtrack, the spot definitely goes to Reservoir Dogs for me.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The last two films for today’s list I had a bit of a dilemma to choose for the top spot, but I have my reasons. I actually had the pleasure to watch 2001 for the very first time in the cinema, and it was one of the most mind blowing experiences I have ever witnessed, and I would mean that almost literally. As I sat in the screening in the dark, Also Sprach Zarathustra began to play, and when I tell you I thought my head was going to explode, by the final build, I legit thought that this was my final moment on Earth. One of the most memorable experiences of my life, hence why it gets the number two spot on today’s list. But number one goes to something much closer to my heart.
1. Taxi Driver (1976)
A while ago I did a list of my Top Ten Martin Scorsese films and I included Taxi Driver as the number one spot also. I have several reasons for this. I first saw the film in my early teen years, and I just completely fell in love with it. Although at that time a lot of the themes went straight over my head, over the years I have learned more and more about it. Then we get to the soundtrack. Arranged by Bernard Herrmann, one of his last films to get a music credit on before his death in 1975, just blows me away every time. The film got a rerelease recently in the cinema so I got to experience how good the music really was in a room with great acoustics, and it was something truly special. That big brass section followed by the smooth playing of a lone saxophone player as Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) drives through the streets of New York is one of the reasons I fell in love with cinema. And no matter how hard the most skilled musicians and filmmakers try, none will ever come close to this.