Top 10 – Film Soundtracks
Ah soundtracks, they’re like music to my ears… Well that’s because they are, as when you first sit down to a movie, it’s quite often that you’re assaulted by this wonderful collection of instruments and score. The composers often go by unappreciated in a film, but is it fair? In this Top 10, we’re looking at our personal favourite film soundtracks, some of which have been immortalised for a very long time. Put your headphones on, folks!
10) Pacific Rim – Ramin Djawadi
Amongst the most memorable components of Pacific Rim, giant robots, giant monsters, stilted dialogue, and characters that sit neatly into every anime pigeonhole. And yet I was one of those people who left the cinema singing the theme tune. You likely sing along to some of Djawadi’s work yourself if you’ve ever joined in a spiritual chorus of the Game of Thrones theme tune or if you’ve sat and appreciated the honky-tonk stylings of classic rock songs in Westworld.
In Pacific Rim there are two very distinct theme tunes, the uplifting and heroic main theme (or Gipsy Danger’s theme) fusing sweeping orchestral pieces led by the string section and uplifted by the brass, accented with more than a little electric guitar and techno beats to give it a modern edge and send chills down your spine. The kaiju have their own intimidating brass-led chorus, a dull, plodding melody that betrays the size and menace of the beasts and paints them in an unjust light, like it’s their fault they’ve been sent to die at the hands of giant robots.
9) Akira – Geinoh Yamashirogumi
Akira is one of those classic anime films which managed to break into the limelight, helping anime reach out to us westerners in the process. The film was released in 1988, bringing along a dark, gritty reality with some exceptional art and animation for its time. During this time, people associated it with bikes, a dystopian future… And some truly unnerving, uncanny music to boot.
Akira features music from a group called Geinoh Yamashirogumi, a collective made up of hundreds of people from all walks of life, including but not limited to; doctors, engineers and students. Together, these men and women create some magical music, even having to learn how to program just to be able to modify their synthesizers back in the 80s. No matter how you look at it, these fine folk, this fine soundtrack, all comes together in a truly unbelievable way.
8) Mad Max: Fury Road – Junkie XL
Fury Road is what happens when you storyboard a film instead of scripting, the soundtrack is what happens when you put the melody in the background and let the drums takeover. Cut with a fraught and panicking string section, fill with bass, occasionally remember you have a whole orchestra to play with and… done!
Ok, I know all we really want to talk about is the eyeless guitarist on his mobile amp-stack, sitting in his bungie-chord-harness, shredding on his double necked flame thrower guitar, and yeah, sure he’s the coolest of the Doof Warriors, but can we talk about the kettle drum gang in the back, in their glorious air-ventilation rig, hammering away in perfect unison despite the fire roaring about their ears, the constant attacks from all sides? It’s a brilliant blend of soundtrack and film that can often be too cheesy, but there’s an easy way to make it seem natural in a Mad Max film. More fire.
7) Paprika – Susumu Hirasawa
Science Fiction has never sounded so trippy, as we take a delve into the deeply psychotherapeutic soundtrack of Paprika. The film features a story revolving around device called the DC Mini, allowing people to be able to view other people’s dreams. This allows the viewer to really become in-tune with the psyche of the person whose dreams they are viewing.
Featuring a fascinating blend of near-dance music, along with electronic elements and generated vocals. You see, this was one of the earliest films using Vocaloids in the soundtrack. Couple this with the use of an Amiga 4000, you’ve got yourself an electronic music fans dream – Fitting to the theme of the film.
6) Beetlejuice – Danny Elfman
It’s not easy to pick from the Danny Elfman’s back catalogue of works, it’s… well it’s huge. But no one blends together the comedic and the terrifying quite so well, with his trademark rapid pace, pizzicato tempo, and assault of instruments, each claiming their own moments to lead as others fade into the background, culminating in a grand cacophony that bleeds energy into every scene. We couldn’t include Nightmare Before Christmas because musicals are a list to themselves, and even the Batman theme… while painfully close lacked a certain special quality.
But combine Jump In The Line and Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) with Elfman’s classic style, we couldn’t say no. As iconic to Tim Burton’s filmography as black and white stripes and hair pointier than an anime lead character, the Beetlejuice soundtrack also brings in some old-western style honky-tonk, ghoulish choirs, slow waltzes, all while exemplifying everything about Elfman’s instantly recognisable style.
5) Pirates of the Caribbean – Hans Zimmer
There’s no doubt that this has to be one of the most recognisable film franchise jingles out there. Most people, when you say Pirates of the Caribbean, will immediately associate it to Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbosa, Davy Jones or that blasted theme tune. Once you get someone humming the theme tune, it’s hard for that tune to leave, as it’s such a damn good melody.
What makes it so good is the blend of being classically trained, along with having a great sensibility for theming. The truth is, Hans Zimmer has done better works than this particular one, at least in terms of a musical sense. For instance, he was the composer for The Lion King – However, the reason we picked Pirates of the Caribbean from Zimmers collections is simple; it’s instantly recognisable. It’s now a soundtrack classic.
Naturally, you’re all now humming this.
4) Scott Pilgrim vs The World – Beck
This indie-rock jamfest mashes together raw garage band with chip tunes, sounding like it’s been played through blown speakers on bad gear, and yet timing microphone squeals and feedback to blend with the tempo. Music is massively important in SPvTW, after all the Battle of the Bands is the backdrop to the whole twisted romance between Scott and Ramona.
Music is part of the conflict, actually being used as a weapon a few times, including the weirdly YuGiOh-esque showdown with the Katayanagi Twins. Music is part of the comedy, after all, who didn’t memorise the words to “I Am Sad, So Very, Very Sad” by Crash and the Boys? Each Evil Ex has their personality painted in music, Matthew Patel’s demonic Bollywood mix, Lucas Lee casually rolling in to the Universal theme, the bass-off with Todd Ingram. You’d be hard pressed to find a film so inextricable from its music… other than a musical, obviously.
3) Star Wars – John Williams
Naturally, in a Top 10 about Film Soundtracks, we absolutely had to get Star Wars in there. Whether or not you’re a Star Wars fan, there can be no denying that some of the music from Star Wars has truly stood the test of time in terms of recognisability. Given the popularity of the franchise, many people would straight away put this to number one on their own personal Top 10 Film Soundtracks list… But for us, there were two more recent examples that probably don’t get the love they deserve, so keep reading to see our number 2 and 1 spots.
On a similar vein to Pirates of the Caribbean, this one mostly gets in because it is a soundtrack classic, but this one is infinitely more recognisable than Pirates of the Caribbean. However, what makes Star Wars so spectacular is the sheer number of tunes and jingles that came from the series, which we all would recognise in this day and age. From the classic opening sequence, to the death march and even the Cantina band – There’s so much versatility in the score.
2) Guardians of the Galaxy – Various Artists
Losing the top spot by technicality alone, Guardians of the Galaxy’s strength lies, not in the original parts of the score, but in the compilation of 70’s-80’s hits entitled Awesome Mix Vol. 1. Who would have thought that “Hooked on a Feeling” was ever going to craft one of the greatest trailers ever? Who could have foreseen a movie soundtrack topping billboard charts for months at a time? Vol. 2 of Quill’s “Awesome Mix” featured The Chain prominently, and the song was an earworm and radio staple for an incredibly long time to follow, and where Vol. 1 was designed to tie Quill to Earth and remind us of his terrestrial heritage, Vol. 2 was compiled with intent of meaning, with The Chain focusing on the family element of the story, and Brandy becoming an essential plot point.
There’s an actual soundtrack in there too, let’s not forget. In fact James Gunn had Tyler Bates score much of the film before filming rather than the traditional other way around, so that the film gained a more lyrical quality, greater concentration on tempo, song and dance, Starlord’s ever-present headphones, and the sense of a film composed rather than directed.
1) Tron: Legacy – Daft Punk
Okay, so love or hate this remake, Tron: Legacy got one thing absolutely spot on – The choice of artist for the soundtrack. The fact of the matter is, they picked the correct blend of electronic, eclectic and engaging, bringing us to Daft Punk. But, unlike a lot of the other “compilation” soundtracks we have in this list, such as our second spot, this was actually an original soundtrack which won an award for the artists.
The genius behind using Daft Punk in this film can’t be stated enough – It’s a film about being transported into a world of virtual reality! The electronic soundtrack only amplifies the experience, even if it’s incredibly over the top. But, the best part is that the soundtrack never feels like it’s taking over the film, but rather feels like it’s a fine addition to a fairly successful film.
Not all soundtracks are the same, some of them are a bit dark and others venture into a more uplifting and enchanting realm. Whatever you believe in, it’s only fair that we add in some more examples of music that we think could have made our list, if it wasn’t already filled with some beautiful music.
Queen of the Damned – Richard Gibbs (ft. Jonathan Davis)
Right, let this be known that I’m genuinely sad I couldn’t put this one into our Top 10 list itself, but it’s nudged out simply by being, well, not that geeky a film overall. However, growing up, both Joel and I have been avid metal fans. Whether it’s nu-metal from talents like KoRn and Disturbed, through to death metal and hey, even old school like Motorhead and more. We’re both avid metallers and that’s part of what made us click immediately back at our first convention.
So then, with this said, we’ve not only considered this from being massive metal nerds – It’s genuinely a good soundtrack. It’s not too metal, making for easy-enough listening for others, but it also includes a genuinely fantastic arrangement. The music is mostly a collaboration, however through the film, Jonathan Davis of KoRn fame is the main vocalist and hey, it makes for an amazingly ‘dark’ sound. Genuinely chilling.
This one was a no-brainer to us – We had to get a Disney film into our Top 10 list. Or did we? See, at the beginning we mentioned that we weren’t going to include musicals, for the sole reason of… That’s cheating! Plus, that’s totally a Top 10 for another day (so don’t forget to vote, yeah?)
Anyway, Disney films are beloved for their songs. From the classics such as the tunes from The Lion King as previously mentioned in the Top 10 above, to more modern examples, such as Frozen. It’s because of this that choosing just one Disney film is going to be such a hard feat, even though we did include Star Wars in this list. Our argument is that the tunes we know and love were written prior to being added to the Disney collection, so shush you pedant!
And now you can finally put your headphones down, take a moment to soak in all of the beautiful noise you’ve encountered and enjoy some reprieve. Can you hear that? It’s bliss, isn’t it? It’s the soundtrack of your life. Woah, that’s deep… But naturally, whilst you’re having some downtime, it’s only fair for us to ask that you choose which Top 10 topic you’d like us to cover next week.
Whether you agree with our number one choice or not, it’s only fair to say that this one will be hugely divisive. We welcome everyone to share their favourite examples below. Do you think Indiana Jones and James Bond deserved to get in? Did we get the order completely wrong and everyone should disregard everything we’ve said? Do you think it’s fair we kept musicals out? As ever, please share your thoughts with us below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.