If there’s one thing other than a tight script that will make me stop and take notice of a film, it is a gorgeous soundtrack and/or score. And I buy soundtracks when I really, really like them. So here are my top five film soundtracks/scores as attested to me by my MP3 player. Truly, these are some tunes and some have won awards.
One of Quentin Tarantino’s more controversial films, I really like Death Proof and its soundtrack. The songs selected for the film help to really bring it to life and portray a world that was contemporary at the time, but also had one foot in the past, which was appropriate considering that it was a tribute to exploitation films of the 1970s. In one memorable scene, Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) gives a lap dance to Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) to ’56 track “Down In Mexico”, as performed by The Coasters. Also points for using “Chick Habit”, by April March, during the end credits.
Drawing upon the work and experience Reznor had built upon during his many years as the front-man of Nine Inch Nails, the soundtrack to The Social Network brilliantly reflected the portrayed character of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in the film. Many of the pieces have a cold quality to them, which aided in bringing out the Eisenberg’s interpretation of Zuckerberg as a man who was detached from society despite the nature of what he was creating. It also includes a rather funky rendition of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” during a scene where things were coming to a head.
Many remember The Matrix for its gothic aesthetics and while its soundtrack leaned that way – with the inclusion of tracks by artists like Marilyn Manson, Rammstein and Rob Zombie – it actually had a nice balance. Moving from DJ pieces like “Prime Audio Soup” by Meat Beat Manifesto, it had lighter rock in the form of “Leave You Far Behind” by Lunatic Calm. The mix of genres helped build a sound-scape to the malleable world of The Matrix and underline the Earth Shattering revelations many of the characters were going through.
When I interviewed Paul Leonard-Morgan about his work on the score to Dredd, I was told that one of the qualities the score had once lacked was bass, “Need more bass,” he said. Originally it was far more rocky. So the hyper-futuristic, gut crunching bass sounds that make-up the soundtrack to the now cult hit were almost lots of clear guitar strings. Considering the full dystopian vision the film went on to have, the dirtiness in the score really worked well with what was on screen. I listen to this score and I know I’m in Mega-City One and it’s about to be an eventful day.
Pulling further away from the scores established by Danny Elfman in the Burton Batman films, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s classical numbers added a believable edge to the second Nolan Bats film. The panicked strings in several of the Joker related tracks helped to emphasise the character’s instability. Meanwhile the amped version of the Batman theme introduced at the end of Batman Begins helps to show how Batman/Bruce Wayne has developed as a character. I certainly do find that this is one of those scores where if I sit and listen to it with my eyes closed, it really transports me back to the film. A masterpiece.
Which are your favourite film soundtracks? Let me know in the comments below.