Blogger Q&A: What’s Your Favorite Soundtrack?
In the Blogger Q&A series, we ask all of our bloggers here at Flickchart to share their expert opinions on a movie-related question. Got something you want to ask the bloggers? Submit a question of your own for the series by posting on our official Flickchart Facebook page, and it could be featured in a future post!
There’s no denying that a movie’s soundtrack is a hugely important component, though often overlooked. Some film soundtracks have reached an iconic status that now outshines their original movies by far. Others are less well-known but perfectly set an emotional or cultural tone, creating a world that would not have been possible without that musical backdrop. Whether a soundtrack consists of an instrumental score composed specifically for that film or a collection of previously-existing songs expertly woven into the story, they can have the power to stick with moviegoers for years afterward. These, in no particular order, are a few that stuck with us.
Buena Vista Social Club is more an album than a soundtrack. So this is a bit of a cheat, but I can’t pass it up. A slate of standards from elderly Cuban son musicians, the album has been a constant companion from college through my twenties and into my thirties. I’ve fallen asleep to it, made long drives through the night with it… It was in my CD player, then on my iPod, then on my phone. It’s worth mentioning that I don’t speak Spanish well; the mystique of not understanding the words helps keeps the songs fresh and adaptable. The documentary that accompanies the album is good, and I’ve written about it here, but sometimes I forget that there’s a movie involved. It’s just part of the soundtrack of my life. – David Conrad
This is a question with so many possible answers. Some of my favorite films are scored with iconic themes (The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather, Raiders of the Lost Ark). Some breathed new life into old music (Pulp Fiction, The Commitments). Still others introduced me to new music (The Matrix, Garden State). But I have a special appreciation for films that share a synergy with a collection of songs such that the pairing elevates both the movie and the music. In this vein, my favorite soundtrack is from the film The Harder They Come. The film is set in Jamaica, starring reggae musician Jimmy Cliff. It tells the story of a poor Jamaican with musical ambitions who falls on hard times and turns to a life of crime (based on the story of a legendary outlaw and folk hero named “Rhyging” – a sort of Jamaican Robin Hood). The songs (which largely introduced reggae to the US) imbue the narrative with such authenticity that it feels almost like a documentary. The sights and sounds of Jamaica resonate throughout the movie and the music vibrates with the positive energy and optimism that is characteristic to the island. One quick visit (via the film) and you’ll be glad you made the trip, but the soundtrack will keep you coming back again and again. – Ben Shoemaker
I write about musicals most often for Flickchart, so this time I’ve opted to ban what are essentially musical cast recordings from my list and choose instead a solely instrumental score. As such, my choice is 2003’s Oldboy, not only because it’s gorgeous to listen to in and of itself, but because its use in the movie was intriguing and elevated the movie to a whole new level. The score is aching with melancholia and sorrow and loss — an unusual choice for a mystery thriller. My personal favorite track is “The Old Boy,” which underscores a phenomenal fight scene. But instead of fueling a typical thriller atmosphere of adrenaline or tension, this score instead seemingly contradicts the violence by filling this scene with an aura of deep sadness, as if this fight is a desperately wrong move. Using this same musical style throughout, the film constantly sets up the central character’s revenge not as a heroic quest, but as a Shakespearean tragedy. The movie could not have been as good without Jo Yeong-wook’s beautiful, haunting score. – Hannah Keefer
The soundtrack that comes to mind as my favorite may well be The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I say this because not only does it flow well as an album on its own despite its eclectic mix of songs, but it also introduced to me a few artists I count among my favorites today. What clinched it for me in the film is the moment Bill Murray‘s titular character takes a moment for himself on the bow of his ship, staring off into the distance while David Bowie‘s “Life on Mars” swells up. Speaking of David Bowie, I have to mention the inclusion of Portuguese musician Seu Jorge’s Portuguese-language acoustic covers of David Bowie’s songs interspersed throughout the soundtrack. Lastly, hearing Devo’s “Gut Feeling” opened up to me a whole new world of Devo-ness (Devo-sity? Devo-nicity?), not to mention the fact that Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo composed original music for the film. I will admit that I am no Wes Anderson cheerleader – basically the only two films of his I liked were Royal Tenenbaums and this one. After Darjeeling Limited, I stopped watching them (I know, I know). However, his soundtrack for Life Aquatic is still something that I listen to today. In fact, Iggy Pop and the Stooge’s “Search and Destroy” currently resides on my running playlist. After all, I am a street-walkin’ cheetah with a heart full of napalm. – Jeff Lombardi
I struggled with this, trying to figure out whether I was choosing a soundtrack made up of existing songs (like Almost Famous), a soundtrack of new songs for a movie (like Once), or an instrumental score (like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), or whether it mattered for the question or not. And even then, do I choose the music that works the best with the movie (like Tarantino’s use of Bowie’s “Cat People” in Inglourious Basterds), or music that I like to listen to on its own (like any movie musical)? But the piece that kept playing itself in my head when thinking about the question was the Harry Lime theme from The Third Man. So, instrumental won the day, though the song also became a major hit for composer and performer Anton Karas, whose distinctive zither stylings defined the feel of that film. It was a highly unusual instrument for the time, but the traditional European feel of it fits the Viennese setting perfectly, reminding us of Vienna’s long and proud history despite its post-war ruin and corruption. The main theme itself is light and breezy, an exuberance matched by the amoral Harry Lime’s teasing smile in that iconic doorway – Lime may be corrupt and evil, but he’s having such fun doing it. So many things are memorable about The Third Man, from camera angles to lighting to Orson Welles‘ monologuing, and the score holds it all together, gives its disparate parts a cohesion, while also playing against the type of tone we’d expect from a post-war noir film. – Jandy Hardesty
A twofold answer: First, I need to admit to listening to the soundtrack for Batman Forever far too many times in high school. Somehow, to this day, I am still not sick of U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”, or even Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose”, which might have played on the radio more than any other song in the late ’90s save Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Or even Method Man’s “The Riddler”, which seems a ludicrous song to represent Jim Carrey‘s unhinged villain. Meanwhile, my #1 film on Flickchart is also one of my favorite scores. The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite third of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but The Return of the King is the score that I own. The recurring Fellowship Theme is one of the best pieces of movie music ever written, and I love what Howard Shore created for everybody’s favorite SUV-sized spider in “Shelob’s Lair”. Plus, “Into the West” is easily my favorite of the three closing credits songs. – Nigel Druitt
Those are a few of our favorites. Now it’s your turn to chime in. What are your favorite movie soundtracks and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments!