Ah, the soundtrack. You'd be hard pressed to find any iconic movie that doesn't have an equally memorable score attached to it. Sadly, a film score is always criminally underrated in comparison to the visual itself (which, admittedly, is probably fair given the actors are the ones telling the story and all). But in our humble opinion, film soundtracks deserve way more attention than they get. We've set out to rectify this oversight by asking our writers to share their favourite film soundtracks of all time.
Name: Eddy Lim
Regarding memorable film soundtracks, there are two things in particular that really stuck with me, and they’re both by Hans Zimmer. The first is the soundtrack to Inception – the track ‘Time’ in particular. What’s really interesting is that the song virtually doesn’t progress at all (similarly to time not moving in the film). Layers of instrumentation, sweeping dynamics and orchestral swells are slowly introduced, but the melody remains the same. Zimmer did such an incredible job to not only simulate progression, but to summarise the entire premise of the film in a single track, within a single melody.
The second is an audio illusion called a Shepard Tone. This can be found in ‘Echoes’ by Pink Floyd, Batman: The Dark Knight, but most prominently in the movie Dunkirk. If the word “unease” had a sound tagged to it, it would be the Shepard Tone. The illusion consists of several tones separated by an octave layered on top of each other. As the tones ascend a scale, the higher tone fades out in volume, the middle tone stays constant, and the lower register fades in. The sound then loops. Because our ears are constantly perceiving two tones, the sound we hear is an infinitely climbing scale – perfect for creating never-ending, palpable tension and making the audience squirm in their seats. If this sounds too confusing to you, Vox has a great explanatory video with sound samples you can check out below.
Name: Josh Martin
Soundtrack: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack to the sister film of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks TV show has long gone underappreciated due to the film’s initially hostile reception. Brushing off the TV show’s soft-shoed nostalgia, Badalamenti teamed up with Lynch to mine a spurting vein of demented blues, fly-swat free jazz and string catharsis. The record, like Lynch’s films, contains nothing resembling joy, pouncing between misery, mystery and fantasy. Badalementi’s titular theme outlines the fantastical tension enveloping the soundtrack, tautly controlling a myriad of atmospheric turns. The resulting mix should be a case-study in musical whiplash, but its tight execution of every experiment remains as evocative as Lynch’s subconscious film practice.
Name: Will Brewster
As much as I’d love to write about how hard the Shrek 2 soundtrack slaps, I think I’m going to go with the easy option and choose Trainspotting for this one. As morbid and morally abhorrent as this film may be, it’s probably one of my favourite movies of all time, and a large part of that stems from Danny Boyle’s masterful choice of music throughout the film. The opening sequence of Renton and Sick Boy running away from Edinburgh policemen to the galloping beat of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust For Life’ is unforgettable, of course, but there are so many other gems throughout Trainspotting that hit just as hard.
The use of Lou Reed’s narcotic ballad ‘Perfect Day’ is bang on, Brian Eno’s ‘Deep Blue Day’ pops up in a memorable underwater scene, and appearances from the likes of New Order, Pulp and Blur are the icing on the cake. Of course, you can’t mention Trainspotting without talking about the frenetic 909 thump of Underworld’s ecstatic techno anthem ‘Born Slippy’ as heard in the final sequence of the film – iconic would be an understatement here.
Name: Nicholas Simonsen
Soundtrack: Forrest Gump
When I think of soundtracks that pair perfectly with a film, Forrest Gump is always the first that comes to mind. For those unfamiliar, the story of Forrest Gump starts in the early ‘50s and concludes in the early ‘80s, and the soundtrack moves through the decades alongside the film. It’s compiled of some of the most pivotal rock and roll songs of these decades, and it honestly couldn’t be more perfect. Growing up in the ‘90s and being introduced to all of these classic hits through this film was huge for my musical development, and it still holds a very dear place in my heart.
Soundtrack: The Social Network
Having idolised Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails for essentially my entire adult life, I have never been one to turn away from a project relating to them. When it was announced that Trent and Atticus Ross would be scoring the soundtrack for The Social Network, I was filled with intrigue because I had no clue what it would sound like. The answer: dark, ambient, intricate and wonderful. The score complements the films movements and plays into the development of the characters incredibly well. On its own, however, it’s a beautifully constructed sonic landscape that is utterly captivating.
Name: Jessica Over
Soundtrack: The Godfather
Few scores achieve the kind of status as the one attached to The Godfather. Nino Rota’s contribution to this franchise cannot be understated. Who can think of the iconic opening scene without ‘The Godfather Waltz’? How many people know ‘Speak Softly, Love’ simply as ‘Love Theme from The Godfather’? The sounds draw you in as much as the Corleones keep people out, and the result is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Soundtrack: Back to the Future
Any film that takes place in two of music’s greatest decades is bound to be matched by an unforgettable soundtrack. Music forms an integral part of Back to the Future, whether through Alan Silvestri’s evocative score or Marty McFly’s rendition of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ to a decidedly shocked crowd of ‘50s teenagers. Hero’s themes aren’t uncommon in film, but the soundtrack to McFly’s victories is enough to make a person seriously consider modifying a DeLorean themselves. On a related note, has anyone seen a flux capacitor?
Let us know what your favourite soundtrack is in the comments below.