Top 10 Films With Good Soundtracks
The relationship between a film and its soundtrack must be harmonious, never jarring; organic, never contrived; evocative, never didactic. A good film will use its soundtrack to conduct its audience and to make already brilliant scenes all the more memorable, whether through using a well picked song or a perfectly pitched score. So, if tonight you’re looking for a music and film extravanganza, well, you could do a lot worse then plunging your hand into this top 10.
10 – Tell No-One
This fantastic French thriller from Guillaume Canet, who most recently graced our screens with Little White Lies, has a beautiful and eclectic soundtrack that includes Percy Sledge’s Dark End Of The Street, Jeff Buckley’s Lilac Wine and U2’s With Or Without You, in what must be one of the greatest single uses of a song in a film. Canet expertly blurs the line between diegetic and non-diegetic music by playing us a live version of the song which coincides blissfully with Alexandre Beck’s thought process as he tries to uncover the mystery of his missing wife. A beautiful scene in an outstanding film.
9 – Shrek
Part of what made Shrek such a great flick was the sheer brilliance with which it used the many songs in the film. Rather than going the Pixar route and crafting a tight, tailor made score to weave its way through the film (though not everyone has Randy Newman on speed dial), Shrek instead made great use of some brilliant alternative rock and roll. In truth, Eels’ My Beloved Monster is so perfect that it could have been written specifically for the film, not to mention the inclusion of John Cale’s Hallelujah and The Proclaimers’ I’m On My Way. If only the rest of the series wasn’t so woefully average. Sigh.
8 – Once
The story of a struggling busker and single mother who find meaning in their lives through each other and their mutual love of music. Glen Hansard is a fantastic songwriter with an exceptionally emotive voice, and his songs perform brilliantly in this film, alluding to the narrative without ever driving it directly. Particularly wonderful is the twice used When Your Mind’s Made Up, which cleverly elicits different emotions each time it plays, as well as the Oscar winning Falling Slowly.
7 – Pulp Fiction
Coolness oozes out of every pore of Tarantino’s masterpiece, especially with the songs. Tarantino once said that his soundtracks are essentially mix-tapes, and his philosophy to use existing music rather than a composed score is something he has stuck to throughout his career, but it has never been better than in this film. Only four words are needed to summarise this: You Never Can Tell. What can we expect from Django Unchained?
6 – Man On Wire
The score in James Marsh’ profile of wire-walker Phillipe Petit is one of the most beautiful things ever committed to tape. Simple, spare orchestration using a small string section really illuminates the sequences showing the towers in construction. This film could so easily have descended into an overly sentimental eulogy, but instead, with the crucial help of the soundtrack, it was a magnificent celebration of a truly unique work of art.
5 – Easy Rider
The archetypal road movie, Easy Rider boasts a soundtrack that takes you right back to the psychadelic 1960s, including Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, The Band and of course, Steppenwolf. What’s particularly great in this film is the fact that many of the songs are allowed to play in their entirety, whilst Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda drift aimlessly down vast, empty highways, underscoring the American landscape beautifully.
4 – Dead Man
Oh Johnny Depp, why did you sully yourself in The Tourist when you’ve been in some truly wonderful films, like Dead Man? And Neil Young, why even consider writing Rockin’ In The Free World when you can play a guitar like this?! Again the American landscape is responded to through Young’s improvised soundtrack, which he recorded alone whilst watching the film in his recording studio. A brilliant, organic piece of music, and one of the best Westerns in recent years.
3 – O Brother, Where Art Thou
T-Bone Burnett, the music consultant for this Coen Brothers classic, could have appeared on this list several times. Burnett also worked on The Big Lebowski and The Ladykillers for the Coens, as well as putting his fingerprints on two country tinged Oscar winners, Walk The Line and Crazy Heart. But it’s for his work in creating a bluegrass inspired backdrop to the Coen’s depression-era take on the Odyssey that we really love him for.
2 – Once Upon A Time In The West
What, you thought we wouldn’t include Ennio Morricone, whose haunting and moving scores practically defined Spaghetti Westerns? Morricone’s influence on the Western genre cannot be overstated, and he is crucial in making this film the masterpiece that it is. His score over Claudia Cardinale’s long carriage ride through the desert as she travels to New Orleans is enough to bring you to tears.
1 – Punch Drunk Love
Ah Jon Brion, one of the best composers working today. He has laid his fingers on I Heart Huckabees, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synechdoche, NY, as well as this fantastic but underrated Paul Thomas Anderson flick. What’s so incredible about the soundtrack of this film is how oppressive it is at times, almost as if it is closing in around Adam Sandler’s character as his life begins to unravel. However, when Sandler and Emily Watson finally embrace, the score descends into a lush, romantic orchestral arrangement that calls to mind the most classic of classic Hollywood. Let it never be said that Jon Brion isn’t a musical genius.