Favorites: Top Five Film Soundtracks/Scores

Here at 25YLSite, we handle a lot of heavy lifting. Analysis, interpretation, deep discussion, introspective interviews… you name it, we’ve got it. “Favorites” takes a lighter approach to the material we normally cover. Each week, we will take you through a list of favorites – whether it’s moments, scenes, episodes, characters, lines of dialogue, whatever! – in bite-sized articles perfect for your lunch break, a dull commute, or anywhere you need to take a Moment of Zen. So, sit back and enjoy this week’s offering: The 25YL staff’s favorite Film Soundtracks/Scores

Laura Stewart

Choosing just 5 top soundtracks was so difficult and it appears all my choices are from the 1990’s or earlier, which probably tells you a lot about me! Inevitably on my list would usually sit Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Lost Highway, but steering away from Lynch for a moment, these are my favourites:

5. Kids (1995) Various Artistskids

Kids is a truly depressing and upsetting film admittedly, but the soundtrack is so damn good. Overseen by Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion, it couldn’t be anything but great really. This is most definitely a nostalgia album for me – the soundtrack to my youth hanging around in skate parks and generally getting up to no good. ‘Natural One’ is the stand out track on this album, it never gets old.


4. Ferris Buellers Day Off (1986) Various Artists

Still one of my favourite films of all time, John Hughes’ classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is guaranteed to make you feel good. Plenty of greats here including Dream Academy’s instrumental version of The Smith’s ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I want’ and ‘Beat City’ by The Flower Pot Men, and no-one could help falling in love with Ferris singing ‘Danke Schoen’ and ‘Twist & Shout’ on that float. Perfect.

friday3. Friday (1995) Various Artists

Once again this choice probably tells you more about my misspent youth than anyone needs to know, but Friday is chock full of great Hip Hop, R&B and Funk tracks from Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Cypress Hill, Bootsy Collins and many more. When I wasn’t watching this movie I was listening to the soundtrack. Good times. ‘Keep Their Heads Ringin’ was the hit tune from this movie, but it’s ‘Mary Jane’ by Rick James that is my track of choice.

wind.jpg2. Any Way The Wind Blows (2003) Tom Barman/Various Artists

Compiled by Belgian musician and frontman of some of my favourite bands, dEUS and Magnus, Tom Barman also Directed this low-budget indie film that I adore. The film follows a few strangers going about their lives until they all meet at the same house party – this album has it all, a mix of Jazz, Electro, Breakbeat, Synth Pop and Rock. It is hard to pick a favourite from this one, so I’ll choose two – Magnus’ ‘Summer’s Here’ which really is the tune for driving to the beach on those hot August nights and ILS ‘Next Level/6 Space’ that last tune you’re still up on your feet for before the sun comes up and the big come down. Nice.

Drtydancingsoundtrack1. Dirty Dancing (1987) Various Artists

Dirty Dancing. I’m not even ashamed. Every track is brilliant (ok, maybe not ‘Overload’) a weird mix of 60’s and 80’s music apparently no-one seems to have questioned considering it was set in 1963 (what year is this? yes I can literally augment Twin Peaks into anything) nevertheless it somehow works perfectly and I defy anyone who says they haven’t reenacted the Sylvia & Mickey ‘Love Is Strange’ scene with their person of choice. At least in their head. Hot!

Jon Sheasby

I found it impossible to narrow my list down to a combination of just five favourite soundtrack albums and film scores, so I instead chose to focus on the former. I hope you like my picks!

5. Saturday Night Fever (1977) Bee Gees & Various Artists

The soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever is just brilliant. Pure and simple. Song after song. Hit after hit. You’re lying if you say you don’t like the Bee Gees. Favourite track – “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees.


4. Easy Rider (1969) Various Artists

Easy Rider‘s unforgettable soundtrack is rightly regarded as a classic, and it features some of the greatest counterculture music from the ’60s. Songs from Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, and Steppenwolf all sync naturally with the film, complimenting Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s groundbreaking vision. Favourite track – “The Pusher” by Steppenwolf.

3. Dazed and Confused (1993) Various Artists

If songs from Black Sabbath, KISS, Alice Cooper, and Deep Purple all appear on the same soundtrack, chances are that it’s going to be on my list. The Dazed and Confused soundtrack is a tribute to the icons of ’70s rock and metal, and it’s perfect for any car journey. Favourite track – “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath.

2. Jackie Brown (1997) Various Artists

Jackie Brown is my personal favourite Quentin Tarantino film, and its soundtrack features some impossibly catchy R&B and soul. Selections from Bobby Womack and Peace, Bill Withers, and Randy Crawford encapsulate everything that is wonderful about Tarantino’s blaxploitation homage, led by the always illuminating Pam Grier. Favourite track – “Street Life” by Randy Crawford.

1. The Great Gatsby (2013) Various Artists

The Great Gatsby is my favourite novel and Baz Luhrmann is one of my film idols, so needless to say, his 2013 adaptation was everything I could have wanted. The soundtrack (executive produced by Jay-Z) assembled the likes of Beyoncé, Florence + the Machine, Jack White, and my current favourite artist on the planet, Lana Del Rey, which resulted in yet another stunning collection of music by Luhrmann. Favourite track – “Hearts a Mess” by Gotye.

Martin Hearn

psycho.jpg5. Psycho (1960) Bernard Herrmann

Some soundtracks have a truly iconic piece of music on it that everybody instantly recognises and I’d say out of all of them, Psycho is the most recognisable. Would that famous shower scene work as well without that amazingly intense piece of music? I very much doubt it.

220px-Moulin_Rouge_Soundtrack_Front4. Moulin Rouge (2001) Various Artists

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I LOVE musicals and have seen far too many to remember. I only wanted to place one musical on this list so it’s taken me days to sit and decide on one ultimate musical soundtrack. I feel bad for the other musicals I love but it has to be Moulin Rouge, there are no words to sum up how truly amazing this soundtrack it really is.

batman returns3. Batman Returns (1992) Danny Elfman

Batman Returns remains one of my all time favourite comic book movies and the soundtrack to it is absolutely amazing, I love a lot of the soundtracks that Danny Elfman has done but this is one of my favourites. The Selena Transforms track is absolutely haunting and makes that scene even more powerful than it already is.

kill bill2. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) Various Artists

It’s hard to choose which part of Kill Bill is my favourite, but in terms of soundtrack it has to be Vol. 1. It is almost a perfect soundtrack with everything from Nancy Sinatra to The 5678’s, the two stand out songs for me personally are The Lonely Shepherd and Twisted Nerve.

the hours1. The Hours (2002) Philip Glass, Michael Riesman

The Hours is such a moving movie with such a perfect story and cast and the soundtrack is nothing short of brilliant. Just listening to the soundtrack without any visuals is still enough to bring a tear to my eye so for this reason alone, it will always be my number one.

Lindsay Stamhuis

5. Call Me By Your Name (2017) Various Artists

The beauty of the soundtrack to last year’s critically acclaimed film Call Me By Your Name is in its clever mix of traditional classical, modern folk, and European New Wave pop. The result is a soundtrack that evokes the feel of a summer romance in 1983 Italy. Highlights are obvious. Bach’s tender “Zion hört die Wächter singen“, The Psychedelic Furs’ upbeat and very 80s “Love My Way“, and Sufjan Stevens’ breathlessly evocative “Mystery of Love” and “Visions of Gideon” now have permanent places on my playlist.

4. Becoming Jane (2007) Adrian Johnston

I’m a sucker for English period dramas, and even more so if they’re based on true stories. Such is the case with 2007s Becoming Jane, the story behind one of English literatures first popular novelists, Jane Austen. I love the way the soundtrack evokes the feel of late Georgian/early Regency England through modern classical compositions by Adrian Johnston. My favourite piece on the soundtrack had to be “Rose Garden” – the illicit love affair between independent Jane and dashing Tom Lefroy, entirely contained in a few stolen kisses, and beautifully captured in a 3-minute piece of orchestral music. Beautiful.

3. Marie Antoinette (2006) Various Artists

This is a stunning movie, featuring an equally stunning soundtrack. You wouldn’t think that New Order or Gang of Four could come to represent the height of pre-Revolution French decadence, or that Siouxsie and the Banshees could work to underscore the extravagance of an all-night dance party and Bow Wow Wow the poignant beauty of the pre-dawn return homebut it works! Rounding out the soundtrack are ambient and classical tracks by the likes of Dustin O’Halloran and Aphex Twin, making this soundtrack a staple whenever I feel the need to put on pearls and eat cake…

2. (Tie) Pride & Prejudice (2005)/Atonement (2007) Dario Marianelli

As an English teacher, I am bound by professional oath to have a favourite adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. My pick has to belong to the 2005 film version, and the only reason why it ekes out the 1995 BBC miniseries is because of the soundtrack. Every Spring, on the first day of rain, this is what I listen to. There is something so beautiful about the classical reimagining (here by Dario Marianelli) of that same Late Georgian era’s music that Johnston did for Becoming Jane, and I can’t help but connect each track to the moment it appeared in the film. My fave? “Your Hands Are Cold” – ’nuff said.

Marianelli also wrote the music for the 2007 film Atonement, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by my favourite author, Ian McEwan. I love the way Marianelli incorporates the sound of Beijing Talkis’s keystrokes into her tense theme song, or the way he plays with the story through song names, cleverly titling one song – “Cee, You and Tea” – after the word that sets the tragic events of the novel into motion. Brilliant.

1. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) The Beatles

My first love was The Beatles and I owe that in large part to this film. Even though The Fabs we’re tremendously popular in their native Britain for a year or so before this, their introduction to American audiences in that fateful late winter of ’64 catapulted them to superstardom and ushered in both the British Invasion and Beatlemania for international audiences. Nothing capture the riotousness if this period quite like A Hard Day’s Night, with its emphasis on the cloistered life that fame was making John, Paul, George, and Ringo live. The film was revolutionary in many ways, none more so than for being one long extended music video. Can I have a favourite track? Not one, but several, and all tied to the moments they appeared in the film – “I Should Have Known Better“, performed in a crowded train car with Paul’s “very clean” grandfather and George’s future wife Pattie Boyd, “If I Fell” and “And I Love Her“, both on the stage at the television centre, “Ringo’s Theme“, a reworking of “This Boy” that plays over Ringo’s dejected stroll along the Thames (filmed way out in Kew, near the Twickenham film studio where the rest of the film was shot). But I think it has to be “Can’t Buy Me Love“, with four (sometimes three – John was away at his book launch party the day some of the scenes were filmed!) lads from Liverpool finally escaping the clutches of their manager and bunking off for an afternoon of freedom. It’s a joyous movie, and the soundtrack matches it beat for beat.

John Bernardy

Picking just five soundtracks is a ridiculous endeavor. I thought for sure James Horner was going to be represented. There’s not an ounce of Trainspotting to be seen. I had to leave off Koji Kondo because his video game scores are just too short. And I too left Lynchy things out of the running so my 200 or so Twin Peaks-related tracks are officially disqualified. But what I did list for you are the most-played soundtracks in my collection, and I regret sharing none of them with you.

the crow5. The Crow (1994) Various Artists

The Crow Soundtrack – You couldn’t be in high school in the early 90s without feeling the need to own The Crow Soundtrack. NIN covered Joy Division, Rollins Band covered Suicide, Stone Temple Pilots put out what I think is their best song (Big Empty), and the Cure nailed it with a track called Burn. Rage Against The Machine has the youngest sounding Zack they could come up with, Violent Femmes put out a damn moody song (and now its guitar riff will be in my head the rest of the day), I first heard My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, and even the excellent Graeme Revell score is included by way of the Jane Siberry song at the end. You can’t get better at explaining what the 90s was about than this collection of awesomeness.

220px-Tenenbaums_soundtrack4. The Royal Tenembaums (2001) Mark Mothersbaugh & Various Artists

The Royal Tennenbaums – The soundtrack includes Nico, The Velvet Underground, Ramones, the Clash, Vince Guaraldi (and Elliott Smith’s most amazing Needle in the Hay), but the star is the score by Mark Mothersbaugh. His Lindbergh Palace Hotel Suite, which introduces each major character in the story, plays the same Tennenbaum family theme with changing instrumentation for each character. I could listen to that on loop all day long. It’s probably the reason I love that family so much despite its massive dysfunction. The movie and music summed up exactly what I loved in my entertainment as a twenty-something.

220px-Romeo_+_Juliet_Soundtrack_Vol._13. Romeo + Juliet (1996) Various Artists

All of the songs from the R+J soundtrack are woven into the soundscape of the score (mostly used as themes for individual characters), and this recording includes movie dialogue as well. It begins and ends with the newscaster narrator, includes a car chase (which was really difficult to listen to while driving down 55 through Springfield IL when you’re trying not to speed because you know there’s cop cars everywhere), has the proper gut wrenching feeling when the kids missed each other in the chapel, but the highlight isn’t that it’s the audio version of the movie; it’s that Craig Armstrong score. Especially Slow Movement, which I’m of the belief is a reference/homage to the first movement of Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

cowboy_bebop_group_wallpaper2. Cowboy Bebop Boxed Set (1998) Seatbelts

In these 4 disks of music from the unstoppable composer Yoko Kanno and her band (known as Seatbelts) we get a wide swath of jazz and innumerable genre fusions from punk to classical. The boxed set even includes a full live concert recording of the band. Cowboy Bebop’s music is so good and iconic that the band was able to go on tour. How many other soundtracks are this solid and amazing? I know it must’ve been done but I can’t think of any. Either way, I’ve been listening to the score regularly for 18 years and I’m still not tired of it in the slightest. Also, I play this for my boys during car rides because I want them to hear the best stuff I know. If you’re unfamiliar, do yourself a favor and look up the theme song and try to tell me it’s not one of the damned coolest intros you’ve ever seen.

The_Empire_Strikes_Back[1]1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) John Williams

If you had to pin me down I’d say John Williams did his best work on the Star Wars franchise. While it’s splitting hairs whether this or Return of the Jedi was the better of the two, I chose Empire because this is where we first got Imperial March. Also, there’s themes for Yoda, Bespin, the battle in the snow on Hoth, the Asteroid Field, and who can forget Han and the Princess’ love theme? There’s few things I can hum note-for-note closer than this score. It’s part of my blood by now. This was a tour de force and elevated the movie just as much as the more complicated script. The music from Empire Strikes Back turned Star Wars from an adventure into a saga. If you haven’t listened to it in a while, or on its own from the film itself, do so as soon as you can.

E. G. Mykkels

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Klaus Badelt

Pirates was an easy first choice because it was so different and iconic when it was first released. It’s a long time favourite of mine, so much so that if I pop on the complete score and close my eyes, I can watch the movie in my head. I once read that Badelt envisioned that this was the music Jack Sparrow heard in his head during his adventures and that’s what makes it so epically great. There are more memorable cues in this one score than there are in many soundtracks, and the themes are so perfectly attuned to the characters. Too bad that Badelt is forgotten by the masses as the original composer because of Hans Zimmer, but I seek to remedy that every chance I get.

4. Oblivion (2013) M83

The sweeping electrosynth of M83’s debut soundtrack score is overwhelmingly emotional, from the highest romantic heights to the most heroic sacrifices. “Fearful Odds” is perhaps the most beautiful on the score, perfectly exemplifying the theme of the film, while the haunting credits theme, the eponymous “Oblivion” which features Norwegian singer, Susanne Sundfør, chills listeners to the bone with breathtaking and heartbreaking beauty. Truly a magnificent score for nights when you want to feel your most epic self.

3. Transformers The Movie (1984) Vince DiCola

A strange choice, I suppose, by the standards of many, the Transformers the Movie score holds special meaning for me, considering my 21 year long history with it. From DiCola’s impressive jazz piano ‘transformed’ (hardy har har) on the synthesizer to Lyon’s hair metal rendition of the beloved theme song, there isn’t one track on this album that I haven’t played a hundred times over and a hundred times again. “The Death of Optimus Prime” is the ultimate tearjerker, and “Instruments of Destruction” from “NRG” served as my intro (at the tender age of 3) to the harder of metal genres. Whenever I’m feeling high on life, there’s nothing like Steve Bush’s “The Touch” to get me going. There’s something for everyone on this soundtrack, but most especially memories.

2. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) Daniel Pemberton

As underrated as this film was, the true shame lies in the near total disregard of Pemberton’s impressive score. I’ve never heard anything quite like it, as it incorporates the visceral sounds of exertion – heavy breathing, animalistic sounds, heart pounding type sounds – with wildly original usage of traditional instruments as well as a few celtic inspired cues. This soundtrack is driving, harsh and brutal, just like the characters of the film, yet it also contains the softer more heartfelt sounds of traditional orchestra for particularly emotion moments in the film. But nothing stuns quite so much as Pemberton’s work with Sam Lee for “The Devil and the Huntsman“. I’ve almost never been so glad to have seen a movie in theatres for the soundtrack alone.

1. (Tie) The Firm (1994) Dave Grusin / Top Gun (1999) Harold Faltermeyer

I realize that these contributions bring my total on Tom Cruise films included to 3. I promise this is entirely happenstance. The score for The Firm contains a variety of songs from several artists, but the most impressive element (and that for which it won the number one spot) is Grusin’s jazz piano score. Both technically impressive and musically enjoyable, it sets the mood for the movie in a totally unique, completely appropriate way. I can’t imagine any other score than Grusin’s for this film. “The Plan”‘s driving sound and dark undertones enhance the emotional context for the viewer better than any orchestration ever could and “Memphis Stomp” has a playfulness and fun all it’s own.

Top Gun is one of the most iconic soundtracks of all time, both in terms of popular music as well as score. Any time someone in my family needs to calibrate a new sound system, we dig out Top Gun and pop it in the VCR. Faltermeyer’s theme contributes a certain majesty to the images of fighter pilots prepping their planes, an entirely essential element to accomplishing the real goal of the movie (i.e. the longest commercial advertisment for the US Airforce in history). Additionally, classics like “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin, “Mighty Wings” by Cheap Trick” and the lovely rendition of “Great Balls of Fire” are part of what make this movie so memorable.

I’m a huge fan of soundtracks, which I’ve been collecting actively since 2001, and while I tried to provide some rather more interesting choices for this list, I’m picking from literally hundreds of my favourite soundtracks by many phenomenal composers, which makes my list mostly arbitrary. So, here are a few honourable mentions which still don’t do my lovely collection justice: The Bodyguard, The Village, The Pianist, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, The Island, The Bourne Ultimatum, Blade Runner, La Belle et la Bête,  The Mummy (1999), The Chronicles of Riddick, The Prince of Egypt, Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, Sabrina (1995), Midnight in Paris, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Mission Impossible, Crimson Peak and The Blues Brothers.

Benjamin Locke

dark tower5. The Dark Tower (2017) Tom Holkenborg 

The Dark Tower movie was a long time coming and hotly anticipated by many Stephen King fans, myself very much included. What we got was a movie far too short for a story so big and full of mythology. Many were disappointed, others actually liked the movie. What can be said almost universally about this movie is that, n matter what your opinion on the film itself, the soundtrack was superb. From the opening wondrous orchestral whooshes that shrouded the mysterious ‘Tet Corporation’ logo in intrigue, to the fast paced and heroic ‘Roland of Eld’ track that closes out the film, this soundtrack captured the world of Idris Elba’s Gunslinger surprisingly well. So well in fact that I regularly play sections of the score in the car on the way home from work or while I’m in my office at home. Although not without fault, some of the stuff on here is your basic ‘action flick’ by-the-book composition, there are fantastically outstanding tracks to be heard here.

dollars trilogy4. The ‘Dollars’ Trilogy (1964) Ennio Morricone.

Im not sure if I’m bending the rules here a little bit by picking a trilogy, but to me, a trilogy is part one larger story, and for that reason I’m going with it. Twice in this list in fact. Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy might well be regarded as some of the best westerns ever made, certainly ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly should make that cut’, Ennio Morricone’s score should be held in similar high regard. Not only has this trilogy provided one of the most well recognised and overused tracks in advertising history with ‘The Ecstasy of gold’ (which is not to say it isn’t a fantastic piece of music) it also has some brilliant epics in there. To mention a couple, the haunting ‘Pocket watch’ theme from ‘For a few dollars more’ and the sad yet powerful ending standoff theme from TG,TB&TU.

220px-BluevelvetCD3. Blue Velvet (1986) Angelo Badalamenti et al.

As most of us here are big ‘Peaks’ and David Lynch fans, I don’t really need to write much about why Angelo’s soundtrack is so fantastic. We all know that Angelo has a unique talent for creating some brilliantly memorable and emotional music, and Blue Velvet just has to be my favourite out of all his work (aside from Laura Palmer’s theme from Twin Peaks). It’s not Just Angelo’s work that stands out for me here though. The title track and Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’ are two beautiful songs that shine out so well in this movie.

once upon a time in the west2. Once upon a time in the west (1972) Ennio Morricone.

This the second time that Ennio Morricone appears in my list, this time though just for one movie. Once Upon a Time in the West has to be my absolute favourite western movie. Charles Bronson’s ‘Harmonica’ could out shoot and out stare Eastwoods ‘Blondie’ any day for me. But beneath the epic characters, there is a sad story and equally sad soundtrack. Morricone once again provides the perfect companion score to what is almost a perfect western. The incredibly moving title track encompasses the emotion in such a raw and saddening way that I don’t believe any other western has ever done.

Do I need to mention Bronson’s theme at all? I think I should but I don’t think it needs much explanation. I defy any of you out there to click on to YouTube and search ‘The Man with the Harmonica’ and, 1) deny that you have never heard it and 2) tell me that hairs on the back of your neck are not standing up!

LotR_-_The_Fellowship_of_the_Ring_(Complete_Recordings)1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2002) Howard Shore

Now I confess that when I wrote for this feature, I misinterpreted the name and instead of writing my top 5 soundtracks, I wrote an extended, yet still quite reserved piece on Howard shore’s soundtrack to Peter Jackson’s Epic trilogy. I then sent it off only to be told, rather embarrassingly, that I had gotten it wrong. What follows is a much condensed version.

Howard Shore, in his work on these films has managed to perfectly capture the immense variety in both the world of Middle Earth and the people that inhabit it. Each different aspect of the brilliant vision of JRR Tokien has a unique and immediately memorable theme that evolves and expands as we follow on the adventure of Frodo and the Ring. Im not usually one to listen to soundtracks, in fact I’m very particular about when and where I listen to music, but this is one thing I can listen to anywhere and whilst doing anything. I can listen to it whilst I’m relaxing at home in bed, in the car, or washing the dishes. Its also something I regularly listen to while creating, whether it simply be creating dinner for me and the wife, or writing a story. It is for all these reasons, That Howard Shore peaks my list.

So these were our favorites, but what are yours? let us know  in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter!

Written by J.C. Hotchkiss

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Film Obsessive welcomes your comments. All submissions are moderated. Replies including personal attacks, spam, and other offensive remarks will not be published. Email addresses will not be visible on published comments.

Nicolas Roeg and the Transcendent Cinema of Feeling

Fellini’s 8½: A Warning to the Solipsistic Artist