We’re not quite sure what it is that makes an epic movie soundtrack; all we know for sure is that when a film has an exceptional original score, or oftentimes a collection of songs chosen at the director’s behest, that syncs perfectly with the movie at hand, it makes all the difference in how we, as an audience, internalize that film. Whether it’s because we’re all trying to assemble the soundtrack to our own lives, or whether we’re just a little more eager to accept hilarity, or scares, or character development or plot twists when its underscored with some seriously awesome tuneage, it makes little difference in the end. What we’ve established is a good soundtrack makes all the difference, and that’s why we here at Goliath have assembled some of the best of all time that’re worth checking out all by their lonesome.
10. Pretty in Pink (1986)
John Hughes had a way with movie music; if there’s one thing that’s consistent throughout all of his films, it’s that they’ve got a rock solid base emanating from the soundtrack. Try to think about The Breakfast Club without Simple Minds playing over top; it’s impossible. Try and imagine Ferris Bueller’s Day Off without it’s iconic “Twist and Shout” parade scene…it can’t be done. This is why it should come as no surprise that Pretty in Pink‘s soundtrack made it on to this list. One of the greatest ever, it included tracks from renowned artists like The Smiths, INXS and The Psychadelic Furs, who penned the title track to the film. Comprised mostly of the new wave, synthesizer-heavy work of which Hughes was fond, the Pretty in Pink soundtrack perfectly encapsulates the ’80s and sets the stage for one of the most famous love triangles in cinematic history. Oh, Molly Ringwald, how we miss thee.
9. Lost in Translation (2003)
People tend to either love or hate films by Sophia Coppola; very rarely do audiences fall somewhere in between. Regardless of which side of that divide you fall on, it’s likely that you adore the music chosen in her films. as its almost always spot-on and capable of driving home the emotions she’s attempting to communicate on screen. The best example of this is 2003’s Lost in Translation, which stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson and features one of the most immersive original scores we’ve ever come across. Featuring several tracks produced by Kevin Shields (of My Bloody Valentine fame) and a litany of other tracks that sync perfectly with the ambient, outsider vibe of the film, the Lost in Translation soundtrack has moved into the upper echelon of movie soundtracks, often cited as one of the best ever and with some critics going so far as to suggest the soundtrack acts as the third star of the film.
8. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Similar in many ways to the films of the aforementioned John Hughes, Wes Anderson’s creative oeuvre is defined by music as much as it is its glorious cinematic appeal. We could’ve chosen any one of Anderson’s films to appear here, as movies like Rushmore and The Grand Budapest Hotel also feature fantastic, award-winning soundtracks. As it stands, we chose 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums to represent the ways in which Anderson articulately marries music and film; just watch the scene where Luke Wilson’s Ritchie Tenenbaum goes to pick up his sister, Margot (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) by way of the Green Line bus, and tell us that isn’t one of the most perfect utilizations of music you’ve ever seen in a film (the song that plays in the background of that scene is “These Days,” by Nico). Featuring other artists you may have heard of like Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and John Lennon (to name a few), this soundtrack is absolute magic and must be taken in both by itself and with the film in tow.
7. The Social Network (2010)
When it comes to creating immersive, haunting and unique original scores, there’s nobody in Hollywood doing it quite like Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The Nine Inch Nails front man and his oft-collaborator have lent their talents to numerous films (including several by director David Fincher), but it’s their work on 2010’s The Social Network that stands above the rest. From the film’s opening employment of the White Stripes “Ball & Biscuit” to its manic, electronic rendition of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” the soundtrack to The Social Network is perfectly balanced and finds itself in harmony with Fincher’s methodical examination of the contentious beginnings of Facebook. It truly is a stellar achievement and one that can be appreciated both in its cinematic context and by itself; it also goes to show that Reznor and Ross are near the top of the list when thinking on who to snag to score your next blockbuster.
6. Reservoir Dogs (1993)
Sometimes in cinema, there’s a scene so terrifically iconic, so undoubtedly unforgettable that we’ve no choice but to forever associate that scene with whichever song is playing over top of it. While Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs features a soundtrack with innumerable hits on it, it’s unquestionably the scene where Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde brutally tortures a man to the tune of Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” that the film will be remembered for. Like many Tarantino scenes and the films in which we find them, Reservoir Dogs and its infamous torture scene juxtapose the brutality of violence against the pop sensibilities of a certain time period, and the result is a gleefully confusing mix that essentially provides a popular music score to numerous scenes of intense gore. This is no more evident than in Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino’s first film that focuses on the aftermath of a heist gone wrong.
5. The Graduate (1968)
We feel as though The Gradute, starring Dustin Hoffman, is one of those films that most everyone should see. It’s the kind of film that’s so deeply engrained in the cultural consciousness that to not see it would be doing a disservice to both yourself and the people around you. I mean, how else could you be expected to know that the future consists of just one word…plastics. Moreover, if you did skip this iconic piece of cinema, you’d be missing out on one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time. Defined by the work of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, with a spatter of instrumental pieces by Dave Grusin, the soundtrack for The Graduate brought new meaning to works like “Scarborough Fair” or “Mrs. Robinson” (especially the latter…), and Simon & Garfunkel’s thoughtful, echoing tunes seem right at home with the youthful melancholy of director Mike Nichol’s film.
4. Garden State (2004)
It’s a poorly kept secret that Zach Braff digs indie music; after all, he did choose the eclectic and iconic collection of tracks which would make up the bulk of the soundtrack to his film Garden State, for which the writer/director won an Academy Award (Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Feature Film). Braff, who was quoted as saying he chose the music of the film to represent what he was going through at the time he wrote it, received a large amount of critical acclaim for his work on Garden State, with the film’s now-legendary soundtrack receiving its proper due. Perhaps because the film itself seems so wonderfully indie, the tunes picked match up well; Garden State, which also stars Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard, follows an over the hill young actor (Braff) as he returns to his home state of New Jersey to deal with the death of his mother.
3. Dazed and Confused (1993)
It’s a bit of a foregone conclusion that a movie named after a Led Zeppelin song would have a monster soundtrack, and the tunes that score Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused definitely don’t disappoint. The film, which follows the lives of teenagers on the last day of school in the summer of 1976, features a lengthy list of epic rock acts on its soundtrack; you’ll find Foghat, Alice Cooper, The Runaways, Ted Nugent, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath on there, just to name a few. What’s even more impressive than the number of awesome rock and roll songs Linklater managed to work into his film, is just how naturally they seem to fit there; the entire film is so at peace with itself, so full of authentic characters and so totally representative of the nature of adolescence that rock and roll seems like the only genre capable of representing a film like this.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel Studios film directed by James Gunn and scored by Tyler Bates, uses an interesting premise to introduce its soundtrack; an active element of the film, it centers on the Sony Walkman and requisite mixed tape (Awesome Mix, Vol. 1) given to the main character by his ailing mother. This premise imbues the music of the film with an emotional element, and it plays so well from the film’s opening scene (Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love”) to the last scene (the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”). A space opera scored to the AM radio hits of the ’70s, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most instantly lovable films to come around in quite some time, and the movie’s music has a ton to do with that.
1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Widely cited as one of the greatest and most original scores in the history of music, Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is a composition so good you don’t even need the rest of the Western to appreciate it. Composed of flutes, yodels, eagles, coyotes, whistling and even unique riffs for each of the film’s main characters, this score is so good that its often considered an integral part of the classic film in which its included. Try and imagine the incredibly tense Mexican standoff from the end of this film without Morricone’s score; it’s impossible, and it’s part of the reason why the composer is one of the most sought after individuals in Hollywood when it comes to producing unique film themes to stand the test of time.