Sunday, August 25, 2013

Top 10 Movie Scores Part 1

Picture this: you are sitting in a movie theater, watching as the main couple in the movie are leaning in to finally kiss.  As their lips meet, gorgeous violin strings swell in the background.  Or perhaps it is an action scene and people are fighting while thunderous drums sound.  Or you could even be watching a scary movie, leaning forward in your seat as the music builds tension through long minor notes that keep building and building and building and building and building until SOMETHING JUMPS OUT AT YOU ON THE SCREEN!!! You shriek, knock over your friend's popcorn, and then try to hide your face as most of the theater laughs at you.  (Nope, that NEVER happened to me. Definitely not.)

The point is, music is often a key component in those kind of scenes.  Music has such a powerful ability to evoke emotion in us, and movies often take advantage of that, to heighten emotion in certain scenes.  I recently went on a trip to Boston, and saw Matchbox 20 in concert with a friend.  We had a ridiculous fun time, (turns out she is a super fangirl of Rob Thomas.  I never knew.  You think you know a person, and then, bam! They surprise you by knowing every lyric to every Matchbox 20 song ever.) and we played songs all the way to the concert and all the way back, rocking out to some great and not so great music. This is pretty much the norm for me whenever I drive somewhere.  The first I thing I do when I get in a car, is get some songs playing (after I buckle my seat-belt of course. SAFETY FIRST!).

I am also the kind of girl who will listen to musical numbers and soundtrack scores as I drive around town. There may have been a day when I was driving back to work at the end of my lunch break, where I was singing along to Phantom of the Opera--which I was definitely blasting so as to drown out the sound of my terrible off-key singing--and I may have been stopped at a red light, and there may have been a guy in a car next to me shooting me weird looks.  I can't remember, I was too busy having fun singing, "The Phaaaaaaaantooom of the Operaaaaaa is thereeeee," and rocking out to awesome organ music.

Anywho, the Matchbox 20 concert was another event this summer that has recently just made me think about how important music is in my life.   I can't imagine life being as fun as it is without good songs or music to rock out to.  So, to share my love of music, I thought that for my next two blog posts I will countdown 10 of my favorite geeky movie soundtracks.   I feel like music sometimes doesn't get enough recognition in Hollywood--with most of the focus being on actors and directors.  I have always been a soundtrack fan, and what composers are able to create in a couple of months can be mind blowing.  Seriously, they are amazingly talented.  So I would like to give some amazing soundtracks and composers a shoutout with these posts.  Of course, there are many, many awesome soundtracks out there--I am only blogging about my top 10 personal favorites.  And of those, only ones that fall under a geeky movie.  For example, Master and Commander is one of my all time favorite soundtracks, but you won't find it on the list because it is not really a sci-fi/fantasy/geeky movie.  

So without further ado, let us begin our first Top 10 List of my blog.  And if you would like to let me know some of your favorites I would love to hear about them in a comment.

#10: Signs/The Village
Composer: James Newton Howard

I couldn't choose between these two, and since they are both composed by the same person, I have decided that means I get to count them as one.  Ha!  

Say what you will about the quality of M. Night Shyamalan's movies recently, but to me, the the quality of these soundtracks is undeniable.  In fact, The Village was nominated for an Oscar.  Both of these scores are so chock full of emotion and both are definitely worth a listen. 

Signs is full of dark, scary, tension building tracks, helped along with high piano notes.  For the most part it is not big and bombastic, but more quiet and subtle, with quick jumps of crescendos for a startling effect.  It is very effective at conveying the fear and uncertainty the characters are experiencing in the movie--and in the end of the movie when the situation is resolved, so is the soundtrack, as strings create a beautiful uplifting melody.  My favorite tracks include "Main Titles," "Roof Intruder," "Brazilian Video," and "Hands of Fate--Part 2."

The Village is what I would call hauntingly beautiful.  Here, Howard very heavily features gorgeous strings, especially a solo violin. The violin is just so, so beautiful and it captures both the romance and the worry between the main couple in the movie.  This soundtrack is more calm and serene than Signs, but oftentimes it can be just as frightening.  There is a quiet tension that runs through many of the tracks, and the strings build a mysterious atmosphere.  It is gorgeous.  Favorite tracks include "The Gravel Road," "What Are You Asking Me?" and "Those We Don't Speak Of."

#9: Inception
Composer: Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer is one of my all-time favorite composers.  Inception is a fantastic soundtrack that is single-handedly responsible for the rise of booming base sounds in movie trailers--you know, the "BWAAAM, BWAAM" that seems to be in just about every dramatic trailer these days. :)  What I love about Inception's soundtrack is, it's interconnected with itself.  For example--the big booming base sounds are actually from the main song from the movie 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein' just greatly slowed down.  Check it out: 

Inception is great at starting off slow and quiet and then gradually building and building until the music is booming from your speakers.  Zimmer also puts an electric guitar to wonderful use, using it to create tension and atmosphere.  Just as quickly as he builds the music, Zimmer will then drop it back down, this is especially noticeable in "Time" when he ends with just a few notes on a piano.  Also worth mentioning is the song they used for the trailer--many people had assumed it was part of the soundtrack, but it is not.  It's a separate piece of music composed by Zack Hemsey called "Mind Heist."   I have incorporated it into my soundtrack because for me, it fits in nicely with Zimmer's score and I associate it with the movie.  It's awesome. 

Inception is one of my favorite movies and its soundtrack is a definite contributor to that.  Some of my favorite tracks include, "Time," "Dream is Collapsing," and "Radical Notion."

#8: Jurassic Park
Composer: John Williams

John Williams is perhaps the most famous film composer of our time--and Jurassic Park is a definite contributor to his fame.  Now to be honest I haven't listened to the complete soundtrack, but I've listened to most of it, and what I have listened to, I absolutely LOVE.  Piano and strings get me every time, and this soundtrack is just so soaring and beautiful.  If you're not familiar with this soundtrack, you need to crawl out of the cave you're living in, go watch the movie and then buy this soundtrack.  It is definitely John Williams' signature style, and also features beautiful horns which he knows how to use to great effect.  Favorite tracks include: "Welcome to Jurassic Park," "Journey to the Island," "Theme from Jurassic Park," "T-Rex Rescue & Finale," and "End Credits."

#7: Transformers
Composer: Steve Jablonsky

Ah, Transformers, love it or hate it, the soundtrack rocks.  That's because Steve Jablonsky is insanely talented.  I enjoyed the first Transformers movie (I'm not ashamed to admit it.  Cars transforming into giant robots and then battling each other is cool, what else can I say?) and right after I saw it, I ran home and downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes.  It's got everything-intense percussion, soaring, noble strings, and a gorgeous choir.  It's exciting, dramatic, and it totally makes you feel like going out on a heroic adventure (or is that just me?).  It's awesome, awesome, awesome, with a side of dramatic intensity.  Favorite tracks include "Scorponok," (4 minutes of fantastic percussion basically. Whoo-hoo!) "Arrival to Earth," "The All Spark" and "No Sacrifice, No Victory."

#6: Harry Potter (Goblet of Fire)
Composer: Patrick Doyle

I know, I know!  How can Harry Potter only come in at number six?! GASP!  But while I love Harry Potter and the music IS amazing, I found as I was putting together my list that there were five soundtracks I listened to more than Harry Potter.  I know, there must be something wrong with me, but it's the truth. 

I chose Goblet of Fire because it is the one I listen to the most, and hence is the one I am most familiar with. My favorite track from this soundtrack is "Voldemort" and I want to take a second to highlight it.  It clocks in at almost ten minutes and is some of the most scary, intense, emotional music I think from all 8 of the films.  When Lily's ghost comes out of Voldemort's wand and speaks to Harry, the music is so tragic and loving it gives me goosebumps, and makes my eyes well, just thinking about it.  It is powerful music.  Give it a listen if you have time.

Goblet of Fire is really when Harry Potter first takes its more darker turn, and the music reflects that.  From the very beginning the opening theme is darker and more frightening.  No longer is it the magical, whimsical theme from John Williams--now it is brooding, and almost angry.  The soundtrack does have moments of levity though, which helps it not become depressing (always a plus).  Doyle does a lovely job on expanding on the main theme, and he uses strings to great emotional effect.

Favorite tracks include, "The Story Continues," "Voldemort," "The Quidditch World Cup," "Harry in Winter" and (spoilers) "Death of Cedric."

So there you have it!  The first half of my list.  Next post will cover my top 5 favorites as well as an honorable mention. I hope you enjoy these selections as much as I do--and if you have a favorite I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Fun Fact of the Day: The Bodyguard is currently the highest bestselling movie soundtrack with over 16 million albums sold.

TTFN! Ta Ta For Now!


  1. Excellent list! I have some favorite movie soundtracks which I'd like to list. But before I do, I need to say a couple of things. I really have a problem with a wonderfully made movie, with wonderful characters, an interesting plot and a soundtrack which continues the action of the film and then the credits roll-and there's this clash of music because the song that is playing HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PRIOR MOVIE. I hate this. It ruins the mood of the film and as a viewer, the juxtaposition of this song with the movie, just twists the experience into a auditory stomach ache.

    My lists have a common ingredient--I liked the films and the music can stand on its own but certainly enhances the film. The first list are soundtracks that are composed by usually one person. The second list are soundtracks that are compilations of music that relate to the theme of the movie. I am not going to comment on the titles in the list, as this isn't my blog, and that would probably be rude. The titles in the lists are not in any particular order. Also, I didn't include soundtracks that came from Broadway musicals. Love the musicals, but trying to stay pure to just soundtracks of movies. The compilations have several Woody Allen movies. I think the music chosen for his movies really connect with the plot and theme.

    Single Composers
    Ennio Morricone: Cinema Paradiso
    John Barry: out of Africa
    John Barry: Somewhere in Time
    Nigel Hess,Joshua Bell: Ladies in Lavender
    Burt Bacharach: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    Marvin Hamlisch and Scott Joplin: The Sting
    John Williams and Itzhak Perlman: Schindler's List
    Ludovic Bource: The Artist
    Nino Rota: The Godfather

    Sweet and Low Down
    Something's Gotta Give
    Midnight in Paris
    When Harry Met Sally
    Love Actually
    Sleepless in Seattle
    The Big Chill
    Hope Floats
    Bull Durham
    O Brother, Where Art Thou?
    The Fabulous Baker Boys
    Big Night
    Return to Me
    Corrina, Corrina
    The Big Easy

    1. Thanks so much Kelly, for such a thoughtful comment! I TOTALLY agree with you about credit songs in movies. Sometimes they can be really jarring. I love The Sting and Schindler's List--both are great scores. I'm not familiar with the other ones, I will have to check them out at some point.

      You listed a couple of my favorite compilations too--especially Love Actually, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Both great movies with great soundtracks. :)

      And now you've got me wanting to do a top 10 musical list--though that would be very difficult to select which ones to include. :)

      Thanks for commenting!