Films with great soundtracks?
December 24, 2012 8:39 PM   Subscribe

What are some films with excellent soundtracks?

With a bias towards films that incorporate popular/indie music. I'm interested to hear what other people enjoy/suggest.

Examples of what I've enjoyed
- Anything by Wes Anderson
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
- Lost in Translation
- Children of Men
- O Brother, Where art Thou
posted by Bahro to Media & Arts (64 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Garden State
posted by FlamingBore at 8:45 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by ActionPopulated at 8:45 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by scratch at 8:45 PM on December 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Big Chill
Romeo + Juliet
posted by bq at 8:46 PM on December 24, 2012

Paris, Texas
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:49 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

People enjoy the Vanilla Sky soundtrack.
posted by ftm at 8:51 PM on December 24, 2012

Run Lola Run
posted by Lucinda at 8:58 PM on December 24, 2012

This is Spinal Tap
Flash Gordon
Apocalypse Now
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
posted by Argyle at 9:03 PM on December 24, 2012

The Virgin Suicides.
posted by PaulaSchultz at 9:03 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mean Streets.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:06 PM on December 24, 2012

posted by davebush at 9:08 PM on December 24, 2012

Concert for George - A lovingly performed concert of highlights of George Harrison's career, produced by those closest to him, one year after his death.

Dazed and Confused - The (pre-punk) soundtrack of 76.

The Million Dollar Hotel - Ultra chill-out - dreamlike songs and incidental music (but skip the first and last tracks - they're tacked on and don't fit the overall vibe).

Singles - The Seattle soundtrack, just before grunge went overground - produced by Cameron Crowe, who knows his music.

Trainspotting - A mid-90s Britpop sensibility that doesn't sound dated.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 9:09 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Glory Daze
Judgement Night
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:16 PM on December 24, 2012

Jurassic Park
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:16 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dogs in Space, other than the INXS stuff.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:20 PM on December 24, 2012

repo man
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:24 PM on December 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

High Fidelity.
posted by Exchequer at 9:28 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Donnie Darko, True Stories, Bladerunner
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 9:30 PM on December 24, 2012

My favorite is Magnolia. It features songs by Aimee Mann.
posted by MikeyObviously at 9:33 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by mannequito at 10:12 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with some of those posted, and would like to add:

Vision Quest (Classic and 80's rock)
Iron Man 2 (An AC/DC "greatest hits" type collection)
Singing in the Rain (My favorite)
American Graffiti and Stand By Me (classic 1950's rock-n-roll)

And a video game soundtrack...
Grand Theft Auto - Vice City
Because most would not expect it from a video game, here are some of the artists:
INXS, Michael Jackson, Judas Priest, Twisted Sister, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Kool & The Gang, Blondie, The Psychedelic Furs, Foreigner, Luther Vandross, Lionel Richie, Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, The Pointer Sisters, Ozzy Osbourne, Rick James, and many more... It is a seven disc set.
posted by Leenie at 10:21 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Matador Flamenco and The Cramps. You might need to see the movie (well, you should see the movie) for the soundtrack to cohere well.
posted by Gorgik at 10:53 PM on December 24, 2012

I've always liked the soundtrack CD for The Limey - the pop/rock selections were very well chosen (I still can't hear The Hollies' King Midas in Reverse without thinking about Peter Fonda's character) and the score is good too.

The Four Rooms soundtrack is a bit of a forgotten gem... all of the music was composed and performed by Combustible Edison, one of the bands at the vanguard of the 1990s lounge revival.

Quentin Tarantino has a great ear for music:
Reservoir Dogs
Pulp Fiction
Jackie Brown

posted by usonian at 11:16 PM on December 24, 2012

Six String Samurai
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:22 PM on December 24, 2012

Dead Presidents
posted by citron at 11:24 PM on December 24, 2012

Local Hero.
posted by headnsouth at 11:44 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Big Fan. Not available as an actual album, but in the context of the film every song just feels like the perfect choice.
posted by Lorin at 12:05 AM on December 25, 2012

The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream.

There Will Be Blood is the only movie for which I found the score so good that it snapped me out of the movie. By Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (the 96 Baz Luhrman one)

basically all Tarantino movies

Stop Making Sense (cheating)
posted by anthropomorphic at 12:19 AM on December 25, 2012

You'd probably love Jim Jarmusch's Limits of Control.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:23 AM on December 25, 2012

For the 1991 soundtrack to Until the End of the World, Wim Wenders asked his favorite artists to compose tracks they might be writing at the end of the century. The collage comprises incredible tunes from Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Jane Siberry & k.d. lang, Julee Cruse, Neneh Cherry, Can, Fred Smith/Patti Smith, T-Bone Burnett, Daniel Lanois, and U2; all bookended by Graeme Nevell's ambient cues. Very highly recommended.
posted by prinado at 12:24 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some Jazz:
Ascenseur pour l'├ęchafaud (Miles Davis)
Any Number Can Win (Lalo Schifrin composition, performed by Jimmy Smith)
posted by juv3nal at 1:08 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The original Rocky
posted by JohnR at 1:31 AM on December 25, 2012

Grosse Pointe Blank
posted by permafrost at 2:02 AM on December 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

For the 80s spin, and IMHO the best New Wave soundtrack.. Pretty in Pink.
posted by edman at 4:15 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

City of Angels
Better Than Chocolate
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:23 AM on December 25, 2012

The Departed. Scorsese, so lots of classic rock.
posted by dry white toast at 4:52 AM on December 25, 2012

Little Miss Sunshine
posted by ChuraChura at 5:26 AM on December 25, 2012

posted by apartment dweller at 5:48 AM on December 25, 2012

A bit older, but I love the soundtracks to Great Expectations and Go
posted by Mchelly at 6:26 AM on December 25, 2012

Ghost World
The Fog of War
posted by John Cohen at 6:37 AM on December 25, 2012

(500) Days of Summer
posted by duckus at 9:14 AM on December 25, 2012

The Matrix
The Big Lebowski
Dead Man (by Neil Young)
posted by cmoj at 9:26 AM on December 25, 2012

Sexy Beast
posted by workerant at 10:43 AM on December 25, 2012

Seconding Pulp Fiction and Pretty In Pink.

Also, Valley Girl. And I loved the Flashdance and Footloose soundtracks too.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:55 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lots of great suggestions. I'll add Empire Records.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:26 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Into the Wild
The Truman Show
posted by eq21 at 11:39 AM on December 25, 2012

posted by arha at 1:16 PM on December 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Joe Strummer did a great soundtrack for a film called Walker. I also like Bob Dylan's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
posted by surfgator at 3:41 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by kbar1 at 3:50 PM on December 25, 2012

Lost in Translation
We Bought a Zoo
500 Days of Summer
posted by HiphopAnonymous at 4:08 PM on December 25, 2012

The Craft
posted by signal at 4:22 PM on December 25, 2012

Say Anything
posted by ill3 at 5:47 PM on December 25, 2012

O' Horten has an epic soundtrack by John Erik Kaada.
posted by scruss at 6:26 PM on December 25, 2012

Times Square
posted by Devoidoid at 8:06 PM on December 25, 2012

Quigley Down Under - One of the best soundtracks ever and by far the best for a "western".
posted by Leenie at 8:42 PM on December 25, 2012

Charlie Chaplin scored his own films (though he didn't orchestrate them). Here's his driving, mechanistic score to Modern Times (1936). His score to City Lights (1931) and the song he wrote for The Circus (1928) are lovely. That's Chaplin singing, by the way. My favorite Chaplin piece is called Bitter Tango, and it's from his 1947 film "Monsieur Verdoux," a talkie in which he plays a serial killer. It's laced with a kind of fate-like sadness.

Max Steiner is best known for his splendid score to Gone With the Wind (1939), but I like his score to King Kong (1933) even better.

There was a time when Miklos Rozsa was the go-to composer for with hollywood epics, and his score to Thief of Bagdad (1940) is magical. Even without the visuals, it evokes an exotic, dramatic fairy tale. My other favorites by him are include his classic film noir score for Double Indemnity (1944) and his haunting but obscure score to Fedora (1978). Rozsa's score for Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945) is notable for its use of the theremin.

Bernard Herrmann is best known as Alfred Hitchcock's main composer. My favorite of his scores for Hitchock are Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960). I also love Herrmann's score for Citizen Kane (1941), which is quite different from the work he did for Hitchcock. Herrmann also wrote some scores for sci-fi films, and his best is probably The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), for which (like Rozsa) he employed a theremin.

American "classical" composer Aaron Copland wrote quite a few film scores, including Our Town (1940) and Of Mice and Men (1939). He inspired a certain style of film score -- a sort of ruminative, folksy sound. One example is Maurice Jarre's score for Witness (1985). By the way, if you want to see something incredible, check out Ricardo Montalban playing Copland's "El Salon Mexico." in the 1947 film "Fiesta." In addition to almost killing Captain Kirk, Montalban attacks pianos.

Speaking of Khaaaaaan, I'm not a big fan of "Star Trek" scores, despite the iconic nature of the original theme. The exception is James Horner's for Star Trek II (1982), which is stirring and should have become the official "Star Trek" theme from then on.

Juliet of the Spirits (1965) is by Nino Rota (best known as the composer for the Godfather movies (1972, 1974, 1990). If you enjoy it score, check out his other music for Fellini. My second favorite is his score to Amarcord (1973).

There are so many amazing scores by Ennio Morricone, best know for spaghetti westerns and the soundtrack to The Mission (1986). Some of my favorites include Duck, You Sucker (1971), My Name Is Nobody (1973), The Thing (1982), La Cage Aux Folles (1978) and Once Upon A Time In America (1984).

In general, I'm not much of a John Williams fan, with two exceptions: his perfect score from Jaws (1975), which owes a dept to Herrmann's "Psycho" and Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." But if you're going to steal, why not steal fromt he best? His score for Witches of Eastwick (1987) isn't as well known, but it's impish, fatalistic, and catchy.

The filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci has made two films with marvelous scores, Gato Barbieri's Jazz masterpiece, Last Tango in Paris (1972) and the eclectic, East-meets-West score for The Last Emperor (1987) by Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Byrne.

If that's not enough for you, here are some other recommendations:

- The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) by Elmer Bernstein. One of the greatest jazz scores of all time. It may remind you a bit of "West Side Story," which was composed by Leonard Bernstein (no relation). Bonus: Elmer Bernstein's 1957 score for Sweet Smell of Success.

- Musical composter Stephen Sondheim, who, as it happens, wrote the lyrics to "West Side Story," has a nostalgic and atmospheric (non-sung, orchestral) score for Stavisky (1974).

- The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962) by Andre Previn. Heart-achingly romantic.

- I Love You Alice B. Toklas (1968) by Elmer Bernstein. (Lots of sitar.)

- Airport (1970) by Alfred Newman. It won an Oscar.

- The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) by Michael Nyman. Driving.

- Henry V (1989) by Patrick Doyle. Stirring.

- Ed Wood (1994) by Howard Shore. More theremin, more fun.

- The Incredibles (2004) by Michael Giacchino. Retro and thrilling.
posted by grumblebee at 10:08 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh god, here goes: I freakin' love the soundtrack for Under the Cherry Moon. Preferably through good headphones.
posted by vignettist at 10:23 PM on December 25, 2012

The soundtrack to A Life Less Ordinary was a staple of my college life (mid-late 90s). I still love it, although the movie is not as great as I'd hoped, given the pedigree.
posted by Roommate at 8:53 AM on December 26, 2012

As of yesterday, Les Miserables. Absolutely amazing.
posted by headnsouth at 9:14 AM on December 26, 2012

I reviewed soundtracks for a while. My two favorites, out of dozens reviewed, were MYSTERIOUS ISLAND by the great Bernard Hermann and STEAM BOY, by Steve Jablonsky. (I know, right? But it's a great score!)

I also liked the soundtrack for Naked Lunch, by Ornette Coleman.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:24 PM on December 26, 2012

posted by orrnyereg at 9:06 PM on December 26, 2012

If you like musicals, the Les Miserables soundtrack is amazing.

More traditional answers:

- Once
- Into the Wild
- Dazed and Confused
- Kill Bill

And my personal favorite... Empire Records!!!!
posted by Vonnegut27 at 12:20 PM on December 28, 2012

If we're including orchestral stuff, I've always loved Thomas Newman's score for The Shawshank Redemption.

John Ottman's score for The Usual Suspects, like the film itself, has a sparse and dark feel to it. If you listened to never having seen the film you might think it belonged to an Agatha Christie adaptation.

And veering back to rock/pop soundtracks, there's Queen's album A Kind of Magic, which features numerous memorable songs featured in Highlander (and one other that shows up in Iron Eagle.)
posted by usonian at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2012

« Older 2 Pi in the service of the King   |   I wish I had double ovens, but alas... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.