Let’s talk soundtracks, not the filler music, but the songs chosen to accompany a movie or TV show. It may shock you that a guy that titles most of his posts with a song reference would have opinions on song choice — I hope you’re sitting down, because I do.
Lots of movies have featured popular music in the background, but I think it was The Big Chill, a self-indulgent boomer fable, that really kicked off heavy use of popular music that wasn’t composed for the movie. It had a lot of Stones and other ’60s hits. At the time, it was innovative. But today, use of old R&B hits is derivative at best, and to me it’s just lazy music choice. No offense to the estate of Marvin Gaye, but let’s give “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” a rest in movie soundtracks. In fact, let’s give any Motown 60’s hit a rest – they are totally overused, in my opinion.
Another song that is in an amazing number of soundtracks is Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You. It’s almost as if the soundtrack pickers (sound designers?) have an automatic go-to whenever there’s a melancholy moment in a movie. I do like the song, and Hope Sandoval in general, but it’s another lazy choice.
For me, the ultimate movie soundtrack was chosen by Paul Thomas Anderson for Magnolia. It’s almost all Aimee Mann songs that PTA weaves into the story, and used to inspire his characters. The cast singing her song “Wise Up” during the movie is, to me, a great moment.
More recently, like a lot of things movies and TV series, the music choice has gotten really good. There are a lot of good examples, but one you might not expect is the soundtrack to the British TV series Sex Education. It’s a combination of original work by Ezra Furman (here’s an example), plus a very eclectic and wide ranging song choice, including 80’s bands like The Smiths and The The, to good covers like the Hot 8 doing Sexual Healing. Somebody put a ton of work into it, and when they use a cliche song like Sexual Healing, at least they picked a good cover instead of the original (again, apologies to the estate of Marvin Gaye).
I don’t know if anyone else gives a shit about this stuff, but if you do, share some good examples of movie or TV show soundtracks.
I thought the cover of “Behind Blue Eyes” on the second season finale for Legion was excellent, it stuck out at me. Great show overall, really.
Video game soundtracks are where the really innovative stuff is going on. Because the music has to be reactive to what the player is doing. And there are lots of interesting ways to do this with layering or other techniques beyond “just swapping out the song”.
I have a colleague in the Music department here that studies ludomusicology.
A lot of what sounds like eclectic choices in the US were top ten hits in the UK.
I know you’re just talking about songs, but my two favorite soundtracks in the ’70s were 2001: A Space Odyssey and Clockwork Orange. I almost wore out both vinyl albums.
I recently saw Flashback of a Fool which used English Glam rather well. Roxy Music’s If There Is Something” is the emotional centerpiece of the movie as well as the soundtrack.
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@Mike J: Yes, you’re probably right about that with Sex Education.
I personally really like the soundtracks to the two guardians of the galaxy movies. Lots of fun cheesy pop hits from the 70s.
House always had thoughtful soundtracks (there is a Marc Cohn track from House that, to my knowledge, is unreleased … a fine tune but blanking on the name right now).
Spy Game also had a good soundtrack as I recall. For movies, I like a classical sound (John Williams, take a bow)
ETA: Trump jinxed the start of the Daytona 500. Mother Nature was unamused by the Trump Show
ETA2: Google is your friend. One Safe Place, Marc Cohn.
Black Lightning, currently on the CW, has an excellent selection of songs. I often go looking for them after each episode is done.
Like this one, from the O’Jays
The soundtrack to “Jandek on Corwood” is great.
O/T, but CA voter services are amazing – you can set up notifications, with do not disturb times, for your ballot:
I enjoy the thought of Republicans gnashing their teeth.
@Mike J: Very good point.
download my app in the app store mistermix
That reminds me – I should have mentioned Jackie Brown in the original post – Delphonics and Johnny Cash doing Tennessee Stud.
The 90’s sitcom Wings used the finale of Schubert’s late A major piano sonata, often presented in an arrangement for piano and strings (not string orchestra; solo strings) which itself was a paraphrase of Schubert’s own piano quintet (The Trout), which interestingly enough was in the same key.
“Magnolia” is probably the film my husband and I disagreed about the most. I thought it was brilliant, and he found it borderline unwatchable.
I liked the soundtrack to Cold Case, but its use of music has basically made it impossible to release on DVD or streaming. Oh well.
download my app in the app store mistermix
@Betty Cracker: “mistermix” comes from the first few seconds of the Magnolia soundtrack where Harry Nilsson says “OK, mistermix” and then Aimee Mann’s cover of his song “One” starts. So, yeah, I’m a fan.
American Graffiti, of course. Devil in a Blue Dress has a great soundtrack. Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou. Romeo + Juliet. Rock and Roll High School.
the crow had a magnificent soundtrack.
tank girl, singles. highlander. beetlejuice.
@download my app in the app store mistermix:
I forgot to mention my favorite: Back in the late 1970s, there was a multi-part BBC show on PBS starring Bob Hoskins. Pennies From Heaven. The songs knocked me out, and I think that show got me interested in that era’s music.
A few years later the American film version came out with Steve Martin, but the original Bob Hoskins show remained my favorite.
@Groucho48: Repo Man and Straight to Hell.
repo man is a damn fine soundtrack.
If we’re talking composed music, Nico Muhly’s music for the TV adaptation of Howards End with Hayley Atwell was fantastic.
The Robin Williams movie Popeye was a disappointment, but Harry Nilsson’s songs were superb. I had the soundtrack on vinyl and loved it.
Recently, I heard a bootleg of Harry’s demos.
“disappointment” is putting it mildly
@zhena gogolia: I loved everything about the movie except the movie. The sets, the costumes, the music. All superb. But it was a mess.
I blame the director. He should have followed Jules Feiffer’s script, instead of tearing it up.
Eclectic choices of pop tunes which were roughly contemporaneous with the period the series was set used in the British hospital drama series The Royal.
@Omnes Omnibus: Repo Man was the best soundtrack.
Nowhere Boy recreated the Beatles’ first recording session. In Spite of All The Danger sounds just like the original record.
Cowboy Bebop has good music (in a variety of styles) that has held up surprisingly well.
The soundtrack from The Music Never Stopped works for that story. It’s a great movie.
I would have thought that a couple of Vietnam movies predated The Big Chill.
I have an impression that White Rabbit was in, like, 5 of them.
@germy: No longer just a bootleg. The relatively recent CD issue of the Popeye soundtrack includes the Nilsson vocals, which were recorded for the cast to learn from.
If you liked the way Aimee Mann’s songs were mined for “Magnolia”, you’ll probably like the way Altman’s “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” incorporated Leonard Cohen songs throughout.
@Jacel: Everything Is Food!
“She’s Having a Baby” has a stunning piece, “This Woman’s Work”. I believe it was composed and sung by Kate Bush for the movie and it is perfect for the story.
Tangent: Is it almost an axiom that any movie named after a extant popular song is going to suck?
There are a very few exceptions, for my ear. Feel free to list them.
As for original movie music soundtracks, Nino Rota’s score for La Strada immediately leaps to mind.
As did Easy Rider.
mesmer a la carte
When a soundtrack is comprised of various artists it’s usually the handiwork of a ‘music supervisor’ and often times it’s a convenient way for a major record label to get their artists more exposure. Sometimes it’s very mindfully done, like in ‘Oh Brother’ where the music is curated by someone with exceptional taste, in that case T. Bone Burnett.
Carol Van Natta
Top favorites (tie): Oh Brother, Where Art Thou (various artists) and Last of the Mohicans (Clannad et al.)
Runner up: Dune (1984) by Toto and Brian Eno
Disclaimer: Mohicans and Dune may not count in this discussion. Mohicans had one hit by Clannad and mostly score music. Dune was all score, with no breakout hits. Nonetheless, they are all excellent.
The 1970 film, Performance, and Mick Jagger’s “Memo from Turner.”
And of course, all the great reggae music in “The Harder They Come.”
I’ll throw in “Superfly” just because.
Since I had forgotten how boring NASCAR racing is (I think this is the first race I’ve tried to watch in … who knows how long … another delay), I’m gonna tweak the rules here a bit off the title of strange you never knew and add soundtrack covers that are surprisingly good from artists you wouldn’t expect. For example, Natalie Maines version of Mother (Pink Floyd) from the soundtrack from Voices for Justice. In a similar vein (I don’t think it is a soundtrack), I heard Disturbed’s version of Sound of Silence recently for the first time and was blown away (further blown away that S and/or G let them do the cover).
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Apparently the makers of Beetlejuice considered using Motown hits on the soundtrack but realized that this had been overdone and went with Harry Belafonte’s calypso songs instead, and once you’ve seen the Day-O scene, you can’t imagine anything else being used. Their juxtaposition with Danny Elfman’s score made the movie even weirder.
I could do without hearing Leonard Cohen’s “hallelujah” in a movie any time soon.
What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us?
Whoever did the Bull Durham soundtrack really knew what they were doing.
How about game soundtracks?
Good Morning, Vietnam.
Shelly Duvall as Olive Oyl alone should have made it great. But alas.
I would dispute the categorization of supporting musical content in movies as filler. Everyone loves the Blade Runner Soundtrack. Definitely not filler. Also, check the Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack breathtakingly awesome. Along the same lines Johann Johannsson had a few wonders. Try the Arrival soundtrack. Also, Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks.
For something a bit less ethereal. Check the John Wick Series soundtracks. Great Stuff. Also enjoyed the Luke Cage series music. Finally— if you like Tarantino soundtracks, try going straight to the source. Soundtracks of lots of the blaxploitation flicks were amazing. Shaft, Superfly. Sweet Sweetback. Trouble Man. Coffy. Black Caesar. The Mack. Dolemite.
I can’t believe that 35 comments in no one has yet mentioned Trainspotting. A seminal soundtrack for us Gen Xers, just as much as Singles.
Personally, I can never get enough Motown. Also, too, I kinda like it when old faves are used in films, in a way I find it reassuring. I mentioned “Collateral” because of two songs I really liked, one worked in the film, the other didn’t, but I like the song. But the nightclub scene with “Ready, Steady, Go” by Paul Oakenfold is an awesome scene.
@ThresherK: One glaring exception: Knives Out.
I would like to suggest that “Easy Rider” was maybe the first Hollywood movie to incorporate existing popular music into its soundtrack. Steppenwolf, Smith, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix and Roger McGuinn singing songs by Hoyt Axton, Mars Banfield, Carole King/Gerry Goffin and Bob Dylan plus some other assorted music were as important to the movie as any aspect of it. Directory of photography Lazslo Kovacs said that the approximately one million bucks paid in music royalties was as much as three times the cost of the entire rest of the production.
It’s a classic and full of bit parts played by actors and actresses from whom we would all see more in later years. I’m looking at you, Dan Haggerty
Edited to add a tip of the hat to NotMax for getting “Easy Rider” in before me.
@Steeplejack (phone): I was looking for a mention of the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack.
When I first saw Cowboy Bebop, I thought the music was drawn from existing music. Then I found out that it was the work of one person, Yoko Kanno (who, I understand, once took a long road trip through the US and must have paid very close attention to the things she heard on the radio).
The director of Cowboy Bebop has a new series, now available from Netflix: Carole and Tuesday, about two older teens living on the streets in a Mars that looks very like New York City, whose music takes them off the streets to stardom.
The music is mostly sweet pop, with a leavening from other groups they encounter in various venues, but it’s very listenable.
And the second season is all about political tensions around immigration to Mars.
Two TV series that made excellent use of music were Quantum Leap and the original 21 Jump Street. It took FOREVER for QL to be released on DVD in a format that included all the original music, rather than cheap lounge filler, because of the costs of the rights. Jump Street, on the other hand, used then-current music that we Boomers had largely not been tuned in to, up until then. (It clearly presaged the slew of CW shows that did similar things, like Smallville.)
“but I think it was The Big Chill, a self-indulgent boomer fable, that really kicked off heavy use of popular music ”
Dont forget “The Graduate” that featured Simon & Garfunkel
surprisingly no one has mentioned any of the John Hughes films where the music was integral to the story telling of teenage angst and love unrequited.
Ferris Buehler’s Day Off
Some Kind of Wonderful
they set off an entire genre that went hand in hand with the music video generation.
I like the wrong time period music adapted to the time period. Moulon Rouge. Also Knights Tale. Perhaps because they’re not often good movies, but the music redeems them some.
Also, I think one of the best soundtracks in terms of how it helped set the tone of the film is 5th Element.
(Another vote for Repo Man – excuse me while I fold my pants)
Ghost of Joe Lieblings Dog
@Jacel: Was going to say: if there isn’t a mention of McCabe and Mrs. Miller here, I am going to be very cross with all of you.
@Just Chuck: Nier Automata.
The Fat Kate Middleton
Sitting here wallowing in the sounds of Chip Taylor (“Queen of the World”, “Fuck All the Perfect People” etc.) I haven’t watched the series yet, but I understand his music served as the soundtrack for Netflix’s “Sex Education”.
Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds seems like the go-to “nostalgia for a 60’s that didn’t actually exist” go-to. Or maybe it was just in the Wonder Years, which my parents liked when I was growing up, and then Forrest Gump, which they seemed to watch weekly for a spell.
Oooh, I got one. A cover of Aimee Mann’s The Moth and the Flame by Les Deux Love Orchestra in Mr Robot when Darlene is escorted through the CIA(?) offices.
Make that two: I’m Gonna Haunt You by Fabienne Delsol in Killing Eve.
More Motown: the great documentary movie Standing In The Shadows Of Motown.
How could I forget?! A Hard Day’s Night, “the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals,” as one critic put it. (Should have been Roger Ebert, but I don’t think it was.) Not just Beatlemania, but songs very well integrated into a hip, funny satire with an Oscar-nominated screenplay. (And I see George Martin also got an Oscar nom for shepherding the music.)
The time: mid to late 1970s.
The place: a summer camp.
One night each week was designated as movie night. The camp counselors and junior staff would escort their campers to the converted barn where the movies were shown and then were free to go and enjoy an evening off, except for a fraction of them who happened to be assigned on that particular day to what was called the watch group.
So as soon as the lights came down, if one happened to be standing outside (as I was, being part of the upper echelon staff) one saw an veritable exodus of people. But there was one time when the movie rental company put the wrong film into the otherwise correctly labeled shipping case. Within seconds of the opening strains of S&G from The Graduate wafting through the air it was as if a switch had been thrown. Practically in unison they did a one eighty and marched right back in.
Dr. Ronnie James, D.O.
Whit Stillman’s Last Days of Disco had a great soundtrack that bypassed most of the Afro-wig kitsch Disco means to most people, and had some real subtle numbers with clean classic production. The film does a great job of counterbalancing all the kooky excess we associate with the disco era and showed why it was so appealing, even to Stillman’s typical cast of repressed over educated Manhattan WASPS.
A good overview here:
I have also really dug the soundtrack and score to the recent HBO Watchmen series.
As his name cropped up above, honorable mention for Nilsson’s The Point.
Also too, Head. And Yellow Submarine.
Rushmore. Wes Anderson dug up a great collection of great but mostly-obscure 60s and early-70s tunes.
Okay, well, the opening sequence of Casablanca uses the popular music of the day as the background. I don’t think this is such a recent development as most people here seem to think.
Magnolia probably also one of my favorite soundtracks – it helps that I adore Aimee Mann. (Also loves Ricky Jay’s narration in the film) I recently started watching The Leftovers on HBO. It’s a few years old but I really like the show and song selection. There are some interesting covers, including a slow, sad version of “The One That I Want” from Grease. Great use of “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies, both the original and a piano instrumental version. (It was also the perfect choice to close out Fight Club) And I love that in the episode that featured Mark Linn-Baker as Mark Linn-Baker, they used the Perfect Strangers theme for the opening credits.
A really “matched to the action & emotion” soundtrack that comes to mind immediately is the one for Birds of Prey, which was also just written up in Rolling Stone. The producer says:
Anyway, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack before I saw the movie on Friday, and it’s really fun and empowering. But you really should experience the music, especially watching some of the action scenes.
Using a cheat code now:
High Fidelity and Empire Records.
one of my favorite soundtracks of all times is Silence of the Lambs. It’s the first film I remember noticing the soundtrack apart from the film itself (and not overpowering like a John Williams soundtrack). I l absolutely love what Howard Shore did with it. When I was in college a friend and I used to play a game – favorite two minutes in film. Director Jonathan Demme has one of mine in SOTL and it involves the classic hit “American Girl”. He has to introduce a new character – a fat girl – and get the audience to immediately identify with her and root for her. I always felt Brook Smith’s performance as Catherine Martin was outstanding in this film. And that scene introducing her character is incredibly iconic and memorable.
TOTALLY agree on bladerunner, trainspotting, the 5th element and the yellow submarine.
i’d like to throw the blues brothers soundtrack into the ring.
Orange is the New Red
Harold and Maude wouldn’t be the same movie without the Cat Stevens soundtrack.
@download my app in the app store mistermix: Plus the Cissy Strut by the Meters which, sadly, was not on the soundtrack CD.
Movie soundtrack: The Last Emperor – a side (yes, I had it on cassette) by Ryuichi Sakamoto, and a side by David Byrne.
TV: Due South (vols 1 & 2) – they insisted on Canadian artists, it’s how I found Ashley MacIsaac.
Most of my favorites have already been mentioned: McCabe & mrs Miller, Rushmore, Trainspotting, Magnolia.
I don’t think anyone has mentioned the pulp fiction, Royal Tenenbaums, Goodfellas, and Romeo + Juliet.
some of the marvel movies have decent soundtracks, a couple have been kinda brilliant.
guardians of the galaxy and thor: ragnarok come to mind.
fight club, the first matrix and sin city also had rather exceptional soundtracks.
I remember seeing Easy Rider when it came out and was struck at the time by how different the soundtrack was. I can’t recall an earlier movie where the incidental music was so contemporary. I can’t comment on The Big Chill because I haven’t seen it
Anyone remember Nam: Tour of Duty and China Beach? Both were well-regarded 1980s/early 1990s shows set in the American war in Vietnam that featured a shit ton of period music. The former followed a US Army infantry platoon and the latter was about US Army nurses; both shows had brilliant ensemble casts, the latter headed by Dana Delany. (I fell in love with her bobbed hair.) Nam: Tour of Duty used the Stones’ Paint It Black as its theme song. Neither show has been out on DVD becuse of the music rights.
@soup time: Standing is one of my all time favorite documentaries. I’ve seen it several times and always cry at the end when the Funk Brothers come out (and bring the pictures of those who passed). I’m tearing up thinking about it right now.
Ooh, great thread. I would suggest Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack for Birdy. (There was a notice/warning on the cover of the album – “this record does not contain lyrics” – or something similar.)
And a second vote for the House soundtrack. I think Hugh Laurie’s compositions were part of the soundtrack in later shows.
I’m much more partial to scores than soundtracks.
“The Fifth Element” (Eric Serra)
“Passion” (“Last Temptation of Christ” score, Peter Gabriel)
Absolutely anything by Ennio Morricone
Yes! Very good.
Others have alluded to it, but I have often wondered how much the price of usage rights affects which non-original songs go in. I recall reading that Mercedes paid $1.5M to license the Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil for their Super Bowl commercial some years back.
More score than soundtrack, perhaps … but nobody mentioned Mark Knopfler’s work for both Local Hero and The Princess Bride?
“Big Little Lies” has a terrific theme and really creative use of new and vintage pop.
Bragging Rights. I once met Yoko Kanno and she signed by Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack CD.
I’m almost finished with Carole &Tuesday, which has a lot more social commentary than you would expect from a Two-Friends-Try-To-Break-Into-The-Music-Biz Story
Most of the soundtracks I would have mentioned have already been mentioned, but I can add “Deadpool 2” and some episodes of “Criminal Minds”.
I enjoyed “Deadpool 2” more than I ever thought I would, plus the music was fun. “Criminal Minds” was good at making songs you already knew really creepy.
This is good. Someone else mentioned Fast Times. Right in my teen angst wheelhouse.
Also, I know disco is dead, but the opening scene of Saturday Night Fever with Travolta walking to “Staying Alive” is downright iconic.
The music is very important to me, and I think there are at least as many great scores out there as great movies, so I’ll just name some composers off the top of my head. Just among the living, Morricone indeed, Burwell, Badalamenti, Iglesias, Sakomoto, DeBenedictis (Columbo; couple of other good composers from that series), T. Newman, Schiffrin. Some jazz masters have fine ones, e.g. Herbie Hancock (Blow-up), Q. Jones (The Pawnbroker), Ellington (Anatomy of a Murder). Glass’s music for Kudun. I have a cd of Gabriel’s Passion that I break out occasionally.
Nearly impossible to imagine iconic Hitchcock movies being designated so without Bernard Hermann’s scoring.
Alamo Bay soundtrack by Ry Cooder (or almost any soundtrack by Ry Cooder). Songs and instrumentals. John Hiatt and Los Hidogos.
I don’t think anyone mentioned the Hank Williams songs in The Last Picture Show yet.
Very true. I love Psycho and North by Northwest. The music is as essential as the visual storytelling.
But I also love the British films, especially The Lady Vanishes and my favorite of all Hitchcock films, The 39 Steps.
@Omnes Omnibus: Yes! I’ve been combing the bins for a copy of Straight to Hell for years, like Sidney Greenstreet looking for the Maltese Falcon.
I have a special affection for the music in “Days of Heaven.”
Slim from MA
Premise: Boomer songs lazy way out.
Response: Lists of other tired Boomer songs. Awesome.
For the record I’m a boomer too. But I’ll toss out something just slightly more modern: Singles, the Cameron Crowe movie from the early 90’s.
The Bond 007 movies used to feature artists that did a bunch of the songs in the movie. My original favorite soundtracks were (in the order of appearance): Help!, Easy Rider, Woodstock. Not traditional soundtracks I know. A recent movie that I really like what they did was Crazy Rich Asians. Apparently the producer searched YouTube for singers who sang in Mandarin and English. Hired a few of them and had them sing. I really like the cover they did of Coldplay’s Yellow done in Mandarin. Took me a bit to figure out what the song was.
@Mike J: Grosse Point Blank.
Late to the thread so I’m guessing someone beat me to it but Jackie Brown just Tears It Up! Also, T2 Trainspotting is solid.
Slim from MA
Premise: Boomer songs lazy way out.
Response: Lists of other tired Boomer songs. (Well, mostly). Awesome.
For the record I’m a boomer too. But I’ll toss out something just slightly more modern: Singles, the Cameron Crowe movie from the early 90’s.
The Easy Rider soundtrack was the first (and still the best, in my opinion) that I remember using a collection of music from various artists.
@NotMax: Nino Rota did for Fellini films what Bernard Herrmann did for Hitchcock.
All I know is that two Thursdays ago, when Mike Schur used the Arvo Pärt spiegel im spiegel in the Good Place finale, it took me back twenty years to a lazy late summer afternoon entwined with a lover in a bed sodden with exertion, specifically the Saturday before Nine-Eleven, seven days before we broke up forever, listening to that album with arrangements of Spiegel Im Spiegel interspersed with Elise, holding hands and tracing fingers on skin.
Absotively, posilutely. Collaborators on the same wavelength.
J R in WV
The Blues Brothers was as educational a film about the music called the Blues as any fictional movie could be. Thanks for mentioning it. Would be no movie without The Blues!
The soundtrack for “Across the Universe.”
Val Kilmer’s performances on the soundtrack for the Doors.
Best synth soundtrack in the 80s: Ladyhawke. Fight me.
For fans of glam rock, Velvet Goldmine has an extremely kick ass soundtrack
@cope: Well, Medium Cool was contemporaneous with Easy Rider, and The Strawberry Statement was within a few months. Not sure if you’d consider those as “Hollywood movies”, but I’m not sure I consider Easy Rider a “Hollywood movie” itself.
did mistermix actually refer to original music scores as “filler music”?
The first soundtrack I recall using previously released music was Coming Home (Jane Fonda, John Voigt et al.). It was great. Others I like a lot: Garden State was great. And a recently released movie that you likely don’t know but should: Changeland.
By any chance, are you related to The Central Scrutinizer?
Long Live Frank Zappa!
Also late to the thread, but in watching reruns of the TV show Charmed I realized that whoever did the music really was in touch with female indy rock. That show really featured a number of artists and the music fit well with what was happening on the show.
Eta for autocorrect
@hilts: The white zone is for loading and unloading only. If you have to load or unload, go to the white zone. You’ll love it. It’s a way of life.
@mario: Consider the origin.
In general, I’d rather hear something new — or new to me, at least — than a score that falls back on pop cliches. “Repo Man” was my gateway to punk. “Streets of Fire” led me to The Blasters and Lone Justice. And I always dug Angelo Badalamenti’s score for “Twin Peaks” for the mix of cool jazz and early rock.
Soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire. Wonderful stuff.
“The Long Riders” – not a terribly great movie, but a fucking great soundtrack. Arranged by some guy called Ry Cooder.
Also too, if you plant ice, you’re gonna harvest wind.
All time fave soundtrack: Where The Buffalo Roam, with awesome songs and Bill Murray dialogue bits????
I just saw “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” on a plane (literally just hours ago), and the songs were really well chosen, very evocative of the time period.
@Martin: Knight’s Tale is both a great movie *and* made great use of contemporary music. I’ll be directing “Much Ado about Nothing” this year and looking for a way to segue from period-set music to something modern for a masked ball scene, a direct ripoff/tribute to the dance scene in KT.
GLOW. Gets it right. Redeems good music that was marketed as shite 35 yrs ago. (Joy Division’s “Disorder” Behind a closing credits scene of a woman purging a meal really grabbed me by the lapels.)
PTA flick with songs as stories? Not Magnolia, but Boogie Nights.
Then there’s the first record I ever bought with my own money, all of 10 years old: The soundtrack for The Sting, featuring the music of Scott Joplin. Utterly off-the-wall, utterly brilliant choice by arranger Marvin Hamlisch (first time I ever paid attention to who the *arranger* was for a movie!) I was entranced by both movie and music, and still am.
@Comrade Scrutinizer: Point taken. I wasn’t sure how to label it and went with the easy choice. Had I put more thought into characterizing “Easy Rider”, I would possibly have gone with “independent” or “New Hollywood” or even “American New Wave”.
there aren’t many soundtracks (outside of movie musicals) i still listen to, but repo man is one of em. Kids also.
oh trainspotting was a good record.
@LuciaMia: You’re absolutely right. It was The Graduate that kicked off using pop music in soundtracks. MM is off by a couple of decades.
any soundtrack with los fabulosos cadillacs on it is good in my book.
@chopper: Joe Strummer put together the music.
The music choices in Baby Driver are pretty much the movie.
@randy khan: Tarantino always does a great job with his soundtracks, but the new one is really a big part of the movie, like a character in the movie, as one of the dvd extras told me. I’ve listened to the soundtrack a couple of times so far (and saw the movie about three weeks ago), and really like it. The whole “Boss” radio of 1969 L.A. and everything, really cool.
Walter Hill and Ry Cooder had a pretty good collaboration thing going in the 80’s. The soundtrack to Southern Comfort being my favorite.
@Turner Hedenkoff: I think I have a vinyl copy of that around here somewhere, although couldn’t locate it just now. Google reveals that an expanded version was released on cd.
I know for sure I have the Where the Buffalo Roam soundtrack on vinyl, being a kind of Neil Young completist.
Pretty much every PTAnderson movie has great soundtrack/score: Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, even Phantom Thread had the most beautiful scoring by the Radiohead guitarist.
A couple Tv shows whose soundtracks have really impressed me, recently:
Handmaid’s Tale, Killing Eve, and Snowfall
J R in WV
As long as we’re mentioning Ry Cooder, his documentary on Cuban big band music, Buena Vista Social Club has as good a bunch of Latin music since forever. Those guys cooked it down and served it up!!!
Amazing film, wife and I saw it in a “film” theatre in NYC, no one else was there — we were having the best musical time of anyone in the five buroughs!
@Jamey: Yes, GLOW!! How did I forget that one? For 80’s music, Snowfall, Deutschland ’82 and of course, Pose.
@TheflipPsyd: Check out Killing Eve. Most of the soundtrack is the band(?) The Loved. They are kind of a studio/session band, but the songs are very overtly feminist in a lot of ways and very indie rock.
@UncleEbeneezer: Thanks. I will
There was a great video clip of Peter Fonda on the Dick Cavett show, talking about how angry Hollywood studio executives were with him for “killing” traditional studio films.
Bonnie and Clyde, in 1967 and Easy Rider, in 1969, really shook up Hollywood movies. And this disruption is part of the contextual background to Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.
Bill Freidkin directed a movie called To Live and Die in LA back in the mid-80’s, a hard-edged potboiler with a killer score from Wang Chung that perfectly fitted into all the action. It disappeared in a hurry, but I loved the movie and thought the soundtrack close to perfect.
Also, glad to see Flashback of a Fool getting a vote in here.
@TheflipPsyd: Whoops, the band is The Unloved. Also a really great show with some kick-ass women leads
Almost forgot: The Americans and Chernobyl (iirc) both have stellar use of 80’s songs.
And Mad Men had some amazing musical choices.
@UncleEbeneezer: Have not seen Killing Eve yet (my wife has it on her list), but whenever the requisite interlude tune starts up in a movie or tv show, I have to say “…cue the indie rock”.
Don’t get me wrong, I love indie rock. How about Hearts Beat Loud, with Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, where the whole movie is about indie rock and a father-daughter relationship.
It goes a bit beyond the standard understanding of a soundtrack, but you can’t talk about films with good music without mentioning the Irish film Once from 2007. The lead actor was originally hired just to write the soundtrack and then slid in to acting the lead as well.
“Something Wild” had an excellent soundtrack. I also agree that the John Hughes movies had really good soundtracks.
“Heat” is full of eclectic, moody, intriguing original score mixed with a few well chosen evocative, alternative music songs from other performers.
”Repo Man” is simply one of the best various artists compilations in history.
There are quite a lot of movies that have a few well placed songs that really stay with me, not all of which make to their soundtrack albums. “Donnie Darko” comes to mind, along with its much lesser known younger sibling, “Southland Tales.”
Some scores I’d never want to listen to apart from the movie, but I also can’t imagine the movie without, like “Margin Call.”
And, forgive me, but I love Wang Chung’s soundtrack (mix of songs and score) for “To Live And Die In LA.” It just works in the movie, which I love. It’s certainly better than anything else they’ve ever done.
@Ivan X: Whenever I think of Donnie Darko, I immediately start humming “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears.
@ThresherK: A Hard Day’s Night
@mad citizen: Thanks for the tip!
John Sayles used Springsteen to great effect I. Baby It’s You.
@germy: I also love the music on Black Lightning. On one recent episode, one of the tunes had a “level 11 infectious beat,” so I looked it up. It was Zombie by Fela Kuti. Searching for Fela Kuti on one of the streaming services that my public library subscribes to brought me to a group of albums of Nigerian pop music from the 70s called “Nigeria 70” that have some great tracks (including a few by Fela Kuti).
How about “For What It’s Worth”? In my view the most overused song in movie history. Then there’s “London Calling” for British movies. And I adore both Buffalo Springfield and the Clash.
On the subject of “White Rabbit”, how about the cruise line using that song? I’m not sure what it’s signifying – free acid for all passengers?
@zhena gogolia: Not to mention the Paris flashback sequence where Rick and Ilsa are dancing to “Perfidia”. If I had known the name of the song the first time I watched Casablanca, my whole view of the film would have been very different.
The Wire. Music in that series always came from somewhere–through an open window, from somebody’s car radio, whatever–it was never overlaid.
The Irishman. Robbie Robertson did the soundtrack. Van Morrison’s in there. Loved all the songs, from every era in the movie.
Sound guy Walter Murch’s pop song collage toward the end of American Graffiti pretty much sent me to heaven.
I haven’t read the entire thread, but in case nobody has mentioned: Californication had great music. And Prince’s collaborators, Wendi and Lisa, selected the soundtrack for Crossing Jordan.
@frosty: Perhaps in American films, but outside the US it was already commonplace. By the early ’60s at the latest, it was a regular feature of Italian films to use contemporary/popular tracks prominently. Sometimes these were extremely popular artists and well known tunes, at other times they were obscure tracks by obscure bands…like the title tune from Pietrangeli’s Il Magnifico Cornuto.
So I’m probably too late to this thread, but two perfect marriages of music to film, IMHO, are:
Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” in “Trainspotting”
and Wojcheich Kilar’s “Father Kolbe’s Preaching” in “The Truman Show”.
The best soundtrack music makes you scan the credits and go look up that extraordinary song by the wonderful artist who evoked something deep and beautiful but who you never heard before and has never hit the mainstream and you fall in love with them.
@Ed Smart: Your first comment on Balloon Juice has to get manually approved, and until that happens, all comments you post go into moderation.
I just released you , so you are good to go. FYI, I deleted your empty reply to yourself, in case you return and notice that is gone.
@germy: In Nilsson’s Popeye songs he’s almost the Philip Glass of lyrics–repetitive to the point of being hypnotic. It’s such a strange choice for the subject matter. And I kind of love it.
Among its many virtues, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has an amazing pop/hip-hop soundtrack (most of which was recorded for the movie, I think) to go with its equally amazing incidental score. Blackway & Black Caviar’s “What’s Up Danger” is a huge part of what gives the pivotal scene of the movie such an emotional kick.
At one point in the movie, the main theme from St. Elmo’s Fire, one of those Eighties young-people movies with a big original pop soundtrack, makes a brief and hilarious cameo appearance. I think the directors mentioned that they actually had the artist, John Parr, record an alternate-universe version of it with different lyrics (the movie has all sorts of mutated pop-culture references to signal that it takes place in an alternate timeline from the regular Spider-Man continuity), but they had to use the original instead because of some convoluted IP issue.
@piratedan: The Eighties were, more generally, a time of big youth-oriented movies with pop soundtracks designed to get Top 40 radio airplay. I mentioned St. Elmo’s Fire, but aside from the Hughes canon there were also the more overtly musical ones like Footloose, Flashdance, Streets of Fire, etc. Often the music was of more interest than the actual film.
The Big Chill was novel mostly in that it was specifically using Sixties music to evoke boomer nostalgia, for a movie that was not a period piece but was about boomers getting older in the Eighties. I remember it inspiring a lot of gratuitous use of old Motown hits on TV.
I have to mention “American Graffiti” with Wolfman Jack playing all the 50s and 60s singles in the background. Maybe it’s because I was 18 in 1964.
@Matt McIrvin: And somehow I failed to mention the king of them all, Prince’s Purple Rain. I never actually saw that movie, but God damn, that soundtrack.
@Bruuuuce: WKRP in Cincinnati has the same problem. Hugh Wilson, the showrunner, had a hard time getting approval for the use of original music. He got it. But when the show went into syndication, the original tracks were stripped out due to costs and the reruns went away
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has great original music and covers.