And I’m not talking musicals. Soundtracks are a crucial backbone to films, a way to engage the audience and let them relate on a subconscious level. Throughout high school and college, I worked at the local movie theater in town. One shift, called ‘Door’ or ‘Doorman’, was responsible for cleaning theaters after each showing was complete (among other things). This ultimately meant a front row seat to the credit soundtracks on every movie as well as the ability to pop into every theater during the film to catch bits and pieces.
Here are some of my favorite films/soundtracks.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) – spooky, dramatic, ethereal and full of longing.
Not only was the film a masterpiece in many ways, the soundtrack really brought it to the next level. The closing credit number was ‘Breath of Life’ by Florence and the Machine and boy – was that a banger. Besides some amazing graphics, the pairing of Florence with this moody, fast tempo bop was pure genius.
Anna Karenina (2012) – timeless, playful, enticing and full of passion.
This is one of my favorite films of all time but the soundtrack is what truly makes you fall in love. The storyline, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s 1878 novel of the same name, is an explanation of the common themes in life: hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, society and progress to name a few. If you’re a fan of Kiera Knightley or period pieces, you’ll probably notice a familiar filming pattern and character groups in Anna Karenina – it was directed by the same director of Pride & Prejudice, Joe Wright.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – dark, moody, intense and melodramatic.
This film is not for the faint of heart – nor is the soundtrack. This soundtrack is dark, bleak and moody just like the film, starting out with a killer intro introducing an alt version of the Immigrant Song. (Trigger warning – the intro is intense, graphic and has strobe effects). I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent just thinking about this intro and score.
The Hunger Games (2012) – realistic, foreboding, rustic and folky.
While I am not a fan of the Hunger Games series, I can’t deny that this soundtrack is great. Specifically, one song: Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars. I mean, it’s just jaw dropping. This was the first song to play during the credits and let me tell you – I scream-sang this song every single time. It’s a song that just gets under your skin.
Atomic Blonde (2017) / Suckerpunch (2011) – These two films have a few overlapping songs on their film scores, which is why I wanted to give them an honorable mention. I’ll be honest, I was not a fan of Atomic Blonde – the score in the trailer made me think it was going to be much better of a film than it actually was. Suckerpunch on the other hand is one of the most jarring and ‘mind-fuckable’ films I’ve seen and I truly did enjoy watching it.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Really anything directed by Wes Anderson is going to have an eclectic and unique score. This is not a score I’d listen to all the time, but it’s still a fun one to turn on in the background. Alexandre Desplat is the man responsible for crafting each unique, timeless score for Anderson’s films. While similar in theme or type, the scores are presently true to each individual story.
Game of Thrones (2011-2019) – Composer Ramin Djawadi is a genius, without argument. Scoring a show is difficult no doubt, but scoring a show that runs for nearly a decade? Unthinkable. His scores are unique, effervescent and transcending. As soon as you hear one of his scores, you’re immediately transported into that moment in the show. Plus, he cleverly reused the intro theme multiple times in different ways.