Saturday, December 2, 2017

My 20 Favorite Movie Soundtracks of All-Time

Yes, I have already told you about my 101 favorite movies, which you can see here, and which may need to be expanded because Cars 3 should be on the list. Considering that got me to thinking about what my favorite soundtracks are.

It may be no surprise that nineteen of the twenty soundtracks here are from movies that are on my list of 101 favorite movies because, often, a soundtrack makes a movie. Can you imagine what Star Wars would have been like without John Williams' iconic score? Or a decent movie is made great by the soundtrack. (I'm looking at you #6!)

Anyway, in no particular order other than numerical by preference ...

20. Pride and Prejudice by Dario Marianelli
     This is the only soundtrack on this list for which the accompanying movie is not on my list of favorite movies/ In spite of the fact that the movie is filled with very attractive young women, I've tried to watch it and just lose interest. However, the DVD of it I got for my wife came with a CD of the soundtrack and I have fallen in love with that. To the point that I even thought, "I should give that movie another try!" Uh-huh, just couldn't get going on it.

19. The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian by Harry Gregson-Williams
     This is my favorite of the three Narnian soundtracks mainly because of the songs "This is Home" by Switchfoot and "The Call" by Regina Spektor. The orchestral parts, by Harry Gregson-Williams, are good, too, and evoke the best scenes from the movie.

18. Tron: Legacy by Daft Punk
     I have never cared for Daft Punk, but their work on this movie was phenomenal. Probably, in my opinion, because of the movie, which lifts the music. No, it's the music which lifts ... no ... it's just an almost perfect blend of music and movie and both would be mediocre without the other.

17. The Natural by Randy Newman
     Fresh off making fun of short people, Newman penned this almost perfect soundtrack. So many moments that capture the screen action so magnificently that when I listen I am seeing the Whammer strike out or Roy knocking the cover off the ball or, best of all, Roy rounding the bases in slow motion while the lights of the ballpark explode and rain down on the field for no easily explainable reason.

16. Casablanca by Max Steiner and Herman Hupfeld
     OK, I'll admit: the soundtrack for "Casablanca" is pretty forgettable, with two notable exceptions. The first I'll mention is the scene where the Nazis are singing their national anthem, but then all the French people stand up and start singing their anthem, only louder, and drown the Germans out. And then, there's the song everyone who has seen "Casablanca" associates with this movie: "As Time Goes By". The funny thing is: it wasn't supposed to be in the movie at all. They had planned another song to be the key to the movie but couldn't get the rights in time and went with the "filler tune" they had been using all through rehearsals. I have no idea what tune they wanted, but can you imagine "Casablanca" without Dooley Wilson singing "As Time Goes By"? (I can't.)

15. Who Framed Roger Rabbit by Alan Silvestri
     This is an excellent soundtrack that could be ranked much higher just on the strength of the moving and haunting "Valiant and Valiant". The rest of it varies from good to fun. It wasn't until I got the soundtrack (as opposed to just listening to it during the movie) that I realized that as Eddie Valiant enters Toontown the 'toons are all singing, "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!"

14. Star Trek: Insurrection by Jerry Goldsmith
     The opening song for this soundtrack is the best, but there are good tunes all the way through. I also like the soundtracks for Star Trek II and IV, but this is my favorite Trek score (though the closing music for IV is probably my favorite single tune from a Trek movie).

13. The Man From Snowy River by Bruce Rowland
     A beautiful soundtrack that just makes you want to snap a whip while riding across a prairie down-under. It also kind of makes you want to ride a horse over a cliff, so make sure you are firmly ensconced in a chair before listening.

12. The Lone Ranger by Hans Zimmerman
     This much-maligned movie (which I thoroughly enjoyed) has a fantastic soundtrack. Of course, the one tune most people remember from it is Zimmerman's treatment of the "William Tell Overture", but there are actually several good pieces. "Never Take Off the Mask" and "Home" are both stand-out numbers.

11. Tomorrowland by Micheal Giacchino
     Michael Giachinno has had some wonderful soundtracks over the last few years, including "The Incredibles", "John Carter", the recent "Planet of the Apes" movies and even "Rogue One" (replacing John Williams is no mean feat for anyone), but this is my favorite of all his works. This was also a great movie that many people never saw and one of those where the music and movie blend together to make a very good whole.

10. Brave by Patrick Doyle
     "Brave" is a great animated movie, but it would have only been a "good animated movie" without Patrick Doyle's music. He perfectly captures the lush Scottish countryside, the fierce warriors, and even the mysticism of the wee little wood-carver. The final song, "Merida's Home", is one of my all-time favorite tunes. Special props need to be given to Julie Fowlis for her excellent "Touch the Sky", "Into the Open Air" and "Tha Mo Ghoal Air Aird a Chuan" which gets the award for "best tune to be used in the trailer but not appear in the movie for some reason."

9. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by John Williams
     Some may question this selection because they don't like this Indy movie as well as the other three. I really enjoy this movie, but I like its soundtrack the best out of all the Indiana Jones movies because of the way John Williams worked in tunes from the three previous movies in addition to all the new music he wrote for it. Listen to the finale and you'll see your favorite moments from all of Dr. Jones' career.

8. Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring by Howard Shore
     As I considered this, I knew some bit of Howard Shore's work on Peter Jackson's Tolkien movies would make the list, but I couldn't decide on which one. All six soundtracks are beautiful and stirring and I listen to them frequently. I even have a playlist where I can listen to all six movies in order, which is really handy if I'm driving somewhere that will take me 9 hours to get there. I chose "Fellowship" mainly because it launched the whole series and because of the Enya song "May It Be". I enjoy all six of Jackson's movies, and none of them would be as good without Shore's accompaniment.

7. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves by Michael Kamen
     A soundtrack so good it is now used by another studio to introduce all of their on-DVD trailers even though it wasn't made by that studio. 8 tracks of orchestral music and every one of them is musical perfection. Even the add-on songs by Bryan Adams and Jeff Lynne are worth listening to--though it took me a long time to figure out where the Lynne song appears in the movie.

6. Edward Scissorhands by Danny Elfman
     No one is more surprised than I am that I like something from the leader of Oingo-Boingo this much. I enjoy the movie, but this is one of those cases where the movie without the soundtrack would only be so-so at best. "Cookie Factory" is one of those tunes that will make you see the scene it goes with in your mind (even if you've never seen the movie) but the best song on the CD is the tragically short "Ice Dance".

5. Cars by Randy Newman
     If you look at my list of favorite movies, you'll see that this is the most recent movie in the top ten. A big part of that is this soundtrack. From the opening notes of "Real Gone" (voiced by Cheryl Crow) to the closing tones of "The Big Race", Newman's music makes this movie about anthropomorphic cars just seem that much more real. And, for the record, Newman's song "Our Town", sung by the great James Taylor, should have won the Academy Award.

4. The Great Escape by Elmer Bernstein
     Start playing the opening notes from the theme music and you've already won the hearts of everyone who ever saw the movie. "Isn't that the one where Steve McQueen jumps the motorcycle over the fence?" they will ask. It's a phenomenal movie, one of the best war movies ever made, but Bernstein's score is the glue that holds it all together. Admit it: you're humming that opening scherzo now.

3. Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back by John Williams
     John Williams could have easily had eleven soundtracks on this list just from Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, but for reasons known only to me (maybe), I thought I should narrow it down to one from each of the two series. I like all 7 "Star Wars" scores but I picked this one for its introduction of "Darth Vader's Theme", which is almost as iconic as the "Star Wars Theme" itself.

2. Field of Dreams by James Horner
     The second best movie ever made, has the second-best music ever recorded (if you ask me). So, considering the first place votes are split on the two lists, if this were one of those weird parliamentary votes, it might mean "Field of Dreams" wins ... something. From the opening, whimsical notes that back up Ray telling us how he bought a farm, to the misty night music of Doc Graham walking in the moonlight, to the final notes of a father playing catch with his son, every note evokes a moment from the movie, and every moment of the movie sparks the tune. 

1. A Bridge Too Far by John Addison
     Listen to the main theme from this movie and you'll see what I mean. Maybe you won't rate it as the best (you're entitled to your opinion, no matter how wrong), but I think you'll agree that it's stirring and catchy and everything a movie score is supposed to be.