Filed under: Editor Picks, Features | Tags: Beta Band, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Cat Stevens, Creation, David Bowie, Dick Dale, Editor's Picks, Frou Frou, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Iggy Pop, Jack Black, John Lennon, New Order, Quentin Tarantino, Seu Jorge, sufjan stevens, Swell Season, The Shins, The Who, Velvet Underground, Wes Anderson
I’m a huge movie fanatic, and music worshiper too, so it only makes sense that I really love movies with great soundtracks. A bad soundtrack doesn’t really break a movie, but it can make it a whole lot better. Music is cool like that. So thus, I’ve compiled my Top 10 soundtracks over the 21-year span of my movie-watching career.
A rule of thumb in finding good soundtracks is knowing the directors who appreciate good music, and the best kind of music used in films is usually semi-obscure classic rock music. These usual suspects are none other than Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino. These two are geniuses at finding music that contrast, and at the same time, blend with the style of their films. That’s why the music sticks out. Typical Wes Anderson is playing David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” in a closing scene with Bill Murray jogging. Tarantino is another fan of 60s and 70s classic rock and usually layers them in his legendary dialogue scenes. These two will no doubt pop up in the Top 10.
For me, at least, good soundtracks are not just good mix tapes, but they have to work hand-in-hand with the movie.
The Top 10 (Not ranked in order)
1) High Fidelity
Not only is this movie one of my favorites of all time, it’s stacked with great songs by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Beta Band, The Velvet Underground and the Kinks. I discovered a lot of cool songs off this album, and they all work really well together. There’s even a cover of “Lets Get it On” by Jack Black in it. What’s not to love about that?
2 and 3) Rushmore and Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Half of these movies’ charm are in the soundtracks, and they’re both classic Wes Anderson. Rushmore is filled with classic hits by Cat Stevens, John Lennon, Velvet Underground, Creation and the Who. They’re all off-beat songs with quaint feeling. The songs are handpicked to catch you off guard in their respective scenes. Even if Anderson is a one-trick pony filmmaker, he knows his music. Although Life Aquatic isn’t as complete a soundtrack as Rushmore, it gets recognition for me exposing me to Brazilian songwriter Seu Jorge.
4 and 5) Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs
I paired these two Tarantino films together because they do the same thing, but still make two awesome soundtracks. Without the soundtracks in these movies, they’d probably lose a step. Take Pulp Fiction for example, the credits set the pace with “Misirlou” by Dick Dale. It hits you in the face, like “wow, here we go!” Tarantino does a lot of the same things Anderson does, except he’s doesn’t use humor in his soundtracks, he adds coolness with his selected music.
This one gets this nod because the music was written for the movie, which is highly impressive. The film was all about the music in this case; in fact, it was more like a musical. The music was filled with fiery and passionate acoustic ballads about love and heartbreak. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova had me at the first note. The cool part is the actors and Swell Season band mates dated for a long time, but recently broke up. I loved this soundtrack so much I saw them perform live twice and met them both in person.
7) Little Miss Sunshine
This soundtrack is only here because it introduced me to Sufjan Stevens, whose name I still can’t pronounce correctly. Great movie though.
8 ) Trainspotting
This is the kind of movie that’s so good, it doesn’t even need a soundtrack, but it made it so much better. Bolstered by great hits by Iggy Pop and New Order, this soundtrack is full of illustrative songs about the drug culture in England during the late 80s and early 90s. Not to mention, playing Iggy Pop along with Ewan McGreggor running for his life made him look really cool.
9) Hedwig and the Angry Inch
This was a very weird movie about rock n’ roll tranny touring the world in pursuit of a long lost lover, but the music is all original. The music is all about the life of a heartbroken tranny, but the lyrics are poignant and a few songs are bad ass rock ballads. A quality album, especially the song, “Origin of Love.”
10) Garden State
Ahhh, last not but not least, Garden State. This is the only case where the soundtrack was miles better than the movie. Lots of indie kids think this is the greatest soundtrack of all time, and it did really well for itself at record stores when people still bought music. It might’ve been the biggest bridge for out-of-the-loop kids in suburbs to get exposed to indie bands like the The Shins and Frou Frou.
Here are some samples I talked about:
“Queen Bitch” in Life Aquatic
“Origin of Love” in Hedwig and the Angry Itch
–Jett Wells, Reviews Editor