Movie Music

An old post from my old home page:

Best soundtrack ever: you know, Saturday Night Fever is pretty damn good, and i'm not sure whether i'll pick Superfly over it. i suppose if i were seeking to maintain cred, i would, but the five-song run that is "Stayin' Alive" / "How Deep Is Your Love" / "Night Fever" / "More Than a Woman" / "If I Can't Have You" is hard to argue with. and i have a tendency to think that songs made for dancing get the short end of the stick, so i'll vote for them.

and now that i've had the time to think about soundtracks, here's my long list of the great and the good, assuming a pop-rock vein and excluding musicals, which takes out Grease unfortunately (i can't comment on scores, although i do enjoy Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" from The Sting, and I love Lalo Schifrin and Ennio Morricone and Italian B-movie soundtracks in general):

original composition, a top 20 excluding soundtracks to documentary, album, and concert films (so no Who's Quadrophenia or Buena Vista Social Club or Help!):

1. Saturday Night Fever
1. Superfly
3. The Graduate
4. Purple Rain
5. Black Orpheus (which I just bought the original vinyl for, mmm. Antonio Carlos Jobim spelt his name Jobin back then.)
6. A Hard Day's Night
7. Trouble Man
8. Singles (of course there would be a Cameron Crowe movie. this one's my pick just for Paul Westerberg's "Dyslexic Heart")
9. The Harder They Come (the classic reggae soundtrack. oddly enough, while i don't own this i own the soundtrack to Third World Cop, a lesser album.)
10. Sparkle (with Aretha being sublime on "Giving Him Something He Can Feel")
11. Across 110th Street - one of Bobby Womack's peaks.
12. Shaft
13. Love Jones
14. Until the End of the World
15. Pretty Woman, for "Fallen" and for the way that "It Must Have Been Love" actually seems to work in the context of the show
16. Black Caesar: James Brown is, well, James Brown
17. Claudine, Gladys Knight and the Pips (another Curtis Mayfield production like #10)
18. Dead Man Walking, for the Eddie Vedder / Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan duet
19. Magnolia
20. Good Will Hunting which has Elliot Smith plus the lovely, heartbreaking, breathtaking Al Green version of "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"
and i would include the Astaire features Shall We Dance? and a Damsel in Distress, which both have great Gershwin songs, but i guess both are sort-of musicals.

Blaxploitation as a genre really has an embarassment of riches in terms of soundtracks: Isaac Hayes is great on Shaft but actually i prefer as whole albums the soundtracks to Superfly, Trouble Man, and Sparkle. Hayes is also good on the soundtrack to Truck Turner. Have there been any good hip-hop soundtracks? there should be more, i just can't think of any besides the ones to Love Jones, Juice, and Ghost Dog (Way of the Samurai). Above the Rim and He Got Game had only okay soundtracks.

Honourable mentions: Ghost Dog (Way of the Samurai), Juice, Truck Turner, Waiting to Exhale, Dirty Dancing but mostly for the great song selection including "Be My Baby", Romeo + Juliet for "Lovefool", Cruel Intentions for giving us Blur's "Coffee and TV", Natural Born Killers for the Nine Inch Nails tracks, most other Wim Wenders movies


For song selection, another top-ten:

1. Trainspotting
2. Pulp Fiction (hon mentions for Jackie Brown and for Reservoir Dogs, which would be in this list except I don't want to privilege Quentin T.)
3. High Fidelity (go on and see the full list of songs, not just the ones on the CD - it's pretty impressive.
4. Manhattan (many other Allens have great soundtracks: Stardust Memories, Broadway Danny Rose, Sweet and Lowdown. but this is the finest, a rhapsody in blue.)
5. Almost Famous (hon mention for Jerry Maguire)
6. O Brother Where Art Thou? (wait - does this count as original or old music when it's all new covers of very old songs? Alison Krauss is great anyway)
7. Out of Sight. Half original score (good work by David Holmes), half great selections - the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" seals it for me.
8. Rushmore ("i wish that / i knew what i know now / when i was younger")
9. The Big Chill (despite the mark against it in High Fidelity)
10. Billy Elliot ("better stop dreaming of the quiet life 'cos it's the one we'll never know") althought that's just bias because of my love for T. Rex
Honourable mention (#11-25, in no order):

Pump Up the Volume
Reality Bites
Grosse Point Blank
Dead Presidents
Priscilla Queen of the Desert for using the camp-kitsch "I've Never Been To Me"
Dazed and Confused, except I don't understand the appeal of Black Sabbath
King of Comedy (compiled by Robbie Robertson)
Clueless (for including Supergrass)
Snatch (anything with Maceo Parker, Massive Attack, Madonna and Mirwais deserves it)
Muriel's Wedding
Stand By Me
Velvet Goldmine
American Graffiti and Forrest Gump both have good soundtracks (the former might even be called great, but only insofar as they're best-of-an-earlier-era songs; as a test of song selection they're not that great. Same goes for Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion.


My top soundtrack songs? excluding all vocal standards - i can't really go on including all gershwin and porter and berlin songs - and excluding all the standout tracks from the original albums list (Mrs Robinson, When Doves Cry, Save Me from Magnolia etc.). i took "Shaft" but including any of the rest would've made me run out of space.

1. Shaft
2. Moon River ("my huckleberry friend" is the line that breaks my heart)
3. Suicide is Painless (from MASH. see #7 for more ironic-use nominations)
4. To Sir With Love
5. Late in the Evening (Paul Simon, from One Trick Pony)
6. Nobody Does it Better
7. Georgy Girl (the Seekers)
8. The Shadow of Your Smile
9. Kokomo ("Don't Worry Be Happy" loses its charm, but this song keeps it)
10. Regulate (Warren G and Nate Dogg)
11. Everybody's Talkin' (Harry Nilsson)
12. If You Leave (OMD - probably the best of the John Hughes movie-soundtrack oeuvre)
13. Car Wash (Rose Royce. The movie's basically a 90-minute music video)
14. Don't You (Forget About Me) (Simple Minds)
15. Until I Hear It From You (Gin Blossoms - my only '90s inclusion)
honourable mention to a gaggle of 90s/00s songs, which i may forget in a few years:

"That Thing You Do!" (The Wonders)
"Walls" (Tom Petty)
"Born Slippy" (Underworld)
"Thank You" (Dido)
"Heart of Mine" (Peter Salett)
"Soul to Squeeze" (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
"Independent Women Part I" (Destiny's Child)
"Life in Mono" (Mono)
"Gangsta's Paradise" (Coolio)
"Tears in Heaven" (Eric Clapton)
"Stay (Faraway, so Close)" (U2)
"Streets of Philadelphia" (Bruce Springsteen)
"Ghetto Superstar" (Pras Michel)
"Beautiful Stranger" (Madonna)
"Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me" (U2)
and a plethora of Bond songs:

"Live and Let Die" (Wings)
"You Only Live Twice" (Nancy Sinatra; trivia: roald dahl wrote the script to that show)
"The Living Daylights" (A-ha)
"View to a Kill" (Duran Duran)
and of course "Goldfinger" (Shirley Bassey).
and to the great Bacharach camp-cool tunes:

"What's New Pussycat?"
and finally to:

"I'm Easy" (Keith Carradine, from Nashville)
worst soundtrack songs of a decade?

"End of the Road"
"Everything I Do (I Do It For You)"
"Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?"
"I Will Always Love You"


Top 10 cover versions made for a soundtrack, a very 90s-oriented list compared to the one above:

1. Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head (B.J. Thomas)
2. Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon (Urge Overkill, Pulp Fiction)
3. One Fine Day (Natalie Merchant, One Fine Day)
4. Across the Universe (Fiona Apple, Pleasantville)
5. Dream a Little Dream / Les Yeux Ouverts (The Beautiful South, French Kiss)
6. La Bamba (Los Lobos, La Bamba)
7. Ladytron (Venus in Furs i.e. Thom Yorke + others, Velvet Goldmine)
8. The Shoop Shoop Song (Cher, Mermaids)
9. Batucada (Bebel Gilberto and Vinicius Cantuaria, Next Stop Wonderland)
10. She (Elvis Costello, Notting Hill)
Honourable mention to:

Boy George's "Crying Game"
Sam Phillips' "These Boots Were Made For Walking" off Pret-a-Porter
Chaka Khan's version of My Funny Valentine on Waiting to Exhale
Chantal Kreviazuk's version of Leaving on a Jetplane, on Armageddon (ick! but i do like it).
dishonourable mention to:

Will Smith "Men in Black"
UB40's "Can't Help Falling in Love"


Favourite movie-music moments, which sort of shows the quality of the music isn't always all that counts, it's often where i was in time when i watched the movie: Nicole Kidman dancing to "Sweet Home Alabama" to an entranced Joaquim Phoenix or her playing of "All By Myself" at her husband's funeral (To Die For); Jack Black strikes up "Let's Get It On" (in High Fidelity); Wayne and Garth headbang to "Bohemian Rhapsody", Garth dances to "Foxy Lady"; Timothy Hutton et al singing "Sweet Caroline" (Beautiful Girls); the tearful recollection of "Rolling With the Homies" in Clueless; Robin Williams puts on "I Feel Good" (Good Morning Vietnam); Jamie Bell dances off his anger through Durham to "A Town Called Malice"; the playing of "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" in Mr Holland's Opus; Dustin Hoffman whistles "Mrs Robinson" to himself as he exits a store in The Graduate; John Cusack holds up the boombox in Say Anything; Michelle Pfeiffer sings "Making Whoopee" on the piano; "Ac-Cent-Thu-Ate the Positive" ironically closes LA Confidential; Jon Favreau and Heather Graham dancing to "Go Daddy-O" in Swingers; Hugh Grant walks down the Portobello Road to "Ain't No Sunshine" as seasons change (Notting Hill); John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing to "You Can Never Tell" in Pulp Fiction; Franka Potente runs down the streets frenetically in Run Lola Run; the bittersweet use of "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and "I Love the Nightlife" in Last Days of Disco; the whole crew stripping to "You Can Leave Your Hat On" in The Full Monty; "Glory of Love" on Beaches; that inimitable discussion of "Like a Virgin" in Reservoir Dogs; Maggie Cheung hears "Tian Mi Mi" and the distant lovers just know (Comrades Almost a Love Story); "Lollipop" in Stand By Me; Faye Wong dances to "California Dreaming" (Chungking Express); Tom Everett Scott hits the drums too fast but just right in "That Thing You Do!"; Winona Ryder and gang dance to "My Sharona"; and "Play it Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By'."


Portishead's Dummy is the best soundtrack to an imaginary film.


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