Hello, all! This post brought to you by the squirrel on Donald Trump’s head. This is the first post so far in my Music category, so of course I’ll start off with a list of my favorite genre of music: movie soundtracks. And no, Hans Zimmer is not my favorite composer. I’m sorry to have already disappointed you. I’m also going to leave out legendary composers like John Williams because although I appreciate the majesty of his movie scores, I’d rather write about some more modern composers. Your musical journey begins in 3…2…1…
My Favorite Original Movie Soundtracks
(In no particular order. How can I possibly choose?)
The Village- James Newton Howard
Best song: The Gravel Road
James Newton Howard will appear on this list a few times because he is a splendiferous composer and never bores me, even though he’s composed for hundreds of movies. I like this score because of the prevalence of Hilary Hahn’s violins, which send chills down my spine, and how expertly the score was used throughout M. Night Shamalyan’s The Village. Watch the whole scene to truly understand the tension, but 2:34 to 3:24 demonstrate excellent musical and emotional synergy.
The Hunger Games Trilogy- James Newton Howard
Best song(s): Healing Katniss, Rue’s Farewell, Air Raid Drill
What I really enjoy about Howard’s score for these movies are the thematic elements. For instance in other YA trilogies, composers are changed in each installment, but since Howard scored all three movies, he sampled Rue’s Farewell in multiple tracks throughout the series. You hear Rue’s Farewell in Tenuous Winners, Air Raid Drill, and The Tour, just to name a few. Healing Katniss is also repeated in Mockingjay. Howard adds a level of cohesion with his score that is both sophisticated and not usually found in YA Dystopian movies.
Jane Eyre- Dario Marianelli
Best song: Waiting for Mr. Rochester
Marianelli is an easily recognizable composer because of his frequent use of lush, sweeping tones. Most of his scores are quite dramatic and romantic. He’s scored quite a number of movies, including Pride and Prejudice (the Joe Wright film), Anna Karenina (also Joe Wright), V for Vendetta, and Atonement, but I chose Jane Eyre because while I like individual tracks from each of the preceding movies, I found all of the tracks on Jane Eyre to be exemplary (I have approx. 6 of them on my iPod). The majority of the tracks are melancholy and piano heavy, but this particular piece is a breath of light violins and has a sweeping tempo. It kinda makes me want to enthusiastically prepare my Gothic mansion for the return of my brooding employer. But that’s just me, you know?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (both parts)- Alexandre Desplat
Best song(s): Godric’s Hollow Graveyard, Obliviate, Statues
Desplat is another in my top tier of composers because he never misses a beat (literally) when it comes to film scores. He’s composed memorable soundtracks for The Painted Veil, Philomena, The Imitation Game, etc. I’m a sucker for Harry Potter and I chose this particular OST (original soundtrack) because of the emotional poignancy of each track. Godrick’s Hollow Graveyard was a subtle, yet effective complement to such an emotional scene in the first Deathly Hallows. I really can’t hear any of these tracks without them evoking the matching scenes in my mind and causing me to feel the immediate emotional impact. Another great piece of music from the Harry Potter series is Dumbledore’s Farewell by Nicholas Hooper (Half Blood Prince) and of course the iconic Hedwig Theme.
A Tale of Two Sisters- Lee Byung-woo
Best song(s)- Epilogue, Dark Corridor 1, Dark Corridor 2
A Tale of Two Sisters is a crafty little Korean horror movie/drama that all of you should watch right this instant! There was an American remake of it called The Univinvited which wasn’t as good as the original, but featured some pretty great music by Christopher Young. The OST for A Tale of Two Sisters is a wonderful music suite about 30 minutes long and if you have a chance you should listen to the whole suite because it’s nostalgic and horrifying and lush all at once. I love, love, love when horror movies have good soundtracks. Byung-woo Lee’s score is a perfect example of scores elevating a film’s scare factor. Here’s the entire suite, but skip around to 21:04, 3:48, and 9:02 for the tracks listed above.
Old Boy (Original)- Cho Young-Wuk
Best song(s)- The Last Waltz, Farewell My Lovely
Another lovely Korean composer, and another thrilling Korean movie. Old Boy’s score is especially interesting to me because I actually listened to the score before I watched the movie, fell in love with a few songs, and then was shocked to discover how incompatible the OST was to the film. The Last Waltz in particular sounded like a track you might hear in a European period drama, not a violent revenge thriller. I think that the OST is superior to the film, even though I did like Oldboy, and I also thought the score wasn’t utilized in as effective a way as it could’ve been. For instance, The Last Waltz is only played through a tinny speaker in the film, which I understand was integral to the plot, but I think the song is too fantastic to be used so cheaply. But that’s just my opinion. I’m sure Park Chan-wook knows exactly what he’s doing.
El Orfanato- Fernando Velazquez
Best song(s)- Un Dia de Fiesta, Atropello, Reunion y Final
El Orfanato (The Orphanage) is one of my favorite movies and my absolute favorite horror movie. I recommend that everyone see it, even if you have a low tolerance for fear, because it’s a beautifully written and crafted movie which has influenced quite a few later horror films. Like A Tale of Two Sisters, Velasquez’s OST sounds like a complete musical suite. I like to listen to the suite when I’m writing or in the mood for a dose of tension. Some of the pieces, like Atropello, are like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It might make you a bit uneasy to listen to the whole score, but give it a try! And go watch the movie! I’ve linked the playlist here. Un Dia is 5, Atropello 6, and Reunion is 13.
House of the Devil- Jeff Grace
Best song(s)- Original Inhabitants, Footsteps
Another horror movie and another stellar OST from Jeff Grace. House of the Devil is a very retro horror with a tense atmosphere and a few solid scares, but this score is epic. It’s super eerie and restrained. It makes me want to look over my shoulder every few seconds to check for demons. Definitely not a theme to listen to in the dark. Also, the cover art for this movie is on point. I want to hang the poster up in my room. FLAMING HOUSES AHHHHHH!
X-Men: First Class- Henry Jackman
Best song(s): Rage and Serenity, Mutant and Proud
Super hero movies are soooooo emotional guyssss! But in this case, the movie and the music deliver on this account. Jackman managed to create a score that worked equally well in thrilling action moments and heartbreaking flashbacks. Rage and Serenity is one of the best OST pieces of all time. OF ALL TIME, TAYLOR! I really feeeeel for Magneto, guys. He’s full of RAGE AND SERENITY!
The Prince of Egypt- Hans Zimmer
Best song(s): Deliver Us, The Burning Bush
I had to include Hans Zimmer for this because this soundtrack completes me in so many ways. I like to pretend to be Ralph Fiennes when I’m in the car and be like “YOU WHO I CALLED BROTHER, HOW COULD YOU HAVE COME TO HATE ME SO?” It’s oddly fulfilling. Every single damn song in this movie is priceless, but the two I chose are my favorite. Deliver Us is the epic biblical/ broadway song the world has always needed, and The Burning Bush is what I imagine being high sounds like. In the words of Hans Zimmer: “SAND! WATER! FASTERRRRR!” As a side note, did you know that Val Kilmer played Moses and God, so when Moses was talking to God, it was really just Val Kilmer talking to Val Kilmer doing a stupid God voice? Movies, man. They never cease to amaze me.
Avatar The Last Airbender/ Legend of Korra- Jeremy Zuckerman
Best Song(s): Peace, Last Agni Kai, Greatest Change
Technically this is not a movie, but it’s not often that I find a TV show that features such fantastic original music. Avatar is a one of a kind TV show and its music is one of a kind too. I especially love Peace because it was the score to the ending scenes of ATLA and was so cathartic to hear, especially the crescendo for Aang and Katara’s kiss. Greatest Change is of equal merit to Peace, though it’s in an inferior show. I liked Legend of Korra, but it never came close to ATLA’s greatness. If you’re stressed, listen to Peace and you’ll definitely feel Peace(ful). I’m listening to it as I type and tears are already filling my eyes. Maybe because I just watched an extremely heart-tugging episode of Chopped. Those kids just want to cook, god damn it! Also, Zuko and the Last Agni Kai is legendary. I love Zuko. He wins Character With Most Identity Altering Hair-Cut.
Les Revenants- Mogwai
Best song(s): Wizard Motor, Hungry Face
Another TV show, I know, but this OST is sooooo good and it’s alt-rock too! At least I think it is. I’m not too adept at differentiating between the different alternative genres. The kids are too hip these days! Les Revenants is a mysterious French show about mysterious French people being mysterious. It was recently adapted into a shitty American version but don’t watch that. Mysterious French people are way better at being mysterious than Americans. That’s how they invaded England. They used their mystery (ooooooh history).Mogwai is a pretty cool band and even cooler because they scored a pretty cool TV show. I don’t understand the names of their tracks, though. I feel like the threw random words together. Anyways, Wizard Motor is an ANGRY song for ANGRY SIMON, who if you haven’t guessed it is French and really angry. I like to walk down the street and pretend I too am ANGRY SIMON when I listen to this song. Hungry Face is the show’s main theme and is a nifty piece of music, being both playful and eerie at the same time. It’s also so absorbing with it’s repetition.
There are a few honorable mentions that I’ll add. Joe Hisaishi created beautiful scores for many Studio Ghibli movies. I like his Spirited Away, Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle scores best. Hans Zimmer has made more notable scores than just the Prince of Egypt and I’m partial to his Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron track. I only liked one piece from the Interstellar OST, and that was First Step, but it was such a moving piece that I do agree he deserved to be nominated for an Oscar. I’m sure I left out a bunch of phenomenal musical scores, but I tried to give some scores that were more unfamiliar to the general audience than Hans Zimmer. Feel free to add your favorite movie scores to the comments! To round it all off, here is a wonderful playlist made by Youtube user Felicjl. It’s ideal for a long period of thinking in bed or a nice cry.