My Favorite Movie Soundtracks
I'm endlessly on the hunt for new (and good) music to listen to in my busy everyday life. From the hours I spend driving to going on long runs to trying to sleep on all the flights I take, I get tired of my music rundown pretty quickly. I also like a variety of artists, genres, and songs, which is hard to find without creating a playlist or finding one perfectly curated for you (super unlikely).
I've turned to often listening to movie soundtracks of some of my favorite films. They're all available for streaming on Spotify, they feature a strong variety of genres, both with and without lyrics, and remind me of some of my favorite cinematic moments, transplanting me right back into movie scenes that are made so much stronger by the accompanying music.
Listed here are a few of my absolute favorite soundtracks that I've pretty much exhausted on Spotify yet have not tired of. I could listen to these albums over and over again and still be just as fulfilled by listening as I was the first time I heard it. Some of them are composed of original music, while some take great but overlooked songs from elsewhere, but all stand strong as melodic accompaniments to great films.
One of my absolute favorite movies, Elizabethtown offers a fantastic set of tracks that extend the plot even further and tell the story far past the screen. Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst are quite the dynamic duo in this movie, featuring Bloom as a reserved and rather depressed dark soul and Dunst as quite the opposite, eagerly breaking into Bloom's soul and giving him a reason to want to live on.
The film follows from Bloom avoiding speaking to Dunst on an airplane all the way to his ultimate quest to chase after her, the very adventure that she originally sets him on. The music that follows them through the film is equally as lovable as their romance.
The highlight of the soundtrack, in my opinion, is Tom Petty's Square One playing in the film's final scene as it becomes evident that Bloom's character has found peace with himself again. Reflecting on his trip back to his hometown he dances around by himself and celebrates life, rather than wishing it away as he did at the film's beginning.
This movie is a quirky and dark comedy telling the story of an estranged family member (Zach Braff) returning to his hometown after the passing of his mother. Throughout the film his character begins to feel the true emotion and pain he had been masking his entire life through drugs and disillusionment.
As Graff's character begins to feel again, his world opens up and he finds himself drawn to a girl with her own set of unique problems, and throughout the movie they grow as individuals and as a couple. Each weird scene is perfectly matched with a song to set the mood and tell you how to feel in regards to such an odd scenario with often unrelatable characters.
Featuring classic bands like The Shins and Simon and Garfunkel, this soundtrack gives that eclectic but acoustic feel, radiating calmness and edginess at the same time. The film closes with Frou Frou's track Let Go, as the characters do just that, and drop their worries about what they should do to fully focus on what they want.
La La Land (2016)
I simply can't mention modern movie soundtracks without including one of my all-time favorites, La La Land, featuring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in a musical phenomenon unlike any other. The original score and soundtrack fills this visually stunning film with beautiful music and melody, allowing the main characters to shine as singers, dancers, and masters of cinema.
They sing two duets in the film, City of Stars and A Lovely Night, both of which showcase their musical abilities and contribute to telling the overall story of succeeding in Hollywood. Stone, at the end of the film, drives the point home, with her solo song Audition, how important it is to follow your dreams, no matter how unlikely they are. The film closes with the exciting and beautiful Epilogue, showcasing a transformed version of every melody in the score in one "mashup" that features the main characters living an alternative life and forcing viewers to think about all the "what ifs" in their own lives.
Composer Justin Hurwitz wrote the score, which appears in nearly every scene of the film in some way, with certain melodies reappearing in modified forms to create a more melodic and artful mood throughout the movie. Ryan Gosling began took piano lessons throughout the entire production process, and by the end he could film his scenes without a hand double or CGI.
John Legend is also featured on the soundtrack in his performance of Start a Fire. Legend, a singer and pianist, learned to play guitar for the film, but said he envied Gosling for his ability to pick up piano so swiftly.
This soundtrack and score was nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys, and more, winning accolades across many different media and setting itself apart as a powerful and dominating genre of film soundtrack. This music took a wonderful movie and made it spectacular; the visual and audio play together flawlessly and masterfully, ultimately creating a cinematic masterpiece.
This is a rather artsy film in which the soundtrack serves as the very base for the entire production. Featuring greats like Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, and Adam Levine, this movie follows a broken hearted girl and an unemployed record label exec as they attempt to fix each other's problems by creating music. Their raw, outdoorsy recording style makes their music truly relatable and magical, and Knightley's soft voice is the perfect match to the soft melodies and beautiful lyrics.
Levine plays a rockstar who lands a major record deal, so he's featured in concert multiple times on screen, with his singles hitting the soundtrack as well. They're a little different from his Maroon 5 career hits; they're slightly more on the pop side and not as edgy as he's been in the past, but nonetheless great songs to enhance both his character and the plot of the film.
The original song Lost Stars is featured in several remixes by both Knightly and Levine, serving as a kind of theme song for the film, a film about misfits just trying to find their own place and sing to their own tune in an extremely competitive world.
Me Before You (2016)
If you're looking for a good cry, this is the film for you. The soundtrack, however, doesn't radiate the same somber feeling the movie leaves you with; it's filled with light and fun tunes, more often uplifting than not. The movie doesn't get sad until the end, so likewise the soundtrack only features one or two sad songs.
Of the remaining songs, it's a great mashup and variety of musical genre and style. With both male and female lead singers, with acoustic and electronic music, you'll feel extremely musically fulfilled after simply listening to the soundtrack, without having to commit to the emotional rollercoaster that is the film itself.
One of my particular favorites is the Imagine Dragons track Not Today, which was specifically produced for the film, and which shows the band like they've never played before - in a melodic and beautiful ballad that is saddening but also uplifting, convincing listeners it's going to be okay, even though it's really hard today.
(500) days of summer (2009)
Featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt at his shaggiest, this film shows the typical millennial couple in the midst of the relatable dilemma of not knowing how to identify the relationship. Zooey Deschanel, slightly less quirky than her usual characters, stars as the love interest, but she drags him along into a courtship that never fully turns into a relationship, only sending Gordon-Levitt's character into deeper sorrow and struggle as the numbers grow higher.
The plot bounces around in time, only indicated by a slide before each scene showing the number of days that have elapsed since they met. The relationship only grows more complicated as highly contrastive scenes are placed side-by-side. One day, he wakes up and dances to work to the tune of Hall and Oates's You Make My Dreams, while others he awakens rudely to a beeping alarm and drags himself out of bed for food in his worn down bathrobe.
The soundtrack plays into the film flawlessly, with an incredible array of songs by The Smiths, Temper Trap, and much more. My personal favorite scene features a double screen, divided into Gordon-Levitt's "expectations vs. reality" in regards to an evening party at Deschanel's apartment, set to the tune of Regina Spektor's Hero. The song pairs perfectly into the disappointing vision of his hopes crumbling and reality sinking in.
All photos courtesy of IMDb