Sit back and let Caitríona O’Malley meet your aural needs with a collection of the best soundtracks in cinema
‘D’you like Huey Lewis and the News?’ asks Patrick Bateman, ask holding a copy of their album aloft.
For anyone who has seen the film, they’ll know all about this gruesome but darkly hilarious scene. It is from the 2000 film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s infamous 1991 novel, American Psycho. It serves as a perfect example of how integral a soundtrack is to a film. A great soundtrack can enhance any cinematic experience. My favourite soundtrack of recent years is from the 2011 film, Drive. It is a highly stylised and graphic movie. From the opening scene, it is driven by a very 80s-inspired, pulsating series of songs. A highlight is Kavinsky’s Nightcall. It is heavy on the bass drum, with warped, unsettling vocals, and it perfectly suits the edgy atmosphere prevalent in Drive.
One of my favourite films is Danny Boyle’s 1996 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s book, Trainspotting. It is a tragicomic tale of heroin addicts in 1980s Edinburgh. It has one of the best opening scenes in cinema. Iggy Pop storms through Lust for Life as Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor’s breakthrough role) and his friends tear along the streets. Renton intones a cynical monologue about ‘choosing life’ in a voiceover. Another highlight is Lou Reed singing Perfect Day as Renton, after an overdose, slides into the ground. As well as being visually impressive, it is imbued with the wistful melancholia of Reed’s lyrics.
To move to lighter ground, The Breakfast Club’s soundtrack is also worth a mention. As the credits roll at the beginning and each student arrives, the strains of Simple Minds’ classic, Don’t You (Forget About Me), are heard. It was a fantastic song on that 1985 soundtrack and it’s still excellent today. And who can forget the exuberant dancing scene in the library to the accompaniment of Karla DeVito’s We Are Not Alone? Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s mimicked it in their bedroom. John Hughes tends to make solid musical choices in his films: Ferris Bueller miming Twist and Shout on the parade float in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Pretty in Pink by the Psychedelic Furs as Andie gets ready for school in Pretty in Pink; Spandau Ballet’s True in Sixteen Candles (good one to croon in front of the mirror, oh yes).
The early films in the Harry Potter franchise were scored by legendary movie composer, John Williams. As Harry’s story became darker and more complex, though, French composer Alexandre Desplat stepped up. I loved the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. As the Warner Brothers logo slowly appears, the haunting opening piece, Lily’s Theme, plays. It’s far removed from the jaunty Hedwig’s Theme of the John Williams days. A standout from the soundtrack for me is Courtyard Apocalypse as Hogwarts prepares for the final showdown with Voldemort. Not to worry, though, it’s not all chilling. Salvation comes in the form of delicate, twinkling A New Beginning as Harry, Ron and Hermione contemplate life after Voldemort. It all comes full circle nineteen years later. The trio wave off their children on the Hogwarts Express as John Williams’ beautiful Leaving Hogwarts swells. It’s a touching end to the series, and particularly special for those who grew up with Harry.
I have to admit, I didn’t really like Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums the first time I saw it. It was a bit too absurd for me. The second time, however, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was won over by the eclectic soundtrack. As well as a score by Mark Mothersbaugh, there are plenty of rock and pop songs from different decades. Highlights for me are Judy Is a Punk by The Ramones, Needle in the Hay by Elliott Smith and The Fairest of the Seasons by Nico. It’s a lovely, strange film and the soundtrack suits it perfectly.
So remember: next time you’re raving about some film or other to your friends, don’t forget the soundtrack. Soundtracks need your love, too.