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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

My Favorite Movie Soundtracks of All Time

One of the things I immediately notice about any film is its music. Whether it's a pop song compilation or a full orchestral score, there is no denying just how much a good soundtrack can add to a film. Throughout the 2000+ movies I've seen over the course of my sixteen years on this Earth I thought I would share my favorite movie soundtracks of all time.

#16: Phantom Thread (2017) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

Composer: Jonny Greenwood

Jonny Greenwood is without a doubt one of the most brilliant working composers currently working, and his work on Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread is proof of that. The delicate piano songs perfectly capture the film's vintage, beautiful, yet deeply suspenseful atmosphere. It's remarkable just how much emotional tension the composer is able to portray in a classical piano score. While it's a far cry from Greenwood's work in Radiohead, it's still one of the best and possibly most relaxing scores to come out of the 2010's.

#15: Rushmore (1998) dir. Wes Anderson

Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh

Wes Anderson's Rushmore actually has a traditional background score however where the music really shines is in the glorious compilation of classic and oldies rock songs. Wes Anderson originally intended for his film's soundtrack to consist entirely of songs by The Kinks however by the time production was finished, only one song by the band remained on the album. While being a deeply flawed film in many regards, Rushmore's amazing music should stand as an example for coming-of-age soundtracks everywhere.

#14: Trainspotting (1996) dir. Danny Boyle

Composer: Various Artists

In conversations about great soundtracks, Trainspotting always makes an appearance, and for good reason. It can't be denied just how different this film would be without its extraordinary compilation. It's remarkable just how many songs this movie has turned into classics such as "Lust For Life," "Nightclubbing," and especially Lou Reed's "Perfect Day." Despite just how many times I've seen Trainspotting over the years, its soundtrack will never cease to amaze me.

#13: Full Metal Jacket (1987) dir. Stanley Kubrick

Composer: Vivian Kubrick

Similar to Mark Mothersbaugh's work in Rushmore, the soundtrack for Full Metal Jacket consists of various pop/rock songs that perfectly fit the movie's tone. In order to avoid accusations of nepotism, Vivian Kubrick went under the pseudonym "Abigail Mead" when she made this compilation, which includes songs from Nancy Sinatra to the Rolling Stones. The music of Full Metal Jacket has got to be the most wrongfully overlooked aspect of the movie.

#12: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) dir. Henry Selick

Composer: Danny Elfman

Quite possibly the most iconic score in the catalogs of Danny Elfman, Disney, or Tim Burton. The Nightmare Before Christmas has some of the best melodies and arrangements out of anything in Tim Burton's filmography. Although this soundtrack has so many memorable lyrical songs, the pure orchestral arrangements have got to be my favorite. Every song from The Nightmare Before Christmas feels so nostalgic and immersive, it's easy to see why this has become one of Danny Elfman's most beloved scores.

#11: Moulin Rouge! (2001) dir. Baz Luhrmann

Composer: Craig Armstrong

Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! was one of the first movies/musicals I ever became truly obsessed with and a huge reason for that is the spectacular music. For the soundtrack, Luhrmann and Craig Armstrong combined various iconic pop songs with classical/remixed arrangements to create something truly unique and beautiful. It totally embraces its campiness and doesn't take itself too seriously, which is something I wish I saw more of.

#10: Submarine (2010) dir. Richard Ayoade

Composer: Alex Turner

This is the shortest soundtrack on the list, only having a tracklist of only six songs, one being an intro. However it still stands as one of my favorite movie scores of all time. Each song was written by Arctic Monkeys frontman: Alex Turner who perfectly captures the film's tone by making every track lo-fi and intensely personal. There's no doubt in my mind that Alex Turner's Submarine should stand as an example of a perfect coming-of-age soundtrack.

#9: WALL-E (2008) dir. Andrew Stanton

Composer: Thomas Newman

For me, everything about WALL-E is just pure, unadulterated nostalgia, and a lot of that has to do with Thomas Newman's phenomenal soundtrack. Among others, it has been one of my go-to scores to study to because of how relaxing it is. When it comes to animated movies, WALL-E has got to be one of the most beautiful soundtracks I've ever heard. I don't think I'll ever get tired of Thomas Newman's work.

#8: La La Land (2016) dir. Damien Chazelle

Composer: Justin Hurwitz

I sincerely hope Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz never stop working together. I vividly remember seeing La La Land in theaters back in 2016, and the music has never truly left my mind. Justin Hurwitz' score has absolute gems such as "Planetarium," "Mia and Sebastian's Theme" and the crown jewel, "Epilogue." There's a reason Justin Hurwitz won the Oscar for Best Original Score.

#7: Modern Times (1936) dir. Charlie Chaplin

Composer: Charlie Chaplin

The fact that Charlie Chaplin not only directed this film but also wrote all the music will never not impress me. Modern Times has so many classic tunes that I never knew the origin of before watching it. This movie radiates so much pure joy for me and a lot of that is due to the amazing score. The "Nonsense Song" scene has got to be one of my favorite movie sequences ever.

#6: Aladdin (1992) dir. Ron Clements, John Musker

Composer: Alan Menken

When it comes to Alan Menken's work with Disney, there are dozens of soundtracks that could've easily taken up space on this list. However for the sake of brevity I decided to choose my favorite soundtrack of his, 1992's Aladdin. There are so many incredible, Broadway-esque songs throughout the movie thats I absolutely adore. It was a close tie between this and The Lion King however I don't think any other Disney film could truly top this one.

#5: The Incredibles (2004) dir. Brad Bird

Composer: Michael Giacchino

Watching The Incredibles at five years old was the first time I can remember paying attention to a film's music. Michael Giacchino has got to be hands down one of my favorite living composers and his work here is probably the best Pixar soundtrack so far, which is saying a lot. Despite being a movie made prominently for children, you can tell just how little creativity was compromised. Michael Giacchino is so amazing at what he does.

#4: Psycho (1960) dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Composer: Bernard Herrmann

What list of soundtracks would be complete without Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho? Out of all the Hitchcock masterpieces like Vertigo and Rear Window, none truly compare to Bernard Herrmann's score in Psycho. It's incredible just how vividly each song is able to convey this sense of dread and panic, which is something I never thought music was capable of. This stands as a perfect example of why Bernard Herrmann is my favorite film composer of all time.

#3: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) dir. Jacques Demy

Composer: Michel Legrand

Very rarely has a film completely amazed me on first watch quite like Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Everything about this musical feels so put together and breathtaking but nothing can truly compare to the soundtrack by Michel Legrand. Every song captures a wonderful sense of whimsical sorrow. It's easy to see how this movie influenced Damien Chazelle's La La Land. I cannot wait to explore more of Michel Legrand's composing work in the future.

#2: Her (2013) dir. Spike Jonze

Composer: Arcade Fire, Owen Pallett

Few things in this world have made me as excited as when I found out the Her score was being formally released on vinyl. I've always been a decent fan of Arcade Fire but this soundtrack made me see them in a whole different light and I'm thoroughly impressed. Similar to a Jonny Greenwood or Thomas Newman score, the Her soundtrack flawlessly captures the hopeful depression and lonliness that is present throughout the film's entire runtime. I ordered this on vinyl mere seconds after I heard about it and I don't think I'll ever regret that decision. This soundtrack is perfection.

#1: Taxi Driver (1976) dir. Martin Scorsese

Composer: Bernard Herrmann

This became my favorite soundtrack the second I heard it. Despite all of the other iconic work by Bernard Herrmann, I consider the Taxi Driver score to be the crown jewel of his career. The opening theme has to be my favorite song ever written by a movie and made me get into classical jazz as well. This was the first soundtrack I ever got on vinyl and considering how long I've been listening to it on the regular, it will always have a special place in my heart. Long live Bernard Herrmann.

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