I like movies. I like music. So it stands to reason that I like movie music, and indeed I do! Film soundtracks are the musical genre I listen to the most, but there are certain ones that I listen to more often than others. So in no particular order, here are my top five favorite soundtracks:
- The Lord of the Rings
From the charming flute solo that tells us that we’re home in the Shire, to the motif of Rohan played on the hardanger and the French horn solo that announces that we’ve arrived in Minas Tirith, there isn’t a note of music in Howard Shore’s masterpiece that I don’t like. The entire story of the The Lord of the Rings can be told through the music, thanks to Shore’s use of leitmotif- one or more themes assigned story elements that are repeated in different forms throughout the work. The Ring, for example, has several leitmotifs, while the Hobbits and Elves each have their own, as do the various realms of men (i.e. Rohan, Gondor).
I listened to this soundtrack almost non-stop while I was in college, and I still have a multi-hour playlist devoted to the film score of The Lord of the Rings. Howard Shore definitely earned his two Academy Awards for his work on this music.
2. Star Wars
Is there a theme more recognizable than the fanfare that opens each of the Star Wars films? And is there a person out there who doesn’t know what The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) sounds like? And I’d be willing to bet that almost everyone would recognize The Force Theme- you know, the one with that mournful French horn solo that plays when Luke is looking off toward the horizon in A New Hope? There is as much adventure and romance in John Williams’s multiple film scores as there is in the movies themselves, and indeed I don’t think that Star Wars: A New Hope would have made as big of a splash as it did in 1977 if it hadn’t been for that iconic score. And say what you will about the prequels, they had some amazing music.
While the Star Wars franchise lives on, John Williams is in his late 80s, and I wonder how long he’ll be around to score the new films. Who will replace him when he’s gone, and will they do as good of a job as he has done over the past forty years? Time will tell, but for now, we have some amazing music.
3. Game of Thrones
Ramin Djawadi’s epic score to the HBO series has become nearly as well-known as The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars with that opening theme that has been redone and parodied endlessly in the seven years since the show premiered. With a massive cast spread across two continents, it would be much harder to remember who is doing what and where they’re doing it if not for the musical themes that accompany the various families. There is, for example, a theme for the Starks of Winterfell, for Danaerys as she conquers nations, and the Lannister theme, The Rains of Castamere that warned Catelyn Stark (and us) that something terrible was about to happen.
Thanks to there being several seasons’ worth of music now, I have another long playlist of amazing music to listen to all day long with some songs that make me want to cheer for Danaerys as she outsmarts her opponents yet again, or throw things when I know the Lannisters are about to commit some underhanded deed. Like the previous scores, Djawadi’s music tells the store of Westeros even without the pictures that go along with it.
4. Penny Dreadful
This series from Showtime was cut short after only three seasons, but what a run it was! Featuring a cast of characters drawn from the best of Gothic Victorian tales like The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dracula, and Frankenstein, it was eerily atmospheric with a script that would twist the tongues of any but the best actors. This is a show that I will watch over and over again, regardless of the season.
Abel Korzeniowski’s score is light on its metaphorical feet as it moves from Gothic at its most dramatic and suspenseful to waltzes worthy of a high society ballroom. While the music doesn’t tell the story of Penny Dreadful as effectively as the other soundtracks do, its beauty and moodiness alone make it one of my most-listened-to playlists.
5. Pride & Prejudice
Joe Wright’s film of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is my favorite adaptation, and Dario Marianelli’s score is the icing on the cake. From the simple piano solo that introduces Lizzie at the beginning to the elegant adaptation of a Henry Purcell theme that plays when Lizzie and Mr. Darcy dance for the first time, there isn’t a note of music that’s out of place for the period or mood of the story.
The piano plays an essential part in this score. The opening, ‘Dawn’ is played by Lizzie’s sister Mary as the film opens at Longbourn, and then again in Pemberley, this time played by Mr. Darcy’s sister, and is a cue for Lizzie that she is home. Other piano themes showcase the essential English-ness of the story, and play when Lizzie and her sisters are walking through the countryside or interacting as a family. There are more sweeping parts, too, as when Lizzie goes with her aunt and uncle to visit the Peak District, where her life will completely change after an unexpected encounter with Mr. Darcy in Pemberley.
While this is obviously a much shorter collection of music than the others, comprising one movie instead of several films or seasons of telelvision, it’s a soundtrack that I’ve listened to many, many times.
So there are my Top Five Favorite Soundtracks! Which soundtracks do you like to listen to?