Credit: Dreamworks records

The top 10 film soundtracks and scores

By Tomek Kutereba

We’re looking at you, Shrek 2.

It is often said that a film is nothing without its music. A decent film can be heightened by its use of score, or a terrible film can be made memorable through the catchy songs placed throughout. Without further ado, here’s a countdown of our top 10 favourite film soundtracks. 

10.  Babylon (Rosso, 1980)

Currently on Netflix and a film you must see, Babylon is a brilliant piece of social realism documenting the lives of Black Londoners, many of Jamaican descent, living in Brixton during Thatcherism. A thoroughly rich piece of filmmaking exploring “sound system” culture and suppressed upon its release due to its sharp and honest portrayal of institutional racism in Britain. All accompanied by a glorious score by Dennis Bovell, full of grooving and cerebral reggae music. Addictive. 

9. Beetlejuice (Burton, 1988)

No word of a lie, Beetlejuice is a classic film with an absolute slapper of a soundtrack. The Harry Belafonte tracks, laced in amongst Danny Elfman’s eerie, yet beautifully cheesy score just adds that salty twist to this most perfect margarita of a film. Notable moments including the iconic Day-Oh! dance fest at the dinner party or Winona Ryder being hoisted in the air to the tune of Jump in the Line. That’s some good stuff right there.

8. Drive (Winding Refn, 2011)

Turning 10 this year, Drive still is a moment in time. It’s beautiful synth-laden, ambient score by Cliff Martinez was mixed perfectly with the more ethereal synth-pop songs scattered throughout. Arguably, Drive set the tone for the decade, having an impact that extends beyond the film industry itself. You can witness its influence upon alternative (often synth-heavy) mainstream pop acts of the 2010s such as Lorde, The Neighbourhood, The 1975 and even Billie Eilish. Such a great soundtrack for a great, refreshingly modern take on neo-noir cinema.

7. Tenet (Nolan, 2020)

If there’s one thing people could take away from 2020’s Tenet, it was certainly the music. Perhaps a plus side to the awful sound mix was that it put this intense and thumping soundtrack on full display. Shoutout to Ludwig Goransson, notable for his visceral score for 2018’s Black Panther, who provided such a crushingly brutal and modern score for this film (in absence of Christopher Nolan’s typical choice of Hans Zimmer). Seriously, I chose to write this article as an excuse to blast this soundtrack in my kitchen and piss off my flatmates. It goes off.

6.  Perks of Being a Wallflower (Chbosky, 2012)

I cried in front of my girlfriend’s little sister while showing her this film for the first time. Maybe it’s me, but hey, it’s a great soundtrack so I’m not the least bit sorry. If you can get past that horrible gut feeling you get when you remember that Morrissey exists, then this film’s inclusion of The Smiths’ track Asleep can really do a number on you. Like damn, even people I know who don’t like this movie can still agree the soundtrack is great. Just ignore the fact the music-obsessed 80s teens didn’t know David Bowie’s Heroes when they first heard it… 

5. The Lord of the Rings (Jackson, 2001-3)

Now begins the process of me putting in traditional scores I enjoy just so people take me seriously. So here you have it, The Lord of the Rings trilogy are some of my favourite films in existence and its music by Howard Shore moves me to no end. Samwise The Brave? Instant tears. The main theme? Instant classic – and it’s mental to think these films are only 20 years old. Don’t even get me started on the absolute bop that is Concerning Hobbits. Next soundtrack. 

4. Star Wars (1977-)

John Williams anyone? Oh, don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him, he’s a low-key indie artist with only 52 Oscar nominations. No big deal. Scores a few indie sleepers here and there. One of them is this Star Wars thing, I think it’s some kind of franchise, I like the one where the bad guys strike back, or something like that. It’s pretty underground, so I wouldn’t blame you for not seeing it.

3. Shrek 2 (Adamson, Asbury, and Vernon, 2004)

OK, hear me out. I know some of you reading this might be die-hard Shrek fans. But does the first Shrek instalment have Jennifer Saunders blasting her heart out to Holding Out for a Hero? No. It doesn’t. Can’t talk about this film’s soundtrack without also mentioning the honestly heart-wrenching song I Need Some Sleep by Eels, during one of the most emotive sequences in the film when Shrek is kept up at night suffering from imposter syndrome. We’ve all been there, Shrek, hang in there buddy. One way ticket to Funky Town, please.

2. The Full Monty (Cattaneo, 1997)

Jumping to 1990s Sheffield, we have the greatest film ever made about male strippers prior to Magic Mike. Set to a glorious compilation of British soul tunes from the 70s and 80s, we see Robert Carlisle and co. shaking what their mothers gave ‘em in this heart-warming story of redemption and self-empowerment in the face of struggle and the decline of heavy industry. Top tracks include Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate and Donna Summer’s utter anthem Hot Stuff. Banger after banger, a true miracle, you could say.

1. Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996)

I mean, the game was rigged from the start wasn’t it? I honestly don’t think I could put any other film ahead of this absolute cultural gem. It would be treason. Maybe I am biased, but nothing matches the rush of seeing Mark Renton absolutely leg it down the streets of my hometown to the pace of Lust for Life. You hear a lot of folk bang on about Pulp Fiction or Guardians of the Galaxy, but no, they can keep those soundtracks for themselves. I choose Trainspotting every time. Timeless.

Honourable Mentions:

Dark Knight (2008)

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Dope (2015)

Pretty in Pink (1986)

Straight Outta Compton (2015)


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