Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Favorite Soundtracks/Scores of the Decade

This week I'm tackling some of my fave soundtracks/scores from the 2000s, taking my cue from Jeremy Richey's similar post over at his Moon in the Gutter blog. In no particular order, here are the ones stood out and continue to stay with me over the years.

Ocean's Eleven (2001) by David Holmes:
I was tempted to rank his work on the other Ocean's films as well but if pressed, this is probably my fave with its funky nods to hip composers like Lalo Schifrin and Quincy Jones among many others. And yet it is still its own thing. Best of all the music compliments Steven Soderbergh's slick style and the breezy, confident way the film carries itself.

Death Proof (2007) by Various: I'm not a huge fan of this film but it does have an incredible soundtrack - a fantastic collection of tracks. Say what you will about Quentin Tarantino but the man knows his music. He sets the perfect tone with "The Last Race" by Jack Nitzsche over the opening credits and features fantastic cuts from the likes of Ennio Morricone and T. Rex (great choice!). He also goes old school R&B with the likes of Joe Tex and The Coasters. Great stuff.

Swordfish (2001) by Paul Oakenfold: Say what you will about this film (which starts off great but gets weaker as it goes on) but it does features a slammin' electronica score by Oakenfold that fits perfectly with the hi-tech vibe of this fast-paced action film. He achieves a certain tempo with his music and never lets up. This is one soundtrack that gets heavy rotation on my iPod.

24 Hour Party People (2004) by Various: This subversive, playful look at the Manchester music scene during the late 1970s and 1980s features a killer soundtrack of period music, from "Anarchy in the U.K." by the Sex Pistols to "Kinky Afro" by the Happy Mondays. Throw in lots of Joy Division and some New Order and you've got something really special and a mosaic of music that takes me back to that time every time I watch this film.

Snatch (2001) by Various: I almost picked RocknRolla (2008) over this one as it features a great collection of songs as well but this one is just a bit better with a fantastic mix of electronica (Overseer), old school R&B (Maceo & the Macks), New Wave (The Specials) and pop music (Madonna). But perhaps the coolest musical cue in the film is when Brad Pitt's boxer prepares to enter the ring for the climactic fight to the epic sounds of Oasis' "Fuckin' in the Bushes." It just doesn't get any cooler than this.

Almost Famous (2000) by Various: As you would expect from a Cameron Crowe film about classic rock from the 1970s, there is an incredible collection of songs that takes you through the decade. In a rather impressive coup, he even got permission from Led Zeppelin to have excerpts of five (!!) of their songs played throughout the film. They are notorious for being stingy with having their music in films. In addition, you've got The Who, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys and, of course, the iconic use of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" in one of the best moments in the film.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2004) by Mark Mothersbaugh: In addition to Wes Anderson regular contributer Mothersbaugh's wonderful score, the film features an amazing selection of music that compliments the images so well. Who could forget the use of the Rolling Stones in the touching scene between Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow's characters? Or the haunting Elliot Smith track "Needle in the Hay" when Wilson's character attempts suicide? That one still gets me every time.

High Fidelity (2000) by Various: This film features an impressive 70 song cues and is as diverse and eclectic as the music-obsessed characters that populate it. You've got the Kinks, the Velvet Underground and the Beta Band, in addition to a brilliant use of "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & the Waves which introduces Jack Black's blustery force of nature character in what has to be one of THE best intros in a film.

Lost in Translation (2003) by Various: This wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack is headlined by My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields but also features solid tracks by the likes of Squarepusher, Death in Vegas and Air. But who can forget the classic scene between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson's characters set to "Just Like Honey" by The Jesus and Mary Chain? Magic.

Zodiac (2007) by David Shire: This soundtrack deserves mention if only for David Fincher getting the great David Shire out of retirement to compose a wonderfully minimalist and creepy score that fits alongside an impressive collection of period music from the likes of Santana, Sly and the Family Stone and using "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan in a genuinely unsettling way that I will never forget.

Once (2007) by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová: This film features deeply personal, intimate songs by Hansard and Irglova that help get you closer to their characters and show how music brings these two lonely souls together. "Falling Slowly" even won (deservedly so) the Academy Award for Best Original Song the year it was nominated.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002) by Jon Brion: It was really hard picking a score by Brion as he has done so many great ones but this one really did it for me. Eclectic as the film itself, it features extensive use of a harmonium and memorable use of "He Needs Me" from the Robert Altman film Popeye (1980) with vocals by Shelley Duvall, which only adds the quirkiness of this unique romantic comedy.

Birth (2004) by Alexandre Desplat: His atmospheric score for this great film only enhances the Kubrickian chill that director Jonathan Grazer creates for this thought-provoking effort. It constantly throws you off-balance and creates a subtle feeling of unease as you delve deeper into the mysteries of the story.

In the Mood for Love (2000) by Michael Galasso & Shigeru Umebayasi: This is another fantastic atmospheric soundtrack that really captures the feel of 1960s Hong Kong. The music also manages to convey the longing that the two main characters have for one another in such an evocative way.

Mulholland Drive (2001) by Angelo Badalamenti: Lynch and Badalamenti have collaborated on some of the most haunting, atmospheric scores, perfecting complimenting the images from his films and this one is no different. However, the film's sonic highlight comes when Rebekah Del Rio sings an absolutely astounding a capella version of Roy Orbison's "Crying" in Spanish. It is an emotionally powerful moment in this masterpiece of a film.


  1. birth has a great score. & i love the lost in translation soundtrack. good choices overall!

  2. Great stuff, and great idea to not just focus on scores. I need to do another one focused on song driven soundtracks as well. I love all of these and am kicking myslelf that I forgot to include ZODIAC.

  3. MrJeffery:

    Thanks for stopping by! Isn't BIRTH a good one? And I really enjoyed Kevin Shields' work on LOST IN TRANSLATION.

    Jeremy Richey:

    Yeah, people forget Shire's work on ZODIAC. He doesn't contribute a huge amount of music but what he does is very good. I would be very interested in seeing your best of picks for song-driven soundtracks.

  4. What a wonderful and eclectic mix of movie music, J.D. You've included two of my favorite and mesmerizing music moments: Soderbergh's Claire de Lune sequence and Rebekah Del Rio's Crying spanish rendition. Magic...

    Great, great post, my friend. Thanks for this.

  5. Happy New Year! I hope you've been having a great holiday season. Mine has been wonderful except for my cable modem dying on me. I just did a new post with a big announcement in it. I hope you'll check it out. Thanks. Take care. Have a fantastic holiday weekend. Cheers!

  6. A fine list. Then again, it includes many of my favourites. 24HPP is a grand movie.

    Happy New Year!

  7. le0pard13:

    Thanks for the kind words! Yeah, the Claire de Lune seq. in OCEAN'S 11 is wonderful and winds the film down on a wistful, emotional note.


    Hey Keith! Nice to hear from ya and good to hear that you had a good holiday despite your cable modem frying. I will definitely check out your blog. Thanks for the heads up.

    Mark Salisbury:

    I couldn't agree more about 24HPP. Great film. Thanks for stopping by. And Happy New Year to you as well!

  8. ONCE of course is great choice.

    I must propose:

    Elmer Bernstein (Far From Heaven)
    Clint Mansell (The Fountain)
    Phillip Glass (The Hours)
    Michael Nyman (The Libertine)
    Alexander Desplat (Girl With A Pear Earring)

  9. Sam Juliano:

    Great choices! I esp. liked your picks of Elmer Bernstein (a score that evokes the Douglas Sirk/Vincente Minnelli melodramas of the 1950s) and Mansell's score for THE FOUNTAIN which is amazing. I had forgotten about those!

  10. I think Cameron Crowe and Sofia Coppola are masters when it comes to soundtracks. Although the only one I own on that list is Once. Falling Slowly is a gorgeous song

  11. A solid list! I would submit (being an enormous Philip Glass fan) his scores for Notes on a Scandal, Animals in Love, The Fog of War, and Cassandra's Dream; Danny Elfman's (Glassian) score for Standard Operating Procedure, and, of course, Johnny Greenwood's for There Will Be Blood.

  12. filmgeek:

    Yeah, Crowe assembles some really great soundtracks. I love the one he put together for SINGLES but that's also 'cos I'm a huge fan of that whole grunge sub-genre. And Coppola is quite good too. I really love the music she used in THE VIRGIN SUICIDES including my fellow countrymen Sloan!

    Sean Gill:

    Hey! thanks for stopping by. I do dig Glass as well. I really love the score he did for CANDYMAN. A classy soundtrack for a horror film. What a great idea...

    And yes, Greenwood's score for THERE WILL BE BLOOD is a keeper. How could I have forgotten that one?