Top 5 Soundtracks and/or Film Scores so good you can (almost) ignore the damn movie.

Ah, Bugs, my fave composer…hee hee (gif from Looney Tunes & Gfycat.com)

I am a film-score and soundtrack nut. Easily 25% of my CD collection (yes, I still have all mine and keep burning more) is comprised of soundtracks and film scores. That number stretches to 50% if I include classical music and the film score bits mixed in those CDs.

I love movies. Love, love, love movies. But I love music, and definitely feel that the soundtrack is responsible for 1/4 or 1/3 of the film’s success or failure. I love the invention that goes into film scores and soundtracks, trying to pick the best piece of music for the story.

I’ve seen movies and then run straight to the music store (back when we had them) or opened up my iTunes to buy the score or soundtrack right away.

Sometimes the music is so much better than the story in front of the camera. And then, unfortunately, there are tons of flicks where the music is forgettable, like filler or to over-hype some action, and I wouldn’t be able to place it unless I was listening for it directly.

Say what you want, but The Avengers theme is just a blip on my radar and the rest of the score I barely noticed it made so little impression on me. I’d probably be more inclined to watch the films if I liked the music more…but that’s for another day.

The list I have below is mostly from my own film collection. What made the list are scores and soundtracks that I listen to on their own so often I rarely (if ever) watch the films that they were made for (and I’ll let you know which).

Some music is just great as a stand-alone.

And yes, I’m limiting this list to movies I have or had, as I’ve not seen EVERY movie or heard EVERY film score. 

So, here we go:

#5–Mortal Kombat (soundtrack), George S. Clinton, et. al.

image from wikipedia.com

Nothing screams the 1990s like this crazy freaking fun soundtrack (and the film score collection, not pictured). Maybe it’s because the movie’s not considered all that great (though compared to a lot of “video-game based films” it’s a freaking masterpiece), but the music just took off and went platinum at record speed.

After buying it and listening to it on repeat, I’m not the least bit surprised.

Besides, when you’ve got the techno dance beats and the metal music all in one album, and a helluva imagination, and love for the video game, who doesn’t want to pretend or work on the punching bag kicking somebody’s ass.

I put it low on the list because it’s one of the more familiar ones to anybody who lived through the 1990s, and because the movie’s a guilty pleasure of mine. I can’t dance worth crap, but I can work my way up to going all Sonya Blade on an invisible foe (or go all Steve Rogers on a hapless punching bag–fielder’s choice).Image result for gif captain america punching bag

Yeah, the music’s so damn fun to listen to. And train to. And pretend to kick ass to…

#4–The Keep, by Tangerine Dream

Image result for the keep 1983

VHS Cover, image from Amazon.com

Ah, the 1983 film that the book’s author, F. Paul Wilson, and the director, Michael Mann, would like to forget. And many of you may not even know about.

Yes, we’re talking THE Michael Mann, director of Heat and Miami Vice and oodles of cool things. Stories of the film shoot, script, and special effects for The Keep were hellish (hard to finish good special effects when the guy in charge dies and doesn’t leave notes about the choices he made–gah!) This movie still has a dedicated following though a box office flop.

I was introduced to this movie through my dad, and it was the score that hooked me (and him initially). Unfortunately for fans, an official soundtrack has never been made widely available. Tangerine Dream did some re-works and alternative cuts, and when any that were semi-official came out, they came out in very limited printings of less than a thousand, snatched up at Tangerine Dream concerts and the like.

Sucks for fans in the States.

Bootlegs run rampant on the internet, and few have the actual film music in them (even some Tangerine Dream releases–they’re worked over and changed rather than original). Fans of this cult film have been begging for a remastered re-release of the film, and especially of the soundtrack. If you have Laserdisc or VHS you can get the movie on Amazon or Ebay, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for a DVD release. It’ll just be a crappy transfer bootleg if you see one for sale. Michael Mann was rumored to want to bury this about as much as George Lucas wanted to bury The Star Wars Holiday Special, but it’s actually Paramount that pulls those strings…but they aren’t interested in re-releasing it.

That makes it hard to see the film and enjoy the music. On the other hand, clips abound on YouTube. The Silver Crosses has fantastic buildup and is one of my fave scenes (though if you haven’t seen the movie you have no real context, but I’ll put it down anyway…though this particular clip gets a bit gory toward the end–fair warning.)

Also, there’s a mega fan out there named Kit Rae who’s taken as much of the original music as he could from the various formats and bootleg soundtracks out there. I’ll post the YouTube link for part one below (and don’t be a douche and rip it and sell it, please–this is dedicated fan work here and I want this guy to get the credit he deserves for putting it all together. Check out Kit’s webpage on this musical phenomenon while you’re at it.)

Enjoy this weird foray into German electronic music and WW2 gothic horror film.

#3.5 & #3–Titanic AND Braveheart, by James Horner

Yeah, we got ourselves a 2-for-1 deal on this one. James Horner was a fantastic composer, and left us way too soon. I put these both on the list because the music is so good and the movies so damned overrated that I never watch them anymore.

Image result for titanic soundtrack

from wikipedia

The music can stand on it’s own. I put Titanic as the lesser soundtrack because it was very repetitive (especially the choir). Yes, nobody can forget the piece Hard to Starboard, and that’s easily one of my fave cues of all time (I want the damn sheet music badly), but otherwise there are so many other musical moments that just sound alike. Very few other cues stand out other than the main theme…and then there’s THE THEME SONG (not gonna name it, dammit).

Related image

from discogs.com

Braveheart I thought was a much stronger soundtrack. It was different, and the use of bagpipes and other instruments for quieter moments, the action scenes, suspense, journeying. There are lots of moments–and yes, some repetition, mostly with tempo– but enough of a difference that the soundtrack is nice and enjoyable on it’s own. I love the warrior poet aspect that permeates this body of work.

And it’s a lot shorter than the movie, of course.

#2 —WXIII: Patlabor, The Movie 3, by Kenji Kawai

Related imageUnless you’re an anime film fan, you’ve probably not heard of this film. It’s the third (duh) in a series of films based off of an anime show called Patlabor: Mobile Police. Set in a near future where large mechs (called Labors) are used for construction, exploration, and other hazardous jobs, Patlabor refers to the special police unit who uses their own mechs to stop crime or disaster created by the Labors around Tokyo.

The movies Patlabor and Patlabor 2 are much different animals than this third movie (subtitled WXIII, or “Wasted Thirteen”). The animation style, pacing, and even the focus of the film almost makes you wonder why it’s even a Patlabor movie… This was the first Patlabor I watched, strangely enough, and then I went back for the other two).

The story’s grown on me, now that I’m older and I’ve watched all three films, but I rarely pull it out. This score has tons of atmosphere, and I’ve put many tracks on my relaxation and meditation playlist for my iPod. Safe to say, I listen to pieces of it quite a bit and just let the atmosphere take me away.

It’s a rather quiet soundtrack, with some action bits emphasized and an air of mystery. It’s a good “read a book to it” soundtrack, which far surpasses the story it was written for.

#1–Independence Day, by David Arnold

Related image

from discogs.com

This is the first film score I bought in two forms. I bought the cassette tape to fit in my Walkman, wore it out, then bought the CD when I found it on Ebay (the other was Jurassic Park).

I can’t help it. This is a great summer blockbuster film, but after watching it a few times, I was really only paying attention to the music.

I haven’t watched the movie in well over a decade. I don’t care. I pop in the CD and just get swept away by the fantastic, majestic, patriotic soundtrack.

I want sheet music for the whole thing. This is the soundtrack that made me wish I was more proficient in music so that I could play by ear on any instrument. It made me crank it up and pretend to be conducting the orchestra to play it, forcing me to listen harder and enjoy the hell out of it even more.

Am I the only person who pretends to conduct a stereo orchestra? I’m sure I’m not.

But this music is fantastic. Stirring. It varies from moment to moment, weaving a tale of curiosity, defeat, despair, determination and the absolute need to kick ass. It’s perfect for the film, but it’s absolutely delightful on it’s own.

I love this album, and will keep it in my collection forever.

And, to quote producer Dean Devlin when he heard the score (because it sums it up so well): “Leave it to a Brit to come up with some of the most stirringly patriotic music I’ve ever heard.”

Damn right. David Arnold is often overlooked in the repertoire of composers, but he’s definitely got imagination and good taste to spare.

***

So, what are some film scores or soundtracks you have or have heard that you felt were so good you didn’t bother watching the movie ever again (or nearly ever again)?

Floor’s yours…

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