Movie Soundtracks: What Makes ‘Em So Great?

Awesome soundtracks are those gems we can’t stop listening to, and provide a further sense of adoration for an already loved movie.  But what really makes a killer soundtrack? It’s that ability to bridge that gap between just a story and just a song. They create that cohesion between the two separates and make us want to watch a movie over and over again.

What’s even better: A soundtrack that is powerful enough to stand on its own. I’m talking about those soundtracks that are left in your car CD player for weeks until they’re too scratched to use. Those ones that inspire you to create playlists that attempt to measure up to its brilliance. It’s those albums that make you think, “I could listen to this everyday. It’s pretty much the soundtrack to my life”.

These next two soundtracks sparked that extra passion for music critics as well as us common folk. If you haven’t listened to them in their entirety: drop everything and do it right now.

1.) Garden State (2004): 

Yes, I know I’ve already praised Garden State for using Frou Frou’s “Let Go” in their trailer, but the whole soundtrack deserves a shout out as well. Indie-loving hipsters obviously loved the movie, but almost everyone couldn’t get enough of Zach Braff’s inclusion of indie-pop (The Shins’ “New Slang”, Thievery Corporation’s “Lebanese Blond”) as well as some awesome classics. This soundtrack was not only the perfect complement to the movie, but was powerful enough to win itself a Grammy as well as an average of 5/5 by iTunes fans.

This scene from the movie portrays the perfect pick of a song: You don’t have to watch the entire movie to figure out what’s going on in this scene: Zach Braff and Natalie Portman have a pretty screwed up relationship…and are essentially both self-proclaimed nut cases. But in the end they realize they can’t live without each other. Notice how the song captured that exact storyline?


2.) O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Regardless if you’re a honkey-tonkin-square-dancin’ bluegrass fan, it’s hard to criticize the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. As Amazon put it, “The best soundtracks are like movies for the ears”, and described this album as a” cinematic pinnacle of song”. Each song captivates the emotion and grittiness of the Depression era, and embeds power through song.

One scene in particular portrays this emotion perfectly. Magnificently creepy and almost too real, the song choice “O Death” by Ralph Stanley makes the  scene even more believable.

So what’s the trick to creating a mind-blowing soundtrack? Most importantly, use music that is cohesive with the movie genre. It will elevate the movie to a new level, while simultaneously creating that nostalgic bond. But also keep in mind that an award-winning soundtrack has the power to stand alone.


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