What is your favorite movie soundtrack?
Let me preface this by saying I’ve only picked films that I’ve seen at least 5 times. What does this say about me?
- I really like movies.
- I watch movies I like multiple times.
The only exception to this rule is noted below.
The 5th Element
At one point in my life I was seriously obsessed with this movie. I can still recite all the lines before the actors say them and I know each character’s costume changes. I also recently discovered that the costumes were designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, whose fantastic (in every sense of the word) exhibit I saw at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. But what really makes this movie great is its soundtrack. Eric Serra does an amazing job of dropping us in right away. A lot of the tracks are atmospheric with sounds of spaceships, computers, and unknown digital futures leading the way. But one of the most powerful scenes in the movie is an opera performance. The piece is “Il dolce suono” from the 3rd act of Lucia di Lammermoor (music: Gaetano Donizetti/lyrics: Salvadore Cammarano). Performed by Inva Mula and the London Symphony Orchestra it is heartbreakingly sad, and to this day I can’t watch the scene without crying.
I grew up as a Disney kid. Having my aunt as my babysitter, she would bring over one classic musical and one Disney movie each time and we got our old Hollywood/Disney education this way. Even now I still feel the need to see Disney movies as they come out, especially the princess/leading lady ones. So when Mulan came out, I was excited. Really excited. Not only was she an update to the traditional Disney princess motif, but she also was a cross-dresser! She bended gender norms! To celebrate this part of her story, the male army sings “Be A Man” which is both hilarious and kind of cryptically pokes fun at male stereotypes. One line in the chorus is “mysterious as the dark side of the moon.” I feel this might both be a reference to Pink Floyd and the feminine side of masculine, since the moon has long been traditionally associated with all things female. Maybe Disney wasn’t thinking that hard about it, but it still makes for a karaoke anthem if I can just find a spot that has it…
While not a traditionally “loved” movie by any means, Taxi Driver captures the post Vietnam depression and sense of loss that permeated the country at the time. We have both a heartfelt “good guy” and creepy obsessive compulsive in the same character. We have the hype of politics set against the background of teen prostitution. There are intense periods of action and long scenes of just driving through the rain of New York city. The soundtrack plays into all of these feelings. Led by a lonely saxophone, we follow the strange journey of Travis Bickle, the country’s mainly failed attempts to deal with Vietnam Veterans and the culture of the time, and the film’s trajectory.
Here is my exception to the rule. I have only seen this movie all the way through once. BUT, I have listened to the soundtrack an uncountable number of times. While this is not a movie for me by any means, many, many people love and admire this movie. In my opinion, one of the main factors of this is the soundtrack. It rocks. I don’t need to see any of the movie to appreciate the music and that’s fine by me.