Stilwater (from In the Shade of My Wide-Brimmed Hat) - My Top 10 Favorite Film Soundtracks
#10 - The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
-I have a memory of seeing this film when I was seven and getting freaked out by it, vowing never to watch it again. A few years later, I saw it again, and I was hooked. Sure, it's little more than a cartoon, but I have a great time watching it for two big reasons. One is, obviously, Captain Jack Sparrow. But two is just the soundtrack. I could literally listen to it all day. It really nails the epic, swashbuckling adventure the film is. Not to mention some amazing theme songs that oh-so-easily get stuck in your head. Hans Zimmer, brilliant as always, did some of his best work on this one. Whenever I hear the main theme, even though I'm not a POTC fan, I start getting excited uncontrollably.
#9 - The Dark Knight
-Hans Zimmer again. And man, I love this soundtrack. While number 10 has a more lighthearted, pirate-y feel to it, this one was very dark and brooding. And that's what makes it even better. The Dark Knight trilogy is my favorite superhero film series because of its approach to the genre—a serious, more realistic, and mature Batman tale. Part of what makes it so is the incredible film score. There are not so much main themes you can hum over and over again, but the music just carries you right into the heart of the story. Guarantee that it will take your emotions on a roller-coaster ride, going from kick-butt action, to nail-biting terror, up to the exhilarating finale.
#8 - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
-I love the entire Lord of the Rings score for all three films. But if I had to pick a favorite, this would be it. Never, ever, ever have I heard a film score on such a grand, epic scale. I feel like I'm standing on Mount Everest looking out to a worldwide battle scene just thinking of some of the tracks on here. Again, it carries you right into the story and you don't even realize it. All sorts of different sounds incorporated to fit with the different Middle-earth cultures. And I must add, I catch myself singing “Gollum's Song” lots of times. One side-note, though, occasionally I feel like Howard Shore's music was overdone just a bit, as in a little too much music for too minor a scene. There's rarely a scene without the score backing it up. Nevertheless, I really love this soundtrack.
#7 - Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
-Everyone knows the Star Wars score by John Williams, covering six films total, is arguably one of the most iconic and memorable of all time. So I just had to put one of them on my list. The soundtrack for the third Star Wars film, ROTS, is the one that made it. And the reason why is because, I feel, ROTS was set apart from the other films in a lot of ways. The music was very different, and I loved that aspect. There are a lot of unforgettable themes from this one, and they stay with you for a long time. Also, unlike the other films, I think this soundtrack is the most emotional. It is nearly impossible to listen to it and not be brought close to tears at some point. You can literally hear the tragedy and sadness in it. I believe the music alone makes it stand out from the rest of the prequel trilogy. So many elements to it that I loved—music-wise, a perfect finale to the Star Wars saga.
#6 – Titanic
-Okay, I admit, the movie is sappier than maple syrup. I cringe whenever I hear Celine Dion sing “My Heart Will Go On”. But, beside from that, this has to be one of the best soundtracks of all time, and almost made it to my top five. What can I say? It brings to sound what the film depicted in images—the grand elegance and splendor of the Titanic, the ill-fated love between Jack and Rose, and the growing panic as the doomed vessel slowly sank. The main theme, with the lone bagpipe followed by the female vocals, really tugs at the heart strings. Plus, despite the story's sappiness, the love theme is probably one of the most romantic in film history. Basically I love this soundtrack from beginning to end, minus the Celine Dion song of course. This has to be James Horner's best work of all time.
#5 - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
-Well, if you know me, you'd know that at least one Disney movie would make my list, and here's one of them. I'm a Disney freak. I have so many favorites. But after narrowing down and crossing out so many wonderful Disney soundtracks, I had to pick this one. By the way, when I talk about musical film soundtracks, that includes both the songs and the score. I actually didn't realize how much I loved Notre Dame until not that long ago, but I'm glad I did. The music, simply put, floors me. The main theme is so dramatic and emotional, as well as the lyrics that later accompany it. The entire score frequently uses bells and eerie choral vocals, which adds so much to the setting of the Notre Dame cathedral and the religious themes. And I must mention the song “Hellfire”. Oh my word...I love that song. Ghastly and dark, and sensual too, but I love it. I catch myself singing it all the time just because it's so...awesome.
#4 – The Lion King
-I'm a Disney freak. I always have been. But I am a huge Lion King freak! I can say without a doubt that it is my favorite Disney film. I could talk about it all day long until you'd never want to watch it again—so instead I'll just jump right to the point. First, I'm a big lover of African music, and the Lion King score pulls you right into it. The drums, the choir, the flutes—all of it is so deliciously African. Yes, Hans Zimmer has done it again. And I haven't even brought up the songs! I literally cannot pick one favorite. “Be Prepared” is my all-time favorite Disney villain song (“Hellfire” is second). “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” makes me cry like a baby every single time—especially the credits version. It has never failed to wreck me into a bawling mess. And yes, the song “Circle of Life” does lean toward New Age ideas, but beside that, I am a big fan of this soundtrack.
#3 - Dances with Wolves
-Where do I start. I think this was the very first film score that made me cry. It brings you directly into the heart of the dying Old West and the almost-forgotten era of the Native Americans, specifically the Lakota/Sioux tribe. I've always had a heart for the Native Americans, and this soundtrack always carries me back there. The main theme wrecks me. The theme for the wolf Two-Socks wrecks me over and over. It really is such a beautiful score that makes one nostalgic for that time period again. It's like a western but on the opposite spectrum, and makes the gun-slinging cowboys out to be the villains instead. The film itself isn't perfect—it has plenty of historical flaws—but don't go one more day without listening to this soundtrack, if not watching the actual film. If you know the story of what happened to the Lakota not long after the film takes place, like the Battle of Wounded Knee, the music will make you cry for sure.
#2 - The Pacific
-This one is actually the soundtrack for an HBO miniseries, and not a film. But I can get away with that. This one wrecks me, just as number three does, but on a whole other level. Instead of breaking your heart for the evils done to the Native Americans, it breaks your heart for the horror and carnage American soldiers had to endure in the World War II Pacific theatre. Which was of course for the sake our our nations' freedom (if you're American, that is). That, plus the fact that the series is entirely nonfiction, makes it far more personal. And the score—Hans Zimmer again—plays a huge role in that. I hate to overuse this phrase, but the main theme leaves me in a wreck every time. Guaranteed. Not just because it's beautiful, but because it's relevant. The characters are real, the story is real, the terror and pain are real, and the legacy is real. I can't say anymore.
#1 - Schindler's List
-John Williams is a genius. Over the decades he's brought so many films to life with his memorable themes and scores. But I think he had his greatest moment with this one, Schindler's List. Again, like number two, it is all a true story and every event actually happened. It makes it at times hard to watch, and even hard to listen to the soundtrack. The Jewish influences and elements bring you into their world—the solo violin from the main theme is a mournful elegy for the Holocaust—and the entire symphony sweeps you away at need be. The funny thing is, few scenes have music in the backdrop at all, and it's treated as more of the exception instead of the rule. But that's what makes it so powerful. So when you do hear music, you're floored by it. It's nearly impossible to watch this film—or simply listen to the soundtrack—without feeling some level of a stir inside you. And that's what makes it my number one favorite of all time.
So those are my top ten favorite soundtracks. What are your favorites?