Music: The most important part of any film

Music: The most important part of any film

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JURASSIC PARK, 1993. ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Films are a staple of nearly everyone’s media diet. Whether it’s a romance, comedy, horror or action, people like films. Some people go that one step further and say they love films. And others, like me, have a genuinely strange obsession with them. It’s gotten to the point where I can pinpoint what makes a good film so good. For Kill Bill (2003), it’s the action sequences and the faith they put into their roots. Wish I Was Here (2014) strums the heart strings so much that if you’re not bawling your eyes out by the end then there’s something wrong with you.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) did two things right, and I’ll explain the most important one last. Firstly, it captured the pure imagination (no pun intended) of the books. But that’s not important. What truly made the film for me was the musical score.

From I’ve Got a Golden Ticket to Pure Imagination there was a definite relevance of upbeat music. This played well and truly to the movies favour. Of course, I would be cheating if I used this film as an example of why music is so great. Mainly because Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is in fact a musical. The same goes for Les Miserables, two great films that have an obvious reliance on music because they’re musicals. I want to focus more on the films that, without music, wouldn’t have been the same. However at the same time they don’t rely wholly on music, but they’ve unintentionally created a need for music.

Over the course of film, soundtracks have become much more prominent. Recent films like the Guardians of the Galaxy series have allowed music to take a prominent focus within the film. Both the first and second films in the series have excellent soundtracks, hell, even the TV Show and the game has a soundtrack on par with that of the films. With a definite focus on seventies and eighties music throughout, Guardians of the Galaxy provides a focus that I never thought possible in an action film.

Still, we’ve seen much more musical prominence in action films almost forty years ago. Actually, over forty years ago in some cases. JawsStar Wars, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones are just a few examples of exceptionally memorable pieces of music. These four films do have something very important in common, they were all scored by John Williams. The iconic themes for all of these films are thanks to the work of Williams. If it weren’t for him then it’s arguable that these films would never have had the cultural impact they hold today.

Musical buffs may take a fondness to this medley, which combines all of William’s work in one hour and a half video. The transition between songs is phenomenally well done. Still, that isn’t a movie, that’s a collection of songs from movies.

My love for Quentin Tarantino’s work continues and it proves an even greater point. Why stop at having music be a prominent feature of your film when you can have a sub-plot all about it? By sub-plot I mean the film Reservoir Dogs is set during a radio airing of the “Supersonic Sounds of the Seventies”. Funnily enough, I own the CD soundtrack and I must admit, it’s a bloody good soundtrack. Setting the film during a unique time added so much more to the film. Remember the dance during the scene that features “Stuck in the Middle with You”? Improvised by Michael Madsen during the take.

Think about the opening to Reservoir Dogs, while Little Green Bag plays. Now take out the music and imagine any other song there. It’s pretty much impossible, right? Well, that’s because there just isn’t a song that could replace it. No other song would have had the same impact and it just goes to show some soundtracks are perfect for the film they feature in.

Speaking of opening themes like Reservoir Dogs, they can pretty much make or break a film. They have to be the right tone and also need to be able to display an overall feel for the film. Recently I watched Schindler’s List for the first time, another film with a John Williams score. As soon as the score first song for this film was beginning, you can instantly assume the tone of the entire film. It’s touching, tearful and above all a perfect rendition for one of the best films I’ve ever seen.

Still, I’m a couple hundred words away from hitting my quota, and to fill that out I thought I’d recommend one or two soundtracks to purchase. Now it goes without saying that the Reservoir Dogs and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory soundtracks are a definite purchase. There are one or two more soundtracks I can most definitely recommend.

Back to the Future Soundtrack

There is no other soundtrack to me that is more iconic than this. As soon as you hear the first few notes of the opening theme, you know exactly what film it is. Easily one of the most recognisable opening themes available, and above all one of the best overall soundtracks. The cover of Johnny B. Goode is one of my personal favourites. Who can honestly say that this soundtrack is anything but perfect? I didn’t even realise the soundtrack featured some of Eric Clapton’s music.

Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2

I know I mentioned this earlier on in the article but it needs a definite and solid recommendation. Both soundtracks are genuinely phenomenal for anyone who has vaguely listened to eighties music. David Bowie, Blue Swede and the Electric Light Orchestra are only a few examples of what can be found on these soundtracks. Personally I’d be buying copies of both movie soundtracks right now.

Movies would be nothing without music, it doesn’t take much to see that. But it takes longer than you’d think to truly understand why music is so important to the atmosphere, plot and overall feel of a film.