If you think long and hard about your favorite movies of all time, there’s a very good chance that the soundtrack and score that were used in the films will have played a key role in the reason why you loved them so much.

Putting together a great soundtrack in the different formats that this is presented in (and we’ll come back to that a little later) isn’t as easy as you might imagine. There are many occasions you might think to yourself that a specific song would be great for a particular scene or movie, but then you might notice that the connection isn’t as strong as you might have first thought. 

What is a Movie Soundtrack

Well, this isn’t as silly or obvious as you might think. The soundtrack of a movie is essentially every audio aspect within the production, as opposed to a soundtrack of a film you might buy in a store. 

A soundtrack, in the very strict sense, can, and usually does, include the following. An original score, a film soundtrack, dialogue, sound effects, incidental music, and background music. You might also sometimes hear people reference the work of the foley, and that’s the sound effect that might be added after in post-production to replicate an action that wasn’t picked up well on set, such as perhaps footsteps on a concrete path. 

There are many ways to go about putting together a great soundtrack from feature films with massive budgets who can hire great composers to put together an original score and help cover the cost of copyright licensing for their soundtrack, and lower budget options include the use of royalty-free music and other stock music alternatives. 

What Makes a Great Soundtrack?

Ideally, any choices made in relation to the music that appears in a film will be seamless and will play a key part in the storytelling as well as the ambiance of the production as a whole, and there is a reason, for instance, that the great filmmakers tend to stick with the same composers or select tracks from the same bands when it comes to score and soundtrack choices.

The music that appears in a film should never be an afterthought, and similarly, it shouldn’t be a case of trying to fit square pegs into round holes. For instance, an aspiring filmmaker might really think a particular song would be ideal for their project but haven’t necessarily thought it through in terms of the actual fit to the action and drama taking place in the frame. 

Music, and sound as a whole, is a hugely important tool in the armory for filmmakers, and it’s something that needs a great deal of thought and dedication. When something doesn’t fit or seems forced, the audience is clued up enough to know, which you can mitigate for. 

Three of the Best Soundtracks

To illustrate the point further, here are three great soundtracks. These are either masterpieces in terms of original score or pitch-perfect selections of existing songs, all of which help to make their respective films all the better for their inclusion.

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino is a master at music selection, and he does much of the work himself, whereas many filmmakers trust to others in their production team to take care of this element. Though by all accounts, he was assisted by friends who made vital suggestions on this project.

Tarantino’s encyclopaedic knowledge of music and film means that he is able to select the right tracks for each scene, and they aren’t necessarily well-known songs, well, at least not until they feature on his soundtracks. 

With Pulp Fiction, this was never more evident. The choice of tracks, in their relevant scenes, from the famous dance-off between Uma Thurman and John Travolta to Bruce Willis singing Flowers on the Wall when driving and spotting Marcellus Wallace, is truly breathtaking, and it’s worth noting that the soundtrack for the movie has sold almost 10 million copies, proof that as a standalone compilation it works wonders also.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Ennio Morricone’s score for this spaghetti western is as famous as the film itself. Even those who haven’t watched Sergio Leone’s masterpiece know the theme. The two-note melody that makes up the main portion of the key theme is haunting and instantly puts you in the scene.

The Italian composer has, of course, scored a number of classics, but this one will always be viewed as his pinnacle and is a score that is now evocative of the genre as a whole, such was its impact at the time of release and ever since.

Blade Runner

A great original score will help place the viewer in a time and place and add an additional layer to the director’s vision. This is undoubtedly the case with Vangelis and Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi film. 

Here the score becomes a feature of the overall visual splendor of the film and helps to show the scope and scale of what Scott was attempting to relay to the viewer, and it’s also, at times, intimate and emotive, and in this way, it is a perfect accompaniment to the project. 

Scores and soundtracks for films of a fantastical nature are a tough nut to crack, but Vangelis set the bar high with this extraordinary score which still sounds fresh, exciting, and timeless, some four decades after it was written.

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