Hello, everyone! I don’t think anyone has done this one yet, so here we go. 😉
I will try not to do too many musicals–I am rating these movies for instrumentals or choral pieces which aren’t intended as “songs” sung by the characters to the audience. I may or may not decide to write up a Most Memorable Musicals list at some point in the future. Or I might just hand that one off to my good friend Iris. Hmmm, now there’s a thought… ;-P
Sadly, this list will have to be limited to movies I have seen…
Honorable Mention: Rise of the Guardians. Though I’ve heard this movie bashed for its “forgettable” soundtrack, the sounds of the movie did complement the story very well, highlighting its wonder-filled and hopeful aspect. For sheer enchantment, I’d rank it higher on my list than Frozen, but its soundtrack, while imaginative and beautiful, is somewhat predictable. Memorable? Yes. But mostly because of the association with the characters.
EDIT: On second thoughts, I have to add the “Fivel” movies An American Tail and Fivel Goes West to this list, under the honorable mentions clause. Why are there so many animated movies on this list anyway? *sigh*
10. Frozen. Yes, this one only made the lowest ranking on this list. (So what?) I know you Frozen lovers out there are probably mad at me for this, but first and foremost, it’s a musical, and its biggest strength is in its big musical numbers (not the best thing for a musical, which should be able to back up its musical numbers with instrumental tracks, like The Prince of Egypt does.)
9. Brave. This one is on the list because Celtic music. I have no other explanation. (Also, it’s a mom and daughter story, though I would have loved to see them take more time with Merida and Elinor’s relationship, maybe even have them show a little more remorse for losing their tempers with one another… yeah. If I had written Brave, things would have probably had a lot more drama and a lot less angst and rebellion, which might–might–have made a better story.)
8. The Lion King. Yeah, I know there are haters out there, but while the songs/musical numbers aren’t my favorite songs of all time, I do love this movie’s instrumental soundtrack. (How sad is it when one is reduced to watching Disney movies for the soundtracks only?)
7. Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. These two ranked about equal on my list (except The First Avenger gets slightly more kudos than The Avengers, mainly due to its amazing theme pieces, but I couldn’t leave The Avengers out either…) The First Avenger was a triumph. It had a lovely vintage/retro feel to it. It was historically accurate without being corny or biased against the age it simulated. WWII technology was pushed without looking like something out of a pulp sci-fi novel. As a war movie, it is sympathetic and watchable. As a superhero movie, it’s a triumph, with a better plot and storytelling than Thor and (don’t bash me, Iron Man fans!) more heart than Iron Man. And it has a soundtrack to match.
The sounds of the movie tended more toward unobtrusive than loud or invasive, which makes it sound typical of its era. The main theme has a patriotic, triumphant sound without being stereotyped. And, perhaps most incredible of all, the composers and filmmakers knew when to leave a scene quiet (the ambiguous, ominous sense just before the train scene? Brought on by an absence of music.)
The Avengers had a good soundtrack as well. It sounds like a spy movie. It also sounds like a superhero movie. It has an alien invasion, but it doesn’t sound like an alien invasion movie, which was a good choice–portals rather than spaceships cuts new ground, after all. The sense of deep menace at points in the movie was amazingly well done. (COULSON!!!)
6. The Prince of Egypt. This movie has one of the most haunting soundtracks I have ever heard. The songs are pretty good, too, but in general… the way themes were used puts this on my list of all-time-favorite movies.
5. The Lord of the Rings. Howard Shore is on my permanent list of composers whose work to check out continuously. Not only did his theme for the Uruk-hai stick in all of our heads, but the background pieces he worked on instilled fear, or hinted at joy. Shore did an incredible job with the main themes, making minor themes into major ones or playing them slower and faster, re-mixing them brilliantly into something that was familiar but at the same time new.
4. The War of the Vendee. This movie is the Holy Grail of Christian indie movies. With a cast of all homeschooled children (not one actor above high school age, I believe), beautiful writing, incredible visuals, and marvelous acting, this movie is the sort of movie that all indie movies should be. The composer (whose name I can’t remember right now–bah!) is a protege of John Williams and in the music community is considered to be the next John Williams. There’s a story behind this–the director, Jim Morlino, met the composer, who was interested in Mr. Morlino’s work and said that he would love to provide the music for their next movie. So there you have it–one of the best soundtracks ever.
3. Star Wars. Even people who haven’t seen the movies know the soundtracks. Really. Who doesn’t occasionally hum the Imperial March at their dad (or the President, who probably thinks it’s funny too)? And who doesn’t know the theme music? (John Williams, we laud thee.)
2. Rigoletto. This one probably goes out to a limited audience. It’s a sort-of musical distributed by Feature Films for Families, with a relatively small fandom. It earned its spot on this list because though it is a musical, the instrumental parts are pure enchantment. If you haven’t seen it go check it out; I recommend it very highly. Especially this track.
1. How to Train Your Dragon, both the original and sequel. How to Train Your Dragon was perhaps the most ear-enchanting movie of the year it came out. Its soundtrack, unlike some of the other soundtracks I’ve heard, did not sound remotely like a rip-off of something else. This soundtrack brought the island of Berk to life, evoking soaring feelings to match the soaring of a dragon’s wings. I don’t know about anyone else, but I expected the soundtrack of the sequel to be more of the same.
It was not.
It went far beyond that.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 took the soundtrack from the original and played with it so it read as the same and yet new, original, and unexpected. Parts of it are deeply touching, while others carry an incredible thrill. None of HTTYD 2 disappointed at all, but the soundtrack has to be right up there alongside Dreamworks’ greatest triumphs.
So there you have it, my Top Ten Memorable Movie soundtracks. Do you agree? Disagree? Are there movies I’ve missed putting on this list that should have gotten better treatment (such as Disney movies that, again, I don’t really care for and only watch for the music)?
Anyway, thanks for reading and God Bless!