, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A little while back, I listed the movies with, in my opinion, the best movie soundtracks. This list will be a bit shorter, mostly because I’m listing movies with sound design that really made them stand out. In order from the last to the first in place. Please keep in mind that this is limited to movies that I have seen, and it has to be absolutely memorable and unique to get a place on the list. (I’m narrowing it down, due to the sprawling mess I had last time.) Here we go!

7. The Lord of the Rings (and possibly The Hobbit.) There were so many different, unique sounds in this fantasy staple that it was impossible to leave it off the list entirely. However, unlike any other entry, the real reason why it’s on this list is almost entirely due to the way actors’ voices were modified, whether on stage or during post-production, and the mind-shuddering realism and grittiness of the sounds. (Trust me, Legolas sliding down the stairs in a silent Douglas Fairbanks movie would not have been nearly as exciting.)

6. Big Hero Six. (Ha, it places right at its name…) I couldn’t possibly narrow this down to one signature sound, unless it was the subhuman squealing sound of the microbots in motion, especially under the control of the man in the kabuki mask. Also, the slashing hum of the magnetic-contained laser swords that Wasabi uses. Still, the second has sort of been done before, so we’re down to the microbots–which means this one only places at number six on the list. (Oh, and then there was the sounds of Honey Lemon’s chemistry experiments, and Go-go’s electromagnetic hyperspeed suspension, but still. This one didn’t stand out enough to go any higher. Sorry, Disney, but Dreamworks beats you out for originality.)

5. The Star Wars franchise. Star Wars is on this list mainly due to its ground-breaking sound design. Star Wars was ground-breaking in so many ways that that’s almost not fair to the rest of the entries on this list, so I’ll elucidate. The real reason why Star Wars is on this list is due to its ability to branch out and and continue to astonish with both its originality and variety. For instance, while there was not much that we had not heard before in The Phantom Menace, they invented the bizarre language of the insectoid Geonosians in Attack of the Clones, and who didn’t shudder at the vile sounds of the poisonous centipedes that were used in that assassination attempt on Padme? Moving on, the Clone Wars animated television series of 2008 (which also had some pretty sweet original music, beginning especially around the end of the second season–Boba Fett’s Conflicted Innocence theme, anyone? {If it doesn’t begin at 19:27, which it should, then just skip to that point–that’s where the music in question plays.}) entirely re-invented the sound of the blaster for Aurra Sing and introduced us to the wholly unique sound of a holocron being opened and/or used.

4. The Rise of the Guardians. Some of you might be shocked by the inclusion of this entry, but it really deserves this slot. The sounds of this movie, combined with the soundtrack, make the action seem so much more. There is the soft humming whir of dream sand, the brisk crackle of Jack’s ice… and sadly I can’t go much further without giving spoilers. While not nearly as auditorially stunning as it was visually stunning, it still has a unique sound feel to it, which is also necessary to the plot, given that it goes to places we, as the audience, have never seen before. As much as it redesigns the North Pole, it also redesigns the sound of reindeer bells.

3. The Captain America movies. As we see Cap using his shield in more and more innovative ways (this isn’t a one-use tool, people!), so the sound design team over at Marvel Studios has upped the ante in creating the sounds that the shield makes. (I actually have a theory for this one–since vibranium absorbs vibrations, the slight humming sound you hear is actually the utter stillness of the air around the shield. It’s a little like the ringing you hear when there is no real sound.) It really sounds like something out of science fiction, and even the most mundane clunking sound will tell you that this is neither aluminum nor steel, this is something else entirely. It’s frighteningly beautiful. Also, from the clips, the Winter Soldier’s prosthetic. Oh. My. Goodness. It has a sort of mechanical scream all its own.

2. The How To Train Your Dragon movies. One sound. The scream of the Night Fury. This sound is totally unique and, while it can be approximated by the human voice, it can not be really imitated. (It’s unsurprising that there are so many animated movies on this list–sound is a major way that they use to approximate a fictional world.)

And, in the number one spot:

1. The Kung Fu Panda movies! Being essentially based as a parody of the kung fu genre, this movie relies on its unique sound design to fuel its chi… *coughcough* *giggles* Anyway, as a kung fu movie, they kind of had to push the bill, and Kung Fu Panda‘s sound design does not disappoint. The sound–especially the soft ringing in the slowed-action sequences–lends a sense of stylized yet powerful realism to the movie. Top marks, Dreamworks. Though the TV series was utterly ridiculous and extremely untrue to its source material, when it comes to movies, Po is one I’m definitely coming back to see.

So there you have it–my list of the top seven movies with the most impressive sound design. Overwhelmingly in favor of Dreamworks. So what? Disney doesn’t seem to do that many movies which have truly outstanding sound design, even if they do now own Skywalker Sound… oh, good grief, this is giving me a headache… *snaps a rubber band at Disney and boos*

Was there a movie you think should have been on this list? Did I shortchange someone? Or did a movie that wasn’t all that spectacular, sound-wise, end up placing? Please, tell me! I want to hear your opinions!

As always, thanks for reading, and God Bless!