The role of music in movies is as old as the art of film itself. Whether the film is a musical or just uses a soundtrack to set the mood, music and images go together.
The better films are those which utilise their musical moments for a strong emotional effect to go hand in hand with the narrative.
But, you can’t always have it all. I’m grateful for when films distract me from their issues with some good music. After all, we all need a good soundtrack.
Here are five that are especially useful:
50 First Dates
I begin with a familiar choice. 50 First Dates isn’t necessarily a “terrible” film as it is a generally boring one. This amnesia themed Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore comedy is dull at best, harmless at worst. But it features a stellar soundtrack.
For example, the first track is Caribbean dancehall artiste Wayne Wonder’s Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” for a reggae-infused version of the new wave song.
It’s the perfect representation of what the album goes for with multiple island-inspired versions of eighties songs.
The whole score is a charming, joyous collection which entertains and soothes in a way the film is never able to do.
It’s a great soundtrack for when you just need a nice summer afternoon relaxing to some soothing beats.
Like 50 First Dates, it feels overwrought to be so unkind as Country Strong features credible performances from Gwyneth Paltrow, Leighton Meester and Garret Hedlund; but for all its sincerity it’s not a very good film.
It’s a particular shame because the original soundtrack is one of the strongest country albums of the current decade. The album benefits from actual country superstars (Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and Tracy Adkins) to create a soundtrack that feels real and authentic compared to the synthetic nature of the song.
What’s more, it features the decidedly un-country Coldplay penning the excellent breakup song “Me and Tennessee” which McGraw and Paltrow sing on the album.
All this makes it a perfect album for post-break up self-pity. No one can deal with the romantic blues as well as country music.
This may seem something of an odd choice considering that Pitch Perfect and its record breaking sequel are not films you immediately think as bad films, but beyond its try-hard enthusiasm and its killer soundtrack, Pitch Perfect isn’t a particularly good beacon of top tier film making.
However, it’s exasperatingly difficult to stay mad at it when it makes such good use of a capella. It’s why the soundtrack was the sixth best-selling soundtrack of 2012, bewitching us all with its lead single “Cups: When I’m Gone” peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100.
It’s a joyous amalgamation of music that feels young, buoyant, happy and expressive, which is a rarity in the increasingly sad and “heartbreak” themed music of contemporary pop lately.
Put this on when you just want to get in a good mood.
Perhaps this is a controversial choice, for Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive is considered by some to be one of finer films of the decade. I am less convinced.
Superlative in parts, the entire movie is never as great as some of its individual aspects would suggest. One of those individual aspects which support it is the excellent electronic score courtesy of Cliff Martinez is its strongest feature by a mile.
And Drive knows this, in key scenes it depends on the music to tell the story more than the actual narrative, but it works.
For anyone who needs a confidence boost to make you feel unconquerable; the sharp, decisive music of Drive is a must have. It’s the perfect pre-exam focus music.
Too easy? Perhaps. But as a nation, the U.K. must collectively own up to their sins of making Mamma Mia! the sixth highest grossing film of all time. Is it simply the lure of the greatness of ABBA?
Possibly. Who can deny the supreme excellence of Gold album?
So, sure, Mamma Mia might do its charming (albeit heavily kitschy) stage counterpart justice on screen but the soundtrack (with standout Christine Baranski) makes me mind a little less. And there really needs to be no excuse for an album of ABBA covers.
It’s always time for ABBA.
Sometimes there are films which use their soundtrack terribly, or which rely so much on their soundtrack they forget to be a good film.
In the long run, though, there are worse things which can happen to a film. It’s good to know that after the credits have rolled and we’ve been underwhelmed, or in some cases horrified that a movie that just was not very good, we can turn to the soundtrack.
The movie may have ended badly, but the music still plays on. We should be grateful for that.
By Andrew Kendall