From Air’s dreamy breakout score for The Virgin Suicides to the witching-hour ambience of Drive, these are the musical masterpieces behind the movies
THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (1999)
As the 90s drew to a close, French duo Air invented a new sound for suburban dysfunction and defined an era with their hopelessly dreamy original film score for Sofia Coppola’s dark and whimsical directorial debut The Virgin Suicides. When Air spoke to us about the iconic soundtrack earlier this year, they said, “I think the real spirit of the soundtrack is this fascination with death and with having your spirit floating when you die and how you may suddenly feel free and liberated from earth, from all you are and the adult’s world that you actually hate.”
The most memorable part of Nicolas Winding Refn’s neo-noir indie thriller Drive was undoubtedly it’s soundtrack, a deeply atmospheric collection of electronic gems that has since become iconic. From the lush, distorted synthesisers and bubbling piano of Cliff Martinez’ original film score, to the witching-hour ambience of Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” and Desire’s achingly seductive “Under Your Spell”, this was the soundtrack that spawned a wave of cinematic, French-style electronica and set the bar high for musicians and filmmakers alike. When we interviewed Refn last week, he also spoke about how he used the theme song from slavery doc Goodbye Uncle Tom, adding: “Nobody knows unless I tell them.”
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004)
Would Michel Gondry’s breakout film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind be so deeply gut-wrenching if it wasn’t for Beck’s bleak cover of “Everybody Got to Learn Sometime”, a song that manages to embody all the disappointment, hope and regret of real heartbreak? Who knows, but the Academy Award-winning soundtrack has become one of the most iconic (and tear-inducing) in the past decade. In a 2004 interview with Dazed, Gondry spoke to us about the film's use of memories: "I was reading in a book about the brain that we have the feeling of nostalgia when we think of a memory because the mind knows it is a moment of time that will never appear again." *Sob*
From the drawling drums of Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing” to the heart-thumping, pill-popping synth of Underworld’s “Born Slippy” and the slow-burning piano chords of Blur’s most underrated track “Sing”, the soundtrack for Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting is perfectly crafted and hugely influential. With its swaggering (and depressing) ode to British drug culture, the soundtrack blends the gritty realism and flagrant surrealism of the film seamlessly, managing to somehow define an era and remain timeless simultaneously.
SPRING BREAKERS (2013)
Has there been a better scene in the past year than when a gold-toothed James Franco rasped through Britney Spears’ “Everytime” on a piano by the beach in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers? The rest of the musical fabric of the film is equally as bizarre but brilliant, from the barrage of trap kings Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame to a previously unimaginable collaborative OST between cult composer Cliff Martinez and EDM megastar Skrillex.
GARDEN STATE (2004)
Zach Braff’s American indie Garden State has a soundtrack that’s experienced a kind of low-key enduring legacy over the past decade. And while its twee-ness is not to everybody’s taste, it’s hard not to get completely drawn in by the hazy euphoria of The Shins’ “Caring is Creepy” or the heavy-lidded numbness of Zero 7’s “In the Waiting Line”. “Essentially, I made a mix CD with all of the music that I felt was scoring my life at the time I was writing the screenplay,” Braff told IGN, before promptly winning a Grammy Award.
CHRISTIANE F. – WE CHILDREN FROM BAHNHOF ZOO (1981)
This bleak German classic acquired cult status not only for raising awareness of western Europe’s heroin epidemic, but also for its beautiful Bowie-centric soundtrack, who also appears in the film as himself. On a side note, the film is based on the autobiographical book of the same name, and the real Christiane F. tried heroin for the first time at a David Bowie concert, which is a scene replicated in the film with the real David Bowie (weird).
DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS (2001)
As a documentary, Stacy Peralta’s influential skate film Dogtown and Z-Boys is a bit of an anomaly on this list, but the soundtrack is incredible. From the glitter-soaked glamour of T-Rex to the punch-heavy riffs of Black Sabbath and the throbbing, proto-punk brilliance of Iggy and the Stooges, each 1970s throwback track gives the film a woozy romanticism that makes you wish you were there at that particular time and place.
Written down, the soundtrack to Xavier Dolan’s Canadian masterpiece Mommy sounds like a self-respecting music lover’s worst nightmare. From mall-rockers Simple Plan to over-killed track “Wonderwall” by Oasis to Dido’s “White Flag” (yes, Dido). But – bear with me – in the film, it works perfectly and reflects the tastes of its white, working-class protagonist. “Given the background and social strata that the characters come from, you can’t really imagine that they’ve gone shopping lately,” Dolan told Vulture. “We went for that very normcore, fashionless era in history, the early 2000s.” So essentially, the soundtrack is supposed to be basic, and we love it.
THIS IS ENGLAND (2006)
Shane Meadows’ 2006 masterpiece This is England is best known for its grim, grey-skied realism and bleakly beautiful cinematography, but its skinhead-inspired soundtrack is too good to ignore. From the infectious reggae beats of Toots & the Maytals “54–46 Was My Number” to the dark romanticism of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, the musical choices in the film define 1980s British subculture as much as the part-questionable, part-stylish outfits.