Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Mrs Robinson, Buzz Lightyear and Danny Zuko: Movies and Music

Soundtracks can so often make a film.  In some cases the music becomes synonymous to the movie rather than the artist. When your hear that song you can picture the scene perfectly. Stuck in the Middle With You, conjures up the image of Mr Blonde dancing in Reservoir Dogs and Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head takes you to the bicycle scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. So plug in your speakers, turn up the volume and get comfortable as I take a look at some of the best ever movie soundtracks.

The Graduate

If Mrs Robinson didn't manage to seduce you then Simon and Garfunkel most certainly did. The Mike Nichols' film, features songs solely from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel that have contributed to make The Graduate so iconic. The Sound of Silence is used on three separate occasions in the film and most memorably plays over the classic bus scene at the end. Nevertheless, the song most associated with the 1967 comedy is of course, Mrs Robinson. Paul Simon's working title for the song was actually Mrs Roosevelt, a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt but it was changed to the known version for The Graduate. 


The story of Grease isn't exactly a good moral lesson and it may have one of the most surreal endings but there is no doubting that it has a classic soundtrack. The film includes some incredibly catchy upbeat tunes such as Greased Lightning, You're The One That I Want and Summer Lovin. A trio that you can be sure to hear in a Grease Megamix at your next family wedding. Nonetheless, one of my favourites is perhaps the most underrated, There Are Worse Things I Can Do sung by Stockard Channing. Grease may not be everyones' cup of tea but perhaps it is the soundtrack that makes the film rather than the story.


Nora Ephron's Michael didn't get the most positive reviews from the critics but the soundtrack is certainly worth listening to.  The film stars John Travolta as an angel that isn't particularly angelic and Sir Terry Wogan once stated that he loved the film but loved the soundtrack more. Singers such as Randy Newman, Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin bring a charm to the film but it is Bonnie Rait's Feels Like Home that steals the show. The song, written by Randy Newman, was originally featured in his musical, Faust.  Rait's rendition can be heard below with Newman on the piano.

Midnight Cowboy

Interestingly, Bob Dylan wrote the song, Lay Lady Lay, for the Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman classic but another song was chosen, Everybody's Talkin' by Harry Nilsson. The song is played many times throughout the film and was listed as number 20 in the American Film Institute's top 100 movie songs.  In a biography on director, John Schlesinger, it was stated:
"one cannot imagine Midnight Cowboy now without Everybody's Talkin'."
Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is a film that follows a journey, an extraordinary life of an an extraordinary American. Consequently, the music matches perfectly to the moments in Gump's life from fighting in Vietnam and discovering Elvis Presley to running across the country. It's a love letter to American music with songs from Elvis, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, The Supremes and The Beach Boys.

Singin' in the Rain

I wanted to stick a classic musical into the mix and for me they don't come better than Singin' In The Rain. Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds treat us to a musical masterpiece with Good Morning and Make Em' Laugh but there is of course one song and scene that really stands out. Gene Kelly disregards his umbrella and mesmerises the audience as he splashes and sings he way through one of the greatest ever movie scenes.

Toy Story

There are some modern animated films that have great soundtracks including Shrek, Monsters Inc and Cars but the Toy Story trilogy stands head and shoulders above them all. Randy Newman's comforting and jolly You've Got a Friend In Me works wonderfully in accompanying the relationship between Andy and Woody but where he really excels is in the songs that strike a melancholic tone. Strange Things shows Woody struggling with the arrival of Buzz Lightyear and I Will Go Sailing No More plays as Buzz realises he isn't a real spaceman.

"I have had power. I was respected. But not anymore
 And I've lost the love to the one whom I adored" 
 -Strange Things
The final film saw Newman pick up an Academy Award for We Belong Together and The Gypsy Kings spanish version of You've Got A Friend In Me also featuredHowever, it is Toy Story 2 that steals the show when it comes to music. Newman penned When She Loved Me, sung by Sarah McLachlan. Disney Pixar had the bravery in a children's film to play the whole song. The sad tune combined with the story of Jessie's relationship with her former owner makes for a poignant and emotional scene.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

This was a choice by @JulietaLucca who believes that Moon River by Audrey Hepburn is the most iconic song in movie history. Henry Mancini wrote the song specifically for Hepburn but in a post production meeting, a studio executive suggested the first thing they needed to do was get rid of the song. Hepburn protested, 'Over my dead body' and thus the song remained.  Gladly she stood firm and Moon River went on to win a Grammy and Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.

The Lion King

Tim Rice is one of the best living lyricists and this was highlighted in several Disney movies of the 1990s. The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin are rich with some of the wittiest and catchiest tunes. Alan Menken wrote the melody for the cheesy A Whole New World which was originally titled "The World At Your Feet" but Rice came on board and changed it. He worked alongside Elton John with the music for The Lion King in which Can You Feel The Love Tonight won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, although the film's producers initially intended the song be a duet sung by Timon and Pumba. The quality of the music in The Lion King is further emphasised with the global success of the stage show. Additionally, a Broadway production of Aladdin  is currently in production and is expected to open at the New Amsterdam Theatre in 2013.

500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer was a surprise hit when it was released with its original and charming take on the romantic comedy. I'd argue it has one of the best soundtracks of the last decade with The Smiths, Regina Spektor, Simon and Garfunkel and The Temper Trap. Nonetheless, it is the upbeat Hall and Oates hit, You Make My Dreams, that sticks in the mind as Joseph Gordon Levitt stars in a grand musical number on the street.

I realise there are many other films with amazing soundtracks but these are just a few that have made their mark. Leave a comment below to let me know your favourite.

My next blog post will look at some of the best movie scores ranging from The Big Country and The Magnificent Seven to The Rock and Disney's Up, so make sure you visit soon and follow me on Twitter @sam_batty.

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