// by Devon Armstrong //
Music and film are a power couple like no other. This list focuses on single songs from film soundtracks which have become defined by the film they were featured in.
Why don’t you give our playlist a listen while you read our top film tracks?
1. Eddie Vedder – ‘Guaranteed’: Into the Wild captures the visceral story of backpacker Christopher McCandless, who journeyed across North America and Alaska in the 1990s. The gritty, acoustic soundtrack, written by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, transports the viewer to the corners of America that very few have seen, along with the stunning cinematography.
2. Electric Youth/College – ‘A Real Hero’: Nicolas Winding Refn’s neon world in Drive echoes the invigorating atmospheric ballad ‘Real Human Being’. The song matches the visuals of the film and harnesses the emotional vulnerability caught between Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan onscreen. Both energising and poignant, the song’s hyperrealistic sound reflects the dream-like tone of the movie.
3. Simple Minds – ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’: 80s cult classic The Breakfast Club was characterised by Simple Minds’ anthem pop hit, which is as nostalgic as Molly Ringwald’s signature improvised dance scene. The song plays for almost the entirety of the last scene of the film, bonding the emotion of Jim Kerr’s vocals with the bittersweet ambiguity felt by characters and audience alike.
4. Nicholas Britell – ‘Little’s Theme’: Original soundtracks are sometimes the most powerful, especially when the songwriter’s emotional vision is in perfect harmony with the filmmaker’s intentions. The operatic 3-act form of Moonlight is mirrored by musical gear-changes and the dynamics onscreen are made beautifully vivid by the stunning and subtle musical score by Nicholas Britell.
5. Donna Summer – ‘Bad Girls’: I know this is cheating, because Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down is TV rather than film, but the creative cohesion between the visual and musical elements of this series is spectacular. While Michael Kiwanuka’s socially-reflective ‘Black Man in a White World’ brings the 70s-set series into the relevance of racial issues in the 21st century, the disco and early hip hop culture of the era is captured by tracks from Donna Summer, Jill Scott Heron and original rap by Jaden Smith and his co-stars.
6. Des’ree – ‘I’m Kissing You’: Not to go on and on about Baz, but Luhrmann’s saturated and lively version of William Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Romeo + Juliet, has brought reinvention into the mainstream. During my favourite scene in the film, in which a gorgeous young Leo DiCaprio woos a naïve Clare Danes, Des’ree’s heart-wrenching Kissing You engulfs you like the chemistry between the two budding actors.
7. Kimya Dawson – ‘Tire Swing’: Fairly unknown artist and songwriter Kimya Dawson of band The Moldy Peaches got involved with the Juno soundtrack, changing her career forever. The primarily acoustic soundtrack also features The Velvet Underground and Cat Power, and the songs perfectly capture the awkward naivety of youth that Ellen Page portrays so well in her lead role. With the film’s success, lesser-known artists from the soundtracks received recognition, and their music is forever associated with the film.
8. Lou Reed – ‘Perfect Day’: Danny Boyle’s 1996 classic, Trainspotting, had a huge impact on British youth culture, and was also extremely influential to cinema. ‘Perfect Day’ aided in the meticulous editing, sound design and captivating world Boyle creates, with Reed’s dream-like vocals enhancing the chilling and eerie euphoria of a heroin overdose.
9. The Martinis – ‘Free’: The lesser-known coming of age comedy-drama Empire Records is set in a record store in the 90s, and the soundtrack reflects the teen culture of this decade perfectly. Relatively unknown California-grown band, The Martinis, is made up of a Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago and his wife, and was pretty much a one-hit wonder, showing the power of film to raise the profile of a song or artist.
10. Go West – ‘King of Wishful Thinking’: Everyone loves a rom-com, and 1990’s Pretty Woman, starring smiley Julia Roberts and mysterious Richard Gere, both warms and breaks the heart, along with Go West’s pop classic. The atmospheric production on the record is perfect for a film soundtrack and the lyrics are emotionally open and vulnerable, like the film’s characters.