Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Movie Soundtracks of 2011

This is a different kind of list. Instead of talking about the best or worst movies, I'm listing the best soundtracks and scores of movies! Of course you may recognize a few of these from my best movies of 2011 list since a great soundtrack helps toward making a great movie. I judge a soundtrack on it's uniqueness, how well it fits with the tone of the movie, and how likely I am to get it and listen to it multiple times.  So here's a list of my favorite scores and soundtracks of 2011!

Honorable Mention: Insidious
Ah Insidious again.  The soundtrack for this is half of what made Insidious so great. It's also why I would NEVER EVER EVER LISTEN TO THIS SOUNDTRACK AGAIN.  It's just so tense and unnerving!  I couldn't include it on this list for that reason but it's just so great when those crazy violins kick in, I had to mention it.  I feel for those violinists who must have had major arm cramps while recording it.  It's like the violins themselves are ghosts, screaming in agony.  Listen at your own discretion.

10) Sucker Punch
Look, that movie was terrible, but the soundtrack was great (except for the horrible Queen/Armageddon mash-up). In fact, if it had just been a series of music videos that Zack Snyder produced and released on youtube, everyone would have been much, much happier. The soundtrack is composed of retoolings of other rock songs, but it's still a fun and high powered mix. And who knew Emily Browning could also sing as well as look sexy in pigtails?

9) Fright Night
Kind of an out there choice I know, but I dug it. It was a fun soundtrack that made for some nice actiony parts.  The movie did something that hasn't been seen in awhile, namely take old fashioned vampires, put them in today's setting, and made them cool again, and that's exactly what the soundtrack did.  it's tense and suspenseful, using an old-school accordion to good use.

8) Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Granted this has a lot to do with Hans Zimmer's original score for the first film, but it's still a great score.  It doesn't just fit for the movie, it has character.  The score can't help but make you think of a steampunk Sherlock Holmes in the dirty 19th century.  In comparison to the original score, I think the gypsy themes he added were a delightful inclusion.

7) Hugo
It took me two viewings to notice it, but Hugo does really have a beautiful sweeping score. It's one of the many elements that add to a lovely warming 19th century french atmosphere. You just want to listen to it, sit at a french bistro in the morning, chomp on your croissant and drink your coffee while reading some french poetry, and not being hipster about it at all.  And while the movie isn't that much on adventure, you wouldn't know it from the multilayered score.

6) The Debt
This did a great job setting the mood for an espionage thriller.  It's very subtle but very tense. It's a really enjoyable sweeping spy score.  You can put it on and try to do your work as fast as you can, imagining that the East German police are going to catch you at any moment!

5) Contagion
This soundtrack just came out of left field. I was not expecting it to be so enjoyable, especially with the movie being so-so.  It's very catchy, which for a movie about an infectious virus makes sense, I suppose. But it would almost be more at home in a club being endlessly remixed (I wouldn't be surprised if there were some funky fresh remixes out there already). It's at times suspenseful, at other times slow and still other time going high-speed, but it's always fun.

4) Hanna
A great soundtrack from the Chemical Brothers, reminding me a lot of the Tron soundtrack from Daft Punk.  It's strange and otherworldly.  It sets up the modern-day-fairy-tale-as-an-action-movie feeling very well.  It pulsates during the action scenes and sets the atmosphere with a wispy breeze in its more calming moments.  It's almost a distortion of a fairy tale that you'd expect to hear at a techno party.  The whole soundtrack is fun but you'll be mostly listening to "Container Park" over and over again.

3) The Muppets
Rainbow Connection! Aaaaaaahhhh!  Ok ok, aside form the classics, every song was a delight, my favorites being Segel's "Man or Muppet" and Amy Adams and Miss Piggy's "Me Party".  It's a fun and uplifting soundtrack for kids. There aren't any out-of-place adult songs sung by cartoon characters (except for Cee lo green's "Forget You" sung by chickens and Kurt Kobain's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" sung by an incomprehensible barbershop quartet, which you wouldn't know if you didn't already know the songs), and the only character with horrible rapping is the bad guy. There's a lesson in that kiddies.

2) X-men first class
Yes my favorite movie from 2011 has one of my favorite scores, and yes it has mostly to do with Michael Fassbender being an awesome nazi-killing metal manipulator.  When that low menacing guitar, reminscent of a secret agent score, comes on, and Fassbender gets that look in his eye, you know stuff's about to go down.

1) Drive
We can debate over whether or not Drive was an arthouse masterpice or too long and too full of itself, but what we can't debate about is how good the soundtrack is.  It is amazing.  It's the perfect 80's atmospheric piece to go along with the movie and it's perfect for popping in the car cd player at night and rolling down the road with the night wind.  And props have to be given for I think the first soundtrack ever to straight up tell the audience exactly what's going on in the protagonist's head rather than him telling you.  You will have these songs playing on repeat well into 2013.

And that's it for this list and the week of lists altogether! What do you think? Did I leave out any? What were your favorite soundtracks and scores of 2011?  See you all next year and have a safe and happy New Years

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