5 Innovative Scores in Soundtrack History

Scoring a film is an art form. 

There is an intimate dance that occurs between a film’s score and it’s imagery. When this dance is done beautifully, it can really affect how viewers connect with a particular film.  When done poorly, it can really take a viewer out of the story.

We wanted to take a moment and share our favorite films that showcase this dance between between music and picture exceptionally well. Here are our top 5 film scores:


1. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Composed by Johnny Greenwood (guitarist for Radiohead), this soundtrack takes on a role as a leading character of it’s own. The tone is set right out of the gates with the opening scene and remains consistent throughout the film. This score is unique in that it often dictates the mood of the scene, rather than playing a supporting role.

This is a soundtrack of juxtaposition and discordance.  The music not only enhances the tension within the movie, but it also presents the hidden meaning within each scene.  Like the clip below, during a rousing speech with promises of prosperity, the music presents a different picture: the looming reality that comes with drilling oil.

Beautifully crafted, Greenwood’s scoring holds a firm place in innovative soundtrack history in its keen sense of duality and execution.

2. Kids (1995)

Helmed by Lou Barlow, the “Kids” soundtrack was nowhere near as controversial as the content of the film itself. Primarily associated with Sebadoh, Barlow composed the soundtrack via his side project The Folk Implosion.

Fusing his signature lo-fi songwriterly approach with a rudimentary hip-hop flair, this soundtrack captured all the grit and grime of unsupervised NYC youth. The music bobs and weaves with the same intensity as the film, providing enhancement to the confrontational and often disturbing subject matter.

Though this film received mixed reviews, the soundtrack endures as a musical snapshot of a moment in time for independent film.

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Jon Brion‘s nuanced score for this film of loss and reconciliation directed by Michel Gondry showcases the delicate interplay of music and story. 

In this innovative film that moves like a fever dream, the score creates multiple dimensions of emotional complexity.  Primarily composed of treated piano, tape loops, strings and synthetic textures, the score resonates with elements of hope amid a pessimistic landscape.

With songs perfectly named “Strings That Tie to You“, Brion’s score weaves a common thread that ties the film together in a cohesive and powerful statement.

4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

There’s a lot going on in score for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Composed by Jack Nitzsche, this soundtrack matched the eccentric characters on screen with an equally unique instrumentation in his compositions.

From penny whistles, musical saws playing along to off-kilter brass horn sections, Nitzsche married unlikely elements that share an uncommon space as do the characters in the film.

There’s a whimsical sadness to these songs. Much like the cast of characters, it exists as an uneasy harmony between disparate, seemingly incompatible parts.

5. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

Even if you haven’t seen this movie, you probably know this song and the famous scene below.  The Good, The Bad and The Ugly stands as one of the most iconic westerns to date, and much of that is due to the equally iconic soundtrack.  On a shoe-string budget, Italian composer Ennio Morricone made his signature sound closely tethered to the “Spaghetti Western” genre. 

This unique soundtrack was partially created due to a low budget and the inability to hire a full orchestra. Certain instruments were replaced and swapped with electric guitar and voices.  This created an interesting feel and accompaniment with an unlikely pairing of instruments.

Sometimes the most innovative ideas come of out of restrictions.  This is one example. 

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