For the intent of this article I am focusing on both song collection and original movie score soundtracks within the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Those are the speculative elements that must be present in the movie itself for qualification in this list.
I once argued with a Professor of Musicology about the validity of movie soundtracks and their contribution to classical music. I think that the best and most original classical music as well as pop music compilations being made today come from movie musical scores. And some of the best music comes from genre films. If Beethoven and Mozart were alive today they would be doing movie soundtracks. The theme from the very first Star Wars movie produced in 1976 by George Lucas and the theme from 2001 : A Space Odyssey are arguably the two most well know modern classical composition on earth. Below I wish to examine what I think overall, are the quintessential genre-based classical and popular musical movie scores.
Honorable Mentions (2) : Stargate (original movie score) and Terminator 2 : Judgement Day (original movie score). Legendary science fiction movie soundtrack composer David Arnold composed the original Stargate movie score. Some of the highlights of the soundtrack include the “Stargate Overture,” “Giza 1928,” “Caravan to Nagada” and “The Seventh Symbol.” The Terminator 2 : Judgement Day was composed by Brad Fiedel, who was probably most notable for his work with 80’s glib musical act Hall & Oats. His inclusion of percussive movements and symphonic passages within the overall synth/technotronic sound gave this soundtrack an expansive, otherworldly feel. Some of the highlights of the soundtrack include the heart pounding theme song, “Sarah’s Dream,” “Desert Suite” and “Cameron’s Inferno.”
5) The Crow : City of Angels
This may come as a surprise to many readers but as disjointed as this movie was, the soundtrack was actually incredible. With a collection of makeshift sound clips seemingly improbable on paper, this soundtrack utterly rocks through and through. From Hole’s cover of the Fleetwood Mac classic, “Gold Dust Woman” to White Zombie’s “I’m Your Boggieman” to PJ Harvey’s “Naked Cousin” this soundtrack rips through the movie like a chainsaw. Even the Punk God himself Iggy Pop makes an appearance here with a live version of his classic, “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Pure gold !
Yes, I liked this movie. While I still enjoy those campy Japanese-produced pop culture classics, I really did enjoy seeing an anatomically and properly physically designed Godzilla for once, stomp the world into a mudhole. And as far as soundtracks go, one would be hard-pressed to find a more eclectic and entertaining soundtrack than this. While The Wallflowers hit, “Heroes” I could just do without though it was a big hit in America, the collaboration of P. Ditty and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame must be heard to be believed, and yes its good. Also running amuck are songs by Jamiroqaui, Rage Against The Machine, Green Day, Foo Fighters and Fuel. However, the two sleepers on this record are “Macy Day Parade” by Michael Penn and “Out There” by Fuzzbubble. If you’re a fan of eclectic mix, this one’s for you.
Not only was the first installment of this trilogy one of the best science fiction movies of all time, but it’s soundtrack also stands out as one of the best ever. Mind you though, this one’s not for the meek. There is nothing but pure heavy metal and techno industrial grooves here, so you are warned. This record kicks on the afterburners immediately with the Marilyn Manson track “Rock is Dead” and just gets more intense from there. With the likes of Meat Beat Manifesto, Rob Zombie, The Prodigy, Rammstein, Rage Against The Machine and the Propellerheads ripping out the heart of the music beast and placing it on the altar of the aural gods, you haven’t a chance to come up for air. But the most intense moments are reserved for Ministry and Monster Magnet. Ministry’s “Bad Blood” is a lethal dose of adrenaline rock will blow your speakers out and Monster Magnet’s mysterious and otherworldly “Looking Into Your Orb” is one headtripping musical event. It’s like Hawkwind on a serious acid trip or a bad case of food poisoning. Probably the oddest tune would have to be Hot Rod Herman’s Ibiza rave mix of Rob Zombie’s solo anthem, “Dragula” - Neo and Agent Smith are dead, long live the music.
2) The Crow
Like Godzilla, The Crow’s soundtrack is mostly a mix of heavy rock with some goth elements wandering about like a lost stepchild at a Star Trek convention. The Crow is a classic, and its soundtrack is no exception. From contributions of such as the stunning “Burn” from The Cure and “Snakedriver” from the Jesus & Mary Chain to the hammering sludge of “Milktoast” from Helmet, this record rolls. Pantera’s “The Badge” and “Ghostrider” by the Rollins Band, is like getting hit in the head with a sledgehammer, which in this case is a good thing. The true gems on this soundtrack however, are Nine Inch Nails “Dead Souls” and Machines of Loving Grace “Golgotha Tenement Blues” - both exemplify the intensity this movie brings to the silver screen. Perhaps the hidden treasure on this record is “After The Flesh” by My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. Now, if the soundtrack only had a Godflesh song then it would then have been complete.
1) Lord of the Rings (trilogy set)
This trilogy was simply a thing of beauty. One of the few times that a movie lived up to and surpassed all the hype that surrounded it. The soundtrack also lived up to the billing. Howard Shore’s sweeping Academy-Award winning orchestration may be the best classical music made within the last fifty plus years. It is simply stunning. The compositions were a brilliant representation of modern classical music. If someone ever says to you that soundtrack music is derivative and useless, have them listen to the Lord of the Rings set. In addition to the wonderful classical music score this soundtrack includes Enya’s smash hit "May It Be," Annie Lennox soaring “Into the West,” along side of hypnotic movements like “Breath Of Life” performed by Sheila Chandra. The richness and diversity of this collection is accentuated by performances from actor Billy Boyd, “The Steward of Gondor” and Viggo Mortensen, “The Return of the King” - both of which are breathtaking. Billy Boyd stupendous bardic ballad may be one of the most soul stirring vocal performances ever in the history of movie making. If his rendition of “The Steward of Gondor” did not make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, then you are not alive.
Well, there you have my top five science fiction and fantasy movie soundtracks of all time. I am sure there will be many that disagree with my picks, but I limited my choices to only five and my two honorable mentions. Pick your own top five and discuss them with your friends.