Ah, 2016, what a time for us geeks to be alive. This year we’ve been blessed with release after release of epic sci-fi sequels and reboots, butt-kicking comic book films, and video game movie adaptations. Not to mention the cinematic expansions of a certain Wizarding World and some galaxy far, far away coming up at the end of the year. But before you go off playing those John Williams scores, let’s celebrate these 13 unforgettable soundtrack achievements because, after all, what can be more awesome than music and nerd-power combined?
Ghostbusters (1984) – “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker, Jr
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! There is no denying that the supernatural comedy film has captured the hearts of every 80s and 90s kid, but what’s more astonishing is the level of impact its soundtrack has produced. Even those who have forgotten the film’s plot still recall this oddly catchy advert-like number. Speaking of which, you might not know that the song’s writer and original performer Ray Parker, Jr was inspired by a real TV commercial jingle. The song has since been covered by Hoobastank, Syberia, and most recently, Walk The Moon and Fall Out Boy, who recorded their versions of the song for this year’s all-female reboot.
The Breakfast Club (1985) – “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by The Simple Minds
Any film geek knows that John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club is one of the 80’s classics, named one of the greatest high school films of all time. Similarly, its soundtrack “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, a crucial element of the film’s final scene, is still widely celebrated today. But what most people don’t know is that the story behind the song is a classic case of the underdog. Initially, the film’s music composer Keith Forsey passed the song to Annie Lennox and The Fixx’s Cy Curnin, a much more popular choice of artists at the time, but they declined the offer so the song was offered to the Scottish band who went on the climb charts over the world.
Back To The Future (1985) – “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News
The music and the film seem to be indivisible for Hollywood’s all-time favourite sci-fi comedy. For those growing up with the trilogy and new generations of fans alike, Alan Silvestri’s “Back to the Future Overture” can give anyone that exhilarating feeling, much like when Marty McFly time-travels on the DeLorean for the first time. Equally epic and timeless (ha) is Huey Lewis and the News’s uber cool Oscar-nominated anthem, “The Power of Love”. The song was written specifically for the film and gave the Californian band their first no. 1 hit on the Billboard charts as well as in Canada and Australia.
Armageddon (1998) – “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith
Armageddon didn’t do too well among film critics but Michael Bay’s sci-fi apocalyptic thriller was a big hit at the box office, grossing over $500 million worldwide. But wait till you hear this, the film’s soundtrack, the song we know, love and remember Aerosmith by, was the band’s first ever no. 1 song after 28 years together. So far it still is. Yeah, chew on that for a moment. “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” was written by Diane Warren and initially meant to go to a female artist as a soft piano ballad but the label execs were curious to hear it performed by a hard rock band. And it definitely worked. We guess it also makes more sense when Steven Tyler’s daughter, Liv, plays her first major role in the film.
Daredevil (2003) – “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence
Before Ben Affleck was Batman, he was Matt Murdock. Before Netflix made a live-action series for the red suit-clad superhero, there was this 2003 Daredevil origin story. While it hardly one of the 30 best superhero films ever made, fans of the genre remember how the cast were a perfect fit for the characters (Jennifer Garner as Elektra, Colin Farrell as Bullseye). One other saving grace was perhaps its killer soundtrack album, which features some pretty quintessential bands of the early noughties – Fuel, The Calling, Hoobastank and, our pick, Evanescence, whose career skyrocketed following the film’s release.
Twilight (2008) – “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” by Iron and Wine
Deny it all you want, but Stephanie Meyer’s YA-saga-turned-billion-dollar-movie-franchise did amass an untold number of fans and earn its place at comic conventions around the world. #
TeamShovelFace #TeamEdward vs #TeamJacob may be a thing of the past, but what remains is the music. My, did Twilight get great music. From Sia to Lykke Li, from Muse to CeeLo Green, many big artists had their songs featured or wrote for the saga. But the one song closest to our unbeating vampiric hearts is “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” by Iron and Wine. While the tune is originally from his 2007 album Shepherd’s Dog, the folk singer also recorded a new version of the song for Bella and Edward’s wedding in Breaking Dawn Part 1.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010) – “We Are Sex Bob-omb” by Beck, Sex Bob-Omb
At first, this speedy-cut film may appear confusing, if not downright odd, to most viewers as the story revolves around the struggles of a geeky boy trying to battle his perplexing girlfriend’s series of evil exes. However, a few minutes into this corky comic fantasy, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is able to capture the attention of its audience. Little do most people know, though, that “We Are Sex Bob-omb” was originally meant to be a short garage instrumental. Fortunately for us, the track was picked up and used when the characters do a band practice because they wanted Michael Cera to do something. According to the film’s soundtrack composer Nigel Godrich, “Beck went away and wrote a little verse just so the character has something to sing when you see him.”
The Hunger Games (2012) – “Safe and Sound” by Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars
There is no questioning the level of impact The Hunger Games have exerted in the modern world. The story follows Katniss Everdeen and her quest to defy her country’s suffocating norms and totalitarian regime. While it has altered our cultural landscape with big political themes, the soundtrack “Safe & Sound”, written and performed by Taylor Swift and folk dup The Civil Wars, sheds light on another aspect of the dystopian world our heroine lives in: love and empathy for fellow human beings in spite of life’s harshness. According to Swift, the song represents the “compassion Katniss feels for Rue, Peeta, and Prim” in different parts of the story. The song won Best Song Written for Visual Media at the 2013 Grammys.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) – “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran
The mastermind behind The Lord of the Rings epic fantasy trilogy, director Peter Jackson personally asked Ed Sheeran to write a song for the sophomore Hobbit film because his daughter was a fan of the British singer. More than happy about the offer, Sheeran flew to New Zealand, saw the film and recorded most of the elements of the track on that very same day, citing they flowed from “the dwarf inside him“. At the film’s closing credits, “I See Fire” sets the perfect wrap-up to The Desolation of Smaug, denoting the key Hobbit themes of fires, mountains and brotherhood. The song was also nominated for at the 2015 Grammys for Best Song Written for Visual Media.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Swede
Known as one of the weirder storylines in the Marvel Universe, no one thought James Gunn’s action fantasy would become a huge success that it is. But because how fresh it’s proven to be, the film was 2014’s summer smash (and let’s face it, people still love underdog stories). Add to that is Awesome Mix: Vol. 1 – made by Starlord’s mother herself – which became the first soundtrack album ever to top the charts without actually having a single original song. Our pick, Blue Swede’s cover of B.J. Thomas’s 1968 “Hooked On A Feeling” topped the charts within weeks after the film’s release. All the “Ooga-chaka, ooga-ooga”‘s are weird but we love the song nonetheless, and the same principle applies when we say we love Guardians‘ eccentric plot and oddball characters.
Spectre (2015) – “Writings on the Wall” by Sam Smith
Sam Smith has made his mark with his unique voice and a breakthrough album that earned him four Grammys. So when the new James Bond film was in the works last year, it was only natural that the British crooner was asked to write and record its theme song. Whether it was because of the franchise’s irrefutable hold over fans or because of Smith’s phenomenal vocals, the song has secured its position as a historic hymn, becoming a global hit and the first Bond soundtrack to reach number one in the UK Singles Chart. It’s as classy, majestic and, um, Bond-y as Adele’s “Skyfall” but you have to give it to Smith for conveying much more vulnerability and depth.
Star Trek Beyond (2016) – “Sledgehammer” by Rihanna
In the pipeline for over two years, “Sledgehammer” goes way beyond a typical sci-fi soundtrack. For one thing, the song was co-written by Sia, whom Rihanna previously worked with on “Diamonds”. While the lyrics echo Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” imagery, with RiRi identifying herself as a sledgehammer, the meaning carries a bag of thundering emotions and the pain of letting go. Being a longtime Star Trek fan herself, having her work featured in the film was a big deal for Rihanna. After the song’s release back in June, the same day as the third Beyond trailer, both Trekkies and RihannaNavy can unanimously agree that the two years put to the song did not go to waste.
Suicide Squad (2016) – “Heathens” by twenty one pilots
If you are familiar with twenty one pilots, you probably know that the American duo don’t write in the same genre twice. And “Heathens” from DC’s highly-anticipated anti-superhero flick is definitely a testament of this. Intense and haunting, the track is unique to the band’s past hits in a sense that it’s partly grunge, partly R&B, yet also partly poppy. “Heathens”, which means disbelievers, those not belonging to any widely held religion, more or less refers to the societal struggles of being an outsider. Suicide Squad‘s lead soundtrack perfectly sums up the film, as it tells the story of a group of incarcerated supervillains on a mission with nothing to lose.