World Music Day: Top film soundtracks

21st June 2021

To celebrate World Music Day, staff and lecturers from Screen and Film School have been sending in recommendations of their all-time favourite film soundtracks.

From the critically-acclaimed, to the hidden gems, you’re sure to find some new favourites on this list!


Jackie (2016) – Score by Mica Levi

Tom Boddy – Brighton Applicant Experience Manager

Mica Levi’s eery score for 2014’s Under the Skin is what put her on the map as a film-composer, but my personal pick would be her work on Pablo Larraín’s Jackie. Her arrangements never go where you expect them to, and this experimental attitude mixed with her more traditional soft, beautiful strings perfectly complement Larraín’s camera and Natalie Portman’s performance as the former first lady. It’s devastating and disorientating when it needs to be, and equally beautiful when asked as well.


North by Northwest (1959) – Score by Bernard Herrmann

Mark Tew – Lecturer

Simply put, no film soundtrack list should be without Bernard Herrmann. From his collaboration with Mr. Hitchcock to his later contribution to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, he is as influential as they come. When choosing just one from his mighty back catalogue, you could go for the obvious (Psycho), or the less well-known (Jason and the Argonauts). But nothing quite comes close to this thunderous, exciting score and its impact on the picture. As Herrmann himself said: Hitchcock only finishes a picture 60 percent. I have to finish it for him.


The Godfather (1972) – Score by Nino Rota

Itziar Leighton – Screen and Film School Brighton College Principal

Just the first few bars of the title sequence stirs emotion, the horns, the strings, the mandolin and the melancholic introduction create an atmosphere of expectation and back to old Italy!


Pretty in Pink (1986) – Various Artists

Beverley Carter – Admissions & Enrolment Assistant

An iconic 80’s film written by John Hughes, of The Breakfast Club, Home Alone and Ferris Bueller’s Day off fame. It’s title Pretty in Pink was inspired by the 1981 hit by the English band The Psychedelic Furs!

Featuring songs from the likes of New Order, INXS, The Smiths & Echo & The Bunnymen, and a rather memorable scene in a record shop with Otis Reading’s ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ we delve into a teenage comedy romance where a girl from across the lines must choose between the affections of her childhood sweetheart or a rich but sensitive playboy. True 80’s beauty!


Austin Powers (1997) – Quincy Jones, Soul Bossa Nova

Nick River – Estates and Facilities Officer

I would love to add the main theme from Austin Powers – ‘Quincy Jones, Soul Bossa Nova’. It’s so up beat and fantastic for sunny day listening. It’s also used in the films for comedy purposes, e.g to misdirect the audience into thinking that Austin Powers losing his wife is a sad moment, but then he realises he is single again and the music kicks in. This is called “doing a 180 in comedy”, setting up a scene or feeling and going the complete opposite direction to surprise the audience.


It Follows (2014) – Soundtrack by Disasterpeace

James Watts – Brighton Marketing and Communications Manager

I love a good jumpy horror and the whole soundtrack to It Follows is the key to building a sense of paranoid tension and impending dread. I love the way the different sonic layers build within this scene. It starts with distant air raid sirens, then heavy distorted bass tones, the tick-tock effect that hints the protagonist’s time is running out, and finally the repetitive ‘psycho’esque’ stabs as the character realises she’s in real trouble. Yet, watch the whole scene on mute, and it’s just an old lady walking down a school corridor.


Vanilla Sky (2001) – Various Artists

Luke Martin – Teaching Assistant

A remake of Abre Los Ojos, Vanilla Sky is one of my all time favourite films. Without spoiling it too much for people that haven’t seen it, the film deals with the idea of dreams versus reality, and Cameron Crowe’s selection of music only helps strengthen the storytelling, due to the ethereal quality of the songs. Songs like Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead, Elevator Beat by Nancy Wilson, Doot Doot by Freur, Svefn-G-Englar by Sigur Ros, and the brilliant Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized only help to accentuate the dreamlike mystery of the film, as well as adding a feeling of nostalgia and regret, which are big themes of the story. Great stuff!


Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) – Score by Ennio Morricone

Fiona Adams – Industry Engagement Manager

For me it has to be Ennio Morricone – no surprise there, and in particular- Once Upon a Time in the West – and specifically- Man with a Harmonica. You could not get a more intensely poignant sound track that soars the visuals to agonising emotional depths – Morricone is the absolute master.


Searching For Sugar Man (2012) – Soundtrack by Rodriguez

George Verrall – Estates and Facilities Officer

This is by far and away my favourite documentary film, featuring music almost exclusively by Rodriguez, the musician whose story we follow. A cop out of a choice? Potentially, but for me, the quality of the music, the order in which the songs are revealed to us and the way in which it all ties in with Rodriguez’s remarkable story is very powerful. Goose bumps. Without this film there’s a good chance I would have never heard his music or heard this story, so if you haven’t seen it I thoroughly recommend it.


Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) – Score by Michael Andrews

David Thompson – Screen and Film School Manchester College Principal

Aside from the famous soundtrack he did for Donnie Darko, Michael Andrews also composed the soundtrack for Miranda July’s debut feature shortly after called ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know’. I feel he’s so good at capturing a mood, a sensibility, without words or overlayed dialogue, which this does perfectly. The soundtrack gives the film such identity and heart. Not that I would necessarily listen to it on a repeat like an album, but as a bedrock to use for film cutting, and something setting the tone for a film, I love it!


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