The best film soundtracks: Our top picks
We choose the films we would love to see with a live soundtrack accompaniment
The newest fad hitting concert halls across the UK is that of screening films with a live orchestral accompaniment. This has got the BBC Music Magazine team reflecting on some of our favourite film soundtracks.
- Top 10 film composers – of all time
- All the Oscar winners and nominees for Best Original Score, since 1935
Oliver Condy, Editor
The English Patient
Gabriel Yared’s score to Anthony Minghella’s 1996 epic brilliantly combines the influences of JS Bach and Middle Eastern music to magnificent effect. At its heart, Yared places a stunning piece of faux Bach, a stirring yet texturally simple three-part piano solo that utterly defines the tenor of the film.
Jeremy Pound, Deputy editor
Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence
How many film composers can boast that they have both written the soundtrack for a film and also played one of the major roles on screen? Such is the case with Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose portrayal of the complex character of Captain Yonoi in Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence is accompanied by his own music.
That score – a masterpiece of early electronic music – blends classical and oriental influences as it brilliantly conveys the stifling heat and oppression of the prisoner-of-war camp in which the likes of Major Jack Celliers (David Bowie) and Lieutenant Colonel John Lawrence (Tom Conti) are held. Crowned by the gorgeous ‘Forbidden Colours’ theme tune, it deservedly won Sakamoto a BAFTA.
- Films with live orchestras: Our 2018 performance guide
- A year of Bernstein: Our 2018 performance guide
Rebecca Franks, Managing editor
I’ve no idea how many times I watched this classic film as a child, but at least one hundred times more than my brother would have liked. I adore it – and hearing its string of brilliant songs by the Sherman brothers played by a live orchestra would only add to that.
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From the exuberant tongue-twister ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ to the catchy dance number ‘Step in time!’, there’s plenty of scope for orchestral fun. And of course Mary Poppins includes one of the great Disney songs, the heartfelt ‘Feed the Birds’, with its stirring strings and choir. Oh yes, there would need to be a choir as well as an orchestra, please.
Freya Parr, Editorial assistant
This film is a sensory overload for foodies and music lovers alike. It follows the story of a hotshot head chef disenchanted with his life cooking food dictated by restaurant owners. He gives it all up to take a food truck serving Cuban sandwiches across America with his son.
The music is influenced by their travels – a mix of Latin, salsa, New Orleans R &B and Texas blues. It’s rich and dynamic and I can’t get enough of it. Warning: Do not watch on an empty stomach.
Michael Beek, Reviews editor
ET - The Extra-Terrestrial
Beyond that iconic main theme, Williams’s Oscar-winning original score for Steven Spielberg’s classic film is a triumph. There’s magic, mystery, heartbreak and the thrill of the chase; those final 15 minutes of music truly lead the action and take centre stage.
If the history books are to be believed, Spielberg turned off the projector on the recording stage and let Williams simply conduct without having to meet the constraints of the edited film. In a rare move, he then went back to the edit suite and re-cut the sequence to the music. History made.
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.