From Easy Rider to Rushmore and The Breakfast Club, certain films are instantly recognizable for the unique song choices that underscore pivotal moments of the movie. 

Songs tell stories. They make us feel. Soundtracks, in particular, mesh these songs into a certain storyline. A film's soundtrack, which encompasses film score (the original music written specifically to accompany a film), largely incorporates contemporary popular music as well. One of the first films to weave popular music with film narrative was 1967's The Graduate, in which Simon and Garfunkel's folk–rock songs reinforced the main character's emotional anxieties. 

The soundtracks of today’s films stem primarily from popularity of rock music in the 1960s, which emphasized the emotional triumphs and struggles of the individual. This newfound prioritization of songs within a film’s soundtrack allowed for a new dimension: filmmakers could use music to reinforce motifs and expand the sensory experience of the viewer. 

The much–anticipated film by Director Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name, is likely to be one of the most revered soundtracks of 2017. Sufjan Stevens, the eccentric singer and songwriter behind critically–lauded albums such as Carrie & Lowell, Illinois, and The BQE, helps to compose the music for Guadagnino’s film, adding three original compositions to Call Me By Your Name’s soundtrack. To gear up for the film, Street took a look at popular movie soundtracks of the past. 

1. Baby Driver (2017) 

In Edgar Wright’s acclaimed film, the protagonist constantly immerses himself  in music to drown out his tinnitus and focus on his job as a getaway driver. In his interview with Variety, Wright himself suggested that a song, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms," inspired the idea for the film itself. “I would listen to that song and imagine this car chase,” he told Variety. “The idea that started it all off was: Maybe a getaway driver is listening to this song, and he’s actually trying to time out his getaways and literally have the perfect score for the perfect score.” With the opening heist of the film, "Bellbottoms" starts off the prolific 27–song soundtrack that features timeless artists, such as T. Rex, Commodores, Beck, Young MC, and Simon & Garfunkel.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)

While executives of Marvel Studios repeatedly told Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn bluntly that “nobody is going to want to hear this music," Gunn still created the revered Awesome Mix Vol. 1 that the protagonist of the first Guardians of the Galaxy holds onto as a memory of his mother, Meredith. With the release of the superhero movie’s sequel, Gunn doesn’t disappoint with Awesome Mix Vol. 2. The film begins with Electric Light Orchestra’s "Mr. Blue Sky" and incorporates songs by Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison, and Glen Campbell. The sci–fi action movie’s soundtrack is a gift to anyone with a love for the zeitgeist of the ‘80s.

3. Boyhood (2014) 

Richard Linklater’s Oscar–winning, 12–year project which follows the life of an average child attempting to navigate the world, features a soundtrack that acutely represents the shifts of popular music over time. Starting the project in 2002, Linklater tells a simple, humanistic story about the joys and sorrows of growing up. In doing so, he also proffers a soundtrack pertinent to an entire generation that empathizes with Boyhood’s protagonist. With classics such as "Do U Realize??" by The Flaming Lips, "Beyond The Horizon" by Bob Dylan, and "Crank That" by Soulja Boy, the film’s soundtrack creates a palpable sense of nostalgia.

4. Frances Ha (2012) 

Directed by Noah Baumbach and starring rising indie star Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha pays tribute to the French New Wave film movement. The movie centers on the narrative of a woman in her late twenties who faces the unfavorable realities of adulthood and attempts to grow emotionally. Coupled with the movie’s memorable soundtrack, the viewer feels the anxieties and triumphs of the protagonist as she tries to find a new apartment in New York City. In a hilarious and telling moment of Frances Ha, Frances furiously runs through the streets of Brooklyn to David Bowie’s "Modern Love." Similar moments of folly and joy can be heard through the songs of Georges Delerue, T. Rex, Paul McCartney, Hot Chocolate, and Dean & Britta.

5. Whip It (2009) 

In her directorial debut Drew Barrymore tells the story of a counterculture teenager who finds an outlet to escape her humdrum Texas town through competitive women’s roller derby in Austin. Starring Ellen Page, this hilarious depiction of teenage life incorporates the music that its irreverent characters would listen to. From American punk–rock bands like Ramones to all–girls rock trio Peaches, the film’s soundtrack emphasizes the intensity of roller derby. In more emotional moments where the protagonist deals with the hardships of a burgeoning romantic relationship, the soundtrack features more indie soft–rock tracks such as "Unattainable" by Little Joy. Altogether, the music within Whip It thoughtfully portrays the complex personality of its protagonist and the world she explores.


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