By Sam Watermeier
1. ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994)
When the opening credits of 1955’s “Blackboard Jungle” ran, the rock and roll revolution exploded. The song “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets blasted on the film’s soundtrack and pop music instantly became ingrained in our culture. The use of this song in the film not only sparked a musical revolution, but a cinematic revolution as well. Since “Blackboard Jungle,” it has become commonplace for films to prominently feature pop music on their soundtracks. This feature has not only helped carry the emotion of films, but created magic and transported audiences to other places and times.
Like the film itself, this soundtrack is a powerful, kaleidoscopic journey through the American landscape that digs deep into the American heart. From innocent, rollicking tunes like “Rebel Rouser” to incendiary Vietnam protest songs, this soundtrack perfectly captures the feelings of an era and a country. It also captures the feelings of its main character, idiot savant Forrest Gump. As he becomes less innocent to the world’s problems, the music grows darker and we are reminded of just how provocative it can be.
2. ‘Goodfellas’ (1990)
The film is a deep, dark descent into the mob world, an electrifying amalgam of excitement and dread. The soundtrack could not be more different. It is a collection of light, bubbly tunes from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. This playful music provides an interesting contrast to the film’s brutal violence. The use of it during scenes of graphic violence almost desensitizes the audience in the same way the characters themselves are desensitized.
3. ‘American Graffiti’ (1973)
This film is revolutionary. Like “Easy Rider” before it, it takes on a radically nonlinear, free-flowing, episodic feel. It’s just about teenagers in the ’60s driving around, listening to great music and having a good time. The soundtrack itself is just as liberating and refreshing. It takes you back to a simpler, more innocent time and gives you a feeling of comfort.
4. ‘Into the Wild’ (2007)
This fascinating true story of a man who abandoned all sense of normalcy to live in the Alaskan wilderness is punctuated by an equally compelling soundtrack. The songs by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder sound as though they are flowing directly from the main character’s subconscious. This shows one more power of soundtracks: the ability to speak for the characters.
5. ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)
Few soundtracks boast a cooler vibe than this one. It is an eclectic collection of music that spans several decades. Like the film itself (a crazy mix of old-fashioned gangster cinema and contemporary crime drama), it blends different styles and tones, resulting in a wild, dizzying experience.