In my eyes, films are visual experiences that are made to evoke strong emotions, whether it be negative, positive or anything in between. While you watch, you’re supposed to be transported to another world and feel like you’re witnessing the story unfold in first person. A movie should leave an imprint on you after you finish it. You’re supposed to take away a piece of the world and/or something about the characters when it’s over. Movies should be immersive, and one of the easiest ways to make them immersive, in my opinion, is the music.
The score of a film is vital. Along with the acting and world-building, the accompanying music evokes tone and, in some cases, can define a scene or even the film as a whole. Some of the most iconic films of the past century can be recognized by their score or individual songs that became synonymous with the film itself.
There are countless examples, but some well-known ones are the entire “Star Wars” original soundtrack composed by John Williams and the beautiful original songs of “La La Land” written by Justin Hurwitz. Both soundtracks are iconic in their own way and definitely contributed to the respective beauty and them earning the title of “classics.”
Sometimes songs that were written for films become so famous that the movie is the only thing people know the song from. Take the 1980’s a.k.a., the “golden era of film,” for example. The song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds is a song that you probably started humming after reading the track name. If this song didn’t make you think of John Hughes’ iconic film “The Breakfast Club,” then I have no idea how else you would’ve heard the song. However, if you haven’t seen it, for my sake and yours, take the time right now to add it to your watchlist.
Of course, not all films can have a recognized composer or musical artist to create a mesmerizing score at their disposal. Instead, filmmakers use songs that were already made, just gaining the rights to feature the song in their project. In the same way a specifically curated score becomes synonymous to a film, the same thing happens with songs that weren’t originally written for a film.
An example is the song “The Promise” by When in Rome, which is tied to one of the best comedy films of all time, Jared Hess’ “Napoleon Dynamite.” Just hearing the spunky beat of the song transports you to the film’s small, comfy midtown Idaho school and puts you in the mood to help your friend run for class president (or take care of some alpacas).
With all the good examples, there are some films that are made worse with bad music. The popular recreation of a classic horror film, Andy Muschietti’s 2017 “It” was a very solid revamp of a classic monster tale. The soundtrack supported the unorthodox nature of the movie, with songs like The Cure’s “Six Different Ways” standing out specifically. The sequel, “It: Chapter Two” (2019) was a different story. When songs like “Word Up!” by Cameo played, I no longer felt immersed in the film. The sequel was set up to be the more serious of the two films, and this song gave it too much of a goofy, whimsical feel.
While it’s a good song, it felt almost too uplifting, especially in the scene it was featured in. It threw the audience off, and it broke my immersion, which made the rest not as interesting as it went on. If someone else still finds the film enjoyable, it does still have fun scares and some exciting action; however, I was vastly disappointed, and I believe it fell flat because of the musical choices.
There are plenty more examples from both older and recent films, but they all share the same theme: the songs can make the film enjoyable and memorable, but if a song doesn’t fit, it can easily break the film entirely and leave the audience disappointed.
Mia Ashby is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Mia by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.