The 11 Best Songs from Geek-Movie Soundtracks

By Rob Bricken in Daily Lists, Movies
Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 5:02 am

6) John Williams: "Duel of the Fates" - Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Yeah yeah yeah, prequel trilogy sucks blah blah blah, Darth Maul doesn't do anything yadda yadda yadda, John Williams past his prime bitch bitch bitch. "Duel of the Fates" is still as good a piece of music as Williams ever wrote, a "Carmina Burana" for the Jedi set. And it serves as the soundtrack for one of the greatest fight scenes ever filmed, regardless of the quality of the movie that surrounded it. Show me someone who didn't get goosebumps when that big vocal chorus erupted over that vertigo-inducing shot of that massive shaft where Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Maul were dueling and I'll show you someone who thought midichlorians were a good idea. One last thing: Just try not to hear the words differently once you've seen this.

5) Barry Harman, Ford Kinder, and Spencer Michlin: "G.I. Joe: The Movie Title Theme" - G.I. Joe: The Movie

For many Joe fans, the only way Stephen Sommers's upcoming live-action G.I. Joe: An International House of Pancakes (or whatever the P.C. bastards are insisting we now call it) could get any worse is by including Cobra-La, the bugfuck-crazy race of snake-insect-fungus people who battle the Joe team in their full-length animated feature. For others, that's about the only thing that could save Sommers's stupid movie. (Put me in the latter camp—I for one have long felt that we should dedicate more military resources to fighting secret Himalayan enclaves of genocidal Lovecraftian manimals.) But there's at least one thing that Joe devotees divided by The Movie's sci-fi storyline can agree on: That opening theme song is fabulous! Essentially an extended remix of the TV series' theme, it kicks off with a memorable minor-key Cobra-centric section. Who can forget its immortal lyrics: "Crashing through the sky / Comes a fateful cry: / Coooooooo-bra / Co-braaaaaaaaa! / Coooooooo-bra / Co-braaaaaaaaaa!" If inventive pronunciations of the name of a completely unrealistic techno-terrorist organization were horses, Harman, Kinder, and Michlin would ride. Then the kick-ass Joe theme proper kicks in, and by God, everytime you hear it, do you doubt for a second that G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero, G.I. Joe truly is there? The whole shebang accompanies the most dazzlingly animated sequence in franchise history, a Fourth of July attack on the Statue of Liberty by Cobra featuring such eye-popping imagery as the Cobra paratroopers' kaleidoscopic descent (and one particular Cobra paratrooper's telescopic crotch). By the time its final notes fade into memory, you'll be hoping the Joe team's entirely non-lethal reign of heroism will never end.

4) Annie Lennox: "Into the West" - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

I know, I know. It's not an ironically enjoyable artifact of the '80s, it's not a high-energy song of celebration, it doesn't involve conspiracy theories about the United States government murdering civil rights leaders--what the hell is this doing on the list? It's here because it makes me cry every time I hear it, and if you're as big a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson's adaptations thereof as I am, it probably has the same effect on you. With music by LotR score composer (and former SNL bandleader!) Howard Shore, lyrics by LotR screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, and vocals by Eurythmics androgyne and Galadriel soundalike Annie Lennox, its evocative images and majestically swelling chorus served as the perfect emotional capstone to the greatest action-adventure trilogy of all time. Enjoy watching the above clip of Lennox performing the song at the Oscars that The Return of the King went on to sweep, provided you haven't already poked your own eyes out with the massive boner you get when presenter Liv Tyler delivers her breathy introduction to the song while wearing sexy librarian glasses.

3) Ray Parker Jr.: "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters

Considering that Ghostbusters is simultaneously one of the greatest comedies, New York City movies, and science-fiction-horror films of all time, you'd have to ask yourself what kind of moron would turn down the chance to record its theme song. The answer, of course, is "the kind of moron named Huey Lewis." After the editor-in-chief of The News passed on the gig, the producers decided they wanted a new "I Want a New Drug" and tapped session man Ray Parker Jr. as the composer, performer, and future lawsuit defendant of a knockoff version they could use as the flick's theme. (Listen to Huey's track--see the resemblance?) The resulting designer-impostor '80s-funk workout surpasses the original, thanks to Parker's laconic vocal delivery, electronic-horn riff, synthesized spooky noises, and that head-nodding synth-bass beat. But here's the real reason bustin' makes me feel good: How many theme songs can you name that contain almost as many classic catchphrases as the movie they're from? "Who ya gonna call," "I ain't afraid of no ghosts," and that unmistakable shout of "GHOST-BUSTERS!" all stem from the song, not the flick. And I'm sorry, but you've got to be some kind of crazy lyrical genius to write a song about a ghost and decide that of all the things you could say about it, you've gotta throw in "I hear it likes the girls." No wonder every single celebrity who made the early '80s awesome wanted to be in the video.

2) Prince: "Batdance" - Batman>

Batman, meet Prince's dirty mind. Prince's dirty mind, meet Batman. I'm sure you'll have a lot to talk about! Man, try to imagine modern-day Warner Bros. and Christopher Nolan turning over the soundtrack for their ponderous Batman Begins to, I dunno, OutKast and you'll have some idea of how freaking crazy it is that this song and video ever even happened. Torn between his brother-in-mononymhood Batman and his fellow purple enthusiast the Joker, Prince created a hybrid character called Gemini, who presides over a berserk interpretive dance involving women in batsuits, a parade of Vicki Vales led by a woman in a shirt reading "ALL THIS AND BRAINS TOO " (an homage to Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns!), cheeky references to the '60s TV-show theme that still have over-serious Bat-fans sputtering with fury, collage-style lyrics culled from all of Prince's other Batman soundtrack songs, and a fucking vicious guitar solo. The end result is a ballsy slab of industrial-dance-funk-rock-madness that proves superhero soundtrack music doesn't have to be kid-tested and mother-approved.

1) John Williams: "Ewok Celebration" - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Christmas morning, the last day of school, your first time, the birth of your grandchildren—nuts to that action. For sheer, unadulterated joy, nothing on God's gray earth beats hearing the Yub-Yub Song. Sure, wannabe tough guys slag the Ewoks as lame, original-trilogy-ruining Muppets for kids. This is goddamn absurd. First of all, as if freaking Star Wars fans have any right to complain about something not being macho or sophisticated enough. (And I say that as a guy with a Rebel Alliance tattoo.) Second of all, let's see you take out the Empire's war machine with lumber. Third and most important of all, the moment those adorable little insurgents finished watering the mighty trees of Endor with the blood of their imperial occupiers, they busted out the hap-hap-happiest song of celebration ever recorded in this or any other galaxy. Ever since I first heard this over two decades ago, I've dropped whatever I was doing and danced around the house, dorm, apartment, or theater like I just destroyed an AT-ST. Williams and Lucas might have tried to burn this toe-tapping, paw-clapping, helmet-bongo-bashing masterpiece out of their movie like Luke torching his old man's corpse, but they'll never deactivate the shield generator that keeps it safe inside our hearts. Celebrate the love!

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