Rushmore soundtrack

Stand-Alone Soundtracks

Wondering Sound Staff

By Wondering Sound Staff

on 02.19.13 in Lists

Though it’s often taken for granted, scoring a film is no easy task. Go too minimal and you risk killing dramatic tension. Too grandiose, and an entire film can become ham-handed. Striking the perfect balance is a feat few have truly mastered. Even harder, though, is constructing a soundtrack that stands on its own — creating a work that’s less a companion piece, more a bona fide, start-to-finish album. The 11 soundtracks in this list, remarkably, do just that. These soundtracks are full of music that’s compelling, engaging and entertaining, whether or not you’ve seen the movie it was designed to accompany.

The Point!

Harry Nilsson

Inspired by an acid trip in which singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson realized that trees and houses and more or less everything in some form or another has a point, this soundtrack to ABC Television's 1971 animated movie is presented as a children's bedtime story. Although the narrator-father's voice was originally supplied on TV by Dustin Hoffman (and Ringo Starr for home video), Nilsson here tells his own story about how even apparent outsiders all fit into nature's plan: At one point, you can even hear him turning a page. Despite the running, punning theme, there are few hard edges to be heard: Whether speaking or singing, Nilsson is as gentle as any dad could be with his child, and the music – deftly arranged by early Nilsson collaborator George Tipton and executed by such studio session greats as Carol Kaye – ranks among his most melodious. That's a high standard indeed. — Barry Walters

Trouble Man

Marvin Gaye

As a movie, Trouble Man is mediocre at best, but it'd have to be a stone-cold film noir classic to live up to Marvin Gaye's haunting, moody score. Gaye took the creative clout he earned from What's Going On and poured it into Trouble Man, giving a fittingly cinematic blues-tinged soul-jazz cast to compositions that incorporated sumptuous orchestral strings and cutting-edge synthesizers alike. While his voice is scarce on the LP, Marvin makes it count: the title theme is one of his most moving performances, showcasing both his smooth falsetto and his raw power. — Nate Patrin

The Master: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Jonny Greenwood

As long as PT Anderson is making movies about uber-driven weirdos, Jonny Greenwood's piercing, experimental classical compositions are going to fit the bill. And though Greenwood brings some of the same, eerie glissando effects to this film that he also contributed to There Will Be Blood, the sonic palette is a little broader this time around — as in the chamber lyricism of "Time Hole," or else "Alethia," where the gorgeously woozy arrangement recalls some of Anderson's own attractive-yet-unsettling vistas. — Seth Colter Walls

Paris, Texas - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Paris, Texas Soundtrack/Ry Cooder

The soundtrack for Wim Wenders's 1984 Palme d'Or-winning existential desert noir Paris, Texas is as sparse and mysterious as the South Texas landscape from which Harry Dean Stanton arises in the film's opening shot. Composed by hired-gun guitarist and chameleonic solo artist turned soundtrack master Ry Cooder, his mesmeric bottleneck lines slither in the arid ambient space provided by accompanists David Lindley and Jim Dickinson, touching upon blues, folk, and rancheras. Evocative with just a handful of notes, this is a stark, dustbitten classic. — Andy Beta



Few directors define their characters through music as succinctly as Wes Anderson, never more so than when he pegged the Creation's "Making Time" to afterschool overachiever Max Fischer. Although it's heavy on the British invasion, Rushmore's soundtrack is as peripatetic as the film's beret-sporting protagonist, ranging from Yves Montand's Francophone croon to the mock-baroque contraptions of Mark Mothersbaugh's score. And yet it all hangs together splendidly, telling a story all of its own. — Sam Adams

Anatomy Of A Murder

Duke Ellington

This soundtrack for Otto Preminger's classic legal thriller isn't often placed in the front-rank of the Duke's output, which is natural for an album that features some cues meant to serve purely as background. But as moody, noir-ish accompaniment goes, this is hardly anonymous work: The band's swagger in "Flirtbird" and "Grace Valse" is unmistakable. The main title theme snarls with intrigue; when it swings into action, you'll perk your head up (just like those who were in the film's first audiences probably did). Look for Ellington's cameo in the film, too, in the role of Pie-Eye: a character that inspired the pianist's catchy-as-hell "Pie-Eye's Blues." An early run-through (titled "More Blues") is now included in Columbia's remastered edition of the album. — Seth Colter Walls


Various Artists

Synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog had an extraordinary connection with machines: "I can feel what's going on inside a piece of electronic equipment," he says in this 2004 documentary. This soundtrack brings out the human side of his creation. The space-oddity freakouts in Bootsy Collins's "When Bernie Speaks" play like unfettered stoner comedy, while the muted bell tones in the Album Leaf's "Micro Melodies" evoke late-night isolation. A second disc showcases the Moog's place in rock history, from prog (Yes's "Close to the Edge") to new wave (New Order's "Blue Monday"), from cheesy (Gary Numan's "Cars") to sublimely deranged (Devo's "Mongoloid"). — Karen Schoemer

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Various Artists

While this 1975 film from Milos Forman swept every category save Best Soundtrack (that went to Jaws), the score from Phil Spector and Neil Young associate Jack Nitzsche is a masterpiece in its own right. Nitzsche enacts musical mood swings that match the film's subjects. There are gentle orchestral strings that act as medicated haze, bits of sprightly Hawaiian guitar licks and marimba, and for the theme itself, a gorgeous amalgam of orchestra with Indian tom toms and singing saw. Freak-folky, elegant and stunning. — Andy Beta

The Fountain OST

Clint Mansell / Kronos Quartet

It may be Darren Aronofsky's most (wrongly) maligned movie, but even those who flinched from his cosmic fairy tale can luxuriate in its score. Availing himself of the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai, composer Clint Mansell, who also penned the much-recycled theme for Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, moves from melancholy strings through Tibetan chant and feedback storms, climaxing with the stellar sweep of "Death Is the Road to Awe." Both epic and intimate, The Fountain's soundtrack goes around the galaxy only to find its way back home. —Sam Adams

La Planète Sauvage (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Alain Goraguer

This strange and wonderful album didn't single-handedly invent trip-hop, but it could've: Air, Portishead and DJ Shadow all sound like it, while Madlib, Big Pun and many others simply sampled it. The soundtrack for a supremely trippy 1973 French-Czechoslovakian animated sci-fi flick, it's comprised of small but buttery-smooth and nearly seamless pieces by Alain Goraguer, former arranger for Serge Gainsbourg, France Gall, Juliette Gréco and other Gallic pop titans. His ability to combine rock instrumentation, orchestral strings, horns, woodwinds, jazz-funk percussion, wordless choirs and avant-garde experiments with layers of audio trickery is so advanced that even now, 40 years later, the whole thing still sounds as though it seeped out of some fantastical symphonic synthesizer of the future. — Barry Walters

A creepy hybrid of up-to-the-'70s electric prog rocking and acoustic medieval evil, Italian group Goblin's expressionist score to Dario Argento's gory 1977 giallo masterpiece is as startling as the film itself. In addition to the film's memorable fourteen-note theme, keyboardist Claudio Simonetti (on Mellotron, Moogs and celesta) and company explore "Sighs" (acoustic guitars and heavy breathing), the mechanically motivated "Markos," and more orthodox jazz-rocking evocations of Argento's characters ("Black Forest") as they are variously sliced, diced, and covered with maggots. — Richard Gehr