By Isobel Clark
With Valentine’s Day promising to be a big night in this year, what better way to spend it than tucked up on your sofa with a film? To help you make that all important film choice, I have collated a short list of romantic films that each have an outstanding score or soundtrack.
Waiting to Exhale
‘Waiting to Exhale’ follows the story of four Black female friends, all searching for relationships but having difficulties finding appropriate romantic partners. They support each other through the ups and downs, backed up by music written by Kenneth Brian Edmonds, better known by his stage name Babyface. These were performed by some of the biggest artists of the time including Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, TLC and of course Whitney Houston who stars as Savannah Jackson in the film. The soundtrack was significant as it featured exclusively Black female artists who solidify the film’s main themes of female empowerment, Black power and love.
One of the most iconic films to come out of the 90s, this modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma was anchored and immortalised in film history by its incredible soundtrack. Featuring Britpop legends such as Supergrass and The Lightning Seeds and spanning ska with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, alt-rock with Radiohead and classic pop tracks to enhance Cher’s ridiculously privileged existence. The soundtrack adds humour to the already ironic scenes and adds extra punch to Cher’s complete lack of self-awareness until she finally realises she is in love. The bubbly, varied soundtrack helps to add depth and wit to characters and makes ‘Clueless’ one of the best feel-good teen films of all time.
The ultimate feelgood romantic film, ‘Dirty Dancing’ would be nothing without its astonishing soundtrack. Although many of the songs are not in keeping with the 60s’ musical style including ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ and ‘Hungry Eyes’ it does not matter. The classic early 60s tracks such as Otis Redding’s ‘Love Man’ and the Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’ are mixed in with Patrick Swayze’s original ‘She’s Like the Wind’ and countless other highly danceable tracks. The dance scenes are spotless and have inspired generations of dancers. This faultless soundtrack was the record to own in the 80s and still is today!
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
While some may be quick to point out that ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ is not technically a romantic film, I would argue that the general premise of the film is very romantic. Loosely based on the Odyssey and set in Mississippi during the Great Depression, the Coen brothers’ film follows Ulysses Everett McGill, Pete and Delmar in their quest to return home to Everett’s wife and children. The soundtrack is comprised of bluegrass, country, folk, gospel and blues, performed by superstars such as Alisson Krauss and other notable musicians such as Dan Tyminski, Ralph Stanley and Gillian Welch. The soundtrack was massively influential as it sparked a modern folk and Americana revival which continues today.
As a highly seductive, unconventional romance set in the black middle class world in Chicago, ‘Love’ Jones required an correspondingly seductive soundtrack. It featured the best R&B artists of the era including Lauryn Hill, Dionne Harris and Groove Theory with many more, even being named the best R&B album of the 90s by some critics. The soundtrack is nuanced with jazz, containing Duke Ellington and John Coltrane’s performance of ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ and Cassandra Wilson’s ‘You Move Me’ which help the film steer away from archetypal romance film endings.
The only instrumental soundtrack on this list, Maurice Jarre’s masterpiece scoring helped to perfectly illuminate the illustrious love story. Set in revolutionary Russia, the film follows the story of Dr Yuri Zhivago who is torn between his love for his wife Tonya and their children and his love for the beautiful Lara. The stunning ‘Lara’s Theme; is the standout composition and is joined by Russian folk influenced pieces, lyrical waltz’s, and melodic themes all of which animate the history of Russia and the journeys all of the characters must undertake.
Although Mick Jackson’s romantic thriller was panned critically for its acting and screenplay, the legendary soundtrack remains to this day the best-selling soundtrack of all time, and for good reason. The film features Whitney Houston’s celebrated cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘I WillAlways Love You’, a cover of Chaka Khan’s ‘I’m Every Woman’ as well as Academy Award nominated original songs ‘Run to You’ and ‘I Have Nothing’. What the film may lack in critical success it makes up for by its immensely powerful soundtrack with Whitney Houston singing her absolute best, despite perhaps not acting her best.
Call Me By Your Name
The critically acclaimed, coming of age story of ‘Call Me By Your Name’ directed by Luca Guadagnino is not only a beautiful depiction of first love but also has a fabulous soundtrack personally chosen by the director. Three original songs written by Sufjan Stevens and classics such as Psychedelic Furs’ ‘Love My Way’ are combined with classical compositions including J.S. Bach, Erik Satie and John Adams. Italian artists such as Franco Battiato and Loredana Berte are added to support the film’s Italian setting, which help the soundtrack to seamlessly enrich the emotions which flow throughout the film as the budding romance unfolds between Elio and Oliver.
Romeo + Juliet
Baz Luhrmann is not a director known for his subtlety and the textured soundtrack to his lavish, modern production of ‘Romeo + Juliet’ has ensured its effortlessly timeless quality. The love theme; Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’ enhances the iconic romantic scenes with heart-breaking effectiveness. IT is accompanied by music from Radiohead, The Butthole Surfers, Garbage and One Inch Punch among others, creating a punchy soundtrack which adds even more drama to the epic romantic tragedy.
Perhaps the most well-known opening scene in cinematic history could easily have fallen flat without the right song. Luckily ‘Danger Zone’ performed by Kenny Loggins is flawless. The rest of the soundtrack is equally powerful and makes up for Tom Cruise’s rather limited acting skills in the role of pilot Maverick attending the elite flight school TopGun. The cheesy pop hits launch the film into blockbuster territory with songs like ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ from the Righteous Brothers, ‘Great Balls of Fire and Teena Marie’s ‘Lead Me On’. However, it is the original love theme ‘Take My Breath Away’ by Berlin, which solidifies the big screen romance between Maverick and Charlie. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and has remained agelessly beautiful.
Image: Romeo and Juliet’s Balcony Scene via Heritage