Good film directors know how to use music: Three examples

Martin Scorsese. Sofia Coppola. Stanley Kubrick.

If you don’t know these film directors, try Googling them, you may find they are responsible for the direction of one of your favorite films.

After watching many  great movies, I have come to the conclusion that they all have sometime in common: They all have great soundtracks. Thus giving me yet another clue on how to make a good movie…

It may just be coincidence, but I doubt it. I have also come to the conclusion that good film directors know how to use music to tell a story.  And I think it’s safe to say, the scene or movie can create the song.  Sometimes literally — with original soundtracks.  But most of the time , not literally, using songs we already know and have heard before.  But they always seem to make the song memorable.

When you’re driving down the road, listening to the radio and a song comes on and immediately you remember the scene from one of your favorite movies. Now that’s power. The workings of moving images with sound is incredible. Suddenly you’re overcome with the feeling that scene held along with the song that it came with. This is when you know the director has correctly chosen the right song for the right scene. That’s not easy.

Good movies have good soundtracks.

ROCKY. STAR WARS.TITANIC. GOODFELLAS. 2001 SPACE ODYSSEY. PULP FICTION. THE GRADUATE. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. APOCALYPSE NOW…oh god, I could go on and on. But I know you know multiple songs played in these movies. And if you heard them, images of these characters and their actions would or could be played in your head. That’s power.

Music is used to create the scene.

I think good directors do this so well, it really in a sense made them ” good directors”.

*Of course, picking the right music is the second task, first you must have the right material and the right actors. So let’s give the screenwriters and actors some credit too…. But the director must direct a strong enough scene, shoot it right and correctly set the mood. But what really tops that scene off, is the music. It’s the whipping on the banana split. Without it,  the scene wouldn’t have been nearly as good, says Captain Hindsight.

Lets break it down now!

Here are three great movies, by the first mentioned group of directors. In each scene the music is crucial. It sets a vibe. The images by themselves wouldn’t be as powerful with out the music. That’s just all there is too it. We could really get into the science of it, but we won’t. We will sit back, watch these scenes and take it all in. I must note  different song could completely change the complexity of the scene. Each of these tunes were chosen on purpose and for a reason… It really separates them from the group.

1. FULL METAL JACKET — ” These Boots  Were Made For Walkin” — Nancy Sinatra

This is a transitional scene. We are changing location, from boot-camp to Vietnam. I know — big changes. Big changes call for big changes in ” feeling “.  Kubrick chose this song wisely. It comes right after one of the darkest scenes in the movie and becomes the biggest turning point; a break into a new act. It’s not so much the lyrics that really penetrate the scene, but the feeling of the song, the rhythm and the beat that really sets the  vibe.


For more of Kubrick’s work, check out THE SHINNING — where he masterfully ques up one of the scariest movies of all time. See ” The Shinning Hallway Scene”.

2. VIRGIN SUICIDES — ” Magic Man” — Heart

This is a montage and intro to a key character in this movie. There isn’t much to say, because Coppola decided to show it all with music, images, character movement and then going into a brief narration to fill any holes. Although an easier way to tell a story, the scene says it all. Everything you need to know in a short two minutes. Unlike our last clip, the lyrics add a special touch…

3. Goodfellas — “Atlantis” — Donovan

This scene, which I think will go down as one of most memorable scenes in film history, is a huge turning point in this movie and our characters actions here  will ultimately lead to their demise (spoiler!). So it’s crucial!  The song emits a special feeling, one that I can’t pin point, but really makes this ultra violent scene, something very ” dreamlike” or “gentle” in many ways.


Check out THE DEPARTED. The first few minutes are well worth it. Many great songs set the vibe.

I could have chosen many movies with various great scenes. I chose this because to me, they were the most memorable. I’m sure you have a scene, with a great song, that really sticks out in your mind…

I’d like to thank YOUTUBE.

For other great movie soundtracks: Drive, 2001 Space Odyssey, Apocalypse Now, Star Wars, Social Network, Pulp Fiction, Requiem For Dream, The Graduate…


Published by robhox

Writer, filmmaking, picture-taking. Don't ever call me 'rob'

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