In recent blog pieces we’ve looked at what makes a great home cinema speaker and how to get the best from your home cinema system. Now it’s time for some examples to get your teeth into. But before we begin, it’s worth pointing out that this list attempts to find great soundtracks attached to films that are at least pretty watchable. Just because something’s loud and well engineered doesn’t mean it’s a great film, so a few technically good soundtracks escape our mention here because we want you to, well… enjoy watching them too!
Pacific Rim (2013)
The Film: Not the most plot or character driven film going, Pacific Rim is nonetheless stunningly gorgeous to look at and had a ridiculous amount of effort go into it. The Jager (big robot) 'cockpit' for example is a complete physical set and doesn’t use CGI. Each Kaiju monster also contains dozens of homages to famous Hollywood beasts for seasoned movie buffs to pick up on.
The Soundtrack: What makes Pacific Rim stand out is that like the visuals, huge care has been lavished on the sound effects. Each Kaiju makes a different sound as do the Jagers. The layering of different sounds and their superbly dynamic placement are a decent challenge for any home cinema system.
TRON; Legacy (2012)
The Film: With a young Jeff Bridges possibly being one of the scariest CGI laden characters ever committed to film, TRON; Legacy is undoubtedly beautiful. It pays enough lip service to the original to feel like the same world and the concept of sentient programs is interesting if a little underused.
The Soundtrack: Let's be honest here. What puts this film amongst the greats is a score that puts Daft Punk in the pantheon of superb film score composers, even if they never make another. The combination of sound and vision in TRON; Legacy are at times pretty much perfect and that's no mean feat.
The Film: It takes more liberties with physics than it likes to pretend but there's no doubting that Gravity is an incredibly gripping and engrossing film with plenty of visual drama that puts it amongst the more memorable films of recent years. The small cast gives it an intimacy that contrasts nicely with the vastness of space. Visually this film is stunning, so if you have a good TV set prepare yourself, it might make your eyes bleed!
The Soundtrack: Gravity didn't win three sound related Oscars by accident. This is a seriously impressive and thoughtful use of effects and placement and the way it pays attention to when noise should and shouldn't be present (due to space being a vacuum) is extremely impressive.
Super 8 (2011)
The Film- Something of a missed opportunity in that it never quite delivers on the promise of its opening hour. Nonetheless, Super 8 is an atmospheric, lovingly crafted and at times utterly beautiful film packed to the roof with nods to films of the era. This is nostalgia but very impressive nostalgia might we add.
The Soundtrack- If the film has weaknesses, its score is a masterclass in mixing the everyday and the extraordinary and not being afraid to use almost no sound at all when that is effective. The train crash gets the most attention but the scene with the sheriff at the gas station is also an example of exceptional mastering.
Master and Commander- The Far Side of the World (2003)
The Film: A surprisingly well observed film on the Napoleonic era, Master & Commander gives Russell Crowe something to get his teeth into and combines some incredible visuals and genuinely tense sequences to excellent effect. Possibly a little on the long side, but still a good watch
The Soundtrack: A big crunching monster of a thing, the score for Master & Commander is visceral, extremely exciting and makes brilliant use of effects spread. Cannonfire never sounded so good.
The Film: Although not quite as clever as it thinks it is, Oblivion is still an entertaining film jam packed with truly stunning imagery and design. Pretty much every visual aspect is utterly gorgeous and Tom Cruise turns in a solid performance too.
The Soundtrack: Oblivion is another film that really comes alive on the strength of its score from French act M83. Combine this with some seriously impressive sound effects- the drones in particular sound incredible- and you have a film that should pull you into its post apocalyptic world.
Das Boot (1981)
The Film: Managing to balance its strong anti-war message with a gripping plot ably supported by brilliant and compelling acting, Das Boot is still the best submarine movie ever made (not that there’s much competition) and is a superb film.
The Soundtrack: Despite its relative age and thanks to the nature of sounds on a submarine, this is still one of the most immersive soundtracks ever made and something that adds immeasurably to the sense of confinement in the film.
Fight Club (1999)
The Film: You can argue that once you've seen the twist (hopefully we haven’t ruined it for you!) you don't need to watch it again but the care that went into Fight Club and the stunning performance by its three leads make it a film that stands up to be revisited time and time again.
The Soundtrack: Combining a punchy electronic score with moments of staggering impact but also almost total silence make this a very intense viewing experience. The mid-air collision sequence still takes the breath away.
Jurassic Park (1993)
The Film: Well what can you say about Jurassic Park? Spielberg at the peak of his directing powers, CGI so carefully used it still looks good today and the mastery of John Williams in one film are enough to ensure that this is still the blockbuster by which all others are judged.
The Soundtrack: That score combined with some of the most iconic sound effects of the last fifty years means that Jurassic Park still delivers an intensity and excitement that few films even today, get anywhere near.
Mad Max Fury Road (2015)
The Film: Of course it was worth the wait. A visually stunning, vast and utterly ballistic thrill ride that explores what it is to be human when humanity has failed. All accompanied by huge V8 engines.
The Soundtrack: A vast wall of sound and fury that just happens to have been put together with almost obsessive attention to detail, also benefitting from one of the best scores of the last ten years. This is multichannel perfection.
So that’s our list and there’s no doubt we’ve missed a load of films out with awesome soundtracks. What’s your go-to film for putting your sound system through its paces? Make sure you share it with us in the comments below!