Movie Soundtracks


In the early days of film, movies were silent. The technology to play audio or music tracks had not been invented yet, so conversations were shown with text on the screen. To keep audiences more engaged, movie theaters would hire a musician to play the organ or piano to accompany the film. When a villain would appear on screen, the organ player would improvise an "angry" sounding chord, and when the hero saves the day, a "triumphant" sounding melody would play.

Charlie Chaplin

Watch this clip from an old Charlie Chaplin silent film. This is the kind of music that would have been improvised by the organ or piano player in the theater. How does the music match the actions on screen?

Over the years, the use of music in movies has become more sophisticated. Film composers today use musical themes for characters and locations to help draw the viewer into the story. One of the most famous and talented film composers is John Williams. John Williams has written the music for many famous films, and he still writes music today at the age of 86!

Click on the form and take few minutes to look up movies you recognize by these film composers. List at least three movies for each composer:

  • James Newton Howard
  • Hans Zimmer
  • Junkie XL
  • Michael Giacchino

Movie Clips

The main purpose of a film soundtrack is to provide an emotional element for the audience. Music allows the audience to experience the emotions the characters on screen are feeling. Watch these clips from different movies and, on the form, briefly explain how the music has an emotional impact on the scene.

Try to summarize the music in a few words, such as: intense, dramatic, tension, joyous, unsettling, playful, inspiring, sorrowful, etc.

1. Indiana Jones:

2. UP:

3. The Village:

Forest Gump:

The Lion King: