Secret Stage Top Fives: Soundtracks

Based on a suggestion from Pop Culture Perspective's Eric Rovtar (@EricRovtar), this week's Secret Stage Top Five is one that even the least media-savvy have probably encountered: soundtracks. Whether they set the tone for our favorite movies, television shows, or video games, music adds another dimension to our favorite pieces of entertainment. As someone who has put together a lot of video, I can assure you that a lack of soundtrack can make for a pretty awkward scene. Here are Secret Stage's favorite soundtracks:


Tied for 5th. Ghost in the Shell/Akira - "Both of them have very iconic soundtracks that I could never repeat but they stay in my head for a long time."

4. Cowboy Bebop - "I had forgotten how good the music in that show/movie was until I watched the movie again recently."

3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - "KDST radio station. I will still listen to that on youtube from time to time."

2. Fallout 3 - "In particular, the radio station. There was a while after playing through that game when I had a Youtube playlist of the radio station bookmarked and would open it whenever I was at my computer."

1. Skyrim - "I haven't listened to it in a while, but I used to listen to it while studying all the time. The only issue was that it would make me want to take frequent breaks to play the game."



HM. Anything that Kenny Loggin's is on

5. Pulp Fiction - "When I was studying film a few years ago, one of the aspects I began to focus on was the creative use of music to add to a scene. Tarantino is phenomenal at this, but I still believe that Pulp Fiction is his Quintessential soundtrack."

4. Forrest Gump - "The soundtrack of Forrest Gump is a Who's Who of popular music in America over several decades, and is used throughout the movie to both provide historical context and set the tone."

3. Help! - "Help! is both my favorite Beatles movie and one of my favorite early Beatles albums. The music actually tackles a lot of different themes wrapped up in easy to digest music. Only the first 7 songs are actually in the movie, but I've Just Seen A Face and Yesterday are clear standouts worth tracking down!"

2. The Lion King - "90's Disney Movies hold a special place in my heart, and I could talk in length about how much I love the soundtracks to each, but none hold a candle to the Lion King. The Hans Zimmer/Elton John joint includes hit after hit. I can be commonly seen belting out a few tracks from the release."

1. The Graduate - "I love this film, and a large part of that is the support provided by the wonderfully-crafted soundtrack. The music is directed in such a way that it almost feels like another character. I've never seen a film that utilizes music better than The Graduate."

Video Games

5. Portal 2 - "Portal has a lot going for it. The way the game uses sound and music cues to enhance the game play is an interesting way to inform the player when they've done something right."

4. Grand Theft Auto V - "GTA is known for legendary collections of music from every genre, but no game captures real radio culture than Grand Theft Auto V. Each station has a carefully crafted playlist intermixed with celebrities as the radio personalities. If you want to get me something for Christmas, start with that GTA V vinyl set."

3. Halo 3 - "Marty O'Donnell has done a lot of great music across his career, but I think his best work comes from Halo 3. His command of feeling and power comes through the music in ways I've never seen in other games."

2. Super Smash Bros. Brawl - "Might be cheating a little bit, but I remember being so excited leading up to the release of Brawl largely in part because of the music. The game collects music from several franchises, including Mario and Zelda, but also smaller series like F-Zero and Pikmin."

1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - "Koji Kondo has been a mainstay at Nintendo from the beginning of their video game dominance, and has contributed some of the most familiar tracks in video games. But the way he managed to add to and enhance the artsy-Gamecube Zelda game is unparalleled. I think it's safe to say I'm happy he is a supervisor on the Zelda Wii U soundtrack."



HM: This Is Spinal Tap (Spinal Tap) - "This needed to be on my list somewhere because as a rock/metal fan, I can barely go a full week without seeing some sort of reference to this film. It is a classic and it literally would be nothing without the soundtrack."

5. Guardians Of The Galaxy (Various Artists) - "I love this one because it was insanely fun. Fits the movie perfectly and very rarely is the soundtrack so heavily referenced in the movie itself. Also, it's full of feel good nostalgia."

4. Lord Of The Rings/The Hobbit (Howard Shore) - "It is a challenge to pair the massive visuals of Middle Earth with the right music, but Howard Shore hit it out of the park. Whether it's the light and perky tune of The Shire or the intense and emotional crescendos of Mount Doom, these soundtracks are unmistakably LOTR."

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Danny Elfman) - "To me, there is no composer who nails creepy and quirky like Danny Elfman. There are numerous films I would've loved to include that were scored by him, but TNBC is without a doubt my favorite on that list. I needed a Disney movie somewhere and while some of the other classics may have more catchy musical accompaniments, this one is special to me in more ways than one. Thus, it's more than earned it's place. "

2. The Dark Knight Trilogy (Hans Zimmer) - "When it comes to Hans, I think this Batman series really pushed his creativity. Pirates Of The Caribbean had a great score, but these films were darker and more moody. In my opinion, they really set the stage for some of his other great works such as the soundtracks for Inception and Interstellar. So if I have to pick one series of his, this is definitely it."

1. Star Wars (John Williams) - "These are my all time favorite films and the soundtrack is crucial. If it were not for his brilliant composing and the way they compliment every second of every scene, I doubt this franchise would even be close to what it is today. I understand that this has more so turned into a top 5 list of composers, but you know. You can't top John Williams. (Special added shout out to Harry Potter from him by the way)"

Video Games

5. Fallout 3 (Various Artists) - "A lot of people I know got annoyed with the classic tunes of Galaxy News Radio and shut it off. However, I had the music volume slightly higher than everything else because I loved the peppy feel of 30-50's era music paired with the dreary Capital Wasteland. It gave the game a sense of realism."

4. Mario (Koji Kondo) - "EVERYONE knows the theme to Super Mario Bros. It's legacy helped shape the franchise as a whole and I can't imagine any of the numerous Mario games that exist now without it."

3. Bastion (Darren Korb) - "If it weren't for the sheer impact of the top 2 games on my life, this would easily be number 1. I actually listen to this soundtrack on my downtime because it's got this sultry yet energetic vibe with a worldly twist. The open tuning of the acoustic guitar paired with the industrial effects and unexpected instruments chiming in here and there.... I could go on for days, but you need to just buy it. Now."

2. Halo (Martin "Marty" O'Donnell) - "Halo is one of my most loved game series. I love the story, the visuals and the replay ability of both the multiplayer and story modes across the board... but the soundtrack is just iconic. I've spent so much time just sitting in the start menu so I could listen to the music which, to me, speaks volumes."

1. Zelda (Koji Kondo) - "Koji had to be on my list twice because his ability to so accurately match the score with the game before him is insane. The soundtrack to every single Zelda game compliments the feel of each individual story. It's that attention to detail that has landed The Legend Of Zelda at the top of my list."


5. The Lion King – "I’m an Elton John fan, and the way the iconic score in this movie reflects live stage drama is a tribute to the film’s originality and complexity."

4. The Pirates of the Caribbean Series – "I am a fan of Hans Zimmer’s work, and he does a wonderful job of incorporating the styles of traditional sea shanties in a modern score."

3. Tarzan – "Not only are the songs in this movie fun, but the orchestral score is clever as well. During certain points in the film, we hear little quotes from Phil Collins’ songs which tie the film together as a comprehensive work."

2. Harry Potter Series – "Much like the others, this is an iconic score. As much as I don’t care for John Williams, he does know how to write (and often “borrow”) a melody. There are many different recognizable melodies from this series that are intricate parts of the film, which lands the series a spot on my list."

1. The Nightmare Before Christmas – "Danny Elfman is another composer that I feel is overrated, but The Nightmare Before Christmas is an intricate, well-written score. I won’t even touch on the animation since it’s not what this list is about, but the score is an interesting spin on the musical drama. Although it is written for film, it could very well be imagined as an adaptation of a musical performed on Broadway. The pacing of the drama is well done and the music reflects that. Each number adds to the drama and tension builds as we gain insight into the characters. Starring Danny Elfman as Jack Skellington’s singing voice, we can assume that the final product is likely very close to what the composer envisioned (since he is the composer and male lead). It is a well-written collaboration between two greats in the film industry, and is definitely worthy of the #1 spot on my list."


5. Tron Legacy - "Daft punk did such a good job with this soundtrack! Fits the tone of the movie very well!"

4. Portal 2 - "This game is amazing and so is the soundtrack! I loved playing this game with Zach and the music alone makes me want to go back and play it!"

3. Lord of the Rings Trilogy - "This is just an amazing soundtrack. The whole movie is amazing and the soundtrack is very iconic."

2. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - "Battle of Heroes. This is one of the most recognizable star wars scenes between Obi-wan and Anakin."

1. Halo 3 - "This is one of the most iconic modern video game soundtracks. It is both epic and nostalgic for me. I find myself just listening to the thing and wanting to play some Halo."


5. Juno Soundtrack - "I remember when they used to send me everywhere in Michigan for work and when I was in Grand Rapids we listened to it all week. It kept everyone real upbeat and the mood was just solid."

4. Diddy Kong Racing - "For some reason ever since I can remember I've always had this soundtrack on my phone, and I tell everyone it's for videos I edit on Instagram but I find myself jamming Hot Top Volcano while driving more than I would actually use it for videos."

3. Donkey Kong Country - "Tree Top Rock is the FUCKING JAAAM."

2. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - "I love the soundtrack because it has all the originals but also artists like Beck redid a few of the hits like "Threshold" and I've always secretly wanted to cover it."

1. The Legend of Zelda - "I purposely didn't put a specific title, because I love the Hyrule Symphony album, but I also love the ZREO albums where I could find tracks from all the games together. One of the best is probably the Deku Palace, those games have always had very unique soundtracks that really fit each scenario perfectly and make the world seem that much more real."


5. Accepted - "Funny and provides me with some one liners. But also, the soundtrack is classic and catchy. The Ramones definitely sticking out from the movie."

4. SSX Tricky - "Fantastic game, sticking out as one of my favorite snowboard styled games, but killer music that I would totally put on my personal snowboard playlist."

3. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - "Very innovative, custom, and unlike other soundtrack. I have a few of the songs on my music list, and they always make me smirk when I hear them come on."

2. Twisted Metal 3 - "One of my all time favorite games, and really the one that started me on the twisted metal franchise. This one is nostalgic, I remember my mom watched me play on occasion, and she liked the music too. I was surprised, didn't think mom would be a Rob Zombie fan. Ha."

1. Grind - "Part of what's going to make the best movie of all time, is a terrific soundtrack. This one kills it for me, I think after becoming such a big fan of this movie, almost every song is on my song list. This movie actually get major credit for me like blindside, which is still a band I currently enjoy."


5. The Legend of Zelda - "Even though I don't play Zelda, I really like all of the music for it . I feel like there is so much put into it and that they aren't just trying to make background music for a video game."

4. Splatoon - "The music is pretty catchy and just makes me want to play it."

3. Any Tim Burton Movie - "The music always fits so well."

2. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - "They kind of have a Black Keys vibe going on and I like that a lot."

1. Juno - "I love the song 'Anyone Else But You' by The Moldy Peaches."

Your Favorites?


Iron Man 3, The Last of Us, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Lion King, and The Phantom of the Opera


Favorite Movie: Kick-Ass

Favorite Video Game: Tekken 3 on Playstation