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Seven great movie scores by rock musicians: Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, and more

by Joey DeGroot   Apr 15, 2014 13:00 PM EDT

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Since Hollywood always seems desperate to get people to go to the movies, it's strange that it wouldn't hire popular musicians to score its films more often, as that could draw in a completely different group of people that otherwise wouldn't care about a particular film. I'm sure there are plenty of Nine Inch Nails fans who are anticipating David Fincher's Gone Girl simply because Trent Reznor co-wrote the score. Here are seven other rock (and alternative) musicians who wrote excellent film scores.

1. Jonny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood (2007)

Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is the only member of his band to have been classically trained and he uses his considerable talents to occasionally score films, most famously Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood. Though Greenwood's jarring use of dissonance and minimalism was widely praised, his score was deemed ineligible for an Academy Award nomination, due to its inclusion of music that Greenwood had used for his previous film score Bodysong.

2. Neil Young - Dead Man (1995)

Neil Young's score for Jim Jarmusch's western Dead Man wasn't actually composed. Rather, Young stood in a recording studio with some instruments and simply improvised music while watching a cut of the film. The resulting music is at times atmospheric and chaotic.

3. Belle & Sebastian - Storytelling (2001)

Though Belle & Sebastian's music may seem too wordy to serve as the soundtrack to a film, the Scottish indie-pop group composed a 35-minute score for Todd Solondz's film Storytelling. However, only six minutes of the band's music actually ended up in the film.

4. Björk - Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Not only did Björk compose the music for Lars Von Trier's musical Dancer in the Dark (with lyrics by Björk, Von Trier, and Sjon), she also starred in the film, even earning the Best Actress award at Cannes. As good as her music was, however, the only thing anyone remembers about it is the swan dress Björk wore when she performed at the Academy Awards that year.

5. Yo La Tengo - Old Joy (2006)

Although alt-country musician Will Oldham is one of Old Joy's two lead actors, he didn't compose the dreamy music for the film; that job went to Hoboken trio Yo La Tengo. The band has contributed music to numerous films, and even compiled some of their film music on the album You Shoot, We Score.

6. Tom Waits - One from the Heart (1982)

Though Francis Ford Coppola's musical One from the Heart failed miserably and has been largely forgotten, the one thing anyone remembers about the film is the jazzy score by Tom Waits, which received an Academy Award nomination in 1982.

7. Peter Gabriel - The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Throughout the '80s, Peter Gabriel was diving deeper into African and Middle Eastern music, and this interest culminated in his score for Martin Scorsese's highly controversial The Last Temptation of Christ. Though many musicians write film music that sounds similar to the music on their albums, there's not a trace of pop music anywhere to be found here.

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