What are the best synth soundtracks? Since the synthesizer was introduced in the early 60s, it has had a profound effect on 20th-century music. Whether its Wendy Carlos’ spaced-out reinterpretations of classical music, The Beatles’ Abbey Road, or the synth-pop explosion of the early 80s, the synthesizer has revolutionized nearly every aspect of both popular and classical music.
Top 10 | Best Synth Soundtracks
1. Scarface | 1983
Composer: Giorgio Moroder
Synthesizers used: Roland Jupiter-8, Yamaha CS-80
Scarface is the ultimate tale of excess. Anchored by a balls-to-the-wall performance by Al Pacino, this modern rags-to-riches-to-rags again gangster story needed a score as big as its titular character. “Tony’s theme”, Moroder’s ice-cold, ominous and over-the-top composition, centers around huge minor chords, rising and falling like the fate of the movie’s protagonist. Yet, “Gina and Elvira’s theme” — created for the women in the film — with its lush, high-timbre sound, injects a much more poignant and melancholic tone, displaying the brutal effects of Tony’s actions. This is all complemented by choice electronic synthpop classics such as “Push it To The Limit” and “She’s on Fire.”
2. Blade Runner (1982)
Synthesizers used: Yamaha CS-80, ProMars, Jupiter-4
When evoking visions of the future, the synthesizer is your friend. The world of Blade Runner is advanced but also degraded. It combines overcrowded city streets with flying cars and massive neon advertisements to brilliant effect. Vangelis imagines this world as a hazy dream, perfectly complementing the movie’s central conflict of figuring out what is truly real. Just as Blade Runner was a turning point for what science-fiction could do, the soundtrack would prove massively influential, as seen in the scores for Japanese anime such as Akira and Ghost in The Shell. Fun fact: the synthesizer sound in Blade Runner is so recognizable that Logic Pro X even has a pre-programmed synth sound named Los Angeles 2019.
Best synth soundtracks | 3. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Composer: Wendy Carlos
Synthesizers used: Early version of the Moog and Vocoder
With A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick creates a bizarre future-version of London where the conventional standards of morality are gone. A young man named Alex roams, a violent delinquent with delusions of grandeur. Considered as one of the most controversial films of its time, the soundtrack features a series of brilliant classical reinterpretations by Wendy Carlos. She uses an early Moog synthesizer — a synth she helped create with Robert Moog — to reimagine Beethoven’s Ninth, “The Thieving Magpie” and “The William Tell Overture”. Forward-looking while remaining fiercely classical, it is the perfect way to express Alex’s character and to complement the icy-precision of Kubrick’s frames.
4. Chariots of Fire (1981)
Synthesizer used: Yamaha CS-80
Composer: John Carpenter
Synthesizers used: Moog III Modular System, Ribbon Controller and Minimoog
6. Midnight Express
Composer: Giorgio Moroder
Synthesizers used: Roland SH-2000, Minimoog
Best synth soundtracks | 7. Drive (2011)
Composer: Cliff Martinez
Synthesizers used: Arturia Mini V, Yamaha CS-15, Roland Juno-106, MicroKorg
An experiment by Zane Lowe of Radio 1, in which the unique Drive soundtrack was replaced by a new curation of songs, highlighted the importance of the music to the film, as the remixed film lost most of its unique charm. Cliff Martinez’s soundtrack is a wonder, allowing the noir-romantic themes of the movie to speak for themselves. But it is not just the score that is brilliant, original sounds such as “A Real Hero” by College and “Nightcall” by Kavinsky, helping to set the synthwave aesthetic of the 10s. Now the Drive music aesthetic has bled into everything from nostalgic vaporwave on YouTube to Netflix’s Stranger Things.
8. Suspiria (1977)
Synthesizers used: Minimoog, System 55
9. Twin Peaks (1990)
Composer: Angelo Badalamenti
Synthesizers used: Yamaha DX7, Roland D50
Best Synth Soundtracks |10. Akira (1988)
Composer: Geinō Yamashirogumi
Synthesiser used: Roland D50