Credit: Coscian Sky

Brian Eno's favourite film soundtracks of all time

Like a wasp at a picnic, there is very little left in pop-culture that Brian Eno hasn’t touched. Unlike the aforementioned figurative wasp, however, Eno’s presence has been subtle and benevolent. On top of his own ambient classics, the list of albums he has worked on as a producer reads like an ‘all-time greatest’ list. Therefore, it is no surprise that he has his finger firmly on the cultural pulse and naturally this involves keeping a keen eye on cinema. His give and take relationship with movies has led to a stream of inspiration running both ways, thus when he named it his favourite soundtracks and musical movie moments of all time it is not only a noteworthy selection, but it also makes for one hell of a playlist. 

Speaking to Hugh Cornwall of The Stranglers on his online radio show, MrDeMilleFM, which has previously featured stars from the music world like Debbie Harry and luminary directors such as Steve McQueen, Eno picked out a rich and varied selection from cinema of new and old. He eulogised the brilliance of his favourite musical moments in typically erudite fashion. The selection may include two of his own, but once more with trademark self-effacing humility he ensures the listener that it is the treatment of the tracks that has endeared him to them. 

Eno’s first pick was what he described as the first time he remembered the powerful impact of music on movies, with Nino Rota’s theme that features in the Fellini film Juliet of the Spirit. “It’s so unexpected,” Eno explains, “It’s kind of kitsch and jaunty.” Ultimately, he praises it for music’s ability to transport, claiming that the song, “identified Italy in the 1960s,” for him. 

Another notable on the list is beloved Eno collaborator David Bowie, whose industrial phase entwined perfectly with David Lynch’s surrealist view. Eno explains that the song recaptured the energy of Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy which proved the perfect fit for Lynch because it was somehow “even more deranged.”

Regarding his own pieces, he discusses the use of ‘Final Sunset’ in Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane. When Eno was recording the music for his album Music For Films it’s patently obvious that he had movies in mind and he knew the pieces had “a sort of movie magic to them,” he was just unsure what movie that would be because none of the pieces were recorded for any specific motion picture. In the end, there was a lesson in this for Eno, because the ‘Final Sunset’ was the only track on the album that was in fact tailored for a film and it’s the one that he thinks fits best. 

This list as a whole is a beguiling smorgasbord of music embellished by the cinematic overtures that the tracks evoke. It’s a list that traverses classics like Audrey Hepburn’s ‘Moon River’ which would rightfully sit on most people’s list, while delving into more obscure terrain with the likes of ‘Hobbak Morr’, illustrating Eno’s presiding view over world music. 

In the interview, Eno strays from the film-centred conversation and wanders into some classic studio chat, namely about Bowie and a 72-minute long improvised track called ‘Leon’ that he hopes one day will get an official release.

You can listen to the interview here, and check out the list of tracks below. 

Brian Eno’s favourite music in films: 

  • ‘Theme’ by Nino Rota in Juliet of the Spirits
  • ‘Women of Ireland’ by The Chieftans in Barry Lyndon
  • ‘Theme’ by Miles Davis in Lift to the Scaffold
  • ‘Ubo Gowele’ by Abafana Baseqhundeni in Rhythm of Resistance
  • ‘The Farmer & The Cowman’ by Gordon MacRae in Oklahoma!
  • ‘Moon River’ by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • ‘Final Sunset’ by Brian Eno in Sebastiane
  • ‘Hobbak Mor’ by Samira Tawfik in Desert Romance
  • ‘Didja Ever’ by Elvis Presley in GI Blues
  • ‘Deep Blue Day’ by Brian Eno in Trainspotting
  • ‘I Am Deranged’ by David Bowie in Lost Highway
  • ‘Both Sides Now’ by Joni Mitchell in Love Actually