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Essay: The use of Music in Science Fiction Movies (Annotated Bibliography)

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Influence of Music and Soundtracks in Science Fiction Movies

Futurism Staff. (2015) Best Sci-Fi Movie Soundtracks. Available at: https://futurism.media/best-sci-fi-movie-soundtracks (Accessed: 18 October 2018).

This article has tried to elucidate how different types of science fiction movies have used various musicals to enrich their performance and create the movie world that is required. The authors say that the predecessor of music as a soundtrack to acting is opera. While the methods of conveying visual information have changed since opera ruled the film world, there is no much advancement concerning music wants. The best composers for science fiction soundtracks have since solved these challenges in different ways with some deciding to use the general atmosphere while others fall on giving specific actors distinct themes. For example, the sound effects for Tron: Legacy created by Daft Punk relied on the music tracks from the original Tron. The sound effects used Blade Runner utilize a wider spectrum of styles such as new age, and unfussiness.

Use of synthesizers creates a desirable taste of impending era into the atmosphere of the film and enduring musical compositions. The repeated elements are attributed to minimalism. This results in the unusual arrangement and a sensation of total engagement in the story. The sound effects produced in “Star Wars” is the most popular in a sci-fi movie. Music is the leading carrier of action in Star Wars as in opera. Every single actor is assigned his/her theme, that at time showcases itself in association with other actors’ theme.
The article is useful to researchers in that it can describe what type of soundtracks and music to include wherein the different scenes of the movie. It explains how to manipulate the observers’ mind to shift between suspense, anxiety, happiness, and sadness. This ability to manage the memory of the observer is what makes movies more attractive in the public domain.

Lee, P. (2012) The Most Influential Sci-Fi Movies. Or Are They? Available at: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/the_most_influential_sci_ (Accessed: 26 October 2018).

  • Lee’s (2012) view of the influence of soundtracks and music in sci-fi movies is clearly highlighted. In this article, Lee starts by addressing the listing of the most influential film soundtracks in sci-fi by Turner Classic Movies. TCM host Robert Osborne is captured saying that it is not possible to think of particular movies without recalling their music scores. Osborne adds that TCM’s list appreciates the highly memorable soundtracks which took the art of film music to a higher level and created the most durable impression to the movie globe.
  • Lee (2012) further asserts that music has had a bigger role in movies compared to the last days of silent films. Lee states that music was able to be incorporated in the films by 1920 beginning with a synced score in Don Juan in 1926 and then Max Steiner in 1933. From the 1930’s and 1940’s movies were dominated with a compilation of songs from musicals and lush orchestral scores for performances. The writer compares the movies that were acted before the incorporation of music and those after. From his view, modern music incorporation has made movies more attractive.
  • TCM listing is believed to have based on a number of factors to rank the most influential film soundtracks including the impact of the sounds on how music is used to draw a storyline and on the methods for selecting music. Additionally, their effect is described by the influence they have on pop songs.

Though the article does not give exhaustive information on the influence music and soundtracks have in movies, it has to a great extent explained how music defines a scene. Moreover, the article has described how good choice of music impacts on the durability of the movie in peoples’ minds.

Ottinger III, J. (2009) What Music Reminds You of Science Fiction or Fantasy? Available at: https://www.tor.com/2009/06/29/what-music-reminds-you-of-science-fiction-or-fantasy/ (Accessed: 30 October 2018).

  • Ottinger (2009) says that he loves music and believes that music affects an individual to some extent at a specific time and place and he believes that music has irrefutable authority which humans cannot evade. Everybody listens to music at particular times. The music one listens to depends on the activity he/she is engaged in.
  • Ottinger (2009) writes that in the recent past he has been of music that contains scientific themes. He gives an example of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi which has a theme on climatic changes and also involves an apocalyptic prospect in its lyrics. From the author’s point of view, music is ascribed for determining the theme to be addressed in a certain scene. Any time a specific song is played in a film, it signifies the introduction of a different theme.
  • Ottinger (2009) writes that anytime he hears this song, it draws him back to the movie. From this thought of being drawn back to a movie by a song, it is clear that music integrated into a movie will create some sort of remembrance. Music boosts the ability of the viewers to recall the scene and themes built by a particular movie.
  • Also, he states that these music lyrics creates a scheme of fantasy or falsehood. He says that some music used in movies may not even relate to science but gives an intent of science fiction or fantasy. From his implications, we able to deduce that music has the charm of bringing out the sense of fiction in a movie.

This article has some weaknesses which include its inability to clearly depict how these different songs are selected and attached to various scenes that correspond to them to show their intended themes. However, the article is able to show the impact music plays in creating themes in the film and draws evidence on how music used in films makes them memorable.

Sweet, M. (2014) Space-age symphonies: The Music of Science Fiction Film. Available at: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2TRbG3vh0CzwzpVXbMcFNDF/space-age-symphonies-the-music-of-science-fiction-film (Accessed: 30 October 2018).

  • Sweet (2014) discusses the different uses of musical instrumentation in different situations and how it has managed to shape the movie industry. He starts by saying that nobody can hear someone making noise in space. This is because space is a vacuum and thus there is no air to longitudinally transit sound waves. He also states that nature in itself loathes a vacuum and movies too. This gives the producer the obligation of filling it.
  • Sweet (2014) acknowledges Bernard Herrmann to having founded a prior form of multi-track footage on The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Louis and Bebe for generating the realm’s original all-electronic flick score for Forbidden Planet (1958).
  • Due to the technological advancement, Theremin remains fit only for comedy. Modern science fictions are not aimed at creating the fun but transforms organic sounds to unearthly sounds. Sweet (2014) uses examples of Zimmer’s sound effects for Interstellar which uses strings, pianos, and strong refrain sounds and Mica Levi’s mesmerizing harmony for Under the Skin (2013) that uses a slithering and pitching viola as a lone apparatus.

This article addresses the origin of the musical soundtracks and why they were opted to be included in the movie world. It also states that music is magical in film production since it determines to what degree the film is watched in the different regions of the world and how they manage to remain in people’s memories. Well-constructed and placed music and soundtracks make a movie enjoyable to watch.

Kelleghan, F. (1996) Sound Effects in Science Fiction and Horror Films. Available at: filmsound.org/articles/horrorsound/horrorsound.htm (Accessed: 04 November).

This article evaluates the application of music and soundtracks in science fiction movies and in horror movies and how effective they are in constructing the desired impacts to the viewers worldwide. The article gives the autonomy of music and soundtracks in movies as well as the selection criteria of music to be embedded in different scenes of the movie. From the article we are able to comprehend that music in a film will only be effective is matched with the anticipated actions. Basically, Kelleghan (1996) tries to evaluate the whole scope of using music in horror movies and science fiction.

The writer starts by referring to composer David Raksin saying that Alfred Hitchcock did not want music in the 1944 film Lifeboat since the characters were in the open ocean. The author says that John Carpenter, who writes and performs music for almost all his films, accepts that soundtracks must be couched. The writer stipulates that at times what the composer wants you to know is the skill he/she uses.

For instance, in the case of ‘mickey mousing’ technique, King Kong climbs the Empire State building, the sound effects upsurges and falls correspondingly according to his steps. The sound effects produced usually provides the viewers with what to expect. Also, a heavy brass chord usually announces danger, while a low unrelenting tone generates clandestine. These soundtracks are made in a way that on hearing them, the viewer can predict what is to follow. Sometimes the composers may bring in unpredictable soundtracks to film to blind the viewers from what to expect. In many cases, this blinding has helped to enable the movies to grab more concentration from the audience.

The current spectators have grown with complexities sufficient to be mindful of these musical clues. In comedy films, musicians have the liberty to use contrapuntal music which plays directly against the documented leitmotif. The author refers to when Stanley Kubrick presents the music “Try a Little Tenderness” to complement the two aircraft refilling in midair at the start of Dr. Strangelove, he creates an anecdote that contradicts with the dark and fatal insinuations of the rest of the movie. The creators acquire their ideas from different musical instruments and uproars generate different emotional impacts. The writer implicates that music has the strength to affect pictorial arena and the fancy. Synthesizers are mostly used in SF and horror movies since they yield wraithlike sounds. Alternatively, horns are utilized if straightforward emotions are to be generated. They are usually connected with soldierly and hunters and thus a symbol for bravery, e.g., in Star Wars and Robocop.

The stretch of the sound from the start to the top is referred to an attack and can be reckless or gentle. Reckless sounds are louder and usually terrifying. Bernard Herrmann’s theme utilizes high-pitched string instrument notes with a faster attack. Herrmann again uses cords majorly and drumming to make unsureness in the movie Fahrenheit 451. Many films use high-pitched music to implicate fear. Michael Crichton’s sound mixers in the movie Congo noticed that even high organic sounds could create indecision. For example, birds and insects in the wilderness make high ambient whimper that kind of gets to the nerves. The writer considers the violin in Psycho too efficient as it is used as a beating signifying the knife strokes. Profound sounds are assumed to be winning and can be felt piercing the body if the volume is amplified enough. Most of the soundtracks that are created are adopted from the sound made by living organisms and only modified a little bit. It is anticipated that as the optical effects develop stylish, soundtracks also increase their complexity.

This article is very important for researchers especially those interested in evaluating the efficiency of music in science fiction movies for it tries to give out almost everything that needs to be known about the film world. The author starts by trying to describe the origin of soundtracks and music in movies and why they were an important aspect to be considered. The writer then gives an idea of how the many soundtrack builders gain their art form and how they modify the different soundtracks to meet their required quality. The author states that living organisms such as insects and birds are the ones that initially produces the sounds used in the movies. The natural sounds are then manipulated and used as templates even to create more sophisticated sounds which are incorporated in movies. Moreover, the writer appreciates the different equipment used to generate sounds such as the piano, strings, and synthesizer. The writer then brings an imagination on how the future of music and soundtracks used in movies.

Critical Evaluation of the Bibliography

I would gladly recommend my bibliography to other researchers studying the influence of music and soundtracks in science fiction films. The sources I have identified can be used to efficiently address all the aspects that need to be discovered concerning the influence of music and soundtracks in sci-fi movies.

A number of the reading materials I have provided identify the origin of the use of music in films and why the music was considered necessary in the film world. Movies that were created in the 1920s and below lacked the aspect of the use of music. Such films were considered unattractive to the audience and thus did not sell that much. Due to the minimal sales, the producers had to devise means to make the movies sell highly and thus the need to include music and soundtracks in the films.

Additionally, the sources address the ways in which soundtrack composers gain their ideas of constructing all these complex sound effects. Most of the sounds used in the movies were adapted from natural things such as the roaring of lions, the chirping of birds and the sound made by the engine of a ship. These raw sounds are then utilized to make more complex soundtracks. These sounds are then attached to different film scenes to define various occurrences.

Similarly, the reading materials I have provided illustrates the effects of different songs in the films and the impact of these effects in predicting the forthcoming events and the character expected next. The music is depicted to be setting the moods of the viewers and the emotions expressed by them. Romantic songs automatically insinuate a scene full of romance and make the audience happier since people are known to be very much interested in love issues. Alternatively, sad songs will switch the audience’s mood to sorrowfulness. A particular song will be known to introduce a certain theme or character thus facilitating predictability.

The sources included in the bibliography help to know when to use a particular song or sound effect in a movie, which scene should have a specific type of sound effect or song and how the sound effect or song is to be built in the scenes.

Besides, the bibliography includes a right balance of materials ranging from TV reports, articles, journals and books. The index I have written complements each other by providing the sort of information that is omitted by other sources. The bibliography that addresses the importance of music in sci-fi movies is supplemented by the one discussing the effects of music on films, which additionally is complemented by another one addressing the origin of the use of music and soundtracks in cinema.

From the research I have done, the approaches to studying the use of music in science fiction movies have been changing over time. Different researchers implement different styles in the studies to meet their intention.

Consequently, several kinds of research have been studying the varied aspects of the film world and thus to succeed they have to apply dynamic approaches.

From the bibliography, I noticed some intentionally omitted parts. If at any point I was to expand this bibliography, then I will address such issues like how the use of music in the film industry has been able to evolve, and the impact technology has played in the production of the more sophisticated soundtracks. The bibliography that I have written only addresses the origin, use, importance, and selection of music and soundtracks to different movie scenarios. This lack of full content needed cultivates an insight to study more about music.


  • Barham, J. (2008) ‘Scoring Incredible Futures: Science-Fiction Screen Music, and ‘Postmodernism’ as Romantic Epiphany’, Musical Quarterly, 91(3-4), pp. 240-274.
  • Bartkowiak, M. J. (2010) Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film. United States: McFarland & Company Inc, Publishers.
  • Bond, J. (2008) Composing for the Sci-fi Genre. Available at: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/composing-sci-fi-genre1175510 (Accessed: 01 November 2018).
  • Carlton, J. (2018) The Effective Use of Music in Movie. Available at: www.moviepredators.com/movie-articles/effective-use-music-movie/ (Accessed: 01 November 2018).
  • Futurism Staff. (2015) Best Sci-Fi Movie Soundtracks. Available at: https://futurism.media/best-sci-fi-movie-soundtracks (Accessed: 18 October 2018).
  • Kelleghan, F. (1996) Sound Effects in Science Fiction and Horror Films. Available at: filmsound.org/articles/horrorsound/horrorsound.htm (Accessed: 04 November).
  • Lee, P. (2012) The Most Influential Sci-Fi Movies. Or Are They? Available at: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/the_most_influential_sci_ (Accessed: 26 October 2018).
  • McLeod, K. (2003) ‘Space Oddities. Aliens, Futurism, and Meaning in Popular Music’, Popular Music, 22(3), pp. 337-355.
  • Ottinger III, J. (2009) What Music Reminds You of Science Fiction or Fantasy? Available at: https://www.tor.com/2009/06/29/what-music-reminds-you-of-science-fiction-or-fantasy/ (Accessed: 30 October 2018).
  • Potter, S. (2015) The Undeniable Emotional Impact of music in Film. Available at: https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/the-undeniable-emotional-impact-of-music-in-film/ (Accessed: 04 November 2018).
  • Stilwell, R.J. (2002) ‘Music in Films: A Critical Review of Literature, 1980-1996’, The Journal of Film Music, 1(1), pp. 19-61.
  • Sweet, M. (2014) Space-age symphonies: The Music of Science Fiction Film. Available at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2TRbG3vh0CzwzpVXbMcFNDF/space-age-symphonies-the-music-of-science-fiction-film (Accessed: 30 October 2018).
  • Whittington, W. (2007) Sound Design and Science Fiction. Austin, Tex. : Chesham: Austin, Tex. : University of Texas Press; Chesham : Combined Academic distributor.
  • Wierzbicki, J.E. (2009) Film music : a history. New York; London: New York; London: Routledge.
  • Winters, B. (2010) ‘The Non-Diegetic Fallacy: Film, Music, and Narrative Space’, Music and Letters, 91(2), pp. 224-244.


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