The Music of Paul Thomas Anderson by Sarah Cook

PTA - 6Today Sarah Cook from I’m With Geek has taken a look at the music which features in Paul Thomas Anderson’s work…

Paul Thomas Anderson is a master, with that pun being very much intended. He is one of the best film-makers around without a controversial background on sets like other such great artists. Wielding his visionary and unique eye to produce great films such as There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and the upcoming Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson is a phenomenal director. What is always great in his movies, however, is the soundtrack. Whether evocatively using original scores (more recently with composer Jonny Greenwood) or borrowing from inspiring movies and eras to set the tone of his films, Paul Thomas Anderson is still an aural delight as well as a visual and character based one.

There Will Be Blood – Entire Score

It’s not unusual for band members to transcend from gigs and pop albums to create music for the cinema. Cliff Martinez from Red Hot Chilli Pepper evoked the thrills in Drive whilst Fincher favourite Trent Reznor used to lead alternate rock with Nine Inch Nails. Jonny Greenwood roped Paul Thomas Anderson into his musical brilliance after the director heard his compositions for Bodysong. There Will Be Blood has many geniuses for its musical excellence. The critically acclaimed score that missed out on the Academy Award nod due to its pre-existing material, intensely captures the atmosphere of the film and enhances Daniel Days-Lewis’ enthralling performance.

The Master – Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree with Anyone but Me

This is one example of using a soundtrack from a previous movie to celebrate a key part of your own movie. The Master is possibly the lesser seen PTA movie, though it’s critically acclaimed. The film revolves around a man being indoctrinated by a cult and his attempts to go back to normal life afterwards. The Master is probably best known for being filmed on 65mm and being entirely excellent to watch as well as having commanding performances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. A key moment is when actress Madisen Beaty sings Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree with Anyone but Me to Joaquin Phoenix’s Quell, highlighting the film’s wartime songs as well as the scrap of hope he has left.

PTA MusicPunch-Drunk Love – He Needs Me

To take Adam Sandler of all people and give him the film needed to showcase he talents as an actor (and yes, I’m aware that I wrote that sentence), is a whopping feat indeed. Punch Drunk Love is an incredible swan song of romance and humanity that is gifted by Adam Sandler’s talents  (aware I wrote that too). The music matches the quirky and dizzying atmosphere that captures the fun, chaos and oddball romance. Especially with He Needs Me that has the endearing vocals of Shelley Duvall.

Boogie Nights – Sister Christian, Jessie’s Girl and 99 Read Balloons Mixtape

This romping (literally) great piece of art is perhaps undeniably the genius of Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Mark Wahlberg as a promising porn-star delving into the seedy underbelly of the industry, Boogie Nights is a seminal and stark take on human sexuality despite its long run time. Chronicling the eighties as well as the rise of our protagonist, the soundtrack is plentiful in its treats. One of the best moments is during a seedy drug raid where a mixtape rolls from Sister Christian into Jessie’s Girl and pivotally lands on the anarchic 99 Red Balloons.

Magnolia – Wise Up

If anyone contests that this is one of the most impeccable moments of Magnolia, then I’ll be prepared to fight tooth and nail. It means that it is the crème de la crème moment in a series of perfect vignettes over the LA scenery. Amy Mann’s music is vast and plentiful in this 1990’s classic but it’s the cover of the song Wise Up sung by each of the characters in their little tableaus filled with sorrow, grief and hope. The interweaving stories all coming together as they each sing the song is poignant and very well done.

Thank you very much to Sarah for this! Please do check out her site here:


  1. Did anyone proof this? It’s full of typos, which is a shame, because it’s a good piece.

    1. Yeah it’s edited now Stuart. I should know better than to post things when I’m at work and running on a couple of hours sleep!

  2. Good piece! It seems I will definitely have to catch up on Anderson’s work some more!

  3. The song’s called “Wise Up”. Beside that congratulations for a well written and enjoyable blogathon.

    1. So it is! Thanks, we’ve made the edit!

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