What are your favourite long form pieces of sound design in film?

I'm doing a little research into a project where I'd need to make up 50 minutes of film with exciting/interesting sound for a performance piece.

I guess they could even be silent movies that have the potential for great sound design.

12 Answers 12


I don't know if this really counts but it was the first thing that sprang to mind...

I love the scene in Layer Cake leading up to Jimmy's death. The music is perfectly chosen to mirror the tension going on in the lead character's mind, a big part of which is down to an offbeat, repeating beep. I think there's a distinct lack of actual sound effects too, hard to remember though, it's been ages since I've seen it.


Big +1 on "Children of Men" The sequence is towards the end of the film and it is also worth noting that the whole sequence is an extended tracking shot, no edits whatsoever. Superdramatic!

  • I forgot about that. One of my favorite movies – David Rovin May 24 '11 at 1:43
  • Great idea, that last scene is pretty incredible – Nicklaus May 24 '11 at 10:04

Contact...When Jodie Fosters character goes through the wormhole near the end of the movie.

Here's a great, in-depth article/interview from Randy Thom on doing the sound design for contact:



  • That is an awesome scene, is making me think about a more electronic input into performance :) – Nicklaus May 24 '11 at 10:04

I absolutely LOVE the sequence in "Children Of Men" when the hero is forced to approach and then enter a building at which there is a fire-fight going on. He has no weapon, and his sense of vulnerability is palpable. The 'music' is more sound design than score. There is almost no dialog. Its gorgeous.

  • Again, Children of men is an awesome idea – Nicklaus May 24 '11 at 10:06

Here are a few

The beginning of Once Upon a Time in the West:


The D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan:


The opening scene in Quantum of Solace:


  • I'd forgotten about once upon a time in the west, classic, Private Ryan would be a pretty serious undertaking! Quantum of solace could be fun too – Nicklaus May 24 '11 at 10:05

If I remember correctly, something like the last 18 minutes of Alien has no dialogue, just ambiances, sfx and a bit of music. It's just Sigourney Weaver running around the spaceship trying to avoid the alien. The film in general is a fantastic example of how careful sound design can evoke strong emotional feelings (in this case, feelings such as fear and isolation). But the last 18 mins or so particularly relies on the soundtrack to dictate the feelings of the audience.

You may also want to look at animations. Wall-E is one that immediately jumps to mind. Again, no dialogue.

I'm also a huge fan of Aviv Aldema's work on Waltz With Bashir.

  • Alien, love it, that's a great idea and Wall-E, everyone loves Wall-E. I saw Waltz with Bashir some time ago, will have to revisit that and make some notes :) Cheers – Nicklaus May 24 '11 at 10:06

house of flying daggers drum dance scene


I'd also say almost all of No Country for Old Men

  • I love this, would definately work a treat! – Nicklaus May 24 '11 at 10:08

Huge portions of 2001 contain no dialogue. Lots of the eva sequences built and held tension with nothing but breath noise and some subtle atonal music.

The entire end sequence of the movie after he enters the monolith is all sound design as well. That sequence can teach the importance of silence as a design element as well.

  • I saw 2001 with the london philharmonia a month or two ago, it was phenominal, again an awesome idea, cheers – Nicklaus May 24 '11 at 10:10

I love the fight segments in "Shoot em Up". Dramatic, energetic, full without being a wall of sound. Tarkovsky's "Stalker", Foreman's "Amadeus", Wing's of Desire. These are just add-on's to what other people have listed which are also incredible examples of sound design.


THX1138 is a long sweet segment of pure sound design. Hard to describe what's so good about it.. but it's totally immersive. The funny thing is that I hardly remember any images or footage, just barely, but the sound just sticks.

It's George Lucas's first movie and Walter Murch did the sound design :) (or sound montages as it's stated in the title sequence, which by the way is moving in the wrong direction to get you to feel as if you're going underground... oooh)


In Children of Men, did anyone notice that in that last scene that is all one shot a speck of blood gets on the lense and remains on it for the scene. Apparantly that scene took months to set up and they didn't have a budget to reshoot it or remove it in post. Check that scene out.


I think Avatar has a lot of scenes without music and only with natural alien ambients.

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