From Prince's Purple Rain to Reservoir Dogs...
jason gregory

11:56 2nd July 2010

More about:

As Trent Reznor reveals he's writing the soundtrack for The Social Network, a forthcoming movie about Facebook starring Justin Timberlake, Gigwise rounds up the 50 Best Movie Soundtracks Of All Time, which includes everything from Prince’s Purple Rain to Reservoir Dogs.

  • 50. 8 Mile - It was inevitable that the soundtrack to Eminem’s movie debut would go down well with the record buying public. Debuting at number one on America’s Billboard, the soundtrack shifted 702,000 copies in its first week alone. Consisting of five songs that feature Eminem, including his massive smash ‘Lose Yourself’, it accompanied the film perfectly. The soundtrack has so far sold 9million copies around the world – proof that Em’s move onto the big screen was a lucrative step worth taking.

  • 49. Juno – The surprise hit movie of 2007, also features a surprisingly brilliant soundtrack. Embellishing the story of a teenager suffering an unplanned pregnancy to a goofy loser are songs by The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Mott The Hoople, The Kinks, Belle & Sebastien, Kimya Dawson and Buddy Holly. The original soundtrack was so received that a second one – ‘Juno B-Sides: Almost Adopted Songs – got a digital release in March 2008.

  • 48. Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels – The ultimate cockney wideboy gangster film naturally featured an extremely laddish, fast-tempo soundtrack. Ocean Colour Scene’s greatest moment ‘Hundred Mile High City’ was the signature tune of an enviable collection of songs including a spattering of funk (James Brown), golden classics (Dusty Springfield) and plenty of cocky rock n’ roll (Iggy Pop).

  • 47. The Wedding Singer - While you might expect the soundtrack to The Wedding Singer to be a load of goofy nonsense like the movie’s star Adam Sandler, it’s actually a fantastic record of some cult classics. From Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’ (ok, that’s quite goofy) to the pioneering ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order it has almost everything an MTV generation could hope for. We’ll ignore Sandler’s own ‘Somebody Kill Me’.

  • 46. Rushmore - Originally director Wes Anderson wanted the soundtrack to Rushmore to feature songs entirely by The Kinks. When the movie was released in 1998, however, it featured just one Kinks song – ‘Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl’. As well as a number of compositions from Mark Mothersbaugh, the soundtrack included songs by The Who, John Lennon and Cat Stevens – all of which went perfectly with the story about eccentric teenager Max Fischer, played by Jason Schwartzman.

  • 45. The Jackal - When you’re jumping off the seat while watching The Jackal, it’s due in part to the suspense-packed soundtrack. Songs like Primal Scream’s fantastic ‘Star’, Massive Attack’s ‘Superpredators’ and ‘Shining’ by Moby, all fit perfectly with Michael Caton- Jones’ film about the death of the young brother of a Russian gangster. It’s not a surprise to learn that a number of the songs were written with the film in mind.

  • 44. One From The Heart – The 1982 musical directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola featured a completely original soundtrack written and performed by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle. The film was a commercial flop grossing less than $1million from the US box office, despite costing $26million to make (amazing considering he made Apocalypse Now just three years earlier), however this didn’t stop Waits from notching up an Academy Award nomination.

  • 43. Pump Up The Volume - Telling the story of a radio DJ, the film's music drew from a hugely diverse range of genres. As a result, the soundtrack is a truly captivating listen – featuring such songs as Bad Brains’ ‘Kick Out The Jams’ and ‘Everybody Knows’ by Concrete Blond. If there’s one criticism, then it’s with the producers, who chose to omit Leonard Cohen’s original version of ‘Everybody Knows’ which features so prominently in the movie.

  • 42. American Graffiti - While the 1973 movie will always be regarded as the film that launched the career of producer George Lucas and the actors Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss, it’s important not to overlook the soundtrack. Comprised of 41 songs from the film, it beautifully represents the period of time that the movie is set in. It features the classic Rock Around The Clock’ by Bill Haley and the Comets, as well as a song from the Beach Boys.

  • 41. Kill Bill – Quentin Tarantino, the undisputed master of the movie soundtrack, came up trumps once again with both parts of Kill Bill. A perfect balance of songs to reflect the shifting scenes and moods of the films, the director picked classics by the likes of Nancy Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Isaac Hayes to appear alongside more traditional tracks (such as the panpipe classic The Good Shepherd) and even a song by cast member Lucy Liu.

  • 40. Layer Cake - Before Daniel Craig transformed himself into the not-so-secret agent 007, he found himself in Layer Cake - a film about the drugs underworld. It’s another one of those films that has made our countdown because of the way the music seamlessly moulds itself to the story. From the way ‘You Got The Love’ by The Source soundtracks Sienna Miller’s courting dance to the elaborate use of The Cult’s ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ as Mr Craig drives to meet his mentor, this is a true classic.

  • 39. Good Will Hunting – The soundtrack to the 1997 movie is dominated by songs by the late-great Elliott Smith, including some of the songsmith’s standout songs in the shape of ‘Between The Bars’ and ‘Miss Misery.’ Augmenting Smith’s songs are tracks like The Dandy Warhols’ ‘Boys Better’, Al Green’s ‘How Can You Mend A Broken Heart’ and The Waterboys’ ‘Fisherman Blues’, making for an enviable track-listing.

  • 38. The Lost Boys – Composer Thomas Newman crafted the score to the fondly remembered teenager horror flick from 1987, a score that was augmented by a strong soundtrack. It features a number of rare cover version’s including Roger Daltrey’s take on Elton John’s ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ and Echo & The Bunnymen’s version of The Doors classic ‘People Are Strange’ – the latter of which earns this soundtrack a place on the list alone.

  • 37. Shaft - You don’t have to have seen the film to recognise the unforgettable voice of Isaac Hayes – who wrote the soundtrack to ‘Shaft’. The soul legend’s voice and sultry instrumental compositions help give the movie its timeless distinction. Although the entire soundtrack is a worthy listen, it’s Hayes’ ‘Theme From Shaft’ which drew the most acclaim, picking up awards for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical and Best Instrumental Arrangement.

  • 36. Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid - Rudy Wurlitzer approached Bob Dylan in 1972 about whether he'd like to contribute the music to Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid. The legend goes that Dylan decided to embark on the project because he had nothing else to do. It proved to be a good decision. Not only did the timeless singer-songwriter make a special appearance in the movie, but he also created a soundtrack that spawned one of his greatest and most memorable hits to date - 'Knockin On Heavens Door'.

  • 35. Fight Club – Aside from the dark, brooding electronic soundscape that The Dust Brothers concocted, the real reason for Fight Club’s place on this list is the Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind.’ At the exact moment when Tyler Durden hits the detonator switch and the skyscrapers start collapsing, Kim Deal’s shrill vocals sound almost euphoric before the guitars kick in. It’s almost as if this song was written for the scene.

  • 34. About A Boy – Fresh from scooping the Mercury Music Prize with his debut album ‘The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast’, Badly Drawn Boy (Damon Gough) was approached to make the soundtrack by the film’s directors Chris and Paul Weitz. Gough wrote and performed every single song for the movie which appeared on an album of the same name. The author of ‘About A Boy’, Nick Hornby, listed the Badly Drawn Boy track ‘A Minor Incident’ from the soundtrack as one of the songs that has changed his life.

  • 33. Wayne’s World - Like the film itself, the soundtrack to Wayne’s World was a huge hit in the charts. Not only did it top the Billboard Top-200 album chart, but it also propelled Queen’s ‘Boheminan Rhapsody’ – one of the songs from the film – to number two in the singles countdown almost 20 years after it was first released. Music is an irresistible presence throughout the movie as Mike Myers and Dana Carvey serve up one of the 90s most culturally impacting spectacles.

  • 32. Moonwalker - A fantastic example of Michael Jackson's talent in the 80s. Not content with simply making music, he was determined to find new and elaborate ways to showcase it. The movie, which comprised of the singer's extended music videos, borrowed most of its songs from Jackson's 1987 album Bad. There was nothing bad about the film, however, which to this day shows why Jackson should still be regarded as one of the world's greatest entertainers of all time.

  • 31. Blade Runner – Okay, we’re bending the rules a bit by including a score in our list, but Bladerunner’s score is so breathtakingly brilliant we just couldn’t bring ourselves to omit it. Like A Clockwork Orange, the Vangelis score melds classical arrangements with futuristic synthesisers to take us directly into the dystopian Los Angeles in 2019.

  • 30. Reservoir Dogs - Director Quentin Tarantino crafted his familiar approach to soundtracks with Reservoir Dogs in 1992. As well as featuring the songs from the film, Tarantino chose to include actor’s dialogue on the official soundtrack. Most of the excerpts on the soundtrack come from the fictional radio station in the film, K-Billy's Super Sound of the Seventies, which is hosted by deadpan comedian Steven Wright. A fantastic reminder of an era-defining moment in cinematography.

  • 29. The Virgin Suicides – Like all films that have a soundtrack crafted especially for the movie, The Virgin Suicide’s music, scored by French dance giants Air, was something pretty special. Spearheaded by ‘Playground Love’, which featured the vocals of Phoenix singer Thomas Mars, it’s a mesmerising listen.

  • 28. That Summer! – Starring a relatively fresh-faced Ray Winstone, 1979’s That Summer! is widely perceived as a strange film that was bolstered heavily by its searing soundtrack. The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’, The Ramones’ ‘Rockaway Beach’, Elvis Costello’s ‘Watching The Detectives’ and Ian Dury’s ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock n Roll’ are just some of the zeitgeist defining songs on display.

  • 27. Garden State – The Grammy Award winning soundtrack to 2004’s Garden State is the brainchild of director Zach Braff who wanted a collection of songs reflecting the time he wrote the screenplay. Featuring tracks from artists including Coldplay, The Shins, Simon & Garfunkel, Nick Drake, Iron & Wine and Zero 7, it’s a soundtrack worthy of all its plaudits.

  • 26. Boogie Nights – The soundtrack to 1997’s Boogie Nights was so damn good, they decided to release another one a year later. Together they encompass almost every song that was included in the sleazetastic movie, from Melanie’s memorable ‘Brand New Key’ to Electric Light Orchestra’s ‘Livin Thing.’ Sadly for Heatwave, they refused the film makers to use their song ‘Boogie Nights’ as they were worried about the connotations of it being attached to a movie about pornography. Doh!

  • 25. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Notorious for its minimal dialogue, Kubrick’s soundtrack is instrumental in establishing the mood and texture of the film. Originally destined to feature a soundtrack by composer Alex North, the film’s score eventually consisted of existing classical recordings selected by Kubrick. When asked why he had decided not to use North’s work, Kubrick said why should he use music that is “less good” compared to that of established names like Beethoven.

  • 24. High Fidelity – The screenwriter’s biggest problem when choosing the music for High Fidelity was deciding just where, and what, arrangements should go in the film. After listening to over 2,000 songs, writers eventually settled for songs by artists such as Bob Dylan, The Kinks and The Beta Band. The soundtrack that was eventually released to the public included just 15 of the 70 songs that actually made it into the 2000 film.

  • 23. Goodfellas – Just like the Wiseguys in the movie, the soundtrack to Goodfellas is slick as hell. Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Dean Martin, Burt Bacharach and The Crystals provided the smooth, while The Rolling Stones, The Who and Sid Vicious (who performed his version of Frank Sinatra’s My Way) provided a bit of raucous energy.

  • 22. Stand By Me – Based on Stephen King’s book ‘The Body’, Rob Reiner’s coming of age film took its name from the Ben E King song of the same title – a track that was synonymous with the film. Importantly the movie didn’t just rely on its signature tune to carry us through a rollercoaster of emotions; it also boasted classic 1950’s tracks by Jerry Lee Lewis, The Courdettes and Buddy Holly and more.

  • 21. Jailhouse Rock – After the success of his acting lead ‘Loving You’, for which he sang on an accompanying album of the same name, Elvis Presley reprised the role of dual actor and soundtrack performer for 1957’s ‘Jailhouse Rock.’ Although a full album was never released, the five-track EP is regarded as a mini-masterpiece featuring such nuggets as the title track, ‘Don’t Leave Me Know’ and ‘I Want To Be Free.’

  • 20. Forrest Gump - Like the film’s famous “box of chocolates” phrase, Forrest Gump’s soundtrack is a mixed selection, containing music by everyone from Elvis Presley to the Beach Boys. In a film that relies so heavily on the dialogue of Tom Hanks’ character, it’s perhaps easy to overlook the role that music plays in the film. That shouldn’t be the case, however; so next time you watch it, make sure you keep an ear out for just how clever the musical selection is.

  • 19. Donnie Darko – From the opening credits soundtracked by Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘Killing Moon’, Donnie Darko is packed with gloomy Eighties classics. We get Duran Duran’s ‘Notorious’, the Tears for Fears epic ‘Head Over Heals’ and Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and a slew of other gems. However, it was Gary Jules who really profited from the soundtrack – his Tears for Fears cover ‘Mad World’ reached number 1 in the UK singles chart.

  • 18. Lost In Translation – My Bloody Valentine, Death In Vegas, Kevin Shields, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Phoenix; you can’t exactly go wrong when you have a roster as strong as this. Just like her Dad Francis, Sofia Coppola knows that there can be more to a film than just actors, good shots and a great script – sometimes you need a damn fine soundtrack too.

  • 17. Labyrinth - The soundtrack to 1986’s Labyrinth was a joint collaboration between David Bowie and orchestral composer Trevor Jones. As Jones scored the music, Bowie’s idiosyncratic voice matched George Lucas’s fantasy film, which followed a young girls bid to rescue her little brother from the Goblin King, seamlessly. A musical tour-de-force.

  • 16. Trouble Man – What do you get when you draft in soul legend Marvin Gaye to do a soundtrack for your movie? The answer is simple; a gem of a record. Unlike the blaxploitation movie itself - about a tough detective who takes the law into his own hands - which was a commercial failure, Gaye’s soundtrack positively excelled and overshadowed the film it soundtracks. The title track ‘Trouble Man’, the film’s only song with lyrics on, was a top ten hit for Gaye.

  • 15. Tommy - The first of The Who's two rock operas,Tommy was composed almost entirely by guitarist Pete Townshend. When it was released in 1969 many critics heralded it as the start of a new genre. We love it, not only because it was pioneering, but because the complex arrangements, constructed of everything from organs to guitars, compliment the films dark themes perfectly. While the soundtrack peaked at number two in the UK charts, it's the numerous inspirational spins offs it has inspired that show its true impact.

  • 14. Saturday Night Fever - Few can deny the sheer brilliance of 1977’s Saturday Night Fever. The film’s place in history is sealed thanks to its soundtrack – which boasts songs by the Bee Gees, David Shire and Kool and the Kang. As Travolta waltzed and jived his way around the dancefloor, it was songs by these artists that gave him the groove. It’s no surprise that the soundtrack is the biggest selling of all time and has gone fifteen times platinum in the US alone.

  • 13. Wild Style – There is no underestimating the importance of Wild Style and the soundtrack of the same name it spawned. Featuring the likes of Grandmaster Flash, The Cold Crush Brothers and the Rock Steady Crew, the self-released 1982 movie is regarded as the first hip hop motion picture and despite limited success at the time of its release, it has garnered a cult status. Many of the stars of the film – most notably The Cold Crush Brothers – contributed to the soundtrack.

  • 12. Dancer In The Dark – Bjork played the lead role of Selma Jezkova, a Czech immigrant who came to Washington State in the 1960’s, who faces a series of tragic hurdles in this bleak yet poignant tale. Naturally, Bjork soundtrack-ed the album in the shape of the radiant album ‘Selmasongs’, which has sold over 200,000 copies in the States to date. The stunning song ‘I’ve Seen It All’ earned Bjork a well deserved Oscar nomination in 2000.

  • 11. Easy Rider - There was only one type of music that could have suited Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern’s bike journey through the American southwest and deep south in Easy Rider: rock music. As the actors delve into the unknown, it’s songs like Jimi Hendrix’s ‘If 6 Was 9’ and classic like ‘The Weight’ that amplify the sheer scale of their journey. Thanks to the film’s phenomenal success, the official release of the soundtrack peaked at number six on the Billboard chart in 1969.

  • 10. The Graduate - Released in 1968, the soundtrack to The Graduate – featuring a memorable performance from a young Dustin Hoffman - was produced by Teo Macero. One of the album’s standout tracks was Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ – in fact Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel contributed eight of the 14 songs on the soundtrack.

  • 9. Purple Rain - When the motion picture, based on the singer, was released in 1984 it was inevitable that the purple one would construct the soundtrack. Classed as Prince’s sixth album, the record opens with the formidable combination of ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘Take Me With You’ and ‘The Beautiful Ones’. While the film took over $100million at the box office, the album has grown to become one of Prince’s greatest of all time. A rather useful combination.

  • 8. Control – The Ian Curtis biopic naturally had a searing soundtrack. The Joy Division songs perfectly complemented the script – most notably ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ when Curtis’ relationship was breaking down with his wife Deborah. Yet, it’s not just the Joy Division tracks that earn Control such a high standing on the list, there’s also the likes of Bowie’s ‘Drive In Saturday’, Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’ and The Killers’ cover of ‘Shadowplay.’

  • 7. A Hard Day’s Night - One of the most influential films of the 60s, The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night is a cult classic both on screen and on LP. To this date the album is still the only Beatles record comprised entirely of McCartney and Lennon compositions. Featuring such favourites as ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, like the film itself, it provides a fantastic snapshot of rock’n’roll life in the 60s.

  • 6. The Wicker Man – Matching the eerie movie, the soundtrack to 1973 cult classic is rightly heralded as a classic. Composed by Paul Giovanni and Magnet, the folk songs have a primeval and sinister underbelly most notably ‘Sumer Is Icumen In’ sung in Middle English fervently by the islanders at the film’s climax. Yet it’s ‘Willow’s Song’ (mimed by Britt Ekeland) that perfectly captures the spirit of the film – a curious song that has been covered by a host of acts since.

  • 5. Superfly – At around the same time Marvin Gaye was soundtracking Trouble Man, his contemporary Curtis Mayfield was drafted in for the movie Superfly. The resulting record of the same name was recently voted the 69th best album of all time by Rolling Stone magazine and is one of the rare examples of a soundtrack that out-grosses the movie that spawned it. Whereas the film is widely regarded as quite a naïve look at life in the gangster underworld, Mayfield’s vision was far more gritty and real.

  • 4. Apocalypse Now – One of the greatest movies of all time has also got one of the greatest soundtracks. The Rolling Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin Safari’ are two highpoints, yet it’s ‘The End’ by The Doors and Richard Wagner’s iconic ‘The Ride Of The Valkyries’ that echo the bleak plot perfectly. Once you’ve seen this movie you never listen to these songs in the same light again.

  • 3. A Clockwork Orange – Scored and predominately written by Walter Carlos (who later became Wendy), the film merged classical music with moog synthesisers to devastating effect. The stark chimes of Carlos’ original music (most notably the haunting title music), Edward Elgar and Beethoven compositions and playful re-workings of classics add an unnerving edge to the ultra-violence and in-out, in-outs we experience throughout the film. Gene Kelly’s ‘Singing In The Rain’ is a notable addition too.

  • 2. Pulp Fiction - Like the 1994 film, the soundtrack is certainly not conventional. As well as featuring a mix of American rock, pop and soul – including songs by Kool & The Gang and Dusty Springfield – it also included spoken exerts. As a result, the listener could truly experience Pulp Fiction in all its gory glory. While Boyd Rice was influential in selecting the films songs, it was Tarantino who interjected the dialogue to make the soundtrack feel like an audible extension of the film. Epic.

  • 1. Trainspotting - When the soundtrack was released it was so popular that it prompted the films bosses to release a second one. While both are brilliant, it’s the first one that we’re talking about. “Choose life…” Sure, we all know the words but without music Trainspotting would feel empty. Armed with dance classics as Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ and Leftfields ‘A Final Hit’ alongside Britpop tracks and classics from the likes of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, it's a perfect soundtrack.

More about: