The Top 20 Film Soundtracks Of All Time

Taken from my days as a film critic, this list still rings true:

20. The Royal Tenenbaums

This strong precursor to The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou features a great soundtrack with songs from bands like The Beatles , The Clash, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. The Royal Tenenbaums features a score by Wes Anderson’s friend and composer Mark Mothersbaugh (who also was a member of Devo).

19. Goodfellas

A great blend of fitting music brought to life by the colorful performances of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta.

18. Forrest Gump

Another great movie with a solid classic rock collection, Forrest Gump is one of the most overrated (it was not the best film of 1994) and underrated (it was one of, if not the, most important and indicative films of the 90s) movies of all time. The soundtrack contains some of the best songs from the 60s and 70s from a variety of artists ranging from CCR and Bob Dylan to The Supremes and The Fifth Dimension.

17. Saturday Night Fever

This movie not only launched John Travolta’s name into superstardom, but also sent the Bee Gees career into overdrive. With songs such as Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love? and Night Fever, Saturday Night Fever is the quintessential disco album.

16. Grease

This soundtrack does not need any reasoning nor justification as to why it’s on this list. It is common knowledge that Grease had a kick ass soundtrack. I love Frankie Valli.

15. The Harder They Come

Without Jimmy Cliff, the godfather of reggae, Bob Marley would not have become such a facet of our culture. In addition to acting the lead role, Cliff also sang all of the songs for the soundtrack. Both his songs and performance are completely solid and worth checking out if you get a chance.

14. Suspiria

Italian progressive rock/Goth rock band Goblin collaborated extensively with Italian film auteur Dario Argento in the 70s. Their work on Argento’s 1977 supernatural thriller is a breathtaking partnership. Goblin’s soundtrack is absolutely creepy, ethereal and unsettling.

13. Kill Bill Volumes I & II

Quentin Tarantino has an offbeat mind with a knack for offbeat music. As it was made evident in 1991 with Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino knows not only how to reinvent movies, but also music (case and point; the film’s use of the song Stuck In The Middle With You). With Kill Bill, Tarantino recruited RZA (of the Wu-Tang Clan) to create an eclectic soundtrack that features a wide range of music from remixes of old western themes by Ennio Morricone to Japanese pop songs.

12. The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Although I don’t like this movie enough to dress up in drag, it is still one of my all time favorites. Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Richard O’Brien, Barry Bostwick and Meatloaf (yes, he’s in it too, though briefly) are utterly fantastic in this movie. Get into the mind flip, put your hands on your hips and jump to the right; Rocky Horror is a perfect rental for some campy fun.

11. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

The latest Tim Burton/Johnny Depp flick is a big screen remake of the gory London play and although I have not heard the music to the original play (and thus cannot compare the two), I can say that I, without any doubt, utterly enjoyed the songs in the film. Although his days as singer in a rock band are long past, Depp proves he can still sing (quite well, in fact). Helena Bonham Carter, Sasha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall all sing surprisingly well also.

10. School Of Rock

The soundtrack to School Of Rock is a fantastic collection of music, mostly from the 1970s. With tracks from rock legends such as T-Rex, The Who, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and Cream, this soundtrack is a great highlight of various classic rock classics.

9. The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski has a superb soundtrack that fuses avant-garde music with both folk and classic rock. The two best scenes in the movie utilize Kenny Roger’s Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) and Bob Dylan’s The Man In Me to their full artistic potential.

8. Juno

I fell in love with this soundtrack on my second viewing. What I loved about this film is it’s keen sense of artistic integrity -- Juno’s favorite bands are raw, powerful ones like Iggy & The Stooges and she thinks that Sonic Youth “is just a bunch of noise” (although, to their credit, Sonic Youth does have a fantastic CD (Daydream Nation) and a few great singles to their name). The soundtrack to Juno is every bit as pretentious as the movie itself and that, in my opinion, is what makes it so precious. The soundtrack features various singles from mainstream underground bands like Mott the Hoople, The Velvet Underground and indie obscurities such as The Moldy Peaches and Belle & Sebastian.

7. Moulin Rogue!

Moulin Rogue! is, without a doubt, my favorite live-action musical. Ewan McGreggor, Nicole Kidman and Jim Broadbent prove themselves to have superior vocal talent with the numerous songs they sing. Baz Luhrmann’s soundtrack features various original songs (Come What May, Because We Can), remakes (Children Of The Revolution, Nature Boy, Lady Marmalade), remixes (El Tango De Roxanne), and medleys of contemporary rock hits (Sparkling Diamonds, The Elephant Medley) - all of which are fantastic. In addition to the songs sung by the cast of the film, a few songs are voiced by rock stars David Bowie, Bono and Beck.

6. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Wes Anderson, much like his female equivalent Sofia Coppola, has a strong ear for great music to complement his brilliant films. The soundtrack for The Life Aquatic largely features David Bowie songs and covers of Bowie songs by Seu Jorge, an extremely talented Brazilian musician who brings new life to old Bowie classics. Additionally, two other notable artists contributed their hits for this soundtrack: Iggy Pop (Search & Destroy) and The Zombies (Way I Feel Inside). Mark Mothersbaugh, again, penned the indie pop instrumentals for the movie.

5. Marie Antoinette

Attention indie music fans: the soundtrack for Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is a goldmine of music. The soundtrack vibrantly fuses remixes of various 80s names like New Order, Bow Wow Wow and The Cure with newer, lesser-known bands such as The Strokes, Windsor for Derby and The Radio Dept.

4. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Written by Tim Burton and scored/sung largely by one of my favorite composers, Danny Elfman, this film has an excellent cult following.

3. Labyrinth

David Bowie is one of the greatest artists in rock history and his music for Jim Henson’s film Labyrinth is just as fresh and creative (albeit more poppy) as his work on his Ziggy Stardust album. Perfectly complementing Bowie’s work on Labyrinth is a magical score written by Trevor Jones.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey

From the extended opening sequence, it is entirely clear that Kubrick’s film is a masterwork of all cinematic areas - especially cinematography and music. The soundtrack contains such powerful compositions as Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Blue Danube Waltz.

1. Trainspotting

Danny Boyle’s soundtrack perfectly incorporates various genres (from electronica and new wave to glam rock and Britpop) to create the ultimate soundtrack. The songs so flawlessly correlate to the thematics of the script that you could easily assume that all of the songs were specifically written for this movie. Long live Iggy Pop!


Pulp Fiction (A great collection of retro music, but it barely missed the cut)

Rushmore (Although the original soundtrack was apparently supposed to be entirely comprised of songs by The Kinks, the final outcome is still a great selection with songs from bands like The Who and John Lennon)

The Breakfast Club (A collection of classic 80’s tunes, but as awesome as the 80's were, you can't justify placing 80's music on this list)

Pretty In Pink (See The Breakfast Club)

When The Wind Blows (Roger Waters, David Bowie, Genesis, Paul Hardcastle and Squeeze - it’s got music for everybody!)

Hustle & Flow (The rap equivalent of The Breakfast Club)

8 Mile (The rap equivalent of Pretty In Pink)

The Blues Brothers (Classic blues music, but it just does not do it for me)

Fog Of War (A documentary with great music? What?)

Rocky (Eye Of The Tiger? Other of Survivor's classic tunes? Yeah, nuff said)

Batman (Danny Elfman’s best theme)

Garden State (A great movie with a soundtrack that was best described by SNL as “a Pitchfork mix CD.” Still, the movie had some great music in it, like “Caring Is Creepy” by The Shins)

The Virgin Suicides (The soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s debut film is also the second full length album by the electronica band Air. Unfortunately, “The Virgin Suicides” is one of those love-it-or-hate-it movies (and the same can be said about the soundtrack). Fortunately, I freakin’ love this movie)

The Wicker Man (This eerie 70’s film has an eerie collection of erotic folk songs and various children’s songs sung with a folksy, erotic tone. It’s unique, to say the least. I can’t get enough of Corn Rigs)

Ghostbusters II (Another great 80’s flick, “Ghostbusters II” has a great collection of “80’s songs” from artistic like Oingo Boingo and Bobby Brown. The soundtrack’s highlights are Howard Huntsberry’s cover of the Jackie Wilson song “Higher And Higher” and Run-D.M.C.’s rap “Ghostbusters”)


Sexy Rexy said...

You may not like the music personally but subjectively it belongs on this list- O Brother Where Art Thou

Sexy Rexy said...

Also, I think the new edition Pirate Radio needs to be on this list. An awful movie but just some all time classic rock songs from The Who, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Otis Redding, The Turtles, Dusty Springfield, and David Bowie

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

To clarify, only movies that don't suck were considered.

Oh Brother Where Art Thou? had a good soundtrack, but I would not put it in the top 20 over any of the listed. Across the Universe raises a good argument, however...

Sexy Rexy said...

Across the Universe needs to be taken out! If it was all Beatles songs done by them- OK. But it's just their music done crappier! And I don't mean to be sexist, but here I go. You just can't have chicks singing Beatles songs, you just can't

Plus, if we're taking out movies because they suck, the ATU is already gone. But this is also a shitty argument because a soundtrack (outside of musicals) is completely independent of the movie itself. This is a list about soundtracks, not your subjective liking to its movie equivalent
You just don't personally like Bluegrass music so you won't put O Brother on the list. If it had an shitty MGMT-esque indie equivalent it would #1 on your list hands down but because you don't personally like it you won't put it up. These lists are "greatest" which means objective. If you want a subjective list, then put "favorite". Objectively O Brother is AT MINIMUM top ten.

It got nominated for a Grammy and WON. It won best album of the year. Just to get nominated a huge feat but to win it is unbelievable. Imagine if an animated movie for nominated for best picture with only five nominations. and now imagine if it won it. It just doesn't happen and when it does it just goes to show you what a great piece of art it is.
Lastly, does Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog count as a movie? Because I really enjoyed the songs in it