10 Greatest Film Soundtracks
Top Ten Movie Soundtracks of All Time
In the film industry, music comes in two forms; movie soundtracks and original film scores. Movie soundtracks are typically songs produced by a number of different artists but that are used in the film. Sometimes the songs were created for the movie and other times the film soundtracks are an amalgamation of songs that already existed but were licensed for the soundtrack.
On the other hand, original film scores are created specifically for a movie. Often the film score is classical and often does not have any vocals, such as the score for Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Exorcist, however sometimes a film score is rock based with original songs created just for that album, such as Tommy by The Who.
This lens covers the highest ranked movie soundtracks from Rankography best movies. A large number of movie bloggers and other knowledgeable movie fans ranked this film category to come up with this top ten ranking. While you will recognize most of the films on this top ten movies list, there are many great lesser on the complete movie soundtracks list.
Where possible we have included iTunes samples of some of the best tracks from the film soundtracks. However, iTunes does not always have a license for every movie soundtrack and in those cases we have provided links to the music movie soundtracks on Amazon.
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10. Empire Records (1995) - A Powerful Soundtrack of 90s Music Sets This Film Apart
Empire Records was a wonderful independent movie filled with unknown actors, several of whom went on to considerable success such as Renee Zellweger and Liv Tyler. It was a simple film about the lives of the employees of an independent record store of the same name. It is a comedy that also had a fair amount of coming of age drama.
However, what really set this film apart was a fantastic movie soundtrack of great 90s music, including songs from Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Gin Blossoms, Better than Ezra, The Cranberries and Cracker. My favorite song on the album is Crazy Life by Toad. It is a beautiful song and one my all time favorites. Til I Hear it From You by the Gin Blossoms is another great song that later became a big hit.
There are also several good lesser known songs and artists on this album, including A Girl Like You by Edwyn Collins, which is an excellent song with a great bluesy feel from an artist that few had heard of before this movie. You should also check out Sugarhigh by Coyote Shivers, which has a soulful, yet tongue in cheek acoustic feel.
9. The Big Chill (1983) - This Reunion of College Friends is Built Around Great Music
One of my favorite movies of all time, The Big Chill was a reunion movie about a group of college friends who get back together because of the death of one of their good friends. While that sounds like it would be a sad movie, rather it is more a celebration of the living and an exploration of their relationships. It is a movie that delves into lost love, regret, success and unfulfilled dreams. It truly is a wonderful film with an incredible cast including William Hurt, Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldberg and Tom Berenger.
The entire film is accented by a great soundtrack of motown and 60s music. The film is set in the 1980s but the music harkens back to their college, hippy days in the 1960s. Most of us can sing along with all of the films on this film soundtrack including Good Lovin, Tracks of My Tears, I Heard it Through the Grapevine and Second that Emotion. These are some of the greatest songs ever made and they have all been remade many times.
I highly recommend this movie as a must see film and it will be hard for you not to fall in love with the soundtrack at the same time.
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8. Juno (2007) - A New World Take on the Teenage Pregnancy
Michael Cera has created quite a stir with the same bumbling character from the TV show, Arrested Development and he rehashes that character one more time in Juno. While I have become tired of the same Cera character, Ellen Page as his wily, smartass girlfriend was a pleasant surprise in this coming of age (un)romantic comedy. Overall, the film is a fun film with a sardonic wit. Jason Bateman is very good as a middle-aged guy coming into his mid-life crisis.
However, the Juno movie soundtrack actually received more critical acclaim than the movie itself. It is a very eclectic mix of artists with some very unique stylings. Many of the songs have a kind of new age bluegrass feel to them, especially those by Kimya Dawson and Barry Louis Polisar. It is not music that I can describe in any more complex terms, rather you should listen to the four sample tracks below and see what you think.
7. Once (2006) - A Modern Day Musical and Love Story
I have to admit that I have not yet seen Once but I have heard incredible things about this film. It won the World Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006. It is a romantic drama about the Irish underclass in modern day Ireland. In the film, Glen Hansard (from The Commitments) plays a struggling singer/songwriter and he also wrote and performs most of the songs on the film soundtrack. His co-star, Marketa Iglova, also performs on the soundtrack.
The music is folk-pop with heavy melodic stylings. You will definitely recognize the beautiful ballad Falling Slowly and probably a couple of others on the soundtrack. I have this film on the top of my Netflix queue as I have heard so many good things about it...and you probably should too.
6. Almost Famous (2000)
The Ultimate Road Trip with a Top Rock Band
You would expect a movie about a traveling rock band to have a very good film soundtrack, and Almost Famous did not disappoint. The soundtrack is loaded with lesser known songs from a lot of great classic rock bands including, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Todd Rundgren and Simon Garfunkel. But not all the songs are unknown, the movie lead to a rebirth of several great classic songs including Tiny Dancer by Elton John, Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd and I've Seen All Good People by Yes.
This is also a fantastic movie set in 1973. Almost Famous is a coming of age movie for William Miller, a high schooler that wants to become a rock and roll writer. He gets the chance to write a guest story for Rolling Stone Magazine on Stillwater, a fictional 70s rock band. While attending the show and meeting the band, the band's leader, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), takes William under his wing and invites him to tour with them for a couple of weeks. Along the way, William falls in love with a woman he can never have, witnesses the bands destructive tendencies and is exposed and partakes in a lot of partying. The cast is outstanding and also includes Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Jason Lee.
If you like classic rock music you will love this film and this movie soundtrack. I still get chills during the Tiny Dancer scene on the tour bus.
5. High Fidelity (2000)
An Outstanding Comedy Movie with a Soundtrack to Match
High Fidelity is one of my all-time favorite films with an outstanding movie soundtrack so I was excited to see it make the list at number 3. Since the story centers around the three main characters' love (and deep knowledge) of music, the movie was required to have a kickass soundtrack. The film soundtrack is what you would expect to get if you asked for recommendations from a used record store owner. It is a mix of unknown songs from both well known artists and complete unknown.
Oh yeah, then it also includes a very serviceable version of Let's Get it On with Jack Black on vocals. This was the movie that launched Jack Black and at the end when you sings that song on stage, everyone in the audience is blown away by his voice.
If you have not seen this film, it is a mush see. The repartee between the three stars is outstanding, Jack Black is hilarious throughout and John Cusack plays the perfect deadpan straight man to Black crazy tornado of a personality. I love this film and the soundtrack and recommend you check out both.
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4. Death Proof (2007) - Tarantino Takes on the Car Chase Films of the 70s
Death Proof is Tarantino's homage to and parody of the car chase movies of the 1970s, such as Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and Gone in 60 Seconds. It stars an aging Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a serial killer. While most expected an action film with names Grindhouse and Death Proof, many were disappointed with the small amount of action and violence that we have come to expect in a Tarantino film. While not most people's cup of tea, Death Proof has a loyal cult following for its parody of the 70s grindhouse films.
However, while the film received mixed reviews, the movie soundtrack is once again a Tarantino triumph. There are so many great songs on this soundtrack that it was very difficult to pick only four as samples. And remember, you don't have to love the movie to love the movie soundtrack.
3. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Tarantino's Nod to the Hong Kong Action Films of his Youth
There are two things that you can always be sure of with a Quentin Tarantino flim; it will have an interesting unusual plot that surprises you many times during the film and it will have an excellent, but equally unusual movie soundtrack. It is for that reason that you find three Tarantino movie soundtracks in this top ten listing.
Kill Bill, Vol.1 was a very unusual film, a martial arts revenge film with a female protagonist. Uma Thurman plays The Bride who is nearly murdered while pregnant on her wedding day. Seeking vengeance against Bill (David Carradine) who has masterminded her near murder, she spend the entire two films (Vol 1. and Vol. 2) tracking him down.
The soundtrack is absolutely brilliant and may be the best from any Tarantino film. What is particularly amazing about the soundtrack is how many of the songs are now recognizable from their use in advertisements for lots of different products. These songs were not recognizable prior to the movie but clearly they stuck in peoples minds as a result of this film.
2. Twilight (2008) - A Blockbuster Soundtrack Tailor Made for its Film
A really good film soundtrack will blend in perfectly with the mood of a movie. The Twilight movie soundtrack is a great example of matching the mood of a film. Twilight is a haunting movie with a mysterious, yet sexy, film that revolves around the intriguing lifestyle of Dr. Carlise Cullen's young sexy family. The Twilight soundtrack delivers haunting, mysterious and sexy cuts from Muse, Linkin Park, Paramore, Collective Soul and The Black Ghosts.
The Linkin Park song, Leave out all the Rest, is probably the best song on the album, but both Paramore songs are also excellent. And no song was more perfect for a scene than Muse's Supermassive Black Hole for the vampire baseball scene. That scene would not have been near as impressive without that song. Lastly, check out The Black Ghosts, Full Moon. It is a very unusual song that seems to blend bluegrass with technopop, and it is extremely addicting.
It definitely deserved a spot on this list of the best movie soundtracks.
1. Pulp Fiction (1994) - Cutting Edge Film and Cutting Edge Movie Soundtrack
Pulp Fiction was such a groundbreaking film when it came out in the mid-1990s. It is one of the greatest gangster movies of all time and arguably one of the best films of all time. And while the film was clearly an instant classic, its movie soundtrack was also one of the best film soundtracks of all time.
The soundtrack had all the usual Tarantino qualities; eclectic songs from a range of music genres, musical stylings that perfectly matched the on-screen action and a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor thrown in with some of the songs. However, what was so cool and unusual about this soundtrack was they different genres used for the three different concurrent storylines of the movie. For instance, there is the urban 70s feel to the the soundtrack when Travolta and Jackson are collecting debts and administering hits. Then there is the eclectic Rockabilly of the 50s and 60s for Travolta and Thurman's "non-date".
There are so many tremendous songs on this movie soundtrack and it was quite difficult to limit the sampling to four. It is a top-notch soundtrack from one of the best films of the past 30 years.
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I would love to know what you think about this lens on the Best Movie Soundtracks of all time. If you liked it, you might want to check out our other lens about the Best Movies in a number of genres.
Last updated on February 13, 2013
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