The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Listen to these with a candle burning and you'll see your favorite films


Artwork by Cap Blackard

The two best-selling soundtracks of all time celebrate milestones this November, with Saturday Night Fever turning 40 and The Bodyguard turning 25. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at what exactly makes a film soundtrack great, something that seemed much easier on paper than in execution.

We found plenty of soundtracks that excelled by using subtle songs in the periphery of pivotal scenes, and we also came across films that dropped the music right into the story, as part of the plot or even as a character itself. We came across those movies that made hits out of otherwise obscure songs, while also taking into account films that hijacked a popular song and made it indistinguishable from the film itself. More importantly, we looked at the soundtracks that enhanced the film and went hand-in-hand with its tone and story, giving you greater insight into pivotal scenes and character growth.

We avoided musicals, band movies, concert films, and scores in this regard, focusing solely on the best use of popular music in film, combing through movies from the ’60s all the way up to 2017 until we had our picks. As with any list of this size, there are bound to be disagreements as well as some soundtracks that should have made the cut. Let us know what you think we missed, but in the meantime, sit back and take a whirlwind trip through music in cinema with our picks for the 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time.

–Doug Nunnally
Contributing Writer


100. Juno (2007)

juno The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s quirky dramedy about a misfit teenager who finds herself two months pregnant and decides to have and adopt out her baby gets a lot of things right. One of those is a soundtrack that almost acts as an interior monologue for the title character. While Juno MacGuff may dig the raw power of Iggy and his Stooges, having indie vet Kimya Dawson’s soft voice and oddball lyrics floating in during transitions or when Juno’s faced with a difficult moment feels like a far better match. So taken by Dawson’s music was Reitman that he had her re-record instrumentals and humming to use for scenes and commissioned Mateo Messina to use her style as the basis for the scored parts of the movie. The final result is a soundtrack of unforgettable moments like Juno and Paulie dueting “Anyone Else but You” and the latter completing his morning routine to The Kinks’ brilliant “A Well Respected Man”. Wizard. –Matt Melis


99. Batman Forever (1995)

batman forever The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

The less said about Joel Schumacher’s Batman films, the better, but kudos has to be given to the soundtrack for his first attempt. Though only a few of its songs appear in the film, the soundtrack picks up the ball Schumacher so casually dropped with a deep mélange that helped illustrate Batman’s gritty nature, Robin’s empowered gall, Riddler’s manic depravity, and Two-Face’s fractured distress — all things effectively absent within Schumaker’s obtrusive vision. It doesn’t quite hit the lofty mark of Prince’s interpretation, but thanks to Seal’s powerhouse song and U2’s surprising gem, it definitely comes close. –Doug Nunnally


98. The Karate Kid (1984)

the karate kid The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Look, The Karate Kid is basically Little Rocky. You’ve got director John G. Avildsen behind the camera again and his buddy Bill Conti added yet another triumphant score to make everyone believe that an underdog could rise to the top. But, like any story that’s repackaged for a younger audience, it’s gotta be hip, and that’s essentially what this soundtrack is — at least for the time. Even then, nobody was listening to Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best” without singing along ironically (hell, it was rejected by Rocky Balboa himself), but they were rocking out to Gang of Four (“Desire”) or Broken Edge (“No Shelter”). And while it’s a crime Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” was left off, you get your New Wave fix with Commuter (“Young Hearts”) and Baxter Robertson (“Feel the Night”), two songs that will legitimately dent your soul. Wax on, wax off, people. –Michael Roffman


97. Space Jam (1996)

space jam The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Here’s something that doesn’t get discussed a lot — the soundtrack to Space Jam contained five Top 40 hits, four of them being Top 10 hits that made 1996 and 1997 a time that you couldn’t escape this soundtrack if you tried. But the real charm for this soundtrack lies outside the hits, like great dance/hip-hop songs by Robin S and Salt-N-Pepa, though all you really need to know about this soundtrack’s quality is that it got Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man to all collaborate on a song about the villainous Monstars … and it’s absolutely phenomenal. –Doug Nunnally


96. Angus (1995)

angus The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

If we’re talking about soundtracks being emblematic of the mid-’90s high school experience, few are as tried and true as Angus. At the time, the whole grunge scene had given way to a more alternative sound with Green Day and Weezer leading the charge. Wouldn’t you know, they both headline this collection, what with Green Day’s memorial song “J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)” tipping off the LP and Weezer’s “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly” sitting right in the middle between Ash, Smoking Popes, and The Muffs. Fun fact: That latter song wasn’t intended for the soundtrack, as frontman Rivers Cuomo originally penned a song for the film titled “Wanda (You’re My Only Love)”, which was rejected for being “too much of a strict interpretation of the movie.” It’s okay, like Angus, they won out in the end, releasing Pinkerton the following year. –Michael Roffman


95. Elizabethtown (2005)

elizabethtown The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Cameron Crowe’s much-maligned 2005 treatise on kindness, forgiveness, love, and Manic Pixie Dream Girls might have become a punchline in its own time, but one of its more lasting impressions is its soundtrack, crafted specifically to bring Orlando Bloom’s suicidal ex-shoe designer (yep) back from the brink. Through a mixture of Kirsten Dunst’s love and a sprawling playlist including Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, My Morning Jacket, Lindsey Buckingham, Elton John, U2, and a host of other familiar and minor names alike, Crowe serves as the benevolent god of his film’s loving world. Bloom might be trapped in a fiasco, but the soundtrack looks straight ahead to clearer skies. —Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


94. Times Square (1980)

times square The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

You’ve probably never seen Times Square. Don’t worry. Not many have. Even now, despite its cult acclaim, Allan Moyle’s punk rock coming-of-age movie is an under-the-radar gem. Those who have seen it, probably remember its groundbreaking double-album soundtrack that features a who’s who of punk and new wave titans circa 1980, from Talking Heads to The Cure, Gary Numan to Patti Smith. As Wet Hot American Summer composer Craig Wedren told us years ago, “Times Square totally cracked [the underground] open. It was an introduction to our music, our generation’s music: the early MTV hard rock top 40 and the new wave that was happening between 1979 and 1981.” In other words, a totally essentially time capsule. –Michael Roffman

93. Stealing Beauty (1996)

stealing beauty The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Italian writer-director Bernardo Bertolucci has struck serious highs in terms of epic drama (The Last Emperor) and provocative, controversial sensuality (Last Tango in Paris). The 1996 Liv Tyler-starring Stealing Beauty may not have the cultural cache or critical seal of approval of his most beloved films, but the atmospheric, blue moodiness of the soundtrack alone fills the film with smoky appeal that transcends its ‘90s bonds. The film finds the melancholy in the Cocteau Twins as well as Mozart, Mazzy Star, and Nina Simone. The film is haunted by poetry (Liv Tyler’s Lucy deals with the death of her poet mother), and the soundtrack is similarly obsessed with the beauty of quiet moments and subtle, swaying emotion. But when the mood breaks, as it must inevitably, you’d be hard-pressed to find better explosions than Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. –Lior Phillips


92. 500 Days Of Summer (2009)

500 days The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

500 Days Of Summer’s soundtrack works as a cohesive gel, piecing together the disjointed narrative so you can absorb the nonlinear scenes with better clarity and context. Though we know how it ends, The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition” allows us to experience the wide-eyed wonderment of love, while Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True” helps illustrate its fantasies. The best case for music bridging the gap is the expectation vs. reality scene, deftly scored by Regina Spektor’s “Hero”. Your eyes dart between the two unfolding scenes, but it’s the song’s disappointed tone that you can’t avoid, hammering home the scene’s, and the soundtrack’s, true impact. –Doug Nunnally


91. The Lost Boys (1987)

lost boys The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

The worst thing about The Lost Boys soundtrack is that you have to imagine Tim Capello shirtless when you listen to “I Still Believe”. It’s a ludicrous song that works much better on-screen, where we can actually see his hunky, muscle-y abs reflecting the beach flames of Santa Carla, California. Nonetheless, there are plenty other goodies to sink your teeth into on this album, which may be the most bizarre hodgepodge of musicians assembled for what’s ostensibly an alty ’80s film. Like, why is Echo and the Bunnymen covering The Doors’ “People are Strange”? Or why is Roger Daltrey wedged between two songs by INXS? Whatever, it all works, and don’t tell me you’ve never screamed with Gerard McMann on “Cry Little Sister”. –Michael Roffman


90. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

scottpilgrim albumcover The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

If you’re going to write a movie with a battle of the bands at its core, you better be ready to have a great soundtrack and some top-tier songwriters on board to ensure you can actually build some drama into that climactic battle. For Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, Edgar Wright amassed a super-team to make sure that both the songs chosen and composed for the soundtrack would rock hard enough to literally battle competitors. The songs for Scott’s band, Sex Bob-Omb, were written by Beck, while Broken Social Scene write and perform as Crash and the Boys. But let’s not forget to credit the actors: Michael Cera, Mark Webber, Alison Pill, Johnny Simmons, and Erik Knudsen all actually played instruments and sang for the soundtrack, while Sloan’s Chris Murphy coached guitar. Add to that mix a swathe of stomping classic rock (T. Rex, The Rolling Stones) and a score featuring Radiohead contributor Nigel Godrich, Beck, Dan the Automator, Cornelius, and more, and Scott Pilgrim has the brash pedigree to pull off its musical conceit. –Lior Phillips


89. Ghostbusters II (1989)

screen shot 2017 11 13 at 10 48 58 am The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Hot take: Bobby Brown’s greatest song is “On Our Own”. That’s not irony. That’s not hyperbole. That’s a cold, hard fact. The de facto theme song of Ghostbusters II thrives from a shivering glaze of New Jack swing, the likes of which wouldn’t sound this polished and this lush until Michael Jackson would go all-in on the genre a couple years later on 1991’s Dangerous. It’s a total improvement over Ray Parker Jr.’s original theme, which also gets a facelift on this soundtrack with a remix by the one and only Run-DMC. (Not surprisingly, their version is better.) Elsewhere, you get slimed by a little hip-hop (Doug E. Fresh), some veteran rock (Elton John, Glenn Frey), and a whole lotta soul (Howard Huntsberry), all of which screams 1989. –Michael Roffman


88. American Pie (1999)

american pie The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

What you have to keep telling yourself whenever you watch American Pie is that, yes, this is a film from another time. Otherwise, you’re going to have an aneurysm from all the rampant homophobia and the fact that its most iconic scene is straight-up sexual predation. Still, even though the film hardly holds up, the soundtrack does, oozing with all kinds of late ’90s alt-rock that will probably be great source of nostalgia in a couple of years if it isn’t already. Those who were also in high school during that era will probably stare off in the distance to Bic Runga’s “Sway” just as they’ll bop their heads to Blink-182’s Enema of the State gem “Mutt”. What sucks most about this soundtrack, however, are all the songs that were left off, from Duke Daniels’ “Following a Star” to Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta”, to the film’s ostensible theme, James’ “Laid”. Oh well. –Michael Roffman


87. Love and Basketball (2000)

love and basketball The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

All good love stories develop their own soundtrack, and the sweet, smoky, long-gestating romance between Sanaa Lathan’s Monica and Omar Epps’ Quincy in Love & Basketball is no exception. The characters develop an attraction over decades, and all while training and competing. By reaching back to Zapp and Chaka Khan and going all the way through to contemporary R&B jams like Bilal’s “Soul Sista”, the soundtrack reflects changes in intensity and era without losing the thread of frustrated romance. And when they finally find that their chemistry works off the court and get down to business, Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work” provides the sweet and sultry background. –Adam Kivel


86. The Breakfast Club (1985)

breakfast club The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Few, if any, modern filmmakers take the mundanity of adolescence as seriously as writer-filmmaker John Hughes once did. How committed was Hughes? In The Breakfast Club, he sells us on the idea that a Saturday detention can change how a group of young people view the world. We see these five different students – most of whom would never speak to each other if not locked up in a library together – running through the halls to Wang Chung and dancing together to a Karla DeVito record. It’s all silly and unbelievable, and yet by film’s end the five have managed to learn something life-altering about themselves. When Judd Nelson crosses the football field and iconically pumps his fist to Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, he’s not just celebrating another detention done and over with or even his new girlfriend; it’s a gesture that reminds even the most skeptical among us that real life takes place sometimes where and when we least expect. It’s something John Hughes knew all too well. –Matt Melis


85. American Beauty (2000)

american beauty The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Very few midlife crises sound this exceptional. For Lester Burnham, the sardonic protagonist of Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, this suburban daddy’s jarring left turn from normalcy is at all times beautiful, compelling, and riveting. There’s Bill Withers bringing the soul on “Use Me”, Elliott Smith matching the tranquility of composer Thomas Newman with “Because”, and the FM jams of The Who (“The Seeker”) and Free (“All Right Now”). The generational gaps between all the acts — umm, it oscillates from Bobby Darin and Peggy Lee to Gomez and the Eeels — seems almost implicit, seeing how this is a movie about an old man trying to have sex with a young woman — scratch that, a young teenager. No wonder Kevin Spacey won the Oscar! –Michael Roffman

84. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

darjeeling The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Three Kinks songs slip in between Bollywood tracks in Wes Anderson’s fifth film to showcase three American brothers’ train-riding vision quest through the Indian countryside. Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody are mourning the loss of their father and trapped in cycles of familial struggle, but find a new peace together. The trio move from wondering about where they’ll be “This Time Tomorrow”, to discovering that though they’re “Strangers” they are one on this new road, to coming to grips with the fight against the “Powerman” figure always enforcing the status quo that had kept them apart. And as the film goes on, the Indian music becomes less strange and more essential to their relationship. –Adam Kivel


83. Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

shaun of the dead The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

While Baby Driver solidified Edgar Wright’s unmatched ability to make music an essential character and piece of the narrative, fans of his earlier films — and shout-out to Spaced too — will eagerly explain that that’s always been the case. The first film of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, Shaun of the Dead utilizes both diegetic music and clever scoring to comedic and dramatic affect. Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford created the score in honor of classic zombie and horror soundtracks, from John Carpenter vibes to Goblin intensity. Meanwhile, the high-wire choreography of Baby Driver is predated by (among other scenes in Wright’s filmography) a brilliant scene in which Shaun, Ed, Liz, and co. fight off zombies in the Winchester who had been drawn in by a malfunctioning jukebox that wouldn’t stop playing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. –Adam Kivel


82. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

everybodys talkin The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Like the movie itself, the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy is an ambitious affair with a collection of songs that joins together country folk instrumentals and an array of rock styles, from the radio friendly rock sound (including a cover of a great early Warren Zevon song) to more expansive psych explorations, all of which helps explore the complicated psyche of its story. The blend also helps the score pieces resonate, and sets the stage for the iconic “Everybody’s Talkin’”, leading to the first Grammys for both Harry Nilsson and legendary composer John Barry. –Doug Nunnally


81. Top Gun (1986)

top gun The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

As far as ’80s movie soundtracks go, Top Gun may not be the best of the decade, but it’s absolutely among the most memorable. As the above album art suggests, it’s at the very least “up there with the best of the best.” Tony Scott’s film is draped in loud, near-constant pop music, but it’s the two classics from the film’s soundtrack that have come to define the film even more than all of the well-shot, frequently homoerotic action on hand ever could have. Kenny Loggins offered a new path for America, on the highway to the Danger Zone, where Tom Cruise’s ace pilot lives and exists in all of his pursuits. And not only did Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” underscore each of the film’s many illustrations of the totally hetero passion involving Cruise and Kelly McGillis’ program instructor, but it became one of the biggest power ballads of the decade that defined the form. You, reading this now? There’s like a 40% chance you were made to the tune of “Take My Breath Away”. Congratulations. —Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

80. Mo’ Better Blues (1990)

 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

As a film, Mo’ Better Blues may not be one of Spike Lee’s more outstanding works, but it indisputably features one of his best soundtracks. The Branford Marsalis Quartet’s work here plays a crucial (you could even say instrumental) role in Lee’s film, chronicling the rise and fall of Denzel Washington’s Bleek with lively, improvisational-feeling jazz riffs of every kind. Plus, how often do you get to hear Washington, Gang Starr, and Wesley Snipes perform over jazz music? It accomplishes what most soundtracks only aspire to do: it truly adds something more to the film beyond it. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


79. Marie Antoinette (2006)

marie antoinette The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Sofia Coppola’s misunderstood, anachronistic 2006 take on the last queen of pre-Revolution France speaks the language of decadence as only a Coppola film could. Yet its soundtrack, which initially grated on some listeners, is one of the greats of the aughts, an exercise in melancholic pop sounds that manages to comment on one hedonistic era using the sounds of another. New Order, Bow Wow Wow, The Radio Dept., and a host of other artists add to the lushly ornate settings, glorifying in an era of excess even as it verges on its sudden, violent, and inevitable end. It’s a pop soundtrack for the end of the world as many knew it. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


78. Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

where the wild things are The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Eight years later, we’re still periodically baffled that Warner Bros. gave Spike Jonze $100 million of studio money to make what may well be one of the saddest films ever aimed at children. Yet Where the Wild Things Are is worth every cent, a sincerely magical bit of painful fantasy, and one of the better illustrations of childhood fear and anxiety ever put to movie screens. The soundtrack, by Karen O and the Kids, heightens the magical realism of Jonze’s feature, dealing in simple and resonant melodies that transcend the singsong by O’s vocals, which lend the same agonized lilt to the film’s sparse, simple balladry that she often did to even some of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most biting work. It’s a perfect marriage of artist and art, a soundscape that supplements and adds onto the already wonderful film to which it’s connected. —Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


77. Boomerang (1990)

boomerang The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

A perfect snapshot into early ’90s R&B, Boomerang’s soundtrack captured the changing of the musical guard, proudly showing the wonders of New Jack swing while previewing the expansive hip hop soul that was to come. Both the film and soundtrack had lasting effect on the industry, essentially launching the careers of Halle Berry and Toni Braxton, while also giving ample exposure to a laundry list of artists who would go on to fill the screen and airwaves of the ‘90s: Martin Lawrence, Boyz II Men, Tisha Campbell, TLC, Chris Rock, A Tribe Called Quest. –Doug Nunnally


76. Pretty In Pink (1986)

pretty in pink The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Pretty in Pink may not always be at the top of anybody’s John Hughes power ranking, but it’s always a consistent top five, a wild tale of young love that stands as one of his outright funnier movies. But perhaps most memorable, at least to some, is the film’s new wave soundtrack, one that made OMD’s “If You Leave” a chart-topping hit and introduced quite a few young Americans to New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen. That’s all to say nothing of the titular Psychedelic Furs track, the kind of song that captures the ’80s in all its poppy excess in the span of just a few short minutes. Also, Duckie had a lot more to offer than Blaine in the long term. No, we haven’t let this go yet. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

75. Cruel Intentions (1997)

 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Leave it to a movie about gaudy sexual blackmail to pull off some great cinematic tension, something it does so well that it avoided the soft-core preference of its sleazy sequels. Helping build that subtle abstraction is the film’s surprisingly rich soundtrack, one that revolves mostly around a genre that effortlessly mastered the ability to be simultaneously lively and contemptuous: Britpop! Alt-rock of the time gets its time to shine here too, specifically Counting Crows’ wonderfully somber “Colorblind”, but again, the film succeeds off of Britpop’s back, a fact soundly proven by the theatrically cathartic ending flawlessly set to The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”. –Doug Nunnally


74. Apocalypse Now (1979)

apocalypse now The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Thinking back on Apocalypse Now, the film essentially becomes a series of terrifying Nam flashbacks, thanks in large part to the soundtrack. Director Francis Ford Coppola and his brother Carmine arranged the soundtrack as a whole, but the most memorable experiences come in moments: the soldiers using Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” on their helicopter entry to scare the Vietcong, one American dancing shirtless to the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” as their boat rides down the river, and The Doors’ “The End” playing over a montage of destroyed forests and charred battlefields. Throughout, these supposedly triumphant and bombastic songs show instead the hubris and dread of the Vietnam War. The soundtrack echoes that feeling as well as the descent into madness, all the life draining out of the music in a ghastly, powerful experience. –Adam Kivel

73. Spring Breakers (2012)

spring breakers The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Harmony Korine’s pop-trash masterpiece does the previously unthinkable: it turns Skrillex into high art. Korine’s chronicle of wasted youth (in every sense) might be filthy, profane, and more than a little abrasive, but it also speaks the hedonistic, largely vapid language of its unbearable protagonists. To set the tone, Korine washes the film in trashy EDM excess, a genre he matches visually by the shot, drawing out the genuine emotional resonance of the synth strains beneath “With You, Friends” even as he archly comments on how disgusting the whole facade really is. And hell, no matter what you make of the movie, we’d bet money that you haven’t forgotten the sublime madness of James Franco singing into Britney Spears’ “Everytime” as the film tracks he and a band of wayward young women through a string of North Florida robberies. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

72. Wild Style (1983)

wild style The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Few regions will ever have a legitimate claim to truly running the hip-hop game in the way that the South Bronx did in the genre’s early days. And while Wild Style may not be a cinematic classic on its own merits, it’s one of the absolute cornerstones of rap culture on film, if only for its iconic soundtrack, which now serves as a retrospective showcase of the artists and sounds of what would prove to be one of the most important musical movements of the century. It may not be rife with familiar names, in the way that so many other hip-hop soundtracks on this list built their legacies, but to hear Wild Style is to hear the genesis of rap music as we know it today. How many other movies can lay claim to a thing like that? –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


71. The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)

perks The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Music plays a big role in Wallflower, solidifying the character’s bond and progressing the story. With film limitations being what they are, it’s not quite as fleshed out as it is in Stephen Chbsoky’s novel, but the movie more than compensates for this with dazzling scenes set to classic songs while the more subtle pairings enhance the story. Cracker’s “Low” boldly introduces the group, while New Order’s “Temptation” follows a Rocky Horror experience and Cocteau Twins’ “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops” beautifully montages the bittersweet farewell. All point to the deeper meaning of each scene, making that climatic scene so impactful and the tunnel song discovery so triumphant. –Doug Nunnally


70. The Rules of Attraction (2002)

rules of attraction The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Surprise, surprise: a movie based on a Bret Easton Ellis book has a killer sense of tone and sound. While The Rules of Attraction might be one of the more unheralded adaptations of Ellis’ work, it also nails down the drug-fueled ennui of his storytelling better than most. Crucial to that is the hazy soundtrack, which speaks to a very particular kind of college experience: articulate, erotic, and wholly and entirely cruel after a while. The Cure, Harry Nilsson, Love and Rockets, and even Yaz underscore what has to be one of the more singularly unique teen/young adult movies of the aughts, making for a soundtrack that speaks to the melancholy underneath even the most hedonistic lives. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


69. Zodiac (2007)

zodiac The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Part of what makes David Fincher’s 2007 historical thriller Zodiac so compelling is its ability to convey the passage of time. This is a crucial element to a story that deals with obsession and what that obsession will do to the human psyche. In addition to visual cues, like the fascinating construction of the San Francisco skyline, Fincher also leaned heavily on a soundtrack that spans multiple decades and captures the zeitgeist of each respective era: Three Dog Night’s melancholy cover of “Easy to Be Hard” adds a peaceful juxtaposition to a haunting opening scene, Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” embellishes the hustle and bustle of the journalist life, Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)” says everything Mark Ruffalo’s defeated detective can’t, and Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” is this film’s “Goodbye Horses”. Creepy stuff. –Michael Roffman


68. Ghostbusters (1984)

ghostbusters The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

In the decade of great themes, Ray Parker Jr. created one of the absolute best. So infectious, most bought the soundtrack for that one song alone, though they would have been pleasantly surprised by the rest of the soundtrack. Short but memorable, it featured choice cuts from Thompson Twins and Laura Branigan, all capable and willing to movie the plot along in this brisk comedy. The real gem though is Mick Smiley’s “Magic”, which darkly underscores a great montage, shifting the tone from comedic romp to urgent crisis … or as much as you can with Bill Murray and Rick Moranis around. –Doug Nunnally


67. Garden State (2004)

garden state The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

By now, plenty of people’s lives have been changed by sarcastic jokes about how the Shins will change their life, but let’s be honest: when Garden State first came out, that moment carried a bit of magic. And beyond “New Slang”, the soundtrack both fit Zach Braff’s melancholic but sweet worldview and turned the ears of so many viewers to a cozy sweater, emotional brand of indie rock and folk. Simon and Garfunkel’s “Only Living Boy in New York” functions as a spiritual core, a lonely sweetness that permeates thanks to the echo chamber vocals. From there, choices from Colin Hay to Thievery Corporation perpetuate that melancholy mood through time, eventually finding some life in Iron and Wine’s “Such Great Heights” cover. –Lior Phillips


66. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

reservoir dogs The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs turned the crime thriller genre on its head in so many ways: the extreme violence, the non-linear storytelling, the obsession with pop culture. However, not quite as quick to gain attention was the young director’s unusual use of music – in this case, Super Sounds of the ‘70s Weekend as spun by monotone radio host K-Billy. It’s not just that Tarantino selects old ‘70s songs for a ‘90s crime film, but that he embeds them in the film via a radio program. Through K-Billy we get a sense of the world of which these men live on the margins, we see the famous opening-title strut to “Little Green Bag”, and, in one of the most sadistic scenes in modern cinema, “Stuck in the Middle with You” soundtracks Mr. Blonde torturing a mum police officer. Hate him or love him, Tarantino’s mix of pop culture, in this case golden oldies, and violence remains a one-of-a-kind aesthetic. –Matt Melis


65. Empire Records (1995)

empire records The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

A cult film set in a record store fighting for its independence in the face of encroaching retch-inducing pop, Empire Records relies heavily on its soundtrack to establish the credibility. If the songs on the record weren’t sufficiently cool, the production team would look like a whole bunch of Rex Mannings trying to horn in on the teen market. The ‘90s-tastic bunch of Better Than Ezra, the Cranberries, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Cracker certainly signify the “cool” of a specific moment, while then-unsigned acts like The Martinis, Please, and Coyote Shivers lend some indie cool. And, as the cherry on top of the Empire Records sundae, Liv Tyler sings backup vocals on Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando’s cover of Big Star’s “The Ballad of El Goodo”, which now looks like nostalgia getting all nostalgic. Obsessing over the present, trying to out-cool each other, and finding hidden gems from the past all seem pretty fitting for a bunch of kids working at a record store, whether in the ‘70s, ‘90s, or today. –Lior Phillips


64. Menace II Society (1993)

menace 2 society e1510598097557 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

“Gangsta rap” became one of the most misunderstood and maligned cultural movements of the ’90s, if not perhaps the very most. The Hughes Brothers’ film almost feels reactive to white suburban fears of the time in a number of ways, painting an authentic portrait of inner-city conflict, life, and death that at one calls for empathy and also calls for the lack of necessity of outsiders being able to understand. The film’s cut-after-cut soundtrack works through the gritty, aggressive sounds of the time, and that’s not even including the film’s uses of Ice Cube, N.W.A, and a number of other artists not included on the album. Most of the soundtrack as it stands is awash in the West Coast sound of the time, all laid-back production as the spine of so many tales of violence. It’s a mood piece, and perfectly in sync with the film to which it’s set. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


63. Forrest Gump (1994)

forrest gump The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

While of course Tom Hanks is the absolute core of any film in which he stars, so much of the heavy lifting in Forrest Gump is done by the soundtrack. The film finds Hanks’ Gump living life somehow in the center of American history, from the “Hound Dog” early days to the Jefferson Airplane psychedelic Vietnam protest to Motown and blue-eyed soul. By having licensed enough music to make a 34-song soundtrack, director Robert Zemeckis was able to fully ground the whimsical story and enigmatic character in a moment that anyone can connect to and find themselves in. As a soundtrack in and of itself, it’s nothing mind-blowing (listening to the double-disc affair isn’t far from the oldies radio station), but it works perfectly as an effortless narrative tool. –Adam Kivel


62. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

royal tenenbaums The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

The soundtrack to each Wes Anderson film walks a tightrope between ultra-iconic moments and a consistent tonal through-line. To achieve that emotional depth, Anderson frequently returns to the ‘60s and his long-standing partnership with Mark Mothersbaugh. The Royal Tenenbaums finds that balance masterfully, fitting his past-leaning musical tendencies into the narrative’s focus on the generations of a family trapped in the struggles of their past. The forbidden love of adopted siblings Margot and Richie plays out across the film in a pair of Nico songs: the cyclical pain in “These Days” and the potential for a new day in “The Fairest of the Seasons”. Richie’s suicide attempt paired with a song from Elliott Smith — who killed himself not long later — redoubles the tragedy. –Lior Phillips


61. 24 Hour Party People (2002)

24 hour party people The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Of course, a soundtrack to a film about an influential indie label is going to be great, but what makes this one truly significant is how loyal it covers the surrounding scene. Yes, Joy Division, New Order, and other Factory talents dominate the soundtrack, but it also puts the spotlight on other Manchester acts, from A Boy Called Gerald to 808 State, as well as foreign pioneers that contributed to the Madchester swell. The soundtrack’s best quality though is showcasing punk’s nascent role in the origin of acid house, helping to bridge the gap between these two wildly different sounds. –Doug Nunnally


60. Heat (1995)

heat 1995 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Much like Cameron Crowe, Michael Mann tends to scrapbook his soundtracks. With a few exceptions, his films are traditionally scored by a sultry soundscape of incredibly diverse artists, ranging from composers to producers to bands. His 1995 magnum opus, Heat, is like one super sleek, steel-plated time capsule of the era, simmering with myriad sounds from cutting edge masterminds like Elliot Goldenthal, The Kronos Quartet, Brian Eno, Lisa Gerrard, and Moby. Our favorite vegan DJ delivers the final emotional punch with “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters”, arguably the most elegant instrumental composition from the ’90s. Though, it can’t be said enough how crucial Terje Rypdal’s six-string angst is to the story of Robert De Niro’s McCauley; his brooding compositions — particularly, “Mystery Man” — go down like Jameson on the rocks. –Michael Roffman


59. He Got Game (1998)

he got game The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

The last time Spike Lee troubled Public Enemy for an anthem – way back in the late ‘80s for Do the Right Thing – Chuck D and crew delivered “Fight the Power”, arguably the greatest hip-hop song ever put to wax. Suffice it to say that Lee knew where to turn when he was in search of more magic for He Got Game, his celebrated joint about a highly recruited high school basketball player and his incarcerated father. Not only does Public Enemy drop arguably their best album since Fear of a Black Planet to shoulder the load with composer Aaron Copland’s orchestral pieces, but they also build the movie’s theme around one of the more inspired samples of their career, “For What It’s Worth”. Yeaaaa Boyeeee. –Matt Melis


58. Wayne’s World (1992)

waynes world The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Turning an eight-minute recurring sketch into a 90-minute theatrical film is no easy task. And when your film stars Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar — co-hosts of the late-night, music-based Aurora cable access show Wayne’s World — that soundtrack had better wail. You can’t just throw on a dozen tracks by The Shitty Beatles and call it a day, Chet. No worries there, though, my friend. The soundtrack climbed all the way to No. 1, and much of that had to do with tie-ins to some of the film’s most memorable scenes: in addition to the Crucial Taunt performances, there were classic moments like headbanging in the Mirth Mobile to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Wayne fantasizing over Cassandra (schwing) with “Dream Weaver” goggles, and, maybe best of all, Garth chatting up a foxy lady at Stan Mikita’s with Jimi Hendrix as a little wingman. Has any other film created more indelible jokes around classic rock staples than Wayne’s World? If so, let it rise and be counted worthy. –Matt Melis


57. Virgin Suicides (1998)

virgin suicides The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Sofia Coppola proved early on that she was no stranger to the power of the soundtrack. Her 1999 adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ best-selling novel, The Virgin Suicides, rolled through with a pair of bellbottoms and a basket of tunes that weren’t just groovy but downright cool. In addition to tapping French outfit Air to score the picture, Coppola strung together a dazzling medley of era-specific stunners, all of which are perfect for sun-drenched afternoons spent outside an abusive suburban home. Between The Hollies and Todd Rundgren, Al Green and ELO, there’s enough ’70s poetry here to etch on to four dozen wooden school desks. Remarkably, more modern fare by Air and Sloan blend right in with ease — like Marty McFly. –Michael Roffman

56. Juice (1992)

juice The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

While films like Above the Rim thrived on Tupac Shakur’s inclusion on the soundtrack as much as his starring role, the soundtrack to Juice thrills despite the legend’s non-inclusion. But when you’ve got a lineup featuring Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Too Short, and more, you can get away with just having Tupac act as the face of your crime drama. The soundtrack featured chart-topping singles from Naughty by Nature, Teddy Riley & Tammy Lucas, and Aaron Hall — not to mention hot names like Salt-n-Pepa, EPMD, and Cypress Hill. The long-time cinematographer of Spike Lee, Ernest Dickerson’s directorial debut follows the struggles of four young black men in Harlem, gang violence tragically tearing them apart. The soundtrack follows their growth and the shades of destruction, giving an immeasurably powerful sense of place while the tension rolls at a low boil in the grit of early ’90s New York. –Adam Kivel

55. Clueless (1995)

 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

How has a film about privileged youth in Beverly Hills retained its appeal over two decades? The answer lies in the soundtrack that’s far removed from the glitz and glamour of Cher’s life. The music here drifts away from that pomp and posh with a punchy, grimy sound that helps gives depth to the story, letting you realize that this isn’t the Valley Girl Zappa famously scorched. When Coolio plays at a party, it doesn’t matter that it’s in Sun Valley – it could just as well be the house around the block, grounding this story and appeal in schools everywhere. –Doug Nunnally

54. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

fast times The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

By now, we’ve already mentioned Cameron Crowe and how he’s a prodigy when it comes to the art of the soundtrack. Well, his big debut came way, way back in 1982 with Amy Heckerling’s adaptation of his book, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. While the soundtrack itself lacks the majority of the film’s most iconic tracks — Tom Petty, the Go-Gos, The Cars, and Led Zeppelin — the guy was so good at his job that you hardly notice. How could you when you’re moving from Jackson Browne (“Somebody’s Baby”) to The Ravyns (“Raised on the Radio”) to Stevie Nicks (“Sleeping Angel”) to Oingo Boingo (“Goodbye, Goodbye”). It’s a collection that speaks to the transitory nature of that era, particularly the shift from ’70s rock to ’80s new wave. Because of this, the music takes on a personality that’s in line with the film’s rogues gallery of slackers and surfers. All right, Cameron! –Michael Roffman

53. Risky Business (1983)

risky business The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Joel, like many young men from well-to-do families, has his whole life mapped out for him by his parents. So, when they leave for a short trip, he finally sees a chance to say “what the fuck” and loosen up a bit. Eventually, he trades in his Tangerine Dream-fueled wet dreams and, in one of film’s most recognizable moments, dancing in his underwear to Bob Seger for something a lit bit more risky. Namely joyrides to Jeff Beck in daddy’s Porsche and a hot-cold/business-pleasure relationship with a prostitute who wants to make love on an L Train anytime she hears Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”. Why wasn’t high school like this for us? I guess we forgot to say, “What the fuck!” –Matt Melis


52. Boyz in the Hood (1991)

boyz in the hood The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Speaking of rap sounds defining a decade, Boyz n the Hood introduced the kind of candid vision of another America that would spawn countless contemporaries and imitators alike in the decade that followed. As such, the numerous other rap-driven soundtracks on this list owe a certain debt to the breakout success of the soundtrack to John Singleton’s film. With a mix of sample-friendly R&B and hip-hop from 2 Live Crew, Hi-Five, and Ice Cube in a track attached to his star-making performance, the Hood soundtrack is in every way a product, and innovator, of its time. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


51. Goodfellas (1990)

goodfellas The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Music is intrinsic to all of Martin Scorcese’s films, and Goodfellas is no exception. For his 1990 mob masterpiece, ol’ Marty and co-writer Nicholas Pileggi wrote a number of the songs into his screenplay, even shooting certain scenes with the respective song playing on-set (see: the entire montage set to “Layla”). So, odds are if you’re listening to a track off the soundtrack, you can pretty much remember what happened on screen. For some, that strict marriage of sound to screen often takes away from the overall listening experience, but c’mon, it’s hard to shrug off this crew: Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Cream, Muddy Waters, Bobby Darin, and The Shangri-Las. To paraphrase Stacks Edwards, this soundtrack is better than sex, baby. –Michael Roffman


50. Stand By Me (1986)

stand by me The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s long short story “The Body” – better known to millions from multiple generations as Stand by Me — may be the greatest young adult coming-of-age film ever. At an age where boys can barely piss straight, four friends find that the decisions they make now and the friendships they keep very well could change the course of their lives forever. Central to those friendships are, of course, songs the boys hear on the radio and sing together. In that sense, the soundtrack doesn’t so much pinpoint a specific time as it does capture a time of life when boys spend their summer days hanging out, rough-housing, ribbing each other, and singing songs. Then, of course, obvious as it may be, Ben E. King’s indelible soul classic rolls over the end credits, reminding viewers that the bonds we share, even ones we forge before we’re old enough to shave, can make all the difference in our lives. –Matt Melis


49. Batman (1989)

batman prince The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

There were plenty of musicians that could have matched the manic energy of Jack Nicholson’s Joker in song, but few could have dutifully explored that mania with the poise and promise of Prince. With “Batdance”, Prince brings you into Joker’s disjointed and hysterical mind, while other songs make his casual chaos feel exciting and entertaining, helping make this the best version of the iconic villian for nearly 20 years. Prince also helped Batman come to life as well, easing the transition from print to film and giving the vigilante color and depth within Tim Burton’s dark, dark world. –Doug Nunnally


48. The Big Lebowski (1998)

lebowski The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

For a lot of people my age, the Coen brothers’ now-classic kidnapping caper/bowling epic gone awry really tied the ’90s together. And the soundtrack did the same for the film. The Coens assigned musical cues to all of the parties at odds over the disappearance of Bunny Lebowski (e.g. The Dude’s theme is often CCR), and super producer T Bone Burnett secured rights to many of the songs that give the film its unique neon-bowling-alley-from-Mars aesthetic: Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me”, Townes Van Zandt’s “Dead Flowers”, and The Gipsy Kings’ take on “Hotel California”. And, of course, nowhere do we get to see the signature Coen style emerge better than during the Dude’s pornographic bowling dream, music and condition courtesy of Mr. Kenny Rogers. Yeah, yeah, wooahh, yeah. –Matt Melis

47. Belly (1998)

belly soundtrack The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

After directing some of the biggest hip-hop music videos of the mid-to-late ‘90s, Hype Williams got his shot at directing a feature through Def Jam’s 1998 production, Belly. And while it didn’t exactly garner rave reviews, the neo-noir direction makes the Nas and DMX-starring vehicle an interesting watch—but really, the star-studded soundtrack is the reason to stick around. Jay-Z, the Wu-Tang Clan, and D’Angelo all contribute, as do the film’s stars in “Grand Finale”, a particularly winning track with Method Man and Ja Rule. The gritty, dark production fits the gangland violence, each of the many stars supporting their team and struggling for dominance in a world full of drugs and guns. –Adam Kivel

46. Lost Highway (1997)

lost highway 1 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Even before releasing his own albums and curating his own festival, David Lynch was no stranger to the power of a good song. Lost Highway is a fascinating intersection of Hollywood noir, industrial noise, lounge, and jazz — finding the shadowy corner in each, much like the film’s ’90s Los Angeles embodies the darkest corners of the minds of its inhabitants. David Bowie’s “I’m Deranged” in the opening and closing credits gives the film a disorienting wrapped structure; the insistent electronics play darkly over frantic, ceaseless footage of the center line of a highway lit only by headlights. The paranoiac lyrics (“I’m deranged/ Down, down, down”) introduce Lynch’s grimy, mystic world — and unfortunately remain to the bitter end, wrapping up the extreme jazz of protagonist Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), Angelo Badalamenti’s classic score, and the grinding tunes of Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, and Trent Reznor. –Adam Kivel


45. Lost in Translation (2002)

lost in translation The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Feeling lost is crucial to the success of Lost In Translation, and Sofia Coppola is a genius at finding ways to showcase this through dialogue and setting, both of which are boldly amplified through the carefully chosen music. Further trivializing the superficial conversations or making the Tokyo streets shimmer even brighter, the music is there to increase the divide the characters feel. The music on its own can elicit the same sentiment, with Air’s pulsating melancholy making it difficult to weave through the nebulous haze of My Bloody Valentine, letting the listener itself get lost as well. –Doug Nunnally


44. Dirty Dancing (1987)

dirty dancing1 e1510942383889 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Dirty Dancing could have rested solely on then-contemporary songs and still delivered a fantastic soundtrack to bolster its coming-of-age story. Utilizing doo-wop giants, R&B legends, and rock pioneers, it captured the expansive growth of popular music, using them to score crowded dances and intimate practices. But Dirty Dancing goes a step further, incorporating modern music that is as integral to the movie’s foundation as the classic songs themselves, and it’s that inclusion that propels this soundtrack from pretty good to outright amazing. Ultimately, it’s that modern and classic mix that helps hammer home this classic movie’s timeless and enduring appeal. –Doug Nunnally


43. Good Will Hunting (1997)

goodwillhunting The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Weepy is one word to describe the soundtrack to Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting. Chock full of tearful jams by the late Elliott Smith, the somber soundtrack sounds as if someone bottled all the melancholy from autumn and put it on a single disc. Songs like “Angeles”, “No Name #3”, “Say Yes”, and “Between the Bars” offer a genius distillation of the great bard, but then you get to his Oscar-nominated original track “Miss Misery” and realize why the world kind of stopped when he passed away in 2003. It’s a song as affecting and gorgeous as anything off Rubber Soul, and when you pair it alongside the film, it takes the drama to a whole other level. Toss in fitting selections by The Waterboys, Luscious Jackson, The Dandy Warhols, Al Green, and bits of score by Danny Elfman, who was peaking around this time, and, well, how about dem apples. –Michael Roffman


42. The Shining (1980)

shining e1510616333907 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Not too long ago, we ranked Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining as the second scariest movie of all time. But here’s the thing, at least 65% of that decision came down to the soundtrack alone. Because without it, the movie just wouldn’t be as psychologically jarring and unnerving. Sure, Jack Nicholson’s performance is terrifying and those twins will forever haunt our dreams, but it’s the way Kubrick and music editor Gordon Stainforth weaves in this tapestry of noise that makes it all so out of this world. Similar to 2001: a space odyssey, the whole soundtrack is this eccentric collection of modernist art-music, most of which were Kubrick regulars — folks like György Ligeti, Wendy Carlos, and Krzysztof Penderecki. Even taken out of context, the music is chilling, sounding as if it came from the bowels of a cave that nobody should ever go spelunking in. –Michael Roffman


41. 8 Mile (2002)

8mile The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Yeah, most people remember the 8 Mile soundtrack for a very specific reason: “Lose Yourself,” the song that not only won Marshall Mathers an Academy Award, but became one of the biggest rap hits of the early-aughts era. And while it’s almost certainly the standout track on the album, the film’s soundtrack at large serves as a window into what was hot at the time. In this case, namely, it’s anybody that Eminem said was hot. Obie Trice, D12, and 50 Cent all get ample time to highlight the Shady Records imprimatur, while Rakim and Nas arrive from without to add to the film’s world. Both the movie and the soundtrack are probably even better than you remember, and it’s an artifact of a time when Eminem really did run the rap game. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

40. Manhunter (1986)

manhunter The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

With Miami Vice in his rearview mirror, Michael Mann brought all of his post-modern flourishes and new wave sounds to his 1986 adaptation of Thomas Harris’ cold-blooded thriller, Red Dragon. Even today, Manhunter is a dizzying spectacle, from the perfect shot selection to the meditative color palette to the moody selection of ’80s sounds with not a track to spare. In between the steamy new age instrumentals by Shriekback and The Reds are underrated pop gems like The Prime Movers’ bruising “Strong As I Am” and Red 7’s blissfully ’80s “Heartbeat”. Of course, nothing hits harder than Michel Rubini’s “Graham’s Theme”, another subtle nod by Mann to Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” (see: Craig Safran’s “Confrontation” for Thief). Sigh, the number of nights this writer has spent staring out his Chicago apartment listening to this song is … embarrassing. –Michael Roffman


39. Footloose (1984)

footloose20original20soundtrack The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

The soundtrack to Kevin Bacon’s 1984 opus about destabilizing small-town values through the power of furious, often scandalous dancing encouraged us all to kick off our Sunday shoes, a slight against God if ever their was one. Yet Kenny Loggins’ quasi-Satanic sentiments were hardly the only source material for hits; the Footloose soundtrack is flush with them. Deniece Williams encouraged the Reagan ’80s to hear it for the boy alongside her, Bonnie Tyler held out for a hero, and hell, “Footloose” wasn’t even the only hit Loggins single on the album. Now c’mon. Everybody cut footloose. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

38. Waiting to Exhale (1995)

 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Waiting to Exhale wasn’t just a smash hit of a soundtrack. It was one of the biggest albums of 1995, period. Babyface’s work on “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” and the album’s legion of other hits was nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy, virtually unheard of for a compilation. But that’s how great, and how enduringly powerful, the film’s soundtrack was. With one honest-to-God anthem after the next, the Exhale soundtrack transcended the medium of soundtracks in a number of ways. It became a major moment in culture, an affirmation for women of their humanity, and their power, and their strength. It’s the rare classic that isn’t just a classic because of the film to which it’s attached, but a classic all on its own. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


37. Donnie Darko (2001)

donnie darko The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Building the supernatural melancholy of Donnie Darko through song is no easy task, even when armed with gothic classics like Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon.” But Richard Kelly’s debut shoots for the stars, or more appropriately black hole, and lands pretty close thanks to brooding ‘80s songs and striking instrumentals. Of course, nothing quite sells the impending doom of the story like the hauntingly beautiful version of “Mad World” that made Gary Jules and Michael Andrews instant additions to any respectable covers playlist. Nailing the film’s hopeless gloom, its inclusion in the closing scene remains the seminal film’s most memorable moment. –Doug Nunnally


36. The Wedding Singer (1998)

the wedding singer The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Adam Sandler’s ‘80s send-up gets a lot more respect these days than it did when it first hit theaters in the late ‘90s. The two-volume soundtrack does as well, and both deserve the praise. It’s one thing to load up a soundtrack with ‘80s songs we will never forget (even if we want to), but Sandler and team weren’t just licensing a bunch of songs to transport us back to that time. They were looking for music they could spin into comedy; hence, songs are included to set up period gags, foreshadow cameos, and, of course, be hilarious when Sandler and band trot them out at weddings or the occasional bat mitzvah. The film asks you to come for the music and stay for the jokes the music inspires. Hell, 20 years later, I still lose it every time “George” breaks into Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” for the second time in a row. “They’re starting to turn on George in there!” –Matt Melis


35. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

While Wes Anderson soundtracks typically revel in nostalgia, they do so with clever intentions. For The Life Aquatic, he utilizes all the right classic cuts to pull at the heartstrings: Iggy and the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” for adrenaline-fueled action, The Zombies’ “The Way I Feel Inside” for grief, and “Gut Feeling” from Devo (via, of course, frequent Anderson collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh) for the heat of the chase. But he pairs that in part through the eye of the outsider: Seu Jorge as crewmember Pelé dos Santos, wandering the deck with a guitar and singing Portuguese Bowie covers. And when the crew of the Belafonte finally find the unknowable creature that they’d been hunting out in the deepest ocean, the surreal, extreme, near-alien beauty of Sigur Rós’ “Starálfur” is the perfect match, a trip into a mystic present out of the nostalgia. –Lior Phillips


34. Adventureland (2008)

 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

A film like, say, Singles used the Seattle music scene at that time to capture something about relationships in the early ‘90s. Adventureland, however, pulls off the challenge of saying something timeless about young love, in part, by borrowing the music of another time. The inherent risk, of course, comes down to filling up a soundtrack with beloved songs from the era (mostly the ‘80s in this case) that fit the time but not the film. Luckily, director Greg Motolla avoids the trap and captures some gorgeous moments: James and Em driving bumper cars to The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”, escaping a rough night to Lou Reed’s “Pale Blue Eyes”, and James drenched and waiting on Em in Manhatten as the Mats’ “Unsatisfied” unravels. It’s not about being nostalgic for the time in the film. These moments make you nostalgic for that time in your life – whenever that might have been. –Matt Melis


33. The Crow (1994)

the crow The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

If you grew up in the ’90s, odds are there’s a copy of The Crow soundtrack sitting in your closet somewhere. Everyone owned this fucking thing, if not for the fact that they had a short-lived goth phase, then for the simple novelty of wanting to hear some of the most popular alternative rock of the era. But, to everyone’s credit, the soundtrack was really good, and you know what, it’s still pretty goddamn great. The Cure’s Crow-indebted “Burn” remains one of Robert Smith’s most underrated anthems, Nine Inch Nails somehow improve upon Joy Division’s “Dead Souls”, “Snakedriver” is like peak JAMC, and Violent Femmes have never sounded more downtrodden than on “Color Me Once”. Elsewhere, you get an FM hit from Stone Temple Pilots and a choice B-side from Rage Against the Machine. Hell, if this were a festival lineup, you’d dust off your leather. –Michael Roffman

32. Jackie Brown (1997)

jackie brown The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

With two celebrated films under his skinny tie, Quentin Tarantino fans knew that their favorite director’s musical choices were anything but arbitrary. For Jackie Brown, his homage to ‘70s blaxploitation films (which included a jump-start to Pam Grier’s career), Tarantino turned to those same films for inspiration, borrowing songs from them and even the score from the movie Coffy. As a result, the film has an unmistakable musical cohesion and authenticity as Jackie tears through the airport to Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street”, Ordell dials up The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” before “taking out the trash,” and, most memorably, Max starts falling for Jackie over “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” by The Delfonics. Tarantino’s love of both neglected film genres and music come together here to totally blow our minds. –Matt Melis


31. High Fidelity (2000)

high fidelity The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Just by looking over the tracklist, you can tell director Stephen Frears toiled tirelessly over the soundtrack to this movie about obsessive music fans, perhaps even more than Rob Gordon toils over his own personal rankings. But that hard work pays off, with songs from across the musical spectrum that keeps the movie faithful to the spirit of Nick Hornby’s characters and show off the range of a true music fanatic, proving they’re just as comfortable with records by Smog and Stereolab as they are songs by Bob Dylan and The Kinks. Not the hits though, in true snob fashion. –Doug Nunnally


30. The Big Chill (1983)

the big chill The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Say what you will about the movie — “It’s lame!”; “It’s baby boomer nostalgia!”; “It’s actually pretty sexist!” — but the soundtrack to Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill is a diamond. Actually, it’s a big ol’ chunk of Platinum, one that’s been certified 6x over the years, namely because it’s overstuffed with timeless hits that pop up on literally every wedding playlist. Seriously, you don’t have to watch Tom Berenger fuck up his leg while attempting to jump into a convertible or sit through Glenn Close’s shower tears to know that an album filled with the go-to tracks of every celebrated Motown artist from the ’60s and ’70s is going to sound great. That’s what this soundtrack is — a greatest hits of an era — and although we’d like to say we’d never pass on watching Jeff Goldblum creepily try to have sex with anyone he can … we’d much rather pop this on and skip the maudlin drama. Fun fact: Kevin Costner is actually inside track 10. –Michael Roffman


29. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

awesome mix vol  1 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Though the soundtrack contains some surprises, many were already staples of other films. But that’s not the point. The movie doesn’t attempt to hijack any of these songs (except Redbone). Instead, it uses the music to show off the spirt of the story. Sure, the song choices don’t always make sense – but Guardians doesn’t either. It’s a mish-mash collection of superheroes that definitely don’t belong together, and the same can be said of the music that inexplicably includes The Jackson 5, The Runaways, and 10cc. Don’t try to make sense out of it. Just lose yourself in its classic joy. –Doug Nunnally


28. Almost Famous (2000)

almost famous The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Almost Famous is honest in its portrayal of rock as it was. The scene was a dream slowly fading into the ether, and while the musicians couldn’t see it, idealistic William Miller could, even if he never let it break his wide-eyed fascination. The songs Cameron Crowe chose here reflect this journey, from the use of a contemplative instrumental by The Who to a poignant introspection by Cat Stevens. Of course, Almost Famous’ spirit and theme feel best represented in “Tiny Dancer”, giving the story a much needed release, the soundtrack a sturdy anchor, and fans an unforgettable scene. –Doug Nunnally

27. Boogie Nights (1997)

boogie nights The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Things get dark in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. Very dark. Still, it’s a film you don’t exactly want to leave, if only because it’s a vivid world filled with so many vivid characters. Yet part of the appeal is that, for a great majority of the film, it’s one long ’70s party that begins at dawn and ends by gunshot. To conjure up that vintage magic, Anderson leaned heavily on a soundtrack that’s as inspired as his casting, shimmying from one disco groove to the next soulful ballad. In fact, there’s so much music in the film that they had to drop two volumes, and you can’t go wrong with either of them. The first gets the majors out of the way (Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys), while the second cuts to the core (Elvin Bishop, Hot Chocolate). Together, they capture the ups and downs of the story, all without missing a single beat. Feast on that. –Michael Roffman

26. Into the Wild (2007)

into the wild soundtrack cover The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Tapping Eddie Vedder to do the music for Into the Wild was a smart move on Sean Penn’s behalf. The guy has a connection to nature that’s permeated Pearl Jam’s music from the very beginning. So, it was no surprise that the accompanying tunes for Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s novel-of-the-same-name would connect with the story of the late Christopher McCandless in ways that not even Emile Hirsch could dream up. Songs like “No Ceiling”, “Society”, and the Golden Globe-winning “Guaranteed” channel the majesty of our great world and its unassuming power within, finding Vedder at his most primal. Today, the songs continue to pop up from time to time in Pearl Jam’s setlists, further evidence of its enduring nature. –Michael Roffman

25. Blue Velvet (1986)

bluevelvet The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Although it’s his fourth feature, Blue Velvet often feels like David Lynch’s debut. It set the stage for everything that would follow from the auteur: his dreamy meditations on good vs. evil, his divine admiration for ’50s aesthetics, and his damn fine work with composer Angelo Badalamenti and singer Julee Cruise. The latter led to one of his greatest Lynchian constructs, a score that celebrates Shostakovich’s 15th Symphony, while also paying homage to the vintage pop of yesteryear, what with inclusions by Roy Orbison, Bill Doggett, and Ketty Lester. But then there’s “Mysteries of Love”, Cruise’s soaring modern ballad, that sends everything into this lucid state. That’s the idea, though; the little fish that Lynch caught years ago, the little fish that keeps on swimming. –Michael Roffman


24. Drive (2010)drive The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Drive didn’t make household names out of artists like Riz Ortolani and Cliff Martinez, but that was never the intention. The music that soundtracks this gritty and sparse tale is not there to stand-out, it’s there to help immerse you into the world of the Driver, where each word is carefully chosen and each movement strategically planned out. Even the songs that can stand on their own, most notably “A Real Hero” by College, feel incomplete when viewed out of context. Just like the Driver, you need to have those organic synth melodies illuminating the dark road he travels. –Doug Nunnally


23. Pulp Fiction (1994)

pulp fiction The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Quentin Tarantino has always been a pop-culture junkie with an appreciation for the past. As a result, almost all of his films do two things: give a declining actor a chance to regain his or her swagger and repurpose older songs that many may have forgotten or not heard in years. In Pulp Fiction, his crate digging yields now-classic cinematic pairings of Vincent and Mia twisting to Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” at Jack Rabbit Slim’s and Mia later overdosing while rocking out to Urge Overkill’s brilliant cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”. But nothing tops Tarantino’s revival of surf guitar king Dick Dale’s 1962 take on “Miserlou”. As the yelping, finger-blazing, grimy instrumental plays atop the film’s opening credits, the audience already knows they’re in for a mob film unlike any other. It’s better than powdering your nose. –Matt Melis


22. Easy Rider (1969)

easy rider The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

There were plenty of great soundtracks before Easy Rider came out in 1969, but none changed the way people viewed music in movies quite like it. It wasn’t that the movie boasted songs from Dylan, Hendrix, The Band, The Byrds, and Steppenwolf — a contemporary ensemble that remains one of the absolute best — it was that the songs all helped advance the story, revealing both the woes and joys of the counterculture. While movies today may seek to replicate the spirit of rock music or the songs they select, Easy Rider was that spirit, at its absolute height. –Doug Nunnally


21. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

clockwork orange The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

A critical narrative element of A Clockwork Orange is the conditioning of the film’s main character against the very music being used in its soundtrack. In Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel, ultra-violent rapist Alex DeLarge is treated with intense, controversial psychological conditioning, forced to watch endless scenes of violence and sex while listening to his favorite composer, Beethoven. From that point on, any hint of that music is attached in his mind to pain and suffering, making him physically ill. To evoke that same feeling in viewers, Kubrick bounces between snippets of the Ninth Symphony and distorted, vocoded rearrangements by electronic pioneer Wendy Carlos, as well as more of Carlos’s own compositions. Her electronic music proved so inspirational and beloved that Carlos released a second version of the soundtrack. So rarely does a soundtrack become the plot, but then this films breaks down all barriers and examines the pieces. –Adam Kivel


20. Baby Driver (2017)

baby driver The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Choreographing an elaborate scene to an energetic song is nothing new, but what is new is how Edgar Wright framed the scenes within the context of each song with Baby Driver. Songs by Queen, The Damned, and Jon Spencer all are fully presented, allowing you to enjoy the full spectacle of a car-chase musical. In between the arranged chaos, the movie awakens other gems too, and even those that get a little chopped up get their just due with apartment dances and laundromat toe-tapping. With this attention and detail, this isn’t the soundtrack for music nerds — it’s the soundtrack that creates music nerds. –Doug Nunnally

19. Romeo and Juliet (1997)

romeo The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

There are countless iterations and adaptations of every Shakespeare play, and Romeo and Juliet may be the most commonly updated. It takes a special something to stand out from the pack, and no matter the film, Baz Luhrmann always has a whole lot of special something. For his take on the most famous messed-up love story, the Australian auteur turned up the saturation and threw a handful of dramatic musical trends into a blender. Not many directors would even attempt to put together the weirdo rock of the Butthole Surfers, the moody Radiohead, the hook-happy Cardigans, and the neo-soul of Des’ree, but then Romeo + Juliet threaded it all through an orchestral superstructure. Every second goes big, and it somehow never falters under its own weight. –Lior Phillips


18. Back to the Future (1985)

bttf The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

By design alone, Back to the Future is perhaps the perfect soundtrack. Hit original songs, iconic classics, a memorable score, and a few B-sides from legendary musicians; it pretty much has it all in just 10 songs. The soundtrack goes beyond this, though, co-opting one classic and another all-time great in one truly unforgettable scene that almost make the score and original hits secondary. Don’t believe me? Just play the riff of “Johnny B. Goode” in a public space and count how long it takes for someone to shout out “Marvin Berry” while miming a telephone with the biggest grin imaginable. –Doug Nunnally


17. Friday (1995)

friday The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

The ’90s were packed with quality hip-hop/R&B driven soundtracks, and one of the more successful fused both, capturing the sound of the era and the sampling revivalism of the time with perfect clarity. Ice Cube’s title track and Dr. Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin” might have been the hits from Friday‘s double-platinum soundtrack, but the album at large illustrates the movie’s quiet tension between laid-back slacker aesthetics and the grittier realities of South Central. The former gets the Isley Brothers, Rick James, Rose Royce, and Bootsy Collins; the latter, Scarface and E-A-Ski and Cypress Hill. It’s a smooth, stoned, periodically aggressive soundtrack to fit a movie dealing in the very same. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


16. Vanilla Sky (2001)

vanilla sky The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Once in awhile, a soundtrack comes along to elevate a film to its true potential. Enter Cameron Crowe’s 2001 psychological mindfuck Vanilla Sky. His take on Alejandro Amenábar’s Abre los ojos finds Tom Cruise running around New York City with his greatest haircut of all time. Behind him, though, is what can best be described as a satin quilt of groundbreaking alternative music — no, really. At a time when mainstream music was at its worst, here came Crowe with a collection of certifiably great new tunes, from Kid A-era Radiohead to Ágætis byrjun-era Sigur Rós to Reveal-era R.E.M., all of which helped define our post-9/11 world. Much like the film itself, the soundtrack works like a dream, drifting aimlessly from one eccentric track to the next, and if you’re not a hot mess by the time Nancy Wilson strums her “Elevator Beat”, your soul must be frozen in some high-tech science lab and it’s time to open your fucking eyes. –Michael Roffman

15. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

ferris bueller The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

For 30 years (!!!), fans were denied an official soundtrack, a big gaffe from the legendary John Hughes that had people settling with fuzzy mixtapes and clunky playlists. “Who’d want all these songs,” he told Lollipop in 2003, pointing the absurdity of pairing Wayne Newton with Yello. And they don’t go together, but they do back up Ferris’ diverse appeal. To do the righteous dude justice, you need a righteous playlist, and look no further than a soundtrack that’s confident jumping from Star Wars to The Smiths, just like Ferris jumping from an upscale restaurant to a massive parade. –Doug Nunnally


14. Rushmore (1997)

rushmore The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Director Wes Anderson originally intended for the entire soundtrack to Rushmore to be Kinks songs. He had originally envisioned Max as a vocal and angry British exchange student and thought The Kinks would be the type of rock band a kid who wears a blazer might listen to. However, as the project evolved and grew less Kinky, what became clear is Anderson’s uncanny ability to pair popular sounds and images: Max’s yearbook (The Creation’s “Making Time”), Herman’s drunken cannonballing to The Kinks at his kids’ birthday party, or Max and Herman exchanging blows to The Who live. Toss in Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh’s quirky instrumental interludes and the most fitting song to ever play over closing credits – Faces’ “Ooh La La” – and you have a Rushmore soundtrack worthy of, well, the Rushmore of soundtracks. –Matt Melis


13. Do the Right Thing (1989)

do the right thing The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

While Bill Lee’s score hangs heavy over much of the punishing summer day within Spike Lee’s 1989 classic, it’s hard to even think of that year without quickly following it as Public Enemy did: “the number of another summer.” PE’s “Fight the Power” perfectly harmonizes with Rosie Perez’s ferocious, agonized opening dance, just as well as it does later, as the doomed Radio Raheem’s expression of existential outrage. But even if Lee’s soundtrack would make this list on the strength of that one song’s iconic usage alone, the rest of the album has an equal stake in setting the hazy, sweat-soaked tone of the film. Much of the film is set to a mix of the aforementioned score and smooth R&B, the kind of stuff Mister Senor Love Daddy would play to keep the residents of Bed-Stuy calm and cool on even the worst possible days. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


12. Singles (1992)

singles The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

With a background in rock journalism, it’s not surprising that filmmaker Cameron Crowe’s soundtracks often play like mixtapes made by a guy with better taste in music than most. However, for Crowe, it’s not just about loading up soundtracks with killer material that can also shift units. Singles finds the pre-fame director using Seattle’s early ‘90s grunge scene not only as a backdrop or pop-cultural touchstone but as a realistic world in which to immerse his characters. And through a soundtrack stockpiled with grunge icons like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and featuring original material by Paul Westerberg, Crowe taps into a time, but far more importantly, the feeling of that time. Though better romantic comedies than Singles may come along, none, thanks to Crowe’s soundtrack, will better capture how it felt to be searching for that perfect someone in the early ‘90s. –Matt Melis


11. Shaft (1971)

isaac hayes shaft The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Shaft was great. Shaft was huge. Shaft changed everything. When Richard Roundtree first walked out to the sounds of Isaac Hayes’ Academy Award-winning theme, it was a watershed moment in Hollywood history. As one of the earliest blaxploitation films — not to mention, one of the genre’s most successful — Shaft blew the door wide open for black culture in American cinema. Of course, much of that success is owed to Hayes’ groundbreaking score, which not only topped the Billboard 200 but warranted two Top 40 singles in “Theme from Shaft” and “Do Your Thing”. It’s kind of funny; originally, Hayes had hoped to play the titular character on screen, but in reality, he played him everywhere else. After all, it’s his work that brought Shaft to the clubs, the bars, and the homes across America, creating a movement that outlasted the film’s 100 minutes. Today, his work continues to live on, whether it’s throwback musical cues or liberal sampling from artists in every genre from rock to rap to EDM. Everyone digs it. –Michael Roffman


10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)2001 The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey positions itself in a mystic always, a place in the interstellar timeline in which the origins of the world and the far future are one in the same. To achieve that timeless feeling, the legendary director opted for a mixture of classical composers that at once feel stately and regal but also dizzying and disorienting. Using German composer Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” during a scene of apes learning to use tools shades their discovery with a powerful, if ominous majesty, but also perfectly fades to a scene of a space station, something we’d more traditionally tie to such dramatic classical music. Perhaps most notably, Kubrick synchronized a scene of a spaceship docking to “The Blue Danube”, a waltz by Johann Strauss, while modern composer György Ligeti’s micro-polyphonic Atmospheres provides a dazzling counterpoint. The 2001 soundtrack feels like slipping through time, but in the most beautiful extraterrestrial way. –Adam Kivel


09. Trainspotting (1996)

trainspotting The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Listening to the Trainspotting soundtrack may not produce the precise feeling of being on an intense drug-high like the film’s protagonists — but it will sure give you a buzz. The electronic and post-punk mix thrives on pumping beats and the kind of blank-eyed intensity that comes at the end of a long night. And we’re not talking about a happy high, necessarily either. Iggy may have had a “Lust for Life”, but we all know where that can lead, the synth sirens of Underworld’s “Born Slippy” signal something coming, and the funereal irony of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” lingers. There’s a hangover coming — or maybe that’s all we have — even through the high. –Lior Phillips


08. The Harder They Come (1972)

the harder they come The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Like the film, the soundtrack to this cultural sensation was rooted in its truth. While The Harder They Come extolled the greatness of Jamaican culture, the film also spoke to the hardships that weighed on the people, making it one of the most enduring and striking political statements of its time. Most will remember it now for opening the door to reggae’s worldwide success, but the soundtrack’s most remarkable quality was not just exposing the appeal of reggae, but its inherent power. The soundtrack channels all the passion and rage of the people, gripped with societal fatigue, thus elevating the film’s message to legendary heights. –Doug Nunnally


07. Above the Rim (1994)

above the rim The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

In 1994, the fervor for rap in general and Tupac Shakur in specific drove multiple soundtracks of the Billboard charts; but of that critical hip-hop moment, Above the Rim struck a nerve, thanks to the film’s raw emotion and the soundtrack’s nexus of rap power. At the film’s release, Tupac was in the midst of establishing his legend, while Suge Knight and Dr. Dre worked as the soundtrack’s producers. The film’s tale of basketball as struggle and triumph showcases both the radiant highs and gritty depths that rap can reach, from Tha Dogg Pound’s “Big Pimpin” and Warren G’s “Regulate” to Tupac’s own “Pain” — a highlight that provides the film’s emotional climax in which his character, the villainous Birdie, is killed. –Adam Kivel


06. American Graffiti (1973)

american graffiti The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Wanna know the real title of the American Graffiti soundtrack? It’s actually labeled 41 Original Hits from the Soundtrack of American Graffiti. Some bargain, right? Yeah, like the tasty burgers and fries at Mel’s Drive-Thru, this double-album is a total bang for your buck. At 41 tracks, you not only get to relive George Lucas’ nostalgic portrait of 1962 America, but get a quick lesson in early rock ‘n’ roll and vintage doo wop. So, it’s both a piece of movie merchandise and a genuine history lesson, one that strings together more or less every artist you’d ever want to listen to from that era. There’s Buddy Holly, The Flamingos, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, The Platters, The Beach Boys, The Five Satins, for heaven’s sake, the thing never ends. And seeing how the collection’s been certified Platinum three times over, it’s no wonder MCA essentially used the Graffiti brand to keep reissuing these dusty oldies, as this collection spawned not one but two followups. Oh my, that’s a whole lotta rockin’ around the clock. –Michael Roffman


05. Dazed and Confused (1993)

dazed and confused The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

It’s no surprise that a film about teenagers in the ‘70s would boast a great soundtrack. From recognizable hits to then-obscure rockers and even deep cuts, the film’s mix unquestionably lived up to its musical name (enough to warrant two equally great volumes). But the music is also part of the story here, through radios, speakers, and headphones. Even the songs that are artificially placed mirror the story, as in the male and female hazing scenes. This makes the music the experienced star here, helping to elevate the up-and-coming cast and landing this movie in the pantheon of youth cinema. –Doug Nunnally


04. Super Fly (1972)

super fly The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

In 1971, Marvin Gaye famously questioned the state of his community, and the following year, Curtis Mayfield gave him the answer with Super Fly, a vivid aural tapestry that displayed exactly what was going on. At his musical peak, Mayfield glosses over nothing, exploring the double standards of society while giving both victims and predators voices. Mostly an impartial observer, Mayfield’s ire is raised at times, such as the concurrent “Pusherman”, and it’s these moments where Mayfield elevates the role of soul music, showing that the moral compass has to be observed, even as society’s gray area continued to grow. –Doug Nunnally


03. The Bodyguard (1992)

the bodyguard The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

It’s hard to imagine a soundtrack that relies heavily on Kenny G and Joe Cocker to rise near the top of a list like this, but you can get away with a little bit of Kenny when you’ve also got a performance as absolutely legendary as Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” on The Bodyguard. The now 18x Platinum soundtrack features some other great Whitney tracks — “I’m Every Woman” and “Queen of the Night” have their fun — but really, we’re talking about one of the single greatest vocal performances of all time. The song’s appearance in the film spawned countless parodies and approximations throughout pop culture, but Whitney’s magnetism will never be matched. –Lior Phillips


02. The Graduate (1967)

the graduate The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

The recently graduated Benjamin Braddock is staring down the barrel of a future that disturbs him. One he feels himself being involuntarily ushered towards, not unlike the airport conveyer belt during the The Graduate’s opening credits. And during these moments of uneasiness and increased disconnection come the soft voices of Simon and Garfunkel in agreement. They signal time aimlessly passing (“April Come She Will”), accompany Ben’s growing infatuation with Elaine Robinson (“Scarborough Fair/Canticle”), and cue his utter desperation (“Mrs. Robinson”) when he learns she’s marrying someone else. Most memorable, of course, is the film’s use of “The Sound of Silence”. Whether playing as Ben sits at the bottom of a swimming pool in scuba gear or as he and Elaine ride off towards some unknown future, never has a song and film worked in tandem to convey a more vivid sense of the uncertainty that comes with adulthood. –Matt Melis


01. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

saturdaynightfever The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Rare is the album synonymous with an entire genre. That’s essentially Saturday Night Fever, the 15x Platinum-selling, Grammy-winning soundtrack that iconized an entire cultural movement and captured an era, all in under 20 tracks. Now, say what you will about disco — seriously, if you’ve got a problem, we can take this shit outside and dance — but there’s zero disputing the power behind this album. The son of a bitch managed to stay afloat the Billboard charts for 24 straight weeks — not to mention, 18 straight weeks overseas in the United Kingdom — making this one of the most successful albums ever. Are you shocked? Sure, John Travolta’s hunky mug helped sell at least a few million units, but let’s be real, this thing just straight-up bleeds hits.

Filling most of the space are the Bee Gees’ greatest songs in their storied catalogue, from the obvious fare like “Stayin’ Alive”, “Jive Talkin'”, and “You Should Be Dancing” to the more sensual stuff like “More Than a Woman”, “How Deep Is Your Love”, and “Night Fever”. Those songs alone would be enough to propel this album to legendary status, but then you have other bonafide stunners like KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” and Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You” sharing space with crazy shit like Walter Murphy’s 19th century strut “A Fifth of Beethoven” or David Shire’s Fantasia-aping “Night on Disco Mountain”. It’s the grooviest 76 minutes ever pressed to vinyl and inarguably the greatest soundtrack of all time. –Michael Roffman