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5 best movie soundtracks

I like movies. I like music. I like music in movies. :smile:

The Good the Bad and the Ugly


Oh Brother Where Art Thou

Reservoir Dogs

Lost in Translation


This is a tough one. There are lots of different kinds of soundtracks. There are scores, there are musicals, there are pop soundtracks like Trainspotting. There is stuff that works brilliantly in movies and stuff you’d like to listen to on its own. And both.

Anyway. Maybe I’m overthinking it.

I’ll just say these, but there are a ton:

The Harder They Come
The Muppet Movie
Morvern Callar
Purple Rain (is this one not fair to count? If so replace it with Magnolia)


Grosse Pointe Blank and It Follows should be in the conversation. I would have to do a lot of thinking before I come up with a list, though. It’s harder for me to remember how good the music was in a film unless it was one of the main draws for me.

  1. Space Jam
  2. Dangerous Minds
  3. Hustle & Flow
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy
  5. Baby Boy

Forrest Gump
Once Upon A Time In The West
Phantom of the Paradise
Jesus Christ Superstar
Southland Tales

I can’t think of a full five, but The Fountain is probably my favourite score.

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The ones that stick out for me are:

  1. Fight Club
  2. Drive
  3. Trainspotting
  4. John Carpenter’s Assualt on Precinct 13
  5. Tangerine Dream’s Sorcerer
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I don’t listen to enough of these to have a legitimate top 5, but I will say that I’m a big fan of Joe Hishiashi’s work for Studio Ghibli, particularly Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke.

I also really like the soundtrack to Spike Jonze’s Her, which was made by Owen Pallett and Arcade Fire, both of whom I’m a massive fan of. It’s mainly a lot of ambient piano works, but does feature a very cute song sung by Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. For me the highlight (both during the film and listening to the soundtrack on its own) is Supersymmetry, which was written for the film but was ended up also being the closing track for Arcade Fire’s album Reflektor, which was being made around the same time.

Another of my favourite bands, 65daysofstatic, put together an alternate soundtrack for Silent Running the other year. Their brand of post-apocalyptic post-rock fit the film extremely well, I’m still annoyed I never went to any of the live scores they did.

I’m not much for those soundtracks where it’s a collection of pop songs any more, but I used to be well into them as a teenager. Juno was released when I was 15, I bought the CD soundtrack which converted me into a huge fan of Cat Power, Sonic Youth and Belle & Sebastian.

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Judging by how often I listen to them, my favorite soundtracks are probably:

A Hard Day’s Night/Help!
O Brother Where Art Thou
Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond
Purple Rain
The Harder They Come


That’s a good point, I’ve heard the argument the music is not supposed to “stand out”. I am not sure about that, I think in many movies the music does stand out and it’s great. Which doesn’t mean it has to, of course.

Looking at the soundtracks that I’ve bought I’m noticing that they’re either given a lot of weight in the movie itself (Tron Legacy, Only God Forgives, Man of Steel, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Django Unchained) or I listened to the soundtrack before I saw the movie and liked it a lot (The Martian).

A bombastic Zimmer score will never go unnoticed. It’s the subtle ones that are forgotten.

I’ll go with:

American Graffiti
Saturday Night Fever
Purple Rain

1. Saturday Night Fever - It was not only influenced by the times, it influenced the times as well. It was the Beegee’s at their peak.

2. Star Wars: A New Hope - So many classic pieces that are now part of the culture. You hear just a few bars and you know exactly what scene it’s from.

3. Risky Business - Tangerine Dream gave the movie an almost dreamlike quality which was unusual for a comedy.

4. Forbidden Planet - The “electronic tonalities” give the movie a truly alien and unreal quality.

5. Tron - The digital sounds enhanced the digital world we saw.

Oh yeah, wow. John Williams is tough to beat when it comes to film scores.

You’ve got to divide them into two groups, original and adapted (for want of a better word).

Original: Last of the Mohicans, Gladiator, Man of Steel, Braveheart, The Dark Knight. All contain music that completely defined the movie and were so ingrained with it that I can’t imagine the music being used anywhere else.

Adapted: Trainspotting, Hackers, Pulp Fiction, Guardians, Saturday Night Fever. Pretty much each of them defined their era. Pulp Fiction I think is better than Reservoir Dogs. Hackers was the early 90’s. Trainspotting too over the UK for a couple of years. SNF defined a decade really. And Guardians did more with it’s soundtrack that maybe any blockbuster in the last decade.


I’m inclined to agree. Tarintino alway has good music in his movies but Pulp Fiction is the one that feels the most natural with its choices - every other soundtrack sounds a bit “forced”, like Tarintino going “Oh, look how ‘well read’ I am about good music”.


In no particular order
Star Wars - A New Hope
Shakespeare in Love
Purple Rain
Grosse Point Blank

The Commitments almost made the list, as did a couple of Disney and Lord of the Rings.

There’s also a difference between a soundtrack that’s great in a film, and one that’s good to just listen to by itself.
The score for Gravity is used perfectly in the film, but it’s not particularly enjoyable in isolation.


Off the top of my head the soundtracks I actually own are:

Vinyl: Nashville, Manhattan, Cat People (1982), American Gigolo, Miami Vice (the TV series), Popeye, The Point, Back to the Future, That Summer, Blade Runner, Purple Rain, Stop Making Sense, Help!, O Lucky Man!, The Harder they Come; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

CD: Tron Legacy, Koyaanisquatsi, Kundun, Trainspotting, Lost in Translation, Rushmore, Morvern Callar, The Virgin Suicides, Magnolia, Deadwood (the TV series), Charlie Brown Christmas, Knocked Up, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


Oh crap, I totally forgot about Kundun…that has to be in my top 5. I don’t like the movie very much, but the music is probably my favorite thing by Philip Glass. (Who is a practicing Tibetan Buddhist)