Best Movie Soundtracks Of All Time

10 Best Movie Soundtracks Of All Time

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In this article, we look at the best movie soundtracks of all time and what makes them so good. Whether it’s the social-historical context or even character/plot defining, we check out a few films with awesome soundtracks.

Why Are Soundtracks So Important?

Firstly, movies are often memorable not only because of stellar acting performances but also because of their music. Try to imagine the scenes without the music playing behind them – the settings would feel empty and lack a fully developed emotion. Subsequently, the characters’ expressions might also fall flat without the music’s guidance to drive them along.

movies with great soundtracks

Good music provides the audience with emotions at the correct times, and many songs from films have become massive hits alongside their movie. Films with fantastic soundtracks have produced music heard and loved by all, especially when a track is powerful enough to stick around for a lifetime.

Also, there are even times when soundtracks are built around a specific song in a movie or just one artist’s music is portrayed throughout a film. Some of the best movie soundtracks have gone as far as to define the genre they were in, starting new fads or crazes, ultimately culminating in the essence of the era.

Lastly, obtaining licenses for films is no small feat, and it takes music supervisors, producers, and sound designers to find, create, and utilize just the right music at the right moments.

To sum up, when you get both the music and the movie right, you end up with a fantastic soundtrack. So without further ado, we break down the 10 best movie soundtracks of all time.

#1. Purple Rain (1984)

Prince was smart enough to hinge on his songs’ hits by starring in a movie. This ended up becoming one of the most profitable movies in 1984, containing more dream-like sequences and portraying the songs “When Doves Cry” and the signature “Purple Rain” that we all know and love.

The plot may have left many with something missing, centred around a musician struggling to make it and having love problems to boot. But the movie is a celebration of all things rock and roll, including sex, misogyny, religion, and guitars. However, there is no denying, though, that the powerful music is what captivates the audience and keeps us coming back for more.

#2. The Graduate (1973)

This anthem for generations with Simon and Garfunkel has to be one of the most unique soundtracks, with these songs sticking around for centuries. “Mrs Robinson” was a tribute to all hormone-driven youth, and the pieces within the soundtrack depict the generational change.

Director Mike Nichols was a genius to use several of the duo’s songs within this contemporary film. It almost seems misplaced in some sequences, but at the same time, it all made sense. The hit song that concluded the movie, “The Sound of Silence,” is one of pop culture’s more beautiful moments seen and long remembered on screen. 

#3. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino is big with using just the right music in his movies, making sure it plays a vital role in communicating tone and mood. So many of the songs take you back to those pinnacle moments within the film, like Uma Thurman singing “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon” right before she dies momentarily. Pulp Fiction definitely holds its place in the top 10 best movie soundtracks of all time.

#4. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

This soundtrack defined the 70s – disco was alive and kicking, and these songs won’t lose their power anytime soon. The soundtrack successfully sold over 15 million copies, making it one of the top best film soundtracks in history. The Bee Gees’ “Stayin Alive” and “How Deep Is Your Love” were perfect compliments to the disco-era dancing that helped this soundtrack receive massive success.

#5. The Bodyguard (1992)

Music with power and feeling is apparent in this movie, and the chemistry between Houston and Costner is palpable throughout. This is the soundtrack that beat out Saturday Night Fever to be the best-selling soundtrack for a film across the board. And no wonder, with the notes that Whitney Houston dolled out in the epic “I Will Always Love You” and wowed us with other songs including “I Have Nothing” and “I’m Every Woman,” which also premiered at the top five on the Billboard Hot 100.

#6. The Sound of Music (1965)

Yes, it’s a musical featuring the one and only Julie Andrews, but it tells a fantastic story based on the real-life Von Trapp Family singers. It’s a movie that many cherish for a lifetime with its family-oriented tale, and you’ll never forget the timeless songs, “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and the signature “The Sound of Music” sung with arms wide on a hilltop. This movie soundtrack was one of the most successful in history that was best-selling in both the US and the UK. Also, there have been multiple anniversary editions and reproductions made of it as well.

#7. Super Fly (1972)

A movie with a great soundtrack, this is one influential music album to have. Having been birthed out of soul music first introduced a year prior on the show Soul Train, the music is a masterpiece of classic funk. It was a pioneer with lyrics that worked to address uncomfortable (but necessary) social situations that included poverty and drug abuse, giving it power and making its mark as one of the best film soundtracks to stand the test of time.

#8. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

The Beatles were a huge music success, so how could their films not be? Not to mention, fans got direct insight into the life of superstars. Lennon and McCartney seized the opportunity to bring about new music with hits like “If I Fell,” which was a leading example of movies with great soundtracks where the music was written all by them, not all included within the film itself. But let’s face it – these guys were star musicians, not so much stars on film. It doesn’t matter, though. The soundtrack is still by far one of the best film soundtracks.

#9. Top Gun (1986)

Tom Cruise is well known for his epic performance as Maverick in this movie – with a new film now coming out soon of the same name. This song features Kenny Loggins’ vocals with “Danger Zone” right from the get-go, giving it an exhilarating feeling. Other significant hits laced throughout this movie included the hit songs – Berlin’s “Take my Breath Away” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers. It’s an action movie/love story rolled into one, and the music is a perfect homage to it, making it a great movie with a great soundtrack.

#10. The Harder They Come (1972)

The Harder They Come (1972) is another movie defining its genre within an incredible soundtrack. The reggae vibe is very much alive and well in this film. It’s heard and loved in the songs that include “Rivers of Babylon” and “Many Rivers to Cross.” This soundtrack is typically underrated, but Jimmy Cliff’s vocals proved that reggae could be a popular genre and spread it from Jamaica’s isolation. As a result, it is by far one of the best movie soundtracks featuring reggae music in a mixtape that you won’t soon forget.

Other Movies With Great Soundtracks

In addtion to the films above, there are numerous movies with great soundtracks that have made their mark in later years as well. Sound designers have found that the composition of soundtracks doesn’t always need specific songs.

For example in the film Drive (2011) there is a focus on using music centred around creating and developing feelings within scenes. Cliff Martinez’s compositions show off the abstract and electronic music needed for impact.

Wrapping Up – Best Film Soundtracks

In summary, understanding how music provides depth within a story makes the mark of a great director. Also, when choosing the right music for a soundtrack, it is essential to remember that it helps move scenes and characters in a certain direction. Music not only guides the audience through, but the best film soundtracks have the power to bring about those feelings over and over again.

Music, Post Production Guides, Sound Design

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