A great soundtrack can really save a movie (lookin’ at you, Garden State). The best ones have more than one standout track (sorry, Titanic) to transport us back to that film and the memories we associate with it while still making the album stand on its own. Like the mixtape we didn’t even know we wanted.
Even if I never saw these movies again, I could listen to their soundtracks over and over:
- Purple Rain (1984)
If there was ever a musician born to be in a rock musical, it was Prince. And the album he wrote to accompany his turn as up-and-coming Minneapolis musician The Kid is filled with some of his most enduring hits like “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I Would Die 4 U” and of course, the title track “Purple Rain.”
- Clueless (1995)
High school definitely wasn’t as glamorous for me as it was for Beverly Hill’s most fashionable teen, Cher (Alicia Silverstone), and her rich friends. But we can live vicariously through them and enjoy some of the best music of the ‘90s with this album that includes everyone from Counting Crows to the Beastie Boys and Radiohead.
- Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Disco may be a thing of the past, but the soundtrack to John Travolta’s breakout film will always be amazing. Filled with Bee Gees hits like “You Should Be Dancing” and “Stayin’ Alive,” it also features other classics of the era like “Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band and “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps.
- Black Panther (2018)
This groundbreaking Marvel superhero film was epic all around, and the amazing soundtrack was an added bonus. The album includes several original songs from rapper Kendrick Lamar, like the title track and the oh-so-catchy “All the Stars.” SZA and The Weeknd are also part of the star-studded roster.
- The Graduate (1967)
You’re probably already singing this film’s most famous tune in your head as you read this, but there’s more to this soundtrack than “Mrs. Robinson” (no shade). Led by Simon & Garfunkel, it’s made up of songs not only befitting a film about a 21-year-old man seduced by an older woman, but all folk rock fans.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (2014)
Music plays a major part in this Marvel franchise and the soundtracks to both films have been so good, I can’t wait to hear what’s on the third one, due out next year. In the meantime, I’ll keep replaying the original, which features David Bowie, The Runaways, The Jackson 5 and much more.
- A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
A playful comedy about a missing Ringo helped cement The Beatles superstar status around the globe. The film’s soundtrack includes the title track as well as “Can’t Buy Me Love,” another major hit for the Brits, and the movie itself inspired a similar flick from the Spice Girls more than 30 years later (with another amazing soundtrack, IMO).
- Pulp Fiction (1994)
Only Quentin Tarantino could make a crime drama about two mobsters “kooky.” The soundtrack is just as unique, filled with rock, pop and soul favorites like “Jungle Boogie” by Kool & the Gang and “Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield. There’s something for everyone.
- A Star Is Born (2018)
This may have been the fourth film version of this story, but there’s no denying the original music is what set it apart from its predecessors. Lady Gaga took home the Academy Award for “Shallow” (a song I know you’ve belted out in your car more than once) along with a slew of other awards and nominations for her songwriting.
- Super Fly (1972)
Curtis Mayfield’s bestselling soul and funk album was the perfect accompaniment to this film about a drug dealer trying to break away from a life of crime. Mayfield penned every song on this concept album, which included songs like “Freddie’s Dead” that stood out at the time for discussing heavier topics like drug use, death and poverty.
Which movie do you think has the best music? Share your favorite soundtracks in the comments.