The 20 Best Movie Soundtracks of The 1990s

14. Splendor (1999) 


It may be hard to fathom now, but in the 1990s it still pays to be edgy and provocative, even in films. Just ask Harmony Korine, Larry Clark, Todd Solondz and Gregg Araki. By 1999 Gregg Araki had enough pull with the money men to attempt making a rom-com that’s still kinkily Araki, although a bit more toned down and heterosexual, for the mainstream market.

Unfortunately that film sank without a trace, not really because it sucked, but most probably because even now your average Joe is still a bit uncomfortable with the concept of ménage a trois that films like Ernst Lubitsch’s Design For Living proposed way back in the 1930s, which Splendor clearly is a homage to.

The unfortunate non-success of the film unfortunately also resulted in most people not being aware of how brilliantly conceptualized its CD soundtrack is.

Mostly consisting of Britpop and shoegaze songs getting remixed by then hot electronica acts, Splendor the CD soundtrack is a splendid marriage of the two worlds, as great songs like Suede’s “The Chemistry Between Us”, Slowdive’s “Shine”, House Of Love’s “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” and Hurricane #1’s “Only The Strongest Will Survive” receives some pretty brilliant remixes from Lionrock, Locust, Atlas and James Lavelle for U.N.K.L.E respectively. (Soundtrack Playlist)


13. Dazed And Confused (1993) 


Richard Linklater’s mainstream debut Dazed And Confused may have taken some time to find a second lease of life on home video (it bombed in cinemas, taking in only US$8 million compared to its budget of US$6 million), thanks to university and college students everywhere, but its soundtrack CD was an immediate hit, so much so that there was even a second soundtrack CD released after it called Even More Dazed And Confused.

Filled with classic, riff happy, windows-down-speakers-on-full-blast seventies rock n roll from the likes of luminaries like Foghat, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, ZZ Top, The Runaways, Deep Purple, KISS and Sweet, the Dazed And Confused soundtrack CD plays like one of the greatest Best-Of compilations of 1970s rock that the world has ever heard or seen. It must’ve cost a bomb for the producers to license so many classics to put into one movie, but it’s most definitely worth it. (Soundtrack Playlist)


12. Magnolia (1999) 


With Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson has proven that he’s as adept at lining up unforgettable music cues (both aurally and visually) as Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese at their most memorable.

While not as reliant on music as Boogie Nights, he arguably went even further in Magnolia with his centerpiece musical montage set to Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up” (which the cast actually sung!) in which he seamlessly links together all the film’s major characters and their emotional woes without the sequence feeling like an excuse to put in a music video inside a feature film.

With Anderson publicly stating that Magnolia was inspired by Mann’s music, it’s no wonder that the CD soundtrack contains 8 Mann songs out of its 13 tracks, serving as a brilliant showcase for Mann’s solo work (she was the singer of Til’ Tuesday), which surely contributed to Mann managing to independently sell 200,000 copies of her next album Bachelor No. 2 without needing to sign with or rely on the marketing muscle of a major label. (Soundtrack Playlist)


11. That Thing You Do! (1996) 

That Thing You Do!

Tom Hanks’ debut film as a director is still very much underrated, possibly because it trades in happiness and joy instead of more serious matters, but if you’re a fan of 1960s pop then there’s no way that you’ll be able to resist the charms of this movie about a fictional 60s band called The Wonders, which refreshingly takes the drummer as its hero.

Energetic and charming, the film is helped immensely by the fictional songs (written especially for the movie) by the fictional artists that make up the Play Tone Records roster in it.

Everyone knows the unforgettable title tune, written by Adam Schlesinger of power pop veterans Fountains Of Wayne and sung by the golden voice of Mike Viola, but there’s a whole treasure trove of very convincing, catchy and instantly hummable faux 60s tunes like The Wonders’ “Little Wild One” (also written by a power pop band, Gigolo Aunts), the girl group magic of The Chantrellines’ “Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart” and Diane Dane’s “My World Is Over”. (Soundtrack Playlist)


10. Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Before Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were simply 2 small time actors looking and waiting for their big break, which they finally got when the film they wrote became a box office and critical smash, earning 9 Oscar nominations in the process. But there’s another, less publicized success story connected to Good Will Hunting the movie, and that story concerns the rise of singer songwriter Elliott Smith.

Before Good Will Hunting, Smith has already built a solid reputation in the underground with his first 3 albums, most of them released on the humble Kill Rock Stars label, but it was the Good Will Hunting soundtrack that finally introduced his name to the masses.

Despite the presence of already established acts like The Waterboys, Al Green, The Dandy Warhols, Gerry Rafferty and Luscious Jackson, the CD soundtrack was quite clearly a showcase for Smith and his gorgeous songs with him featuring 6 times on the 15 track album.

Crowned with an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for “Miss Misery”, which of course lost to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, Smith signed with major label DreamWorks Records and proved that his aching genius was no fluke with his 3 albums after that, before tragically committing suicide in 2003. (Soundtrack Playlist)


9. Singles (1992) 


Knowing Cameron Crowe’s background in music journalism, making a movie in Seattle about characters who are in or around the grunge music scene is probably not that cynical of a move, even though the whole grunge thing is more or less just coating for what is essentially a pretty funny and charming romantic comedy.

Even though the movie itself (with cameos by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam and even Tad Doyle of Tad) is nowhere near bad by any stretch of the imagination, it will forever be destined to be remembered for its multi million selling CD soundtrack, which plays like a great mixtape of the more melodic end of grunge, the absolute highlight being former Replacements (not and never will be a grunge band) frontman Paul Westerberg’s “Dyslexic Heart”, which still sounds peachy even today.

Pearl Jam’s “State Of Love And Trust”, Alice In Chains’ “Would” and Screaming Trees’ “Nearly Lost You” also gave a very good fight, but almost everything on here is a melodic delight. (Soundtrack Playlist)


8. South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut (1999) 


Arguably the greatest movie musical of the 1990s (sorry, Evita!), South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have already shown good form with the musical with their Troma classic Cannibal: The Musical.

With the massive success of South Park the series though, the genius duo finally has the financial clout to go big when the time came to make a South Park movie, and that they most definitely did with the incredible South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut, which has not received its critical due as one of the greatest movie musicals of all time simply because it has a spectacularly filthy mouth.

But just one listen to the unforgettable melodic genius of songs like “Uncle F**KA”, “Kyle’s Mom’s A B**ch”, “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” and “Up There”, not to mention their hilariously gut busting lyrics, will have the songs lodged in your brain forever. And if that’s not a sign of a great musical, then I don’t know what is. (Soundtrack Playlist)