Before starting this list, a distinction has to be made: In this list the definition of Soundtrack means specifically that it’s not an original score. Original music composed for a film will not find its way on this list and even if some of the films on the list have had original music composed for them, it’s not win the merit of that music, that they got a spot on the list.
This list is all about collections of already existing songs compiled to intriguingly and poignantly accompany a film. A soundtrack can ironically compliment a scene, it can make a montage work and sometimes it’s just damn good fun!
The 21st Century already has a number of spectacular soundtracks in wonderful films. Some of the most acclaimed directors, also have a great feeling for music and luckily it really shows. We all had occasions, where after returning from the cinema, the first thing we did was look up a song we really liked, or even went out to buy the entire soundtrack. This list is inspired by such experiences.
20. 8 Mile (Curtis Hanson, 2002)
For the fact, that hip hop is probably the most popular and successful music genre in our time, there are surprisingly little movies, that rely on its use for more than 1 or 2 songs on their soundtrack and when used most of them are rather a selection of whatever tracks are popular at the moment more than a consistent soundtrack.
So it shouldn’t come a surprise, that the film with one of the best hip-hop soundtracks is one, that deals with a rapper and has a deep understanding of its subject and the genre, which it’s dealing with.
Of course the film draws a large part of its tracks from its subject: Eminem. While his songs stand out and “Lose Yourself” even took home an Academy Award, but there is are also many other prominent rappers from the 90s an 2000s featured with names like Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Nas and OutKast making appearances amongst others.
The soundtrack nicely accompanies the story and helps us learn about the character, instead of just being a collection of popular tracks, or a distraction.
19. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2013)
When Harmone Korine (in a way America’s enfant terrible right now) released his latest film “Spring Breakers” what we got to see felt kind of very surprising.
The director of “Gummo” and “Trash Humpers” was making a film starring Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens and featured a soundtrack with lots of songs by none other than Skrillex. Yet with Korine at the helm it wasn’t a reason to panic, after all he isn’t the kind of guy who would just go for something popular for the reason of it being wanted right now.
The film is far too crazy to really appeal to mainstream audiences. With the film taking place at Spring Break the music choice seems a lot clearer and Korine really embraces it too.
The film takes the tracks and really embraces the rhythm and sound, making the party scenes featuring these songs kind of repulsive visual poetry. Think what you want of the movie and the music accompanying it, but the two certainly not together organically and make up an experience that could only evolve out of the synthesis of these elements.
18. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)
It’s maybe ironic, but also kind of calming to know that a movie obsessed with making lists is making this list. Of course that’s not on the merit of its love for ranking things, but for the fact, that it happens to have a phenomenal soundtrack.
A film about a record store owner, who wants to in back his ex-girlfriend, the setting is just right to unleash some great music on the viewer. Throw in some characters that are highly knowledgable of music (and probably too proud of it) and have them do top 5 lists on music all the time and you’ve got yourself a film, that every music lover should check out.
As one can imagine the music in this film is widely varied featuring artists like Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, The Kinks, The Velvet Underground, Belle & Sebastian, Bruce Springsteen and many many more it’s a true joy and pure pleasure to get to listen to so much great music in a film, and have a film along to the package that is as funny, witty and heartfelt as “High Fidelity”.
17. Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000)
The boxing scenes featuring Golden Brown and Oasis’s “Fucking In The Bushes” have become some of the most beloved scenes of the 2000s. Back when Guy Ritchie was an exciting new talent, he released Snatch, a film about a diamond, gangsters and illegal boxing.
Filled with great performances by Brad Pitt, Jason Statham , Benicia Del Toro and others the black crime comedy is a delight. Nowadays the film is a cult classic full of stylish direction, quirky characters and one of the coolest soundtracks to ever accompany a film.
It really gives the film a mostly jazzy feeling with some great pop and rock tunes thrown in for measure. It’s an incredibly memorable soundtrack, that gives the film so much of its fun, one can’t help but immediately recall the scenes, characters and snappy dialogue.
16. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)
Since Cameron Crowe once wrote music journalism himself, it comes as no surprise that he knows how to put together a killer soundtrack. Even for his more disappointing films he never fails to put together a collection of songs that impress.
So it is no surprise, that if you take a autobiographical story about music journalism and also happens to be Crowe’s best film up to date, you get a soundtrack that every rock fan wants to own as an album.
Filled with the most legendary likes of Simon and Garfunkel, The Who, The Beach Boys, The Allman Brothers Band and many others it puts you into a very specific time and place.
But it’s not just an “All-Stars” mixtape, Crowe knows why he choses a song and he does it with a sensibility, that doesn’t come around often. Sometimes one even feels that it only so happened, that the songs are performed by legends, because what really matters is how the song works with the film and that all of them do really well.
15. Scott Pilgrim VS The World (Edgar Wright, 2010)
With Edgar Wright music is always a crucial element in his movies, if not for the songs themselves, but for the rhythm they provide. His humor comes from visuals, staging but also pacing and editing, which is exactly where the songs come into play. With an upbeat rhythm and lots of roaring guitars the almost constantly upbeat tempo of the soundtrack gives the film a strong pace.
With a rhythm that almost come like punches the songs make a great foundation on which quick and funny edits are set upon. Consisting of songs by the Sex Bob-Omb (the film’s fictional band, which Scott is a part of) as well as music by T-Rex and Beck, the songs are just very well incorporated into the film, but mostly a hell of a lot of fun.