The 20 Best Movie Soundtracks of The 21st Century (So Far)

14. Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola , 2006)

Having talked about the usual approach taken towards period films on this list already, sometimes somebody comes along and just purposefully destroys these conventions.

In 2004 Sofia Coppola decided to make a film about the french queen Marie Antoinette. While there are some classical pieces that rather fit the period the film is set in a large part of the soundtrack consists of tunes by The Strokes, The Radio Dept., Bow Wow Wow, The Cure and others.

Clearly Coppola’s goal for this soundtrack isn’t what the usual period film tries to achieve. Instead the film and soundtrack ask us to try and understand a youthful and naive queen, the songs feel young and while unfitting to the time, they work phenomenally well to establish the mood of the film.


13. 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)

This highly energetic and incredibly fun film was destined to have a great soundtrack, since the story it tackles is that of Factory Records, the label that signed Joy Division and Happy Mondays.

The film and the soundtrack document the evolution of British punk rock even up to the beginnings of rave. Of course that means, that the soundtrack feature artists like The Sex Pistols, New Order and the bands already named above.

It serves as probably one of the best films about a certain time in musical history, since it decides to portray the madness of that time with a mad style, not shying away from fourth wall breaks and all kinds of stylistic flourishes.

The songs are fantastic and even if one isn’t a fan give a great mood and set up the film’s tempo. Not only the incredibly fun parts work well, but also the somber moods are well reflected, all in all if you’re a fan of music, especially the British punk movement, then there really isn’t a way around seeing this film. but don’t fear – it’s great.


12. Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

Before making his 2 westerns Quentin Tarantino had basically already done one in 2009, only it was set in 1941 in Nazi occupied France. Inglorious Basterds.

The film used all kinds of tropes of the Spaghetti Western, but the probably most noticeable clue that this was more a western, than the “Dirty Dozen” were the severe musical cues from Ennio Morricone scores, that Tarantino incorporated into his film. It’s surprising to see just how well the fusion works.

Of course that’s not the only musical references in the soundtrack as we also get to hear Zarah Leander, a throwback to Paul Schrader’s “Cat People” with the David Bowie song and a track lifted from the “Battle Of Algiers” soundtrack. It’s no surprise, that the soundtrack consists of references to various films, since after all this is a Quentin Tarantino film.

Yet all of those songs work incredibly well in the film itself and contribute immensely to create memorable scenes and moments that don’t make you think of the films referenced, but make the songs a true part of the film.


11. Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch, 2005)

Jim Jarmusch has always been able to put together soundtracks oozing with coolness. Therefore it is no surprise, that he once again achieves tat task here, yet there is a difference to his usual soundtracks.

Since Jarmusch is a musician and music aficionado himself, he decides to not only put together a soundtrack, that gives the film a vibe, but introduce most of the viewers to a genre they weren’t even aware of: Ethiopian Jazz.

Originating in the film from a mixtape, that the main character’s neighbor (a hobby detective) puts together for his trip to find the mother of his son, he didn’t know he has, the music gives the film a mysterious, but mostly cool and laid back vibe and sounds unlike anything one usually has heard before.


10. Midnight In Paris (Woody Allen, 2011)

Whenever Woody Allen brings out a new movie it is guaranteed to be filed with laid back jazz tracks, that nostalgically accompany his film. Of all the films he has made since 2000 it feels like none of his soundtracks have been more fitting than the one of “Midnight In Paris” so far.

Relying on his typical Jazz knowledge for most of the part by using dazzling sings by Sidney Bechet, Cole Porter (of course), and others, Allen doesn’t miss the chance to also play lots of french music and even incorporates the Can-Can by Offenbach.

All in all the music is as laid back, as the film itself, it maybe isn’t the most incredible choice of songs, and it doesn’t use its soundtrack in too interesting ways, but it’s just incredibly nice to listen to and when accompanying the film just makes a very pleasant package, that one likes to return to over and over.


9. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)

Whenever directors make a period film, it’s very easy to recreate a time by just playing a kind of “Greatest Hits” compilation from a certain year to make viewers associate and identify with the time easily.

Paul Thomas Anderson decided not quite to chose that route with “Inherent Vice”, places at the end of the 60s and therefore at the decline of hippie culture, it would have been easy to take very known music from that time to quickly set up a familiar feeling. But this is not the state of mind this film depicts.

Set shortly after the Manson murders, the world is all but alright for the hippie private investigator Doc Sportello, and the soundtrack reflects that in a marvelous way. Not only is Jonny Greenwood back with a haunting score, that deserves its own praise, but the soundtrack picks artists like Can and Radiohead to build an increasingly paranoid atmosphere.

With songs by Neil Young and Anderson’s late mother-in-law Minnie Riperton come unexpected moments of tenderness and beauty. Top it off with unexpected choices like “Sukiyaki” and you’ve got yourself a varied and exciting soundtrack.


8. Guardians Of The Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)

In an age where many albums don’t really function as a unity anymore, but more like a loose collection of hits, “Guardians Of The Galaxy” brings us a fitting soundtrack.

The songs are a collection of hits gathered from the 70s (from legendary artists like David Bowie and Marvin Gaye to slightly more obscure songs like “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Swede).

Gunn makes sure to give the soundtrack a narrative purpose and then just decides to have fun with a great collection of songs. The soundtrack reflects the film’s extremely fun vibe and the title sequence set to “Come And Get Your Love” must be the most fun title sequence in any Marvel movie, if not one of the most fun in many years. Just lay back and pop in the mixtape!