Films have served as a gateway for people of all ages, races, orientations, and generations since the first public demonstration of a camera-projector system in 1895. Throughout the years, motion pictures have made audiences weep, contemplate, laugh, test social boundaries and dream with more color and imagination than ever before. The world of cinema is an organism unto itself, ever maturing and changing along with the environment around it.
Motion pictures with their humble beginnings as short, black & white, silent adventures have grown over time, not just with their mythical leaps of cinematography, but their intrepid steps into soundtracks and scores – revolutionizing the industry and creating new experiences for audiences everywhere. Motion pictures were no longer a journey just for the eyes, but were now a pilgrimage for other senses to enjoy as well. It was this vault into a new world of film making that still shakes screenwriters, directors, and composers alike – always leaving themselves, spectators, and future generations hungry for the next life-altering creation to hit hearts and theaters.
From the cheeky piano bursts accompanying silent films to fabled scores such as that for Star Wars (1977) by John Williams, film and music are truly a timeless marriage– and it is in honor of this marriage that we come together today to celebrate the 25 Great Films Made Perfect By Their Outstanding Soundtracks. These films are famously and eternally respected for their extraordinary qualities, both visual and auditory, which echo through cinema history.
25. Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)
Quentin Tarantino appears on this list multiple times, but how better to kick things off than with Kill Bill Volume 1? This amazing film quite literally starts off with a bang, but not just in the storyline. t\The opening song for Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film is “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Nancy Sinatra – a poignant and alluring opening to this notorious album.
Tarantino, being a dedicated pop culture musicologist, is well-known for his remarkable ability to accentuate films with their soundtracks. From sultry, smoky Nancy Sinatra to the song “Twisted Nerve” growing from a buoyant whistle to a haunting symphonic discord meant to unnerve – this highly stylized film of revenge reaches new heights. In addition, musical appearances of the RZA, The 220.127.116.11.’s, Santa Esmeralda, and Bernard Herrmann accompany the ever-memorable “Crazy 88’s,” infamous Bill, and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Every scene featuring its pop culture appropriate spouse.
Kill Bill, with its all-encompassing genious, both in its eclectic cinematography and auditory brilliance, remains a Quentin Tarantino masterpiece.
24. Lost In Translation (2003)
Director Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, released her second film, Lost in Translation, following The Virgin Suicides – which was an instant critical success.
French electronic space pop band Air–who previously scored The Virgin Suicides teams up again with Coppola , to make yet another cinematic home run. In addition to Air, Lost in Translation heightens its emotional journey with the help of musical artists such as Kevin Shields, Phoenix, and My Bloody Valentine – complimenting every step Scarlet Johansson and Bill Murray take.
From “Alone in Kyoto,” following Johansson’s journey through Kyoto, to the emotional and endearing karaoke scene featuring the songs “Brass in Pocket,” “More Than This,” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love & Understanding” this film’s hazy beauty is perfectly defined by its soundtrack, which is subtle in its tremendous passion.
This impressionistic romance is as fascinating and disarming as its soundtrack and deserves eternal applause from spectators and filmmakers.
23. Garden State (2004)
Zach Braff’s debut film, Garden State, has reached far beyond being simply an extraordinary movie due to its revolutionary soundtrack. Braff single-handedly helped build the careers of many of today’s best-selling artists. Personally selecting every song featured on this legendary soundtrack, Braff stole the hearts of many, and shaped the popular music of tomorrow.
Musical artists Coldplay, the Shins, Zero 7, Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkel, Frou Frou, and Iron & Wine all took this inspiring film to an unprecedented level, leaving their mark on generations to follow. Garden State is an unforgettable musical journey perfectly exemplifying its emotional nuances.
With so many illustrious moments, both visually and musically, such as when Natalie Portman offers Zach Braff her headset, saying “You gotta hear this one song – it’ll change your life; I swear.” The scene features the iconic song, “New Slang” by the Shins, and the heart-rending scream into the infinite abyss illuminated by Simon & Garfunkel’s song, “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Braff truly captured everything painful, all-consuming, and beautiful about this film with his time-honored, influential soundtrack.
22. Natural Born Killers (1994)
Director Oliver Stone pairs with writer Quentin Tarantino and emerges with what’s been deemed as one of the most controversial films of all time: Natural Born Killers.
It is not only the film’s courageous and stand-out story that captivates audiences, but also its genius style – consisting of black and white scenes, animation, and frenzied color schemes all working together with its perfect musical compilation. The soundtrack was nearly as callous and clashing as the film itself in its juxtaposing of singer-songwriter legend Leonard Cohen with grunge and riot-grrrl artist L7, making this soundtrack as controversial and memorable as the film.
With additional appearances from Nine Inch Nails, Duane Eddy, and Bob Dylan, it’s when Stone amasses this devastating and challenging compilation of juxtaposed artists that Natural Born Killers truly reaches perfection – telling this erratic, violent, and contentious story through its wildly relevant music.
Leonard Cohen starts and finishes Natural Born Killers with the songs “Waiting For a Miracle” and “The Future,” which absolutely encompass this roller coaster of a film.
21. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Coen brothers offer the crowd-pleasing re-imagining of Homer’s “Odyssey” in this musical adventure-comedy, with a soundtrack as widely regarded as the film itself.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is unique in that nearly every song appearing on the soundtrack plays an enormous role in the film’s storyline. Whereas soundtracks often create the atmosphere necessary to truly experience a film in all its dimensions, this musical compilation takes that principal to a new level by playing into the progression of the characters throughout the film. With such songs as “Man of Constant Sorrow,” “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby,” “O Death,” and “Down to the River to Pray” we listen and watch the story unfold.
This film’s instant critical success was largely due to its originality in story and comedic all-star cast, but even moreso due to its astounding and ever enjoyable soundtrack, which stands fifteen years later as still one of the most unique and fantastic soundtracks ever to appear in a film.
20. High Fidelity (2000)
John Cusack perfectly sums up this musically empowered comedy-drama at the very start of the film when he utters the iconic line, “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” Ultimately, High Fidelity is one of the greatest cinematic interpretations of love and pop culture yet to be released.
High Fidelity stands, appropriately, as one of the greatest pop culture soundtrack compilations ever to showcase a film, with songs such as “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” “Always See Your Face,” “Dry the Rain,” “Lo Boob Oscillator,” and “Cold Blooded Old Times,” it’s this film’s grandiose musical achievement that still sets the ultimate tone for the modern love-struck punks searching for their top-five brokenhearted pop classics.
Of course, it only makes sense that this infamous record store owner would compile such a tremendous mix that truly motivates his story; a story that still relates to so many today.
So, grab a bottle of red wine and get ready for the perfect date night – you and High Fidelity.
19. Goodfellas (1990)
Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas – this epic non-fiction crime film features the original gritty and dynamic take on the “wise guys” of organized crime. Scorsese delivers a flat-out astounding film all around.
Goodfellas represents what a gangster-crime film should be: coarse, smart-mouthed, and direct. But, this all-around success wouldn’t be complete without its soundtrack. Scorsese only chose songs that commented on the scenes and that would have been heard at the time, creating not only a gratifying soundtrack, but a realistic one as well. He also took his soundtrack a step further, and would have songs playing on set during the scenes they would share the screen with, allowing them to comment between dialogue and create an atmosphere for the cast.
Thanks to Scorsese, this already critically acclaimed film then came packaged with many great artists including Aretha Franklin, Bobby Darin, Derek and the Dominoes, Tony Bennett, Cream, the Chantels, and many more. This collection ties every classic scene together, each more memorable than the last.
18. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick released this 1971 dystopian crime film – emerging with a scintillating combination of psychotic and disturbing iconography and enduring classical undertones.
This vexing film, A Clockwork Orange, reveals its true identity through its juxtaposition of musical compositions – with a soundtrack composed of music by Wendy Carlos (then Walter Carlos) and Beethoven. This already dangerous cinematic ride extends its thematic derision through its musical melancholy. With the haunting appearances of songs such as “The Thieving Magpie,” “Ninth Symphony, Second Movement,” “William Tell Overture,” and “Suicide Scherzo,” Kubrick takes his extraordinary talents and creates, , a success although a controversial one.
It has been suggested that A Clockwork Orange may be Kubrick’s greatest film due to its indelible influence and social significance. This film hits viewers simultaneously in their psyches and their stomachs, leaving them haunted and transformed. This is a definite must-see, although perhaps a painful one.