Good soundtracks can make even a bad movie watchable. Familiar pop tunes, comforting folk songs, and even strange alternative music can turn an average movie into a classic. Music can simply express things better than dialogue or stage directions can.
#10: Baby Driver (2017)
Though this movie is fairly new, it had a compelling soundtrack that was loved by audiences. The film about a getaway driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort), making a getaway from his own life had a daring mix of both old artists, like The Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel, and more modern artists like Beck. It’s toe-tapping tunes will make you feel like you’re sitting in the passenger seat of Baby’s crimson Subaru while he maniacally swerves down the road. It’s exactly the kind of fun-loving soundtrack that makes this an exhilarating action movie.
#9: The Step Up Franchise (2006–2014)
The Step Up franchise began as a cheesy dance dram starring eye-candy Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan (now married). From there, the plot became more and more watered down with each sequel, but the dancing and the music only got better.
This franchise had absolute bangers from artists like Sean Paul and Chris Brown to more techno and dubstep hits from Steve Aoki and Diplo. Not to mention the franchise had numerous notable tracks from Flo Rida, including “Low” (Step Up 2: The Streets, ), “Club Can’t Handle Me” (Step Up 3D ), and “Let It Roll” (Step Up Revolution, –though not on the official soundtrack, it was used in a montage sequence). The soundtracks from all five movies are definitely ones to play at a party or to get pumped up.
#8: Full Metal Jacket (1987)
This may be an odd choice for this list, but it’s one of my personal favorites.
Americans have a deep affinity for 60s culture and music. Not only does it have classics like “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” and “Paint It Black,” it also has the genius of Stanley Kubrick’s music placement in the film. Kubrick’s skilled way of contrasting horror with happiness is what creates an almost haunting soundtrack.
The firefight with The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” playing in the background will stick in your mind forever. The grim opening sequence where the Marine recruits glumly have their heads shaved to the twangy ballad of “Hello Vietnam” is also quite memorable.
This soundtrack is one of the best mainly because of Kubrick’s way of blending contrasting emotions and moods. His expertise permanently links each song to its corresponding scene, making them unforgettable.
#7: Easy Rider (1969)
When two young hippies, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) travel across the country, they end up finding themselves. Cruising along to tunes from Steppenwolf, The Byrds, and Bob Dylan, this movie perfectly encapsulates the freedom of the 60s counterculture movement.
As soon as those first few chords of “Born to Be Wild” ring out, you are automatically transported onto a Harley Davidson in the middle of the desert, wind and dust blowing through your long hair and the heat beating down on your leather jacket.
This soundtrack mainly earns its place on this list for its nostalgia, but it still has some great song choices on there. Definitely a time machine to that great decade.
#6: The Graduate (1967)
Starring Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, The Graduate tells the story of a recent college graduate in an affair with his older lover and her daughter. Once again, this movie gives off that distinctive 60s vibe that audiences love. While this soundtrack only features songs from Simon and Garfunkel and Dave Grusin, it doesn’t diminish its iconic status.
As soon as the opening credits roll to the haunting melody of “The Sound of Silence,” you are entranced. It just seems natural that a movie about becoming an adult is filled with songs that–while they may sound happy–all seem to give off just that little sadness of lost childhood. Even “Mrs. Robinson,” a more upbeat, joyful tune, has tinges of depression.
Simon and Garfunkel’s longing ballads turn this romantic comedy-drama into an insightful film illuminating that painful process of growing up.
#5: Saturday Night Fever (1977)
With the talent of a young John Travolta as a disco dancing king, this is an iconic film and soundtrack. Featuring hits from the Bee Gees and KC and the Sunshine Band, even if you haven’t seen the movie, you know the songs. “Stayin’ Alive” and “Boogie Shoes” are certifiable classics.
The disco soundtrack perfectly complements this 1970s movie about an Italian American teenager living in New York with a dead-end job and no prospects. With the combination of those sexy Travolta moves and some 70s nostalgia, Saturday Night Fever earns its place as number five on my list.
#4: Forrest Gump (1994)
Who doesn’t love watching America’s favorite actor, Tom Hanks? While this movie actually has a fantastic orchestral score, its pop soundtrack is equally as amazing. Hits like “Fortunate Son” and “For What It Is Worth” grace the Vietnam scenes; “Turn Turn Turn” accompanies the hippie counterculture sequence; “Sweet Home Alabama” serenades Forrest’s return to Alabama.
Once again, this soundtrack creates a time machine to that tumultuous era. Perfect choice of music for a nearly perfect movie (would be perfect if I didn’t end up nearing bawling my eyes out at the end of it–every time).
#3: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
By now, most people have seen this amusing superhero movie and have enjoyed the soundtrack just as I have, so I won’t dawdle on it too long. However, let me just say that “Hooked On a Feeling,” “Cherry Bomb,” and “O-o-h Child” were fabulous choices for a genre that can sometimes be too dramatic (I’m looking at you DC).
The fun, catchy songs are exactly what Guardians of the Galaxy needed to reach that level of humor that most comedy movies don’t even reach. After watching this movie, I’ve concluded that every action movie deserves a dance-off between the protagonist and the villain. Especially to a great soundtrack like this.
#2: Megamind (2010)
This movie utilizes some of the most talented comedians–Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Ben Stiller–to create an absolutely hilarious movie. I feel like this movie’s classic rock soundtrack gets ignored, so I’m giving it the recognition it deserves.
Beside the fact that this movie is absolutely hysterical, it has some great riffs in it too. “Crazy Train,” “Back in Black,” “Bad to the Bone”–basically any good classic rock song you can think of makes a cameo in this animated comedy. This soundtrack is one of the reasons that this is probably one of my favorite animated films that Dreamworks has put out in a long time.
#1: 8 Mile (2002)
Odd choice, I know, but let’s not forget–it’s an Oscar-winning movie. “Lose Yourself” won Best Original Song in 2003, and for good reason. Starring Marshall Mathers (Eminem) as Jimmy “B-Rabbit,” a blue-collar worker hoping for a chance to make it big as a rapper, this movie had some of rap’s greatest hits of the 2000s. Cooperating with artists like Obie Trice, Nas, and 50 Cent, Eminem creates one of the most memorable soundtracks in drama.
While rap may not be everyone’s cup of tea, you have to admit that the raw lyrics of Marshall Mathers are inspiring. They truly paint the picture of desperation and hope that 8 Mile portrays to audiences. As soon as you hear those first words spit into the mic, you too feel like you can overcome any insurmountable odds. After all, “opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”
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