Music can make a huge difference in movies. So this week I decided to look at 5 phenomenal movie soundtracks. But to be clear, I did set some restrictions. These are soundtracks featuring a collection of songs that work incredibly well with the movie they’re in. I’m not including in original scores in this list (that will come a little later). These are all soundtracks with songs by various artists that helped make the movies they were in unforgettable. I tried to pick soundtracks that are so memorable it would be hard to imagine the movie without them. Now all movie fans have soundtracks that strike a chord so I wouldn’t say this is the definitive list. But for my money these are 5 movie soundtracks that are absolutely phenomenal.


It could be argued that the “Top Gun” soundtrack is better than the actual movie. That’s an argument for another time. One thing that isn’t debatable is how much the soundtrack added to the movie. I mean can you imagine “Top Gun” without Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone”? And then you have Berlin’s Academy Award winning “Take My Breath Away” which was a #1 mega-hit. Loggins also sang “Playing With the Boys” and Cheap Trick did the energetic “Mighty Wings” which I still enjoy. Classics “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”, “Great Balls of Fire”, and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” were added later to the deluxe edition. All of these songs and several others helped make the late “Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” and 80’s classic.


First off, this is not my kind of music. But there is no denying that the music in the Coen Brothers’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou” is an absolute perfect fit. The soundtrack features bluegrass, country, folk, and gospel and scatters it all through the movie. The soundtrack featured new songs and old classics from artists such as Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss, Harry McClintock, and The Fairfield Four. But the song that people will always connect to the film is “Man of Constant Sorrows” sung by George Clooney and company in the movie but by “The Soggy Bottom Boys” in real life. The soundtrack won several awards and became incredibly popular and I can’t imagine this movie without it.


Quentin Tarantino has a deep affection for music and how it contributes to his films. Perhaps the best example of this is with the fantastic assortment of tunes in “Pulp Fiction”. Tarantino carefully chose a stylish mix of soul, classic rock-and-roll, and even guitar driven surf music from the legendary Dick Dale. The song choices went from Kool and the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” all the way to The Statler Brothers’ “Flowers on the Wall”. But the best scenes of the movie feature the best music. I love the famous dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s to Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”. I also love Urge Overkill’s remake of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” which plays during the apartment scene. And who can forget Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”? What a great variety of music.


I love the music and the use of it in George Lucas’ “American Graffiti from 1973. But there’s a very interesting story behind it. Lucas understood that music was a huge presence in the summer of 1962. So he spent tons of money securing the rights to use the original material. In fact, he used up all of his budget therefore these classic oldies are the only music in the entire picture. But would you want it any other way? It was the perfect decision because you couldn’t go cruisin’ on a weekend in the 1960’s without the radio playing Del Shannon, Buddy Holly, The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, The Crests, Billy Haley & the Comets, and so many others. “American Graffiti” is a movie that owes a part of its success to this great selection of classic rock and roll tunes.


Let me simply say that I love the soundtrack to Richard Linklater’s coming of age picture “Dazed and Confused”. This 1993 comedy was set in 1976 during Lee High School’s final day of school and then a night of hanging out and cruising the town. As with “American Graffiti”, the music of the time is huge in making this movie work so well. And it’s not just the songs themselves, but it’s also Linklater’s management of the music. The soundtrack is an incredible collection of 70’s rock music including ZZ Top, Kiss, Alice Cooper, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. We get some great songs that we hear playing in cars and in the local arcade such as Rick Derringer’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo”, War’s “Low Rider”, and Foghat’s classic “Slow Ride”. Several other great tracks are perfectly used to help make this feel like a genuine 1970’s picture. I love the music, but even more I love the way Linklater makes the music as essential to the movie as it is to those kids cruising the streets.

There ya go, 5 Phenomenal Movie Soundtracks not including original scores. What do you think of the list? What did I miss. Please take time to share what you would have included.


      • Some of them are scores, but as a kid I played that E.T. score many times and in my teens I loved the bombastic sound of those Russian choirs in Hunt.

      • Oh ok. I left original scores off this list. They will be together in a few weeks. This are soundtracks where the individual songs were a big part of the movie. I definitely remember E.T.’s score. It was sooo good.

      • And I just remembered another soundtrack I used to listen to lots, which was the one for Young Guns. Plus there are a lot of rap soundtracks related to movies (there were tons of them in the nineties) which I would listen to a lot as well.

      • Forgot about Young Guns. I remember the sequel had an entire album of original music by Jon Bon Jovi. The Blues Brothers was another that almost mad this list. I remember my parents had an 8 track of it! LOL

  1. If you liked the soundtrack for Dazed & Confused then School of Rock and Almost Famous were top notch for rock n roll.

    The first Austin Powers film soundtrack was always a bit of a guilty pleasure for me.

    Back in the 90s I listened to the Trainspotting soundtrack quite a bit.

  2. Another great post! Good choices.

    I am OST geek–I have Gladiator, Tron and Braveheart (and many more) on my iphone! 🙂

    But compilation soundtracks…hmmm…

    Reality Bites–Batman Forever– Grosse Point Blank are ones I own.


    • Oh I loved Dazed. Sure it exaggerates some things but it perfectly captures so much of that 1970s American cruising scene that was a mixture of the 60s and what would come in the 80s. You also have to love how Linklater lays these characters out. And, of course, the music!

      • I’m a big Linklater fan and I’d say that Dazed is my favourite. He’s made some great films but I’ve never had as much fun as I did with that. You’ve put me in the mood to watch it again.

  3. A nice thought out list here Keith. To be honest, I am a huge fan of original score soundtracks and not too keen on soundtracks with songs being sung, but I found myself agreeing with some of the statements made with the soundtracks above.

    I think I like #4 and #5 most.

    • I prefer scores as well (look for that list soon) but there are those few song compilations that work so well in the film. I watched some of Dazed again last night. The individual songs work sooo well in that film.

  4. Love 1, 3 and 5. Would Team America count on this list, it’s not various artists I suppose so maybe not. I loved The Crow soundtrack and Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet.

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