The blockbuster success of a movie is due in part to the music and when the soundtrack to a hugely popular movie sells extremely well the success of that movie may live on for decades. Many great movies have been released since the beginning of moving pictures with sound, but not all of them were worthy of a soundtrack release. The following list includes some of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time.
11. Singles (1992) – The movie focuses on the Seattle grunge scene of the early 1990’s and features music by some big name artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. It became one of the biggest selling soundtrack albums of the 90’s going platinum and reaching the Top Ten. The soundtrack is set to be reissued in May 2017 with the addition of some previously-unreleased tracks.
10. Pulp Fiction (1994) – Two unusual hit men set out to get a suitcase back that has been stolen from their boss. The movie was a huge hit and is still on many ‘top movies of all time lists’. Some of the big name artists featured on the soundtrack include Dusty Springfield, Kool and the Gang, Chuck Berry, The Statler Brothers and Ricky Nelson.
09. Help (1965) – It’s not really surprising given their outstanding music career that at least one Beatles movie soundtrack would appear on this list. ‘Help’ was the Beatles 5th studio album and featured tracks from the movie on one side and other Beatles tracks on side 2 and was released in Britain in this form. The American version featured the same movie tracks but had instrumental music added to make it a true movie soundtrack.
08. Pretty in Pink (1986) – The movie is a romantic comedy based around high school life in the 1980’s. Mostly consisting of new wave music, the soundtrack includes big name artists such as The Psychedelic Furs, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Suzanne Vega and INXS. Originally released on vinyl, the soundtrack was re-released in 2013 on pink vinyl as a limited edition. “Rolling Stone” magazine included the Pretty in Pink soundtrack on their 25 Greatest Soundtracks of All Time list.
07. O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000) – Set during the Great Depression in rural Mississippi, the soundtrack features music from the gospel, blues, and Folk music, bluegrass and country genres. A small number of the tracks are vintage and the remainder modern versions. The original soundtrack was actually recorded prior to the movie being made. The soundtrack was re-released in 2011 with 14 new tracks added.
06. Easy Rider (1969) – Most of the tracks featured on the movie soundtrack are in the same order as they appeared within the movie itself. Big names featured are Steppenwolf (whose ‘Born to be Wild’ track is synonymous to this day with Easy Rider), Carole King, Jimi Hendrix and The Byrds. A deluxe version of the soundtrack was released in 2004 in a remastered format of the original.
05. Saturday Night Fever (1979) – International sensation, this soundtrack consists of a number of songs by The Bee Gees who were commissioned to write several tracks for the movie, as well as tracks by other big name artists such as Yvonne Elliman, Kool and the Gang and KC and the Sunshine Band. The soundtrack went 14 times Platinum and stayed on Billboard’s album charts for 120 weeks. The album was also on other top album charts for 24 weeks straight, reflecting the wild success of both the movie and the soundtrack, both in America and internationally.
04. The Graduate (1968) – Heavily featuring tracks by Simon and Garfunkel with instrumental numbers interspersed, The Graduate was a roaring success when released, with the soundtrack enjoying just as much popularity. The soundtrack reached the top 3 positions on international charts in Australia, Spain, France, Norway, United Kingdom, as well as the United States. Dave Grusin contributed the instrumental pieces, with most of the remaining tracks being written by Paul Simon.
03. Trainspotting (1996) – Two versions of the Trainspotting soundtrack were released, the second more than a year after the original. The second release included many tracks that had been cut from the first, as well as some that never actually appeared in the movie. Most notable artist featured on the album is Iggy Pop, with several tracks attributed to them. Trainspotting fans should watch for T2: Trainspotting which features a remix of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” along with tracks by other big names such as Blondie, Queen and The Clash being added.
02. American Graffiti (1973) – The iconic movie featuring what many believe to be indicative of life in America in the 1960’s has a great lineup of artists singing songs from the 50’s and 60’s. Unlike most soundtracks that are labeled the same name as the movie, the American Graffiti soundtrack was given the rather long name of ‘41 Original Hits from the Soundtrack of American Graffiti’. All songs appear on the soundtrack in the same order as they appear in the movie.
01. Purple Rain (1984) – The best of the best, the Purple Rain soundtrack takes top place on this list. With most of the tracks written by the now-deceased artist Prince and performed by Prince and The Revolution, the soundtrack was actually available for purchase a month before the move of the same name was in theaters. The album has sold over 20 million copies to date and Rolling Stone magazine said “Anyone partial to great creators should own this record”.
So there you have it - the top 11 movie soundtracks of all time - some hugely successful movies with just as successful soundtracks. Which is your favorite? Hard to choose, right?