My Top 10 Favorite Film Soundtracks

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Soundtracks can really help forward the narrative of a good film. The music can be upbeat and create a positive atmosphere to the scene, or it can be sad and make viewers’ hearts melt in their laps. Or you could Kubrick it and have music that seems like the exact opposite of what that scene would call for (Kubrick loves his Beethoven). I decided to take the time and think about the soundtracks that really stood out to me in certain films and why. Naturally I came to the same conclusion for most of them which is, like I said above, because they advance the narrative and create a mood or tone that makes the viewer respond in a certain way. So now, I’ll count down my top 10 favorite movie soundtracks.

SIDE NOTE: I’m doing movies that use SONGS for their films, not just scores. Sorry John Williams, you can wait ’till the ‘My Top 10 Favorite Film Soundtracks’. I’m also not counting musicals like The Wizard of Oz (1939) or The Sound of Music (1965). Don’t ask me why, I’m just not. 

10. Forrest Gump: The Soundtrack

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CD 1
1. Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
2. Rebel Rouser – Duane Eddy
3. But I Do (I Don’t Know Why) – Clarence Henry
4. Walk Right In – The Rooftop Singers
5. Land Of 1000 Dances – Wilson Pickett
6. Blowin’ In The Wind – Joan Baez
7. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
8. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) – Four Tops
9. Respect – Aretha Franklin
10. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 – Bob Dylan
11. Sloop John B – The Beach Boys
12. California Dreamin’ – Mamas & The Papas
13. For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield
14. What The World Needs Now Is Love – Jackie DeShannon
15. Break On Through (To The Other Side) – Doors
16. Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
CD 2
1. Volunteers – Jefferson Airplane
2. Let’s Get Together – The Youngbloods
3. San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair) – Scott McKenzie
4. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) – The Byrds
5. Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In – The Fifth Dimension
6. Everybody’s Talkin’ – Harry Nilsson
7. Joy To The World – Three Dog Night
8. Stoned Love – Supremes
9. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head – B.J. Thomas
10. Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man) – Randy Newman
11. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
12. It Keeps You Runnin’ – Doobie Brothers
13. I’ve Got To Use My Imagination – Gladys Knight / The Pips
14. On The Road Again – Willie Nelson
15. Against The Wind – Bob Seger
16. Forrest Gump Suite – Alan Silvestri

I think Forrest Gump (1994) is a hair overrated, personally, but one of my favorite parts about it to this day is the music. The point of Forrest’s story is to show how he interacts with history as it’s unfolding. I think the music in this film helps to do that too. As Forrest meets Elvis Presley we’re graced with his voice in the soundtrack as we see how the world reacts to his hips gyrating on national television. Then we venture to Vietnam with Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. Anywhere Forrest goes, legendary music follows him.

Favorite Song: “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)” The way Forrest and Jenny look at each other when this song kicks in… Just gets to me.

9. The Great Gatsby: Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film 

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1. 100$ Bill – JAY Z
2. Back To Black – Beyoncé x André 3000
3. Bang Bang – will.i.am
4. A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) – Fergie + Q Tip + GoonRock
5. Young And Beautiful – Lana Del Rey
6. Love Is The Drug – Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
7. Over The Love – Florence + The Machine
8. Where The Wind Blows – Coco O. of Quadron
9. Crazy in Love – Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
10. Together – The xx
11. Hearts A Mess – Gotye
12. Love Is Blindness – Jack White
13. Into the Past – Nero
14. Kill and Run – Sia

Say what you want about the film being good, bad, mediocre, etc. One of my favorite parts about The Great Gatsby (2013) was the music they used. Many of todays Billboard wonders like Lana Del Ray, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Sia, Florence + The Machine, Fergie, Will.i.am, and even André 3000  came together to produce and record original songs for this film’s soundtrack. Not to mention there are also songs from these artists’ previous albums that are incorporated as well. Why I love this is because it’s a great juxtaposition by using music that is considered too low brow and modern today with a movie that takes place during the Prohibition era where a great deal of things, not just music, were tabooed. Lana Del Rays “Young and Beautiful” certainly captures the essence of Daisy and her arch while Jay Z’s “100$ Bills” exploits the lavish lifestyle of Gatsby and the upper class of 1920s New York.

Favorite song: Tie between “100$ Bills” and “Over the Love”

8. The Graduate

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1. Sound Of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
2. Singleman Party Foxtrot
3. Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
4. Sunporch Cha-Cha-Cha
5. Scarborough Fair/Canticle (interlude) – Simon & Garfunkel
6. On The Strip
7. April Come She Will – Simon & Garfunkel
8. The Folks
9. Scarborough Fair/Canticle – Simon & Garfunkel
10. AGreat Effect
11. Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine – Simon & Garfunkel
12. Whew
13. Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
14. Sound Of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

Due to a total misreading of this movie, I thought for a time that I wouldn’t truly be happy until I found ‘the one’; but that’s neither here nor there. This movie made Dustin Hoffman’s career along with the duo of Simon & Garfunkel. Their music is prevalent throughout the whole movie whether it be the famous “Mrs. Robinson” or “The Sound of Silence”, Simon & Garfunkel haunt your ears as you journey through Benjamin Braddock’s inferno. It’s a classic soundtrack to a classic film.

Favorite Song: C’mon. It’s gotta be “Mrs. Robinson”. Also there are two versions of this song in the movie, and I’m talking about the first one. Both sound similar though if we’re being honest.

7. Wet Hot American Summer

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1. “Jane” by Jefferson Starship
2. “Juke Box Hero” by Foreigner
3. “Backwards from Three” by Craig Wedren and Theodore Shapiro
4. “Wet Hot American Summer” by Craig Wedren
5. “Love is Alright Tonight” by Rick Springfield
6. “Danny’s Song” by Loggins & Messina
7. “Turn Me Loose” by Loverboy
8. “Beth” by Kiss
9. “Day By Day” from Godspell
10. “Harden My Heart” by Quarterflash
11. “Higher and Higher” by Craig Wedren and Theodore Shapiro
12. “When It’s Over” by Loverboy
13. “Wet Hot American Dream” by Peter Salett
14. “Summer in America” by Mr. Blue & Chubb Rock

Wet Hot American Summer (2001) takes place at a summer camp in the late 1980s and therefore the soundtrack boasts a lot of huge names for that time like Jefferson Starship, Kiss, and even Rick Springfield. The music, like Forrest Gump, helps create the atmosphere of that time period; but what gives Wet Hot the edge is by focusing on the 80s, we get sort of a “greatest hits” of that era as opposed to just jumping around from decade to decade like we do in Gump.

Favorite Song: “Jane”. Such a great opening credits song for both the movie and the TV show.

6. The Departed: Music from the Motion Picture

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1. Comfortably Numb – Van Morrison / The Band
2. Sail On, Sailor – The Beach Boys
3. Let It Loose – The Rolling Stones
4. Sweet Dreams – Roy Buchanan
5. One Way Out – The Allman Brothers Band
6. Baby Blue – Badfinger
7. I’m Shipping Up To Boston – Dropkick Murphys
8. Nobody But Me – The Human Beinz
9. Tweedle Dee – LaVerne Baker
10. Sweet Dreams (Of You) – Patsy Cline
11. The Departed Tango – Howard Shore / Marc Ribot / Larry Saltzman
12. Beacon Hill – Howard Shore / Sharon Isbin

If you’re like me and you love The Rolling Stones, then i’m sure you and I have a lot in common when it comes to just about any Martin Scorsese picture. The guy loves 60s rock and the opening to The Departed (2006) with The Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” is so Scorsese you can’t even be that mad. Scorsese also isn’t afraid to go into the grotesque and use a song like “Nobody But Me” as Leo DiCaprio beats a man near to death in a convenient store (I heard he ACTUALLY broke his hand in this scene when he punches the mugger in the face, AND HE KEPT ACTING!)

Favorite Song: “Shipping up to Boston”, it’s so Boston it hurts. Van Morrison’s cover of “Comfortably Numb” is also a winner here too.

5. Boogie Nights: Music from the Original Motion Picture

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1. Intro (Feel The Heat) – John C. Reilly / Mark Wahlberg
2. Best Of My Love – The Emotions
3. Jungle Fever – Chakachas
4. Brand New Key – Melanie
5. Spill The Wine – WAR / Eric Burdon
6. Got To Give It Up (Part 1) – Marvin Gaye
7. Machine Gun – The Commodores
8. Magnet & Steel – Walter Egan
9. Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – McFadden / Whitehead
10. Sister Christian – Night Ranger
11. Livin’ Thing – Electric Light Orchestra
12. God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
13. The Big Top (Theme from ‘Boogie Nights’) – Michael Penn / Patrick Warren

If Wet Hot American Summer perfectly captures the essence of the 80s, then Boogie Nights (1997) does so with the groove and funk of the 70s. Right out the gate, the opening shot sets the tone with The Emotions’ “Best of My Love” establishing the 70s feel good vibe with happy characters and dancing feet. Marvin Gaye and Electric Light Orchestra help create an atmosphere as funky as Dirk Diggler himself. There was even a second version of the soundtrack released called Boogie Nights 2: More Music from the Original Motion Picture which stacked your music library with even more K.C. and the Sunshine Band and Elvin Bishop. Boogie Nights‘ soundtrack is groovy, upbeat, and nonstop… Kinda like the adult film world that the movie revolves around.

Favorite Song: “Got to Give it Up (Part 1)”, one of my favorite Marvin Gaye Songs.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Guardians-soundtrack

1. Hooked On a Feeling – Blue Swede
2. Go All the Way – Raspberries
3. Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
4. Moonage Daydream – David Bowie
5. Fooled Around and Fell in Love – Elvin Bishop
6. I’m Not in Love – 10cc
7. I Want You Back – Jackson 5
8. Come and Get Your Love – Redbone
9. Cherry Bomb – The Runaways
10. Escape (The Pina Colada Song) – Rupert Holmes
11. O-O-H Child – The Five Stairsteps
12. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye / Tammi Terrell

The coolest thing about the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is the title of the soundtrack alone. Each song is from the main character Peter Quill’s mixtape that his mother gives him at the beginning of the film, and it’s called “Awesome Mix Vol. 1”. So not only is the music apparent in the movie, but it means something to our main character on a personal level, thus giving it that much more of a significance to the film itself. Director James Gunn has a similar technique here as Scorsese’s Departed and uses cheerful songs for rather bleak moments (Take Quill being beaten with a taser while “Hooked On A Feeling” plays). A lot of the times the music is diegetic and takes place IN the movie whether it’s being played through Quill’s starship’s radio, or just in his headphones.

Favorite Song: “Cherry Bomb” It’s the classic ‘entering the third act let’s get pumped there’s no going back’ song.

3. Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

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1. Nightcall – Kavinsky / Lovefoxxx
2. Under Your Spell – Desire
3. A Real Hero – College / Electric Youth
4. Oh My Love – Riz Ortolani / Katyna Ranieri
5. Tick of the Clock – Chromatics
6. Rubber Head
7. I Drive
8. He Had a Good Time
9. They Broke His Pelvis
10. Kick Your Teeth
11. Where’s the Deluxe Version?
12. See You in Four
13. After the Chase
14. Hammer
15. Wrong Floor
16. Skull Crushing
17. My Name On a Car
18. On the Beach
19. Bride of Deluxe

Drive (2011) has the kind of soundtrack that is integral to the film itself. You walk out of a movie like this and you not only can’t get the visuals out of your head; but the music sticks with you too. There are only five songs on the soundtrack itself for the ninety minute movie, and the rest is score by Cliff Martinez; but those five songs have this polarizing noir tone to them that make them as distant as Ryan Gosling’s character himself – making it just that much more haunting.

Favorite Song: “Nightcall”. Another opening credits song that sets the tone for the whole movie. Also anyone who doesn’t like this movie needs to watch it again and learn something from it.

2. (500) Days of Summer: Music From the Motion Picture

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1. A Story Of Boy Meets Girl
2. Us – Regina Spektor
3. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths
4. Bad Kids – The Black Lips
5. Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want – The Smiths
6. There Goes The Fear – Doves
7. You Make My Dreams – Hall & Oates
8. Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap
9. Quelqu’un M’a Dit – Carla Bruni
10. Mushaboom – Feist
11. Hero – Regina Spektor
12. Bookends – Simon And Garfunkel
13. Vagabond – Wolfmother
14. She’s Got You High – Mumm-ra
15. Here Comes Your Man – Meaghan Smith
16. Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want – She & Him

If movies like The Departed and Guardians of the Galaxy use music that doesn’t fit with the scene, then (500) Days of Summer (2009) does the opposite and uses music that fits in the scene perfectly. If this movie wants you to be happy, you’re REALLY happy. If it wants you to be sad, then you’re REALLY sad. Whether it’s Hall & Oates playing the night after Tom and Summer sleep together, or Regina Spektor reminding that love is the actual worst, 500’s soundtrack is there. It reminds you like the opening narration that just because this is a story about boy meets girl does’t mean that this is a love story. Like Quill from Guardians, Tom Hansen’s music library and love for The Smiths helps tells this story and carry his arch. It’s a very indie rock vibe and it goes well for a movie about up and coming twenty-somethings trying to find their place in the world.

Favorite Song: I always get motivated when I throw on “Vagabond” because of the montage in the movie with this song. AND THE WAY HE BOUNCES THE BALL TO THE BEAT OF THE SONG (You’d understand if you’ve seen it).

1. Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction

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1. Miserlou – Dick Dale
2. Royale With Cheese
3. Jungle Boogie – Kool & The Gang
4. Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
5. Bustin’ Surfboards – The Tornadoes
6. Lonesome Town – Ricky Nelson
7. Son Of A Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
8. Bullwinkle (Part 2) – The Centurians
9. You Never Can Tell – Chuck Berry
10. Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon – Urge Overkill
11. If Love Is A Red Dress (Hang Me In Rags) – Maria McKee
12. Comanche – The Revels
13. Flowers On The Wall – The Statler Brother
14. Personality Goes A Long Way
15. Surf Rider – The Lively Ones
16. Ezekiel 25:17

It can’t really come as a surprise that my favorite soundtrack is the one to my favorite movie, can it? No original film scores were commissioned for this film. The music in it is entirely a mix of American Rock and Roll, surf music, some pop, and even a bit of soul. The music is the definition of untraditional when it comes to a Hollywood studio film, and the soundtrack itself even gives us quips of dialogue from the movie – sometimes before songs, sometimes as their own separate track. The songs also speak volumes about the characters that coincide on the screen with what songs are heard. I love the fun charismatic “Jungle Boogie” as Vincent and Jules discuss hash bars and royales with cheese; or when Mrs. Mia Wallace is watching Vince make himself a drink while Son of a Preacher Man plays. Who can forget the unforgettable dance number at Jack Rabbit Slim’s as well? Pulp Fiction’s (1994) soundtrack is what I believe to be the perfect example of a soundtrack that only betters the film it’s associated with. It’s cool, it’s fun, and it’s as unpredictable as the movie itself.

Favorite Song: This is a tough one but I’m gonna go with my gut and say “Let’s Stay Together”. Al Green is Al Green, you can’t beat it. Especially with Marsellus Wallace talking over it to Butch. “F$%#. PRIDE.”

-Reed

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