Once More With Feeling: The Best Soundtracks of All Time

Since so many of you enjoyed our recent discussion on our favorite musical moments in film, we decided to continue the series and focus on the best movie soundtracks of all time (Be sure to check out Lindsey Wojcik’s post “Soon Is Now: How ‘The Wedding Singer’ Soundtrack Made Me Fall in Love With the 1980s” before you dive into this one). Look for more music and movie magic in the near future. In the meantime, send us your own recommendations in the comments section, post them to our Facebook page, or tweet us @WritersBone.—Daniel Ford

The Big Chill

Daniel Ford: I wrote about “The Big Chill” soundtrack in our favorite musical moments in film post last week, but it is well worth writing more words about it. There’s not a bad song on this album and each tune is used expertly in the movie. From the gorgeously filmed opening sequence set to Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine” to the car ride scene featuring New York City’s own The Rascal’s “Good Lovin’,” the soundtrack anchors the hope found beneath the movie’s darker overtones. You also can’t go wrong with including Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” on any “best of “ list. I didn’t see this movie until recently, but I’ve been aware of the soundtrack for at least a decade. It’s one of the rare instances that the soundtrack may outshine the film.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Dave Pezza: If you haven’t seen "Guardians of the Guardians" yet, you should check it out. It's a pretty good for a Marvel movie. In the movie, Chris Pratt’s character is abducted from Earth with nothing but the clothes on his back and his backpack. Within that backpack is a mix tape his mother, who dies at the beginning of the movie, made for him, featuring some tasty soft rock hits from the 1970s. The studio released an official soundtrack and then an alternate soundtrack with all of the songs on mix tape. This mix tape is mind-numbingly good and full of classics and hits that you forgot all about. It features classics like “I Want you Back” by The Jackson Five, “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, and “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede. Some surprising tracks, like “Come and Get You Love” by Redbone and “Fooled Around and Fell in love” by Elvin Bishop, are true old school soft jams, forgotten by all of us who grew up to oldies radio stations in the back seat of their grandfather’s car. This soundtrack is so good it reached the number one on Billboard 200, the first soundtrack entirely composed of previously released music to ever reach that peak. Pick this soundtrack up, you’ll be singing it for months…trust me.

Dirty Dancing

Stephanie Schaefer: Nobody puts baby in a corner. Period.

Apollo 13

Matt DiVenere: The thrilling drum beat. The familiar power of the brass. The crash of the cymbals. The smooth violin telling a story filled with fear, the unknown and, eventually, relief. The chorus adding an almost angel-like tone in times of desperation and near-tragedy. It’s a story unto itself without any need of words nor images. It speaks to a struggle, a near abandonment of hope and life itself. But just as you float into oblivion, hope returns with a faint trumpet and, ultimately, a crescendo that transcends all others. It is compelling, breathtaking, anxious, and beautiful all at once.

American Hustle

Sara Silvestri: Conversation I had with Daniel:

Daniel: What do you like about "American Hustle?"

Sara: The soundtrack. And everything else.

Daniel: Well okay then.

Purple Rain

Lisa Carroll: Despite the fact that the acting was crap (even to my high school freshman self), the music was dazzling and exciting, and Prince won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. Highlights are "Jungle Love" by Morris Day and the Time, and Prince and the Revolution's "Baby I'm a Star," "I Would Die For You," "When Doves Cry" (which also made it's way onto Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo and Juliet" soundtrack, which is also fantastic by the way and "I'm Kissing You" is just about the sexiest song ever), and of course "Purple Rain."

The Sandlot

Daniel: Men who say they aren't thinking about Wendy Peppercorn when they hear The Drifter's "This Magic Moment" are full of shit. While that tune is the real gem of this soundtrack, the album also includes three of the greatest dance/complete nonsense songs of all time: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," "Tequila" (I mean seriously, why does this song exist other than to be in this movie and why did parents think it was okay for their kids to listen to it?), and "Wipe Out." On their own, these songs are awful. Paired together with a nostalgic movie, they're gold.

There also isn't a more beautiful version of "America the Beautiful" than the one Ray Charles croons in this flick. "The Sandlot" features the perfect fusion of America, baseball, tobacco, dumb kids, and music.

Never Back Down

Rachel Tyner: Every single time I watch this movie, I want to go to the gym immediately.

The Bodyguard

Stephanie: Magical.


Lisa: The tracks on this album are so good they made a musical out of it. I actually won a copy of this LP in middle school in 1984 as a prize for a school "Dress Up Day." The album itself had an image of Kevin Bacon's butt on it so that made it worth it right there. My personal faves are "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler. and of course. the title song by Kenny Loggins. The remake by Blake Shelton pales in comparison.

Saturday Night Fever

Lisa: The movie that defined the disco era. And made the three-piece white suit a Halloween staple.

Forrest Gump

Lisa: The two-album soundtrack to this epic story is brilliant. A musical journey from the 1950s ("Hound Dog") through the turbulent 1960s ("Fortunate Son," "Volunteers") and the peace movement ("Turn! Turn! Turn!" and "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine") with the added beauty of the "Forrest Gump Suite."

Dazed and Confused

Lindsey: Like "The Wedding Singer," this soundtrack is filled with tracks from an era I never experienced. My parents are classic rock fanatics, and this soundtrack reminds me of the heat waves I'd spend floating in my parents' pool, while my dad fixed cars in the garage with the classic rock radio station blaring. It screams summer. Alright, alright, alright. Take it easy.

Pitch Perfect

Lisa: The vocals and the songs they cover are acca-awesome. And Skylar Astin is my college-aged self's boyfriend.

Reservoir Dogs

Dave: Another amazing soundtrack! Quentin Tarantino, the master of cinematic cool, set the soundtrack bar horribly high for himself with his freshman film “Reservoir Dogs.” The soundtrack is modeled after a radio program heard various times throughout the movie, “K. Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s.” Tarantino got comedian Steven Wright, known for his straight face and deadpan comedic styling, to provide the voice of DJ K. Billy. This killer group of songs provides some major hits in “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel (which accompanies cinematic history in the film) and “Hooked on a Feeling.” Tarantino also dug up some gems like “Little Green Bag” by the George Baker Selection and, a personal favorite, “Coconut” by Harry Nilsson. Hilarious sound bits from the movie are stuck in there too for you extended enjoyment. All in all, you get a well-polished soundtrack.

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