17 Movie Soundtracks Every Kid from the '90s Loved
The '90s kids in America were all about these movie soundtracks.
What was the best decade for movie soundtracks? You're probably going to be biased depending on when you grew up, but it's hard to argue with the '90s, which produced so many classics that still hold up three decades later (including the best-selling soundtrack of all time). These albums reflect the transition from the new wave pop of the 1980s to the alternative grunge sounds of the 1990s. And if you were a '90s kid, listening to any of them will bring you right back to your youth. From The Bodyguard to Batman Forever, here are some of the '90s movie soundtracks that left a lasting impression.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
It wouldn't be a Quentin Tarantino movie without a memorable soundtrack. He didn't actually use a score for Pulp Fiction, but there's plenty of music throughout, and if you close your eyes and listen to these songs, you can picture the scenes they're attached to perfectly. Try it with Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man" or the Urge Overkill cover of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon."
There aren't many songs on the Titanic soundtrack. For the most part, the three-hour-plus film sonically features little more than a fittingly epic score by James Horner. But it doesn't need more than one lyrical track: "My Heart Will Go On" performed by Celine Dion. The song was truly omnipresent in the '90s. It ended up selling an incredible 18 million copies, making it the second best-selling single by a female artist of all time. (Spoiler alert: The first is also on this list.)
Reality Bites (1994)
Grunge was big in the '90s, and few films captured that sound and accompanying aesthetic more accurately than Reality Bites. The soundtrack was a bit more eclectic, including grunge bands like Dinosaur Jr. but also Lenny Kravitz, U2, and Crowded House. But the song everyone remembers from the film is Lisa Loeb's "Stay (I Missed You)."
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Baz Luhrmann's films are often remembered for their soundtracks, and the decadent Romeo + Juliet is no exception. For his modern take on William Shakespeare's tragic romance, he turned to a bunch of musicians that wouldn't exactly have fit in in the 1300s, when the original play was set. The love theme from the movie, Des'ree's "Kissing You," is guaranteed to make any '90s listener weep.
Pretty Woman (1990)
You couldn't have a soundtrack to a movie called Pretty Woman without including the Roy Orbison song "Oh, Pretty Woman." But the soundtrack for this adult Cinderella story has more contemporary music as well, including tracks from artists like Natalie Cole and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Is there a more quintessential '90s soundtrack than the one for Clueless? You could make an argument for most of the albums on this list, but Clueless defined teen culture for the decade, and the soundtrack is equally reflective of the time. The Muffs' cover of "Kids in America," which opens the film and the album, feels like the perfect encapsulation of the era. And who could forget Coolio's "Rollin' With My Homies"? Certainly not Tai!
The Bodyguard (1992)
It was Dolly Parton who wrote and first performed "I Will Always Love You," but—with due deference to Ms. Parton—it was Whitney Houston who made the track one of the most iconic movie songs of all time. And that's not to take away from this soundtrack as a whole. With an unbelievable 45 million copies sold, The Bodyguard album is the best-selling soundtrack in history. It also won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and Houston's hit track is still the best-selling single by a female artist of all time.
Batman Forever (1995)
The movie may not have aged well, but the soundtrack still holds up. Batman Forever was something of a tough sell, moving from the dark Tim Burton vibe of Batman Returns to director Joel Schumacher's much more cartoonish take on the Caped Crusader. The soundtrack only has five songs that actually appeared in the movie, but it produced two big hits: U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" and Seal's "Kiss from a Rose."
Cameron Crowe is a filmmaker whose movies are known for their essential soundtracks. For Singles, a romantic comedy about Gen X'ers in Seattle, Crowe assembled a soundtrack of grunge favorites—because, well, it's Gen X'ers in Seattle. Pearl Jam pops up twice, with "Breath" and "State of Love and Trust," and lead singer Eddie Vedder even has a cameo in the film. Also featured: Chris Cornell, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney.
Cruel Intentions (1999)
The 1990s were a renaissance for teen movies, but Cruel Intentions stands out as the darkest and sexiest. Many young minds were corrupted by this steamy update of Dangerous Liaisons. The soundtrack is appropriately mature, with more adult offerings than the typical teen flick, including Placebo's "Every You Every Me," Blur's "Coffee and TV," and The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony," used to great effect in the film.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Modern teen movie takes on Shakespeare were all the rage in the '90s, and this update on The Taming of the Shrew closed out the decade perfectly. Letters to Cleo, who also appeared in the film, made their mark with two covers: "I Want You to Want Me" (originally by Cheap Trick) and "Cruel to Be Kind" (originally by Nick Lowe). Save Ferris and Semisonic also helped make this album a '90s staple.
Dangerous Minds (1995)
There are too many inspirational teacher movies to count, but Dangerous Minds stood out for a couple reasons. First, it starred Michelle Pfeiffer as former Marine-turned-teacher LouAnne Johnson. And second, it had a really, really good soundtrack, which ended up hitting No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Major credit is due to the opening track, "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio, which was 1995's top-selling single of the year.
That Thing You Do! (1996)
Everybody loves The Wonders—even if they don't really exist. That Thing You Do! charted the rise of the fictional one-hit wonder band. They had other songs, all of which you can hear on the soundtrack, but it's really about that title track. "That Thing You Do!" is undeniably infectious, and if you grew up in the '90s, it's been stuck in your head ever since. Fake or not, it's one of the best one-hit wonders ever.
Can't Hardly Wait (1998)
Few movies capture the feeling of high school ending the way that Can't Hardly Wait does, and if you graduated in the '90s, the soundtrack will give you the exact same nostalgic feeling. Songs like "Graduate" by Third Eye Blind and "Dammit" by Blink-182 bring you right back to that place. Also, the Smash Mouth cover of "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" remains essential.
While it wasn't much of a hit at the time, Go has become a late '90s cult classic. The soundtrack deserves credit—or maybe ire, depending on how you feel about the song—for helping Len's earworm of a single, "Steal My Sunshine," to get incessant radio play. But there are other notable artists of the era featured, including Natalie Imbruglia, No Doubt, and Fatboy Slim, who seems to appear on more '90s soundtracks than any other artist.
The music in Trainspotting, director Danny Boyle's dark, drug-infused crime comedy, was so major that it had two separate soundtracks. The first features songs that were actually in the movie, while the second is filled with songs that inspired the filmmaker. So, which one is better? You could make a strong case for either—both feature Iggy Pop, Underworld, Primal Scream, and Sleeper. Really, it's an embarrassment of riches.
Empire Records (1995)
Any movie about music—or, in this case, about the employees at a record store—should have a great soundtrack. Thankfully, Empire Records nails it. While it doesn't include all of the tracks featured in the film (that would be impossible), it does have a wide selection of alternative hits from the '90s. Like so many of the best movie soundtracks, it's a valuable time capsule, representing bands like Gin Blossoms, The Cranberries, and Toad the Wet Sprocket. And for more blasts from the past, check out these 50 Things Only People Who Lived in the 1990s Will Remember.
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