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The 20 Best Movie Soundtracks of All Time

These films came with albums that met or even eclipsed their own success.

Film is a visual medium, but ever since the silent era ended, sound—and especially music—has been an essential part of the movies. There are even some films whose music is as good (if not better!) than the action on screen. These are the movies with killer soundtracks: Perfect collections of songs that complement the film's plot and mood while also standing alone as great albums.

It's important to note that a soundtrack is not the same thing as a score. A score is music, typically instrumental, that's been composed for a film. Think John Williams' stirring Star Wars themes or Howard Shore's epic fantasy music for The Lord of the Rings. A soundtrack, on the other hand, consists of songs that are featured in (or inspired by) a movie. Sometimes they include brand-new songs that a popular band or musician wrote just for the film, but frequently they're a collection of pre-existing songs.

Read on for 20 of the best movie soundtracks ever. Some feature songs that perfectly capture an era of history, others brought new life to forgotten songs, and then there are those that simply rock. (You won't find classic Disney movies or other musicals on this list—musicals are great, but they're not quite the same thing as a killer soundtrack!) Read on to discover what you should watch and listen to next.

RELATED: 22 Hit Songs Musicians Hate Playing Live.

A Star Is Born (2018)

"A Star Is Born" soundtrack album

There's more to the soundtrack of 2018's A Star Is Born than just "Shallow." In addition to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's epic power ballad (sorry, Ally and Jackson Maine's epic power ballad), the soundtrack also features other great original songs from the film, including "Always Remember Us This Way" and "Maybe It's Time." Another stand out is "Why Did You Do That?," though your mileage may vary on whether or not that song is intentionally bad or actually good.

Baby Driver (2017)

Baby Driver soundtrack album
30th Century

It makes sense that the soundtrack to Edgar Wright's 2017 action flick about a getaway driver is also a really, really good album to play while driving. The record features an eclectic group of artists, including Run the Jewels, Sky Ferreira, Queen, Blur, The Beach Boys, and Simon & Garfunkel (whose song "Baby Driver" gives the movie its name). What do all these songs have in common? They sound especially good with the wind in your hair.

Barbie the Album (2023)

Barbie The Album cover

In a just world, Dua Lipa would've been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song right alongside Billie Eilish and "I'm Just Ken." Indeed, "Dance the Night Away" is one of the many songs that make Barbie such a pink-colored delight, alongside tracks from Lizzo, Charli XCX, Tame Impala, and Pink Pantheress. Special mention goes to Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice, who spit new life into Aqua's '90s pop classic "Barbie Girl."

The Bodyguard (1992)

The Bodyguard Soundtrack
BMG Entertainment

Whitney Houston doesn't just star in this 1992 action film, which also features Kevin Costner as a bodyguard assigned to protect a pop singer from a stalker. She also provided several songs to the record that is the highest-selling soundtrack album of all time. Houston's take on Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" is the obvious standout track.

RELATED: The 65 Best Cover Songs of All Time.

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Call Me by Your Name Soundtrack
Madison Gate/Sony Music/Masterworks

No other soundtrack on this list is as good to listen to while staring tearfully into a fireplace like Timothée Chalamet's Elio does at the crushing end of the acclaimed 2017 coming-of-age romance. In addition to featuring new songs from Sufjan Stevens, the soundtrack also features Giorgio Moroder, The Psychedelic Furs, and Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Do the Right Thing Soundtrack
Motown Records

Were it only for "Fight the Power," which Spike Lee asked the seminal hip hop group Public Enemy to write as a theme song for his breakout 1989 film, this soundtrack would still be an all-timer. Luckily the rest of the album is a great score for the hottest day of the summer—or any day, really.

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump soundtrack
Paramount/Epic Soundtrax

Some soundtracks are great because they pluck lesser-known songs out of obscurity and give them new life. That's not really the case for Forrest Gump's double soundtrack, as the majority of the songs on it, including "Hound Dog," "For What It's Worth," and "Fortunate Son," are already pretty well-known. That's to the soundtrack's credit, though, as it's a collection of songs that perfectly score the decades that Tom Hanks' title character lives through. It's a sonic trip through the '50s, '60s, and '70s, and before the days of streaming music, having all of those hits compiled on two discs was pretty useful for long road trips.

Garden State (2004)

Garden State Soundtrack
Epic Records/Fox Music

Zach Braff's 2004 movie Garden State has faced some backlash for its millennial twee-ness, but when Natalie Portman's character says, "You gotta hear this one song—it'll change your life" and then played "New Slang" by The Shins? Well, she wasn't necessarily wrong. Garden State's soundtrack is an incredible collection of early '00s indie, including Coldplay, Zero 7, and Iron & Wine, plus some older songs from the likes of Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel that manage to perfectly fit into the movie and album's aesthetic.

Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas Soundtrack

Martin Scorsese sometimes is accused of glorifying organized crime in his movies, as even though the ultimate message of the films is almost always about how destructive such forces are… he also makes them look really cool. Look no further than how Goodfellas scores horrifying violence to great, energetic songs "Layla," "Rags to Riches," and "Sunshine of Your Love." The 1990 crime drama isn't ultimately pro-mob—far from it—but it is pro-good music.

The Graduate (1968)

The Graduate Soundtrack
Columbia Masterworks

Mike Nichols' beloved 1967 comedy has a soundtrack that's almost as beloved, thanks to Simon & Garfunkel. The folk duo contributed five songs to The Graduate, including "Mrs. Robinson," which is about an older woman (played by Anne Bancroft) who famously seduces Dustin Hoffman's recent college grad. "The Sound of Silence" and "Scarborough Fair," two other classic songs, are also on the track list.

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Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

Grosse Pointe Blank Soundtack

Grosse Pointe Blank, a 1997 movie starring John Cusack as a professional assassin who returns to his hometown for a high school reunion, is a good movie but it hasn't exactly endured as one of the greats from the decade. The soundtrack, though, is a killer collection of '80s hits that would've been playing at a 10-year reunion in the mid-'90s, such as "Rudie Can't Fail," "Under Pressure," "Let My Love Open the Door," and "Blister in the Sun." These songs sounded great in the '80s, they sounded great in the '90s, and they still sound great today.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1
Hollywood/Marvel Music

All of the "Awesome Mixes" that score the Guardians of the Galaxy Movies—songs from the '60s and '70s that Star-Lord's mom loaded his Walkman up with before he was abducted into the Marvel cosmos—are great. The first movie's soundtrack might still be the best, though, as the sheer joy of having a blockbuster sci-fi action movie feature music from the likes of Blue Swede, The Jackson 5, and Rupert Holmes was such an unexpected subversion. It's a huge part of the reason why the Guardians movies work as well as they do. In turn, the films have made songs like "Come and Get Your Love" relevant to a whole new generation.

Juno (2007)

Juno Soundtrack
Rhino Entertainment

Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman's beloved 2007 coming-of-age comedy is a fantastic collection of mid-'00s indie music and other songs with a similar vibe, prompted in no small part by star Elliot Page's suggestion that the title character would probably listen to the band the Moldy Peaches. The soundtrack album does indeed end with the cover of "Anyone Else but You" that Page and Michael Cera's characters sing in the film, but it also includes the original song, plus tracks from Belle & Sebastian, Cat Power, The Kinks, Buddy Holly, and Sonic Youth.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

O Brother, Where Are Thou? Soundtrack
Lost Highway/Mercury

You could name pretty much any film from the Coen Brothers as boasting one of the greatest soundtracks of all time (The Big Lebowski is a classic especially/even if you hate the Eagles), but their 2000 folk take on The Odyssey might be the best. O Brother, Where Art Thou?'s soundtrack features great bluegrass and soul songs, such as "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and "I'll Fly Away," plus several versions of "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow," the track the Soggy Boys record on a lark that ends up being the answer to all their problems.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction Soundtrack

Most of Quentin Tarantino's movies have incredible soundtracks, as the director's signature style and attention to detail extends to his song choices, too. Pulp Fiction, his 1994 hit, is probably the best of them all, though. The record includes snippets of some of the movie's incredible dialogue interspersed with the surf rock and soul tracks that help give it its unique, energetic feel, including tracks "Jungle Boogie," "Son of a Preacher Man," and Dick Dale & His Del-Tones' "Misirlou," which memorably opens the film and the album.

RELATED: The 24 Best '90s Country Songs to Take You Back to That Iconic Decade.

Purple Rain (1984)

Purple Rain soundtrack
Warner Bros.

Prince's soundtrack album for his 1984 film of the same name isn't just widely regarded as a good soundtrack album. You'll hear Purple Rain in contention for being one of the best albums—period—of all time. Featuring rocking, psychedelic songs "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," and the title track, "Purple Rain," this album has a legacy that eclipses the movie it scores. (The movie is good too, though.)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums Soundtrack

West Anderson is another one of those directors whose movies almost always feature impeccable soundtracks. The Royal Tennenbaums is a standout among standouts, featuring songs from Paul Simon, Nico, The Velvet Underground, John Lennon, The Ramones, and more. Unfortunately, the soundtrack album doesn't feature songs from The Rolling Stones and Van Morrison despite their importance in the film. Even without them, though, the album is an incredible collection, and you can always just rewatch The Royal Tenenbaums to get the full impact of Anderson's choices.

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack

How popular was the soundtrack to the 1977 John Travolta disco movie? When it came out it was the bestselling album in music history until Michael Jackson's Thriller knocked from the No. 1 spot. The record is a disco classic, featuring the Bee Gees hits "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever," and "How Deep Is Your Love," as well as songs from Yvonne Elliman, Kool & the Gang, KC and the Sunshine Band, and more. Disco can never be dead, not as long as copies of this album still exist.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Soundtrack

Edgar Wright was faced with a difficult conundrum when adapting the beloved Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series. The title character is in a band, but Sex Bob-Omb is a glorified garage band. They couldn't actually sound great or too polished, but they needed to sound… good. So Wright enlisted alternative artist Beck to make original Sex Bob-Omb songs that sound authentic. They're joined by tracks from Metric, Broken Social Scene, The Rolling Stones, Plumtree, and more on the action-comedy's soundtrack.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Soundtrack

With great power comes great responsibility. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack features a bunch of powerful, mostly up-and-coming artists, so it has a responsibility to be good. Luckily, the album more than delivers, featuring "Sunflower" by Post Malone and Swae Lee and "What's Up Danger" by Blackway and Black Caviar, plus additional tracks from Juice WRLD, XXXTentacion, Jaden Smith, and Nicki Minaj.

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
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