Modern cinema is a massive industry, grossing hundreds of billions of dollars a year while also producing some of the biggest celebrities. Every year has a single film that makes the most money, one that is deemed the “best” in the eyes of the public, one that wins the best picture at the Oscars, etc. But music is a fundamental and often overlooked aspect of many films, and sometimes an incredible (or underwhelming) soundtrack has the potential to make or break an entire movie. With that being said, here are my top six film soundtracks ever:
6. Trainspotting (1996)
This Ewan McGregor-led indie hit from the U.K. chronicled the life of social vagrant Mark and his circle of heroin-addicted friends as they navigate their impending overdose doom, all the while surrounded by an unapologetically brit-pop and techno haze. With musical contributions from iconic British acts like Damon Albarn and Blur, this flick provides social commentary on urban poverty through black comedy, and some unforgettable tracks.
5. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Apparently movies about crippling drug addiction tend to have great scores, because cult favorite Requiem for a Dream has an unsettling amount of heroin-shooting scenes that are overlain with great tunes! Much of this soundtrack is minimalist and subdued, with a beat constantly pulsing in the background of each scene, with volume and intensity rising and falling with the drama. The score is almost wholly composed, reworking hip hop records into traditionally classical arrangements. The most notable song in the film is Lux Aeterna, which is repeatedly used throughout the movie, and has also been reworked into various other films and trailers.
4. Forrest Gump (1994)
Forrest Gump is undoubtedly one of the most recognizably American films, ever. This film is kind of like a 3 hour lesson on American history, told through iconic songs and running, lots and lots of running. The soundtrack follows the years of Forrest’s life, from his childhood in the early 50’s spent singing along to songs by Elvis, to his teen years listening to Aretha Franklin and the Doors. The film progresses through multiple eras of popular music, from Simon and Garfunkel to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Fleetwood Mac. A true testament of the history of American music, this soundtrack is powerfully unforgettable.
3. Dirty Dancing (1987)
A film that my mom made me watch at least once every few months throughout my childhood (it’s her favorite movie, ever), Dirty Dancing holds a special place in my heart. The overdone tale of star-crossed lovers is told at a summer vacation estate, where a rich young woman and a rugged employee fall in love, through dance. This soundtrack used mostly unpopular songs that weren’t widely known before the film, but if produced on of the most well-known and highest grossing songs ever: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”. The iconic love song propelled the soundtrack to the top of the Billboard 200 for 18 weeks, and helped it to go multi-platinum.
2. Almost Famous (2000)
Historically, movies made about the music scene have disappointed in terms of soundtracks (see: Mariah Carey’s Glitter and the horridly forgettable sequel to Saturday Night Fever). That being said, most people thought that Almost Famous, a film about a teenage Rolling Stone journalist that follows his favorite bands around the world, would flop musically. But alas, the soundtrack encapsulates the raucous nature of 70’s rock-n-roll in all the best ways, with songs from Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Who, and countless other infamous acts. The soundtrack also took home a Grammy in 2000 for best compilation album, a testament to just how effective it is in the film.
1. Drive (2011)
I’m somewhat of a cinefile and have watched countless movies, and over the years I always had a different favorite film every few months that I thought couldn’t be beat. But for four years now, Drive has been my favorite movie of all time, my go to when I can’t decide what to watch, my instant recommendation to any friend that is in the same predicament, and my most treasured soundtrack. With a minimal yet powerful title like Drive, you’d think the soundtrack would be teeming with searing guitar riffs and heavy vocals, but it is the complete and total opposite. Beautifully composed by Cliff Martinez, the score is an integral part of the film, aiding in character development and holding as much importance to the plot as the film itself. Once you watch Drive, it is almost impossible to imagine the film without it’s ambient and neon tracks. I’ve attached a video below that showcases some highlights from the score: