It’s a big part of some of our lives. Almost all of us have that one “special” song that just grabs tight and doesn’t let go, no matter how many times we heard it. Music can also, make or break a great film. Regardless if it’s Celine Dion singing, “My Hear Will Go On” from James Cameron’s Titanic, or Bruce Springsteen bleeding the theme of the Tom Hank’s Academy Award winner – Philadelphia (1993), a soundtrack can intensify film action, create character development, and add dramatic tension. A great film soundtrack can embed into your psyche forever.
This is a tribute to the soundtrack. The rock n roll compilation designed to enhance the film and it’s characters. There are no people in existence that come out of a theater and say, you know what ” I’ll always remember that music cue at the 45:16 mark. It was haunting and beautiful.
What people remember is “Girl, You’ll Be A Women Soon” the Urge Overkill rocked better than the original, Neil Diamond cover that Uma Thurman dances and plays air guitar to alone before snorting a key of heroin, in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece – Pulp Fiction.
So throwing all cinematic motion picture scores out the window as your humble curator of Pop Culture today, here are the Top 20 Movie Soundtracks of the Last 30 years…that you should already own.
20. Simple Men (1992)
Highlights: Kool Thing – Sonic Youth / Gonna Miss You – Hub Moore
Huh? Never heard of this film you say? Well, you’ve should have. Simple Men is the 1992 film written and directed by the great indy NYC auteur Hal Hartley. The soundtrack is filed with obscure rock n roll masterpieces that you’ve never heard, but should be listening to. Hartley’s films all feature stunning rock n roll gems from bands that should’ve been all over the radio in the early 90’s. The challenge? Finding this. It may not exist. However, a compilation of songs used in this film and other Hartley films is available on amazon.com. It features all the standout cuts from Hartley’s early films, including rare cuts from the amazing yet, often unheard Hub Moore & The Great Outdoors. The compilation also features solo work from Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley as well as Hartley’s own band. Be prepared to used your credit card for this one.
19. Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film – Curious George (2006)
Highlights: Upside Down / Supposed To Be / Wrong Numbers
Probably the best soundtrack of the last 5 years. You could also call this album a Jack Johnson solo album, if you really insisted. This is one of those perfect Sunday morning records to listen to while you’re waking up and brewing your morning coffee. The soundtrack to the Will Farell animated children’s film has a distinct feel, that’s very inviting, extremely warm, and soothing. The songs here are something you can sing softly to your children. Johnson’s writing compliments the film on all levels, and as a listener it regresses you back to childhood a little. For the older person, who wants to have such a experience, take some acid, put this in your CD player, and sit back.
18. Saturday Night Special (1994)
The soundtrack for this 1994 late night Cinemax nudie sleaze-fest honky tonk’r doesn’t exist. Well, not officially. The soundtrack is available across several of actor/musician and star of Saturday Night Special, Billy Burnette’s official website. A direct to video and late night TV Roger Corman release, Saturday Night Special is a film noir country western film. The music, while being early 90’s country is wonderfully seductive, addictive and fun. Once seeing this film for the first time, you’ll immediately without thinking jump on-line and searched the soundtrack out! And compared to today’s weird and un-listenable blend of pop, hip hop and country, it’s down-right…er’ Elvis! Think Dwight Yokham, but good. Search this one out. You’ll give it a “Whoo Hoo!” as you pull up your Saturday Night Special Cowboy boots, put on your hat, and jump in the line dance.
17. One From The Heart (1982)
Highlights: Is There Any Way Out Of This Dream? / I Beg Your Pardon
When the soundtrack by genius drunk poet Tom Waits, and Crystal Gayle finally get’s re-discovered by the next generation, it’s gonna get it’s true deserve. The film, just like the soundtrack went almost un-noticed, or was trashed by critics apon it’s initial release. The film is one of several Frances Ford Coppola master-works, that has truly yet to be respected. And the sound-track? Yep. Coming through your speaker or headphones, sounding almost like a love torn Broadway stage musicial soundtrack, the One From The Heart Soundtrack, can reduce a man to tears. My advice… sit back, pour a glass of scotch, put the needle on the record, and have a good cry. This one must be owned ONLY on vinyl…
16. The Crow (1994)
Highlights: Dead Souls (Joy Divison cover, by Nine Inch Nails) / Time Slip Baby III – Medicine
Coming right along – smack in the middle of the mid 90’s popular Alternative rock trend, the soundtrack to this 1994 comic book movie starring now tragically departed actor, Brandon Lee (son of martial art’s bad-ass Bruce Lee), did big bucks on the big screen and in the record store. Loooong Sentence. The soundtrack features amazing mostly un-released deep cuts from bands like My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Nine Inch Nails, Rollins Band, The Cure, and The Violent Femmes. The Crow soundtrack is a pitch perfect example of when a film really needs amazing music to achieve cinematic success. The songs here really amplify the mood and atmosphere of James O’Barr’s darkly genius comic book story. At one time, The Crow Soundtrack was often seen in many a CD collection. But now? Well, you can buy it used on amazon.com for 2 bucks. It’s a must own.
15. Kids (1995)
Highlights: Daddy Never Understood / Natural One
The most interesting aspect about this Larry Clark film’s soundtrack, is it’s mimialism. The amount of music on the CD release is only 1/3 the amount of music used in this shocking film. Contributing previous unreleased music and score, former Dinosaur Jr Bassist and Sebadoh leader, Lou Barlow, creates a lo-fi psychedelic folk duo to produce new music just for this film. Barlow’s Folk Implosion is quite possibly one of the coolest bands to listen to when you screw your girlfriend or boyfriend. Lo-Fi breakbeats mixed with Dali-esque lyrics equals genius. The variation here is alot of fun as well, skipping from loud sonic punk rock, to low tone folk, groovy psychedelia, and then carousel music being recorded through a analog answering machine. True fans can go online, and with two minutes of Google searching you can find the European Import 4 CD version of this soundtrack, that has everything from the controversial film. It’s well worth the purchase.
14. Natural Born Killers (1994)
Highlights: Waiting For The Miracle / Back In Baby’s Arms
One of the most interesting films soundtracks ever released. Like the film itself, the soundtrack is extremely schizofrenic. Going from Punk, Jazz, Heavy Industrial sounds, down to 50’s country music, and back up to current hip hop. The Natural Born Killers soundtrack also was one of the first soundtracks to include selections of film dialogue between select songs as well. Like the film, the soundtrack is also a true bizarro experience. It’ll leave you scratchin your head looking around the house for a alternative way to get a quick buzz. Not only is the Natural Born Killers Soundtrack a album you should already own, but it’s also one of the single greatest soundtracks of all time. Without these songs included in this film, it would’ve been a complete un-watchable mess. Several songs are designed to go along with characters in the film. And this effort helps create the 2 hour satire / death music video thrill ride, the film is. If you don’t own it already, I would slap yourself silly. Beep Beep.
13. Dream With The Fishes (1997)
Highlights: River Man / Sadness / Fisherman’s Blues / I’m Holding You
Dream with the Fishes is another film and soundtrack that more than likely you’re questioning everything about. Haven’t seen this film? That’s ok, not alot of people did. It did not get the marketing it needed, nor did it hit theaters. It got buried on your local video store shelves as well. You can buy the soundtrack on amazon.com for .50 cents. With that being said, it’s not only the greatest movie you’ve never seen, but it’s one of the most original indie films ever released. Along that line, the soundtrack features a stunning array of well known artists such as, Nick Drake, The Waterboys, and Ween, alongside lesser known artists that steal the show here like, Greg Brown and Jeremy Toback. Once you hear the Jeremy Toback cut “World Behind Words,” you’ll be hunting on-line for his full length albums. This one is a must own.
12. Buffalo 66 (1998)
Highlights: Moonchild / Heart Of The Sunrise / Fools Rush In
Prince Vince aka cinematic masterbater Vincent Gallo’s first feature film. Putting aside all the infamous stories that surfaced through the film community before this film’s DVD and VHS release, the soundtrack is better than the film itself. A difficult viewing experience, the soundtrack is artsy fartsy fun. The bulk of the soundtrack was done by Gallo himself and his band, of lo-fi sonic lounge-lizards, with Gallo gagging on some high pitched vocals. The true standouts here, are the inclusions of prog rock masters, King Crimson and Yes. Excluding two seminal cuts from these bands, really saves the day. Even the film wouldn’t have survived without these. Another add on was the inclusion of Gallo’s dad’s version of “Fools Rush In” which in the film you’re sure to remember was lip-sync’d by the great Ben Gazarra under a saturated light, while he was almost in his underwear. It’s a weird and boring film, but the soundtrack is fun.
11. Velvet Goldmine (1998)
Highlights: Baby’s On Fire / Virginia Plane / TV Eye / Ballad Of Maxwell Demon
Velvet Goldmine was one of the best films of the 90’s. In case you’re living on Planet Z, it’s a loosely based bio-pic / ficitionlization about the love affair between David Bowie and Iggy Pop. The film was written and directed by the greatest filmmaker of the last 25 years, Todd Haynes. It’s highly visual, surreal and sexy. If you ain’t gay going into the film, you’ll be when you leave. The soundtrack features a who’s who of 70’s Glam Rock cuts. Michael Stipe of R.E.M fame stepped in to produce the soundtrack, and to create the the music of the film’s central David Bowie esque character – Maxwell Demon. Stipe got together an ultimate super group of artists to write, and perform, including Thruston Moore from Sonic Youth, The Stooges’ Ron Asheton, and Mark Arm, from Mudhoney. It is one of the most profound listening experiences anyone can ever have. And for people looking to be introduced to 70’s glam properly, it’s sort of a “Idiot’s Guide” if you will. It just may be the greatest film soundtrack ever released.
10. Pump Up The Volume (1990)
Highlights: I’ve Got A Secret Miniature Camera / Everybody Knows / Titanium Expose
The soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up The Volume is single handedly responsible for the entire Alternative rock movement of the 90’s. That’s a brash statement, sure, but if you look at the asethic of the film, and the amazing line-up of the soundtrack of THEN at the time, unknown groups, you’ll be shaking my hand once you do. Featuring amazingly deep and unreleased cuts from bands like, Concrete Blonde, Sonic Youth, Bad Brains, and The Pixies. This soundtrack would become the old testament to Generation X. A sad issue with this soundtrack, is the fact, that they decided to omit the Leonard Cohen “Everybody Knows” and replace it with the Concrete Blonde version, and the Descendents and Detroit’s Was (Not) Was’s – Hello Dad I’m In Jail, are no where to be found here, but they are featured heavily in the film. It’s a must own, simple for the teen angst flashbacks you need sometimes when you’re driving home from work each day.
09. Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990)
Highlights: Leatherface / One Nation / Spark In My Heart
It takes a certain type of person to own this soundtrack. Firstly, it’s very difficult to find, but with some looking you can find it. And be prepared to spend some serious coin on it. How can a movie of this genre and taste have one of the great soundtracks you ask? Well, it’s all obscure metal from the late 80’s and it totally rules. Most of the bands featured on the Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 soundtrack you’ve never heard of, and that’s ok, and after this soundtrack takes over your soul, you won’t care. The Texas 3 soundtrack is required pre outing Saturday Night music. It’ll turn you out, make you wanna break something, and also force you to sing along to all the catchy cheesy 80’s metal. Who’s that behind you with that chainsaw?
08. Repo Man (1984)
Highlights: TV Party / Instuitionalized / Let’s Have A War / Pablo Picasso
Words can’t express how important this soundtrack is. It’s the mother-load of Cal punk of the mid 80’s. The Repo man soundtrack made people punk fans. Not only is the actual Alex Cox film a masterpiece of satirical punk rock sci fi, but the soundtrack is even greater than the film. Just as with the 1996 film, Trainspotting, another cut from the legendary Iggy Pop is used here to start things off right. Iggy has saved the day on a few films over the years. Every cut on this soundtrack is sonic perfection. And again, another one where it’s illegal if you own this on CD. It must only be owned on vinyl, and the film must only be owned on Laser Disc or VHS, and NOT DVD. This is one of those albums, albeit a soundtrack, when people heard it, they went out and started their own band. Yep, it’s that good. It may take you longer to hunt this one down on vinyl then it took Otto to find that 64 Chevy Malibu.
07. Wild Style (1983)
Highlights: Basketball Throwdown / Stoop Rap
The most accurate film to ever portray the true hip hop culture created in New York City in the mid to late 70’s. Wild Style is a film done by documentary filmmaker Charlie Ahearn. The film is hip hop. It’s sad to me to think about just how many people don’t know the true history of hip hop. The art form it once was, is now dead. The film’s soundtrack is a time capsule of the invention of hip hop and the art of mixing. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Hip Hop films would come and go after Wild Style’s inital release. Films like, Beat Street and Krush Groove would never be able to capture the essence of real hip hop culture like Wild Style did. Look for a dialogue sample from Wild Style on the Beastie Boy’s 1992 masterpiece, Check Your Head on the “Professor Booty” cut. The soundtrack to Wild Style must be owned only on vinyl. And if you don’t? Well…I wouldn’t tell anyone you know that you have it on CD?
06. Less Than Zero (1987)
Highlights: In A Gadda Da Vida / Rock N Roll All Night / You & Me (Less Than Zero)
Ohh….This soundtrack always gives me chills! Why? Cause it’s a masterpiece. It’s so good, that you can barely remember what the heck the 1987 Robert Downey Jr film is about. And guess what, it doesn’t matter. Cause the soundtrack is that good. The Less Than Zero soundtrack features the most amazing, greatest un-released cuts of the bands that you should love. Its the only place you’re gonna hear, Poision (yes, Bret Michael’s Poision) doing a cover of Kiss’s – Rock N Roll All Night. It’s the only place, you’re gonna hear a super rare and totally bad ass – You & Me (Less Than Zero) by the one and only king of horror rock, Glen Danzig and his Power & Fury Orchestra. Who isn’t gonna listen to a band called The Power & Fury Orchestra? Also featured here are deep cuts by the haunting and beautiful Roy Orbision, The Bangles, Aerosmith, and Joan Jett. And you can’t lose, cause the soundtrack album was produced by the great beard’d one, Rick Rubin. The soundtrack also features the stellar mandatory must own version of Slayer covering the 1968 Iron Butterfly psychedelic standard – In A Gadda Da Vida. If you’re lost, the original ’68 version is 18 minutes long, and justly. Well, Slayer…. they knock it out in under 3 minutes. Yep…Run to the store right now.
05. Flash Gordon (1980)
Highlights: Flash’s Theme / Crash Dive Into Mongo City / The Hero
The 1980 British produced version of Flash Gordon is money! It’s essential viewing for any true Sci Fi fan. Besides, it’s like a acid trip gone wrong, on so many levels. And the soundtrack is no expection. Completely written and recorded by Queen, the soundtrack plays as a sort of heavy metal sonic score. However, it’s not a score. It’s a series of songs, some without lyrics that are so heavy that you’ll never look at “Another Bites The Dust’ again in the same way. Brian May’s guitar has never been so nasty as it is here. And I always wonder if Black Flag’s Greg Ginn took any inspiration from Brian May here. Great vocals, great musicianship.
04. Beautiful Girls (1996)
Highlights: Beth / Suffering / Me & Mrs Jones / Beautiful Girl
Staying true to the theme here, The soundtrack to Ted Demme’s 1996 film, Beautiful Girls is a masterwork of sadness and lonely boy blues. Another film that kinda got pushed under the theatrical radar. Beautiful Girls is an assemble casted film that will have you questioning your own life. It’s that good. And the soundtrack is the perfect collection of those “songs” that could grab ahold of you and never left go! Produced by Afghan Whigs frontman – Greg Duli, the soundtrack is a poignant compilation of music that you’ll love forever after you listen to it. It’s got these amazing cuts of soul, rock n roll, oldies, and unknown artists, that once you hear them, you’ll be out buying their records.
03. Magnolia (1999)
Highlights: Save Me / Wise Up / One / Goodbye Stranger
When director Paul Thomas Anderson released this amazing and unforgettable assemble piece in 1999, singer / songwriter Aimee Mann was nomimated for a Academy Award for the film’s theme – Save Me. Now looking back ten years plus, mostly all people only remember about this film, is the cameo of Tom Cruise. Not only is this film one the greatest films of all time, but it’s soundtrack is even better. Fitting perfectly into the lives of PTA’s characters here, Aimee Mann, and husband Michael Penn (who did the film’s score) work perfectly at adding depth to the characters of the film. It’s a beautiful album, heartfelt, and important. the Magnolia soundtrack should be looked apon as a Aimee Mann solo album as well as the film’s soundtrack. She should’ve won the Academy Award that year.
02. Singles (1992)
Highlights: Breathe / State Of Love And Trust / Dyslexic Heart / Drown
The soundtrack to Singles is the greatest soundtrack of all time. So if it’s the greatest, why is it at #2? Well, you’ll see. Assembled together by director and writer, Cameron Crowe, the Singles soundtrack came just at the right time. It was marketed brilliantly, and as the film takes place in Seattle, it features almost all Seattle groups, that just so happen to be the toast of the world during the Alternative Rock / Grunge movement. What makes this soundtrack the greatest of all time is simple. It’s perfect. Singles features just soo many cuts that are unreleased to the artist specific catalogues. There is no other place that you can hear Paul Westerberg’s Dyslexic Heart, or Smashing Pumpkins “Drown.” And the two Pearl Jam cuts here, Breathe and State of Love and Trust, are arguably their two greatest songs of their early career. Both are better than anything released on Ten or the follow-up, Vs. The Singles soundtrack samples around the spectrum as well, featuring brilliant un-released acoustic material from Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. A cover of Led Zeppelin’s ” Battle Of Everymore” done by the Lovemongers, which is a side project of Seattle’s Heart. And lastly, the soundtrack features deep cuts from Jimi Hendrix and Sly & The Family Stone. How can you argue. It’s perfect. And that’s why it’s the greatest soundtrack of all time.
01. Freaked (1993)
Highlights: Freaked / Butter Queen / Sweet Loaf
You can start to throw stones now, and begin the name calling. The soundtrack to this film does not exist, in official form. This cult comedy was originally planned as a weird monster movie centered around the band, The Butthole Surfers. Alex Winter and partner Tom Stern set out to do something uber original…and suceeded. This film was severely mis-treated by 20th Century Fox and never saw proper marketing or a release. It did however gain it’s loyal cult following through home video release. It’s a masterpiece of bizarro cinema, and if you havent’ seen the film, tisk…tisk…tisk The soundtrack, was originally slated to be produced by the Butthole Surfers’s Paul Leary. And it featured Butthole Surfers and Parliament Funkadelic songs, and also stuff by a side project of Paul Leary’s that included Henry Rollins, called, Blind Idiot God. It has me in tears when I think about what could’ve been. Impossible to find, anywhere. It’s a great film, and the soundtrack is just as surreal as the film itself.