What are the best soundtracks ever?

Prince_rain_lWith anticipation high for Jay-Z’s soundtrack to American Gangster (due in stores Nov. 6), it’s no wonder people are mulling over, once again, the question of what makes a good soundtrack. Too many soundtrack songs are chosen for marketing reasons, not because they actually complement what’s happening on screen. At the same time, you’d like an album that holds together conceptually, that you can listen to without watching the movie. I used to think that, when it came to matching images with the ideal found songs, Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme had no peers, but lately, such directors as Quentin Tarantino, Sofia Coppola, Zach Braff, and Wes Anderson have joined that list.

We know you PopWatchers obsess over soundtracks as much as we do, so we wonder what you’ll think of the latest contribution to the discussion, this one from Vanity Fair. The magazine has compiled a list of the 40 best soundtracks of all time for its next issue, but the top 10 have been made public. Hard to argue with Prince’s Purple Rain (pictured) at No. 1, but this list does skew kinda old. Aside from Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, no other movies from the last 20 years cracked the top 10, which otherwise consists of such (admittedly unassailable) Boomer favorites as A Hard Day’s Night, The Harder They Come, American Graffiti, Saturday Night Fever, and The Big Chill. Still, where’s Braff’s Garden State? Where’s The Matrix? And where’s hip-hop? (No 8 Mile or Hustle & Flow?)

Maybe Jay-Z will make VF wish they’d waited for American Gangster, or maybe it won’t merit a place on the list. Tell us, PopWatchers, what you think the best soundtracks are. Pick ones you still listen to, that have earned a place of honor in your CD collection or on your iPod.

addCredit(“Purple Rain: Everett Collection”)

Comments (217 total) Add your comment
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  • Denise

    For me it is a tie between Dirty Dancing and Grease. Both are AWESOME.

  • Kate

    I liked the soundtrack to Grosse Pointe Blank, myself.

  • Kelly

    I’m going to be a typical 20-something and agree with the omission of Garden State. It routinely finds its way into my iPod rotation, especially during particularly emo days.
    I also want to ask where the movie musicals are. Singin’ in the Rain? Sound of Music? Those soundtracks are iconic and spectacular even outside the theatrical world.

  • Anonymous

    Puh-leeeeze! Star Wars has the best soundtrack for sure!

  • wraith808

    Rent. Phantom of the Opera. and yes… Hustle and Flow and the Matrix would be on mine also. Though Purple Rain would still be #1.

  • Sarah

    Kudos to Kate! Grosse Pointe Blank has an AWESOME soundtrack! So do all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and The Commitments. Let’s not forget Purple Rain’s peers: Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, Top Gun, Sixteen Candles, Say Anything, and Some Kind of Wonderful.

  • Cliff

    We’re talking about song soundtracks, right? And not instrumental scores or recordings of musicals. If that’s the case, then I definitely agree with Purple Rain. Close by though, I’d put Magnolia, Walk the Line and Into the Wild.

  • Ken

    One word, Rushmore

  • Martha

    Agree with Cliff – there’s a big difference between song-driven soundtracks and mostly instrumental scores. I hope Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola make the list somewhere. My favorite score-heavy soundtracks are “The Red Violin,” “The Big Blue,” “Diva,” “The English Patient” and “The Village.” Very cool ambient music.

  • Ebs

    I LOVE the Magnolia soundtrack.

  • BrandoNorman

    Gotta give it up to South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut. That movie’s soundtrack just floors me with how it is a perfect set for a stage musical. Also, Team America has a pretty great soundtrack as well.

  • Jill

    Reality Bites!

  • dave

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Purple Rain and Grosse Pointe Blank, but I gotta’ go with “Until The End Of The World”.

  • Jamie

    Dirty Dancing, and gulp, almost ashamed to admit it, but Days of Thunder…I know, campy, but fun, it takes me back, you know?

  • Matt

    Brokeback Mountain is the best soundtrack I have purchased in years.

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