If you’re anything like me and several other millions of folks, you’ve already seen Guardians of the Galaxy and probably recognize how awesome the soundtrack is. I asked Todd before the movie came out if there was a connection to all the seventies music in the film because the songs were so prevalent in the trailers. Obviously, for those who have seen Guardians, you know what an important part the music on the soundtrack plays to our hero Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord.
Since I got the soundtrack a couple of weeks ago, it has been pretty much on repeat non-stop for my hour long commute each way to work, while I mow the lawn, etc. According to a post today on Comicbook.com, the soundtrack is number 3 on the Billboard Top 200 already. Not too shabby for a compilation of songs 30-40 years old, but in all fairness it does feature classics from the Jackson 5, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, and who could forget Blue Swede. Ooga chaka ooga chaka. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I may also be listening still as I write this.
This got me thinking about some of the film soundtracks through the years that have stuck with me and I could listen to them ad nauseam. So I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite soundtracks that I enjoy listening to still today. Theses are in chronological order because I could never put them in an order of best to worst or most favorite soundtrack. I set some basic parameters for myself as far as not including movie or Broadway style musicals with primarily original songs. I wanted to focus mostly on kick ass compilations of existing songs that are inextricably linked to their films. When you hear these songs, I hope you envision the movies from which they come.
Saturday Night Fever (1977) – The first soundtrack I recall from my childhood. Granted the movie came out a couple years before I was born, the awesomeness of this soundtrack has not deteriorated over the decades. It was very Bee Gees heavy with some other disco era gems including A Fifth of Beethoven, If I Can’t Have You, Boogie Shoes, and Disco Inferno. This album is consistently in the top 10 list of album sales of all time.
Footloose (1984) – You know I had to include this for a couple of reasons: 1) it is a great 80s filled soundtrack and 2) the Guardians tie in. What would we do without Kevin Bacon as Ren liberating the poor souls who aren’t permitted to dance? Of course the title track from Kenny Loggins is probably one of the better ones, but this fantastic collection also included Let’s Hear It For the Boys, Waiting For a Girl Like You, and Hurts So Good.
Top Gun (1986) – I will confess something. Harold Faltermeyer’s Top Gun Anthem is on my running mix. Who doesn’t get pumped up by that instrumental music? Just me? Okay, so moving on. I challenge anyone to hear Danger Zone or Take My Breath Away and not picture this movie. Plus, Loggins’ Playing With the Boys always makes me picture the beach volleyball scene. And you’ve got classics like Otis Redding’s Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Ball of Fire, and who doesn’t want to be serenaded by a group of Naval officers singing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling by the Righteous Brothers?
Dirty Dancing (1987) – This may be the movie soundtrack I am most familiar with and have worn out my original cassettes of both the first soundtrack and More Dirty Dancing so I had to get them on cd too. The classics from 1963 era Catskills, NY include Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ Big Girls Don’t Cry, Will You Still Love Me by the Shirelles, Wipeout by the Surfaris and a couple dozen others including a few original songs. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen Johnny rescue Baby from the corner, but it probably isn’t a tenth as many times as I’ve listened to these two soundtracks.
Cocktail (1988) – I know this is the second Tom Cruise movie on the list, but I can’t help it. My mom had this soundtrack on cassette growing up and we’d always listen to it in the car. I love that this introduced me to Don’t Worry Be Happy, revisited my love for the Beach Boys with Kokomo, and Hippy Hippy Shake and Tutti Frutti are just fun songs to balance out some of the darker tones of this film.
The Bodyguard (1992) – Mostly dominated by the powerhouse voice that belonged to Whitney Houston, this soundtrack did immensely better than the movie. Whitney’s version of I Will Always Love You to me surpasses the original by Dolly Parton. The soundtrack also included I Have Nothing, I’m Every Woman, and Run To You as a base to solidify Whitney’s dominance of the charts. This is one of the top selling albums of all time also.
Sleepless In Seattle (1993) – I love this movie and this soundtrack so much! It has some of my favorite artists like Harry Connick, Jr., Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong. It features a good mix of pop, jazz and standards with some country mixed in from Tammy Wynette and Gene Autry. I think it matches the humor and romance of the film perfectly.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – I have to admit that this is the soundtrack I was immediately reminded of when I first saw the list of songs on the Guardians soundtrack. The 1970s rock and pop is near and dear to my heart and includes great music from the likes of Kiss, Black Sabbath, Skynyrd, War, Foghat, Frampton and many others between the two disc album.
Reality Bites (1994) – What angsty teens/twentysomethings at the time don’t recall the greatness that was Ben Stiller, Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder in this flick? To me, I have to admit, the film didn’t resonate with me nearly as much as the soundtrack, but it is still a really good movie. My Sharona, Tempted, Baby I Love Your Way, and Stay are just a few of the songs that stick out from that summer of 1994.
Pulp Fiction (1994) – Misirlou, Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon, You Never Can Tell, Son of a Preacher Man, Jungle Boogie, Let’s Stay Together. These aren’t even half of the songs compiled by Quentin Tarantino for this masterpiece of a film and soundtrack. If you don’t picture John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing at Jack Rabbit Slim’s to Chuck Berry when you hear that song, then I imagine you haven’t seen this movie.
The Parent Tap (1998) – I know I am probably in the vast minority here, but I actually (slightly) prefer the Lindsay Lohan version to the Hayley Mills classic. Don’t get me wrong, I love them both, but this soundtrack is much better in my opinion. With classics ranging from George Thorogood’s Bad to the Bone, to songs from both Nat King and Natalie Cole, to Do You Belive In Magic from the Lovin’ Spoonful, this one just makes me happy. The music is very upbeat and puts a smile on my face.
Love Actually (2003) – Another one that is in heavy rotation for me, I adore this movie and its soundtrack. Love Actually is one of my favorite non-Christmas Christmas films and has a fun ensemble cast. Some of my favorite songs include the heartbreaking Songbird by Eva Cassidy, Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell, and now I can’t not picture Hugh Grant dancing to the Pointer Sisters’ Jump when I hear that song.
Pitch Perfect (2012) – One of the most recent films in memory that grabbed me with the music on the soundtrack. This one I almost didn’t include because it is a borderline musical with the characters singing frequently to further along the plot, but it is my list and I’ll keep it. Cups has become a pretty big hit making it to mainstream radio, and that’s just one of the songs on the soundtrack I have played dozens of times over. I love Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone, Rihanna’s Don’t Stop The Music, Starships by Nicki Minaj, the Pool Mashup of Nelly’s Just A Dream and Bruno Mars’ Just the Way You Are. Then you go and throw in my favorite Miley song with Party in the U.S.A. and I’m sold.
This list is in no way comprehensive, but it does include some of my favorites over the past thirty plus years of movie soundtracks. I tried to stick with albums that had at least four or five songs each that would be recognizable to the general public. I will say as far as directors go, Tarantino tends to be pretty spot on with his choices of songs for his soundtracks to accompany his films. I have both Kill Bill albums, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs in my collection, but I will also admit he is one of my favorite more contemporary directors.
I threw the question out to Twitter and Facebook to see if anyone else had any albums they thought of and got responses of Swingers (which includes a pretty eclectic mix of standards, disco and some country mixed in), Boogie Nights (which is pretty disco heavy, but I always think of Melanie’s Brand New Key when it is mentioned. Also has crossovers included on the Guardians and Love Actually and Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, so this one’s pretty solid in my book), Reservoir Dogs (which I cannot hear Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle With You without picturing *that* scene, and also has Hooked on a Feeling), Get Shorty (which is mostly Booker T and the MGs), Can’t Hardly Wait (featuring mostly late 90s pop, but also mixing in some G’N’R and Run DMC for good measure), and Jackie Brown (which I was not very familiar with even though I’ve seen the movie), and The Wedding Singer (which features two albums of 80s awesomeness). For the record, I resisted including Jerry Maguire’s soundtrack (even though it is awesome) because I thought three Tom Cruise films in my list of 14 might be a bit excessive.
Hopefully you have enjoyed this look back at some of my favorite movie soundtracks of all time. What are some of yours? For your convenience I’ve included links to all the soundtracks on my list. Are there any that I’ve missed that you think are seminal in pop culture these days? Let me know in the comments what you think.
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