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8 Best Movie Soundtracks Of All Time

When the film lines up perfectly with the soundtrack, you are bound to have both a good movie on your hands and a solid soundtrack to the fantastic film. We have given ourselves the challenging task of picking what we believe to be the best soundtracks of all time. 
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Here’s our countdown, drum roll please…

#8 Pulp Fiction

The quintessential film of the 90s has created a legacy as one of the best films of all time and seemed to cement Tarantino’s status as one of the best film directors to have graced Hollywood. 

Without the accompaniment of the finest wildly sampled and intricately selected tunes picked from the B-sides of the 60s American surf scene, the LA mobsters with their companion, Mia, would have failed to have such an impact. 

In Tarantino’s classic, Mia’s overdose to ‘Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon’ was poetic. Vincent Vega and Mia’s dance-off at Jack Rabbit Slims was majestical. The understated ‘You never can tell’ by Chuck Berry kept it quaint enough to provide it with iconic status and free from cheese.

#7 Mamma Mia

This fun-loving and sensational Broadway screenplay eventually dawned on our cinemas in the summer of 2008. It took the world by storm – with everyone’s favourite, ABBA, at the helm. Mamma Mia’s star-studded cast is funny, doesn’t make sense but absolutely fills many hearts with joy. 

This film’s genuine innocence and pleasant atmosphere allow a fairly serious single mother storyline to become light-hearted and wholly entertaining. Amanda Seyfriend goes searching for her father. She did have Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard to choose from). This film, however, would be nothing without the immense soundtrack which intertwines throughout the film. 

Using a roster of the famous ABBA’s best tunes, Mamma Mia manages to go from the highs and lows quickly. From the opening’ Honey, Honey’ scene to the closing ‘Waterloo’ and all the other bangers in between, this is premium ABBA content. 

Perfectly adapted to the film due to its origins as a screenplay, this soundtrack is fun for all the family. Mamma Mia will leave a smile on your face regardless of your mood last (even if you think you are too cool for it), and the soundtrack has a big part to play in this rollercoaster. 

Plus, I don’t think I mentioned – ABBA is involved.

#6 A Hard Day’s Night

The iconic comedy musical featuring retro Beatles numbers is a film emphasising the crazed Beatlemania, which rocked many throughout the 60s. The film is essentially the 4 Mersey boys getting chased for an hour and a bit from their obsessed fans before they do a gig in London. 

This film turned out to be insanely influential and groundbreaking – a bit like their music.

The soundtrack that accompanies this film is from the album with the same name. The critical acclaim for this film would not have been so extraordinary if it didn’t include Beatles hits in the format they chose. Perhaps this, above all else, allows this unique and innovative film into critical acclaim, and with it, the soundtrack. 

With hits like ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘If I fell’ sending The Beatles ascendency to the top, it was also the first Beatles album where they had written all the songs on the album. 

Perhaps not the most finely selected and indeed not the best compilation soundtrack but without a doubt one of the most influential and worthy of a place amongst our top 8. Maybe one for a fine vinyl collection?

#5 Guardians of the Galaxy

Whilst many said it couldn’t be done. Others said that the days of good soundtracks are over, arguing that the days of a compilation soundtrack album being allowed to succeed are long gone. But the Guardians of the Galaxy Mixtape from the film in 2014 turned modern soundtracking on its head. 

With tunes from Marvin Gaye, Bowie and Norman Greenbaum to accompany Quill and his walkman on an intergalactic experience, it seems like a bit of a juxtaposition. But it is these famous and very relatable songs that ring throughout the film, bringing about assurance and a down-to-earth vibe for Quill (connecting him to his family on Earth) and the viewer. 

Such a connection with viewers and listeners alike was had through this soundtrack. It managed to become the first soundtrack ever that has only consisted of previously released songs to top the US billboard top 100. 

It would go on to get Platinum status and remain at the top of the charts for a total of 11 weeks. Such is the testament to having an old classic banger in your soundtrack! 

#4 Shrek

As a child growing up watching Shrek (showing my age here), the soundtrack to this momentous animation seemed almost irrelevant. The magical tale of Shrek’s rise to glory both in personality and status seems overwhelming – it really is a true fairytale. You could easily miss the fantastic selection of songs which is accompanying this journey.

On a rewatch or reflection on the soundtrack, you’ll find yourself pondering how eerily relevant and unmistakably poignant many of the songs which accompany this great animation really is. 

So much so, it would go on to have a cult following. You’d be a liar if you’ve not had someone shouting, drunkenly in your ear at a random party event, that the Shrek soundtrack is one of the best ever. 

The famous (or infamous, nowadays) ‘All Star’ portraying Shrek in his beloved swamp, through to the heartfelt ‘Hallelujah’ and ending with the massive ‘I’m a Believer’ sees this fantastic animation accompanied with an equally incredible soundtrack. 

#3 Saturday Night Fever

Not only is it one of the biggest and best films ever, but Saturday Night Fever also has one of the most iconic film scenes of all time (everyone wants to be John Travolta giving it big licks, in that white suit, on that multi-coloured dance floor, at some point in their life, let’s face it). But this film would not be nearly as good or perfect without the outstanding soundtrack which accompanies it, courtesy of the famous Beegee brothers. 

This film and soundtrack would cement the Beegees in musical history and rightfully so with the soundtrack recorded specifically for the film. The film directly reflects the boogie, disco feeling during the late 70s and encapsulated just what it meant to those living through that period. 

I often find myself boogieing down the street to ‘Stayin’ Alive’, trying to pretend I am even close to as cool as Travolta. 

The film managed to take its viewers on a rollercoaster with quick-tempo disco tunes to raise the heart rate and the mood before lowering it down a tone for the more heartfelt moments of love and feelings aptly accompanied with songs such as ‘How deep is your love?’. 

Not only would this soundtrack accompany the famous film, but the album itself would go on to have massive success as a standalone album – going on to be the second best selling soundtrack album of all time, selling more than 15 million copies.

#2 Billy Elliot

Set during the 1984 miner’s strike in Durham, England, Billy Elliot follows young lads fighting cultural norms in the face of working-class Britain. Billy’s passion for ballet would stray him from his father’s enforced boxing lessons and move him to a stern but excellent Julie Walters as his ballet teacher. 

This film is a true coming of age and feel-good movie which sees a working-class lad prevail against all the odds. It remains an essential pop culture reference for a time that is etched into many memories as traumatic and painful. 

However, this film would be nowhere near as good as it was without the soundtrack, which narrates the story throughout. It would be the combination of both that saw this film achieved critical success and become a Broadway musical. 

The soundtrack focuses on famous music of the time, which sees T.Rex sing most of the tunes – this would lead to one of the most essential and iconic scenes in the film when Billy is dancing with Julie Walters to ‘I love to Boogie’. Notably, the soundtrack also includes other sprinkles of famously working-class songs with the likes of ‘Town Called Malice’ by the Jam and the Clash’s ‘London Calling’ displaying the struggle of the working class against the police during the miner’s strike. 

It is political and essential, poignant and inviting, and it would be nothing without the tunes which accompanied it throughout. Such success was had with the film. It has since been made into a best-selling Broadway stage show.

#1 Trainspotting

A film about the highs and lows (as you can guess, there are more lows) of heroin and illicit substance misuse sees Danny Boyle accompany his famous screenplay with one of the most inspired, yet seemingly nonsensical, soundtrack compilations the film industry has seen. 

It mixed indie classics with famous dance/club tunes of the 90s. Renton and his motley crew depicted a confusion with a distinct harmony which would go on to cement this film as one of Britain’s best at the time and a classic in film history, inspiring many others in its wake. 

It would, however, be nothing without the soundtrack that populates the film. The sounds married the vision. This emboldened CD pulled on rock, pop and dance music to reflect precisely what was going on in British culture at this time: and it did so with excellent effect. 

Renton and Spuds sprint down Princes St, getting chased off the police to Iggy Pop’s historic ‘Lust for Life. THAT toilet scene punctuated by Brian Eno’s Deep Blue Day. The overdose to Lou Reed. Of course, the final stage of betrayal and addiction that saw Born Slippy became one of the anthems of the 90s. This film not only shook the movie world, but it shook the musical world and the broader cultural world as well. Momentous and standing the test of the time. 

A film about some low-life heroin users became one of the most notable films ever, and without the soundtrack, it would’ve struggled. 

Post-Credit Review

Soundtracks can make or break films. The best movies ever are usually made by the tunes in them. The movie without music is like a city without walls. It is often impossible to create an atmosphere without it. Music starts heroes and disbars villains. It provides depth in fantasy and mythicism in landscapes. It allows for tension and comfort, darkness and brightness. These songs have been perfectly matched to the films and have enhanced the film immensely, and are excellent albums in their own right. You’ve even got yourself song great soundtracks for your own mini festival

Try out our guide on how sound effects helps storytelling!

For our list’s purpose, we have excluded original scores and instrumental numbers – they are a whole different ball game. Instead, we have included soundtracks with a compilation of belting tunes and decided what we believe to be the top 8 best movie soundtracks of all time – it’s not an easy decision, trust us. 

Alex, a dedicated vinyl collector and pop culture aficionado, writes about vinyl, record players, and home music experiences for Upbeat Geek. Her musical roots run deep, influenced by a rock-loving family and early guitar playing. When not immersed in music and vinyl discoveries, Alex channels her creativity into her jewelry business, embodying her passion for the subjects she writes about vinyl, record players, and home.

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