Until recently, I never realized how important a good movie soundtrack is. Over the past decade or so, I’ve come to realize that the songs and score chosen for and created for a film do as much to make a great movie as the writing and directing. Carefully chosen songs can make a mediocre movie enjoyable (coughSuicideSquadcough), and a bad score can make an otherwise fantastic TV show painful to watch (I’m looking at you Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.)
Most soundtracks fade into the background, subtly creating the tone for the feels. Great soundtracks become a character of their own. And a conniving, manipulative one at that. But in a good way.
If you can’t already tell, I love me a good soundtrack. I can love a movie without a great soundtrack, but it’s hard for me not to love a movie that has great music. Below is a list of my favorite movie and TV soundtracks of all time. But let me start with a caveat. I have not seen every movie or listened to every soundtrack in existence. What follows is a list of MY favorites. Am I missing some? Sure. Do I care? Not really. Unless, of course, you can activate my FOMO gene.
Stoney’s Favorite Soundtracks in Alphabetical Order
- 28 Days/Weeks Later – Both of these soundtracks perfectly capture the mood of the movie without sounding like a typical horror soundtrack.
- Blue Man Group – I’ve seen BMG in concert 3.5 times. While the show is a visual spectacular, it’s the music that really shines with their unique blend of traditional and ad-hoc instruments.
- Battlestar Galactica – This is one of my favorite soundtracks. All four seasons. Very militaristic while capturing the emotional mood.
- Bill & Ted – All three of these soundtracks introduced me to new artists that I’ve never heard before. The songs are fun, catchy and as enjoyable as the movies themselves.
- The Blues Brothers – I’m not typically a blues guy, but this soundtrack hits all the right notes.
- Book of Eli – An odd mix of electronic and grinding, this soundtrack certainly stands out for its beauty and uniqueness.
- Boondock Saints 2 – A collection of songs from artists I’ve never heard of before. Just a great soundtrack.
- Can’t Hardly Wait – You can’t go wrong with a collection of hits from the 80’s and 90’s. I can’t hardly wait to listen to them again.
- Collateral – An absolute groovy soundtrack. Very mellow and mostly understated, but lots of great tunes.
- Firefly – The show is a sci-fi western and the music perfectly fits that theme. For good measure I’ll throw the Serenity soundtrack in here too, but that has a different mood altogether.
- The Greatest Showman – I absolutely love this album.
- Guardians of the Galaxy – I bought all four of these albums for the songs and stayed for the score. I love it all. Though mostly the songs.
- Hamilton – I’m still trying to decide if I need to actually watch the movie again if I just listen to the soundtrack. Seems like the songs are the movie.
- John Wick – The soundtrack to the first movie stands out the most, but all three are great. It’ll get your blood flowing.
- Jurassic Park – The main theme is simply classic but the rest of the scores aren’t to be missed. And if you’re not in a JP listening mood, at least read through the track titles for the most recent movies. Punasaurus Wrecks.
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – This soundtrack falls in the same vein of Book of Eli. Such unique composition of music really makes this soundtrack a treat.
- A Knights Tale – I love the use of modern music in period movies. This album a wonderful collection of great tunes from an era past.
- Lego Movie 2 – This is one of my favorite soundtracks to listen to. I’m just a 9-year-old girl at heart.
- The Lion King – One of the first movie soundtracks I loved. I still do.
- Moulin Rouge – Another movie using modern music out of place to great effect. There’s so much about this soundtrack with songs sung by the actors. And the end credits track is amazing.
- O Brother Where Art Thou – Not my typical genre of music, but just a great collection of old-timey tunes. You can’t not like it.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – When I listen to this my mind immediately goes into adventure mode. This stands out as one of the best movie scores.
- Pitch Perfect – I’m a sucker for good acapella, and all three of these movies did acapella well. It’s just a lot of fun.
- Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – The first soundtrack I ever purchased and I still listen to it. I love it.
- Suicide Squad – This soundtrack is what makes the movie watchable. I want to love the movie more, but I settle for loving the songs.
- Top Gun – Don’t listen to the lyrics, as none of them make sense. But it’s still a great album that holds up better than the movie.
- Trolls – That 9-year-old girl in me just can’t help but dancing to these two absolutely fun soundtracks.
- The Truman Show – Probably one of the most blatantly manipulative soundtracks I’ve ever heard. If you’re feeling anything for Truman while watching the movie, it’s because of these tunes.
- Wayne’s World – Just two greatest hits albums with some great songs from back in the day.
- Young Guns II – The album that produced Blaze of Glory. But that’s not the only great song. So many others “inspired” by the movie. It’s one of my favorite Bon Jovi albums of all time.
- American Graffiti, Forest Gump, Good Morning Vietnam – More hits from the 60’s and 70’s. Great tunes all the way around.
- Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Star Wars – I’ve never listened to these soundtracks apart from the movies, but you could play any one of them and I’d know it instantly. They each have very distinct themes.
Soundtracks I Wanted to Love
- Braveheart – I really thought I’d love this soundtrack but there wasn’t enough that stood out from the rest. Not that it’s bad, just not unique enough.
- Hell on Wheels – The main theme is the best track. The rest are good, but not great enough to really stand out.
- Walking Dead – At it’s best, it sounds like Battlestar Galactica (both scores by Bear McCreary.) But for the most part the songs just fade into the background with nothing jumping out to grab me (pun intended.)
- We Were Soldiers – Some really great songs, but they are few compared to the whole. It’s a good listen, but not awesome.