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Best Movie Soundtracks

Ever since the first notes of a piano were put to silent films, Movies and Music have gone together as a pair everywhere they go. Movie soundtracks have always been a critical part of expert filmmaking, from the obvious movie musicals like Disney, to serious cinematic forays with music in critical scenes like Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, to music as the mood-setter like in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. To celebrate the power of music in movies, here are 15 of the Best Movie Soundtracks of All Time (in no particular order). If you want to pick these up for your home library, the movies are listed first followed by the soundtrack second.

Guardians of the Galaxy

In Marvel's ensemble space epic Guardians of the Galaxy, main character Peter "Star-Lord" Quill (played by Chris Pratt) was abducted from Earth in the year 1988 as a young kid. His only artifact of his time on earth is a Walkman with an accompanying mixtape dubbed the "Awesome Mix." This awesome mix is the soundtrack, and featured Earth's greatest hits from 1962 to 1986, such as "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Suede, The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back", and "Moonage Daydream" by David Bowie.

Black Panther

Marvel's second entry on this list, the Chadwick Boseman led blockbuster Black Panther used its soundtrack to reinforce the setting and build on characters. Along with his songs being prominently featured in the film, Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar is to thank for the full curated soundtrack we recommend, which he produced. It features collaborations with other artists including The Weeknd, James Blake, and Future. Featuring several musical styles building off of hip-hop and rap, the album is worth a listen and a hit all on its own.

American Graffiti

George Lucas's 1973 film, set in 1962, is a nostalgic coming-of-age comedy with a lead played by Happy Days star/future director Ron Howard. Being a nostalgic love letter to the early '60s, the music featured is a compilation of 41 of the greatest hits of the age and a real love letter to early rock 'n' roll. Music was critical to the success of the film's setting and it is shown off with songs from artists like Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Buddy Holly, and Fats Domino.
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Drive

Starring Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, and Carey Mulligan, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive is an arthouse film heavy on aesthetic and ennui. In addition to mainly utilizing electronica with composer Cliff Martinez’s score, the movie’s soundtrack pulled from the catalog of artist Johnny Jewel of the Chromatics to round out its other-worldly, ethereal feel. This film has extremely limited dialogue, a trademark of the director, so the music has to fill in the space and does so to perfection.
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The Graduate

Director Mike Nichols helmed this book-to-screen classic starring Dustin Hoffman. The music of this classic movie is almost entirely by the iconic singer/songwriter duo, Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, and of course features their major hit "Mrs. Robinson." The perfect usage of that song in this movie, among Simon & Garfunkel's other folk hits, are what makes this soundtrack one of the best. Additional songs are by Dave Grusin.
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Above the Rim

This 1994 sports film stars Duane Martin, Leon, and a little artist named Tupac Shakur, so you can be sure this soundtrack is going to deliver. If that star power alone does not convince you, the album was produced by Suge Knight and supervised by Dr. Dre, two more icons of hop-hop and rap and made it to #2 on the US Billboard 200. Adding any of these tracks to your playlist will have you ready to take on the world like Martin's character Kyle in the movie.
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Good Will Hunting

Stars Matt Damon and Robin Williams deliver soulful and heartfelt performances worth of the many Oscars this film was nominated for and won. Its soundtrack leans heavily on indie artist Elliott Smith, with the instrumental pieces by famous composer Danny Elfman, who, while usually associated with Tim Burton-esque whimsy, stretches his emotional range on this album to deliver heartfelt, deep pieces that perfectly compliment the movie as well as stand on their own.
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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

This Coen Brothers motion picture starring powerhouses like George Clooney, John Turturro, and John Goodman is a must watch for film buffs. The masterful filmmaking of the Coen Brothers means there is a killer soundtrack accompany the film as the finishing touch. The music was conceived from the start as a vital component to the movie as opposed to a background or afterthought. Covering Country, Folk, Bluegrass, Blues, Gospel, and good old Americana the album is a masterpiece from start to finish and made it to #1 on the Billboard 200 in 2001.

Purple Rain

We can wax poetic on the many charms and oddities of Prince's foray into Hollywood and the many awards and accolades of Prince's unquestionably iconic musical career all day, but why bother when a simple, "It's PRINCE" could suffice? Being the genesis of the hits "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy", whether or not this is one of the best soundtracks is no question, the only real question is what are you waiting for if you do not already have Prince's Purple Rain in your vinyl collection?
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Rock 'N' Roll High School

For those not in the know, this 1979 comedy film is a tale as old as time, about a school overrun with rock mania, with parents trying to dampen the rock fever and the teens not having it and rocking harder. One girl has a particular (and totally understandable!) obsession with band The Ramones. That should clue you in that this movie's soundtrack is going to rock and rock hard. The Ramones all make appearances as themselves in the film, and lend themselves to the soundtrack including a new for the film original song, the titular "Rock 'N' Roll High School." Other artists appearing on the soundtrack are Alice Cooper and Ritchie Valens.

The Big Chill

The Big Chill is a classic '80s film with a classic original motion picture soundtrack to match. The movie features major names like Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, and Jeff Goldblum and is full of laughs for a fun, good time. The soundtrack keeps the good times going with feel-good Soul, R&B, and pop-rock hits from The Rolling Stones, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson...basically everyone's favorite artists. It's an album you can put on and enjoy from beginning to end.
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Suicide Squad

This movie with an ensemble cast featuring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Cara Delevingne delivers on fun. Opinions on its cinematic merit aside, the film is a fun romp with the bad guys of DC Comics and the music delivers on the rebellious attitude you’d expect from these villains. Featuring tracks like Eminem’s “Without Me” and a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Panic! at the Disco and other pop music, this soundtrack slaps as hard as the bad guys it backs up.

Shaft

That's right, we're talking about Shaft. Can you did it? Fun fact of this entry, the Soul, Funk, and Disco legend Isaac Hayes originally signed on to do the album for the 1971 film Shaft in the hopes he would play Shaft. While we did not get that, we did get a classic, fun film with a theme-song and full score that slapped. The titular "Theme from Shaft" won the year's Academy Award for Best Original Song, and this is a fully original soundtrack written for the film first, unlike most entries on this list which used existing music in their soundtracks.
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Easy Rider

Filmmaker Dennis Hopper teamed up with writer, producer, and star Peter Fonda in Easy Rider and delivered us a generational hit that still speaks to audiences today. As the 1960s brought immense cultural change, this movie gave a glimpse into the counterculture of the time and the music was an integral part of that. Featuring seminal artists of the time including Steppenwolf, The Byrds, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the soundtrack is a time capsule of '60s youth.
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Blinded by the Light

Not unlike the (also amazingly soundtracked!) movie Dirty Dancing, Blinded by the Light explores the ever-present gap that can exist between teens and their parents, in this case using the music of Bruce Springsteen to excellent effect. The power of the music of The Boss propels this soundtrack into the top ten, and the movie's gorgeous cinematography and use of the rural suburban English setting in tandem with the American iconography of Bruce make this worth a watch and a listen.
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