The proper soundtrack is the greatest enhancement to any movie or scene. Can you imagine John Cusack holding up the big boom box in “Say Anything” without Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” playing? Silence or just random music would not have had the same impact; the perfect song made that scene better, and had the audience feeling like they were a part of the drama unfolding.
Here are ten of the best movie soundtracks (compilation soundtracks rather than original scores) that have added emotion, suspense, drama or even comic relief to stories we love:
10. Garden State – Zach Braff’s selections for his movie “Garden State” earned him a Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for a Motion Picture. Braff said that he “made a mix CD with all of the music that I felt was scoring my life at the time I was writing the screenplay.” He chose well, combining an interesting mix of Indy and mainstream songs from the likes of Coldplay, The Shins, Nick Drake and Simon and Garfunkel.
9. The Sound of Music – I’ll never grow tired of this movie or the music and lyrics, written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. With the exception of “Climb Every Mountain”, a song that just rubs me the wrong way, every selection is a classic. I always tear up a little when I hear Christopher Plummer’s character (I think his singing voice was dubbed in the movie) sing “Edelweiss”.
8. Muriel’s Wedding – A naïve and insecure girl from Porpoise Spit, Australia won the hearts of moving goers around the world back in 1995, and her love for Abba only enhanced her heart-warming and sad, but often funny story. It’s true, some of the music was cheesy, but there was humor and purpose behind it. You couldn’t help but laugh when Muriel finally made it to her wedding. The looks on the faces of those in the church and on Muriel as she marched happily down the aisle to Abba’s “I do, I do, I do” were priceless. And everyone likes a little Abba now and then.
7. Oh Brother Where Art Thou – The Coen Brothers classic retelling of Homer’s “Odyssey”, focusing on three escaped prisoners had interesting songs selections for sure. The film was set in depression era Mississippi, so the soundtrack uses bluegrass, country, gospel, blues, and folk music appropriate to the time period. I found myself singing “A Man of Constant Sorrow” for a long time.
6. Saturday Night Fever – Even if you’re not a disco fan, it’s hard to argue that this ultimate late 70s album didn’t have an impact. “Saturday Night Fever” may have even given the genre credibility. In the United States alone, the album was certified 15x Platinum for shipments of over 15 million copies.
5. The Graduate – Mike Nichols’ use of old and new Simon & Garfunkel songs was the perfect addition to his wonderful movie about an older woman seducing a younger college graduate from 1967. ”The Sound of Silence” fit perfectly as Benjamin rides a moving walkway pondering his future, and ”Scarborough Fair” added a heart-tugging sadness as his dreams crumble. And, of course, the infamous “Mrs. Robinson”, which is played throughout the film, is a great addition and adds a little spice.
4. A Hard Day’s Night – By 1964, the Beatles were the most popular band on the airwaves, and a huge success with the younger crowd, so it was natural that they’d segued into movies. Their first film, “A Hard Day’s Night” was a hilarious look at a day in the life of the Fab Four complete with the hysteria of their appearances on television shows, such as ”Ed Sullivan”. The other Beatles’ soundtracks from “Help”, “Yellow Submarine”, “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Let it Be” were just as good, but this was the first and should be celebrated.
3. The Wedding Singer – The soundtrack to the 1998 comedy starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore epitomized the 1980’s and was so popular, a volume 2 was released. If you own them, you have every song from the 1980’s that mattered. They’re filled with one hit wonders, and of course, Billy Idol.
2. When Harry Met Sally – The comedy that begged the question, can men and women be friends, produced one of the finest soundtracks ever. Harry Connick Jr. introduced classic tunes to new audiences with “It Had to be You” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” making the soundtrack timeless. Good listening for sure.
1. The Big Chill – When old college friends gather for a funeral of one of their own, there’s bound to be interesting stories to tell, a few tears and plenty of fireworks. There’s also an awesome soundtrack from the 1960’s and 70’s that tell their own story. This album features Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, and The Band’s “The Weight”, to name a few.
NOTE: It was difficult to narrow the selections to 10; therefore, special mention goes out to the soundtracks of “High Fidelity”, “Marry Poppins” and “Pulp Fiction” who missed only by a smidgen.