Top Five Movie Soundtracks

Top Five is a show where the hosts categorize, rank, compare, and stratify everything… from cars to gadgets to people and movies. From stuff that is hot, and things that are not nearly as interesting – it’s Top Five.

Rhythm, tone, time, and the beat make us love or hate a movie soundtrack. This week, we look at our favorites.

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About Author

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...


  1. Here is the email that started this episode… Now I have to figure out when the heck I’m going to get out to Kansas to carry out my “promise”

    From James T
    Jun 13
    to Stephen

    Come on, let’s get to brass tacks – there have been good soundtracks, and crappy soundtracks… what are the best (and yes, you can use a musical – IF it had a movie attached!)

    My picks and also rans are below in white – if you don’t want it to influence you then don’t look!

    Much Love – BigJim / @jthatcher79

    my Top 5

    5 – UHF – it had to be done… Weird Al has to be on this… and it’s a great track if you love the movie (yes, I’m crazy – but aren’t we all?)

    4 – Aladdin – OK Stephen here’s Aladdin – see I put a Disney movie on here… Seriously, Robin Williams singing is joyful and the music is probably the best Disney has ever done (maybe Lion King is a very close second)

    3 – Good Morning Vietnam – ok, this may be a bit of a toss out (yes Robin Williams again), but I mean, it’s a great soundtrack with lots of great music (and Lawrence Welk) ==> Side note, if this isn’t on Zach’s pull list – it should be added

    2 – 2001 – never has classical music just been amazing and so perfectly set the tone of a movie

    1 – If any of you do not have this as #1, I’m flying to Kansas and going to sing this in costume on a future MSP – seriously it’s the best music sound track of ALL TIME – Blues Brothers – do I need to say more? really? OK, John and Dan wanted to make a great movie that showed the blues and they just nailed it… I love the music, I love the movie and if it’s not your #1, your insane….

    Also rans:

    The Godfather
    Purple Rain
    Sound of Music
    West Side Story
    Wizard of Oz
    The Graduate
    Iron Eagle (didn’t make top 5 because Proud Mary and Gimmie Some Lovin are not on the OST)
    and the cast of thousands more :)

  2. 5. A Lot Like Love: Okay, this movie is my ultimate guilty pleasure. It’s a typical romantic comedy played out over 10 years or so. But the gimmick also gives the soundtrack a lot of songs to pull from. From Third Eye Blind to Travis to Ray Lamontagne. This soundtrack does a great job being representative of the various time periods as well as complimenting the movie’s stress free feel.

    4. Tears Of The Sun: It’s really easy to disregard Hans Zimmer, even though he may be the most prolific score creator alive. The truth is that most of his scores all sound the same. It’s very hard to separate a lot of his scores, but I feel that this one here stands apart from the others. The use of African drums and other traditional instruments. Everything here feels very grounded in the setting of the movie and does a lot to enhance the immersion. Or at least as much immersion is possible in a movie about Navy SEALS in a jungle can be.

    3. Chocolat: This is a weird choice for me. I’ve never seen this movie, but somewhere along the line I heard this soundtrack. I can say with almost complete certainty that I had never heard Gypsy Jazz or Django Reinhardt before this soundtrack. Everything about this score was completely new to me and really opened my eyes to a whole new genre of music that I still love to this day. I now know that this soundtrack is somewhat of a watered down version of Gypsy Jazz but nonetheless invokes a good feeling and I owe it.

    2. The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring: Okay, I’ll admit it, I went through a big musical score phase in my life. I listened to a lot of them, and most of them were big bombastic orchestral pieces. I would listen to them all day and every time I felt heroic and I truly believed that my life was more epic because of them. This particular soundtrack was the pinnacle of this phase in my life. I would daydream about marching into Mordor, fighting the orcs and goblins. I thought that this is what movie soundtracks had to be.

    1. American Beauty: This is an almost complete turnaround from my number two I came to this film later in life, which is good because I doubt I’d be able to appreciate it at any point before. One of the things that immediately stuck out in my mind was the score. It was very minimalist, with a majority of it being just a singular piano with ambient noise. It completely revolutionized my opinion about what role music has in films and taught me the concept of less is more. It’s reflective, evocative and poignant at the same time without being overbearing.

  3. I’m limiting myself to soundtracks and not scores.

    5) Trainspotting (1996)
    Beautifully paired with the scenes and story.

    4) Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
    Sure it’s campy, but what other movie audience encourages you to participate?

    3) O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
    A window into the world of the movie!

    2) Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
    As a child of the 80’s, the memories and feelings this soundtrack evokes in me are simply beyond words.

    1) A Knight’s Tale (2001)
    I don’t care if the music is anachronistic. It f*cking rocks!

    Also rans:
    American Beauty (1999)
    Fantasia (1940) – and I don’t mean Sorcerer’s Apprentice
    Grease (1978)
    Grease 2 (1982) – A guilty pleasure
    High Fidelity (2000)
    Saturday Night Fever (1977)
    Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
    Transformers: The Movie (1986)

  4. 5: Lord of the Rings; a The Two Towers. Epic and memorable soundscape.

    4: It’s all Gone Pete Tong: a great soundtrack for the period before you leave for a night out, and an even greater “Daytime” disk which is perfect for the morning after.

    3: Garden State: Zach Braff’s choice of songs not only really complement the film, but are great songs in their own right.

    2: Godzilla (1998). Rage against the Machine, Jamiroquai, Page, Plant, and Puff Daddy doing an epic version of Come With Me. This soundtrack oozes cool.

    1: Romeo and Juliet (the Baz Luhrmann version). What can I say about this album. Such a range of tracks but everyone perfect for the film. Some of my favourites are Everybody’s Free, talk Show Host and Kissing You.

  5. Blues Brothers (1980) an SNL skit becomes a hit movie with Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin
    Streets of Fire (1984) a rock and roll fable (underrated movie) best listened to with the volume up
    Jungle Fever (1991) Stevie Wonder tells the entire movie in song
    The Five Heartbeats (1991) a pretty good Robert Townsend movie too
    Trespass (1992) yes there was a soundtrack AND a movie

  6. Matticus Finch on

    Ok, top five Movie Albums.

    #5 – The Mask. When this movie came out, I was 12 years old, a huge cartoon geek, weened on Weird Al and dying to listen to anything that wasn’t just another song about being in love. I got ‘The Mask’ soundtrack from the Columbia Record club (12 cassettes for a penny, can you believe that?) and, along with the movie, it latched onto my psyche and became part of me. With great songs from Brian Setzer, Harry Connick Jr., and who I later realized was not actually Big Bad Voodoo Daddy but an incredible simulations, it had horns blaring, it had a beat that you could dance to, it was not at all like what those annoying popular kids were listening too… it was a revelation.

    #4 – The Radioland Murders. When I had just moved out of my parents house and started attending college, I would frequent a local video rental place where I could get 5 movies for 5 days for 5 bucks. One day I picked up a movie called ‘The Radioland Murders’. The next week, I rented it again. The same thing happened the next week. I know that this movie is not good. It has gaping plot holes inside its plot holes. But I love it unconditionally. It is about life and death in an old time radio studio and a murder mystery takes place against the backdrop of the music, drama, and comedy that happens on the actual radio broadcast that they are putting on in more or less real time. The mood of the scenes shift as the shows and commercials that are on the air change. This soundtrack sparked my love of old-timey music that persists to this day. Oh, produced by George Lucas.

    #3 – Jurassic Park. I have to go with Rodrigo on this one. Even with all of the great scores that John Williams has written, this is by far my favorite. I still remember one night, driving through the fog with this cassette tape playing. It reached the end, flipped over, and started playing that first track from the beginning of the movie, with the super creepy BOOM-aaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH part. I had to eject it and listen to something else because I was starting to see imaginary dinosaur heads reaching out of the mist at me. Either that or I was in a lousy Stephen King movie. I forget.

    #2 – LIttle Shop of Horrors. “When I was younger, just a bad little kid, my Mama noticed funny things I did. Like shooting puppies with a BB gun. I’d poison guppies, and when I was done? I’d find a pussy-cat and bash in it’s head! That’s when my Mama said. What did she say? She said, “My boy I think someday. You’ll find a way. To make you natural tendencies pay. You’ll be a dentist.” Need I go on? Ok, fine, ‘Skid Row’, ‘Da-doo’, ‘Feed Me’, ‘Suddenly Seymour’… every song in this movie is infinitely singable, fun, funny, and unforgettable. Why don’t you already have it?

    #1 – My number 1 movie album of all-time I am counting as a movie album because it did air at least once on PBS and is nearly 3 hours long and therefore counts as a movie even though it is really just a play that they filmed… is “Into the Woods”. Stephen Sondheim’s absolute masterpiece of a musical. My Dad taped this off of PBS when I was around 7 years old so that he could show parts of it to his students in Summer School. I enjoyed it when I was 7 and probably didn’t watch it again until I was 12 or 13 at which point it BLEW OPEN MY BRAIN. Now, every time I listen to this soundtrack, I get something more out of it than I did the last time and I wander around in a haze for at least a few hours making new connections with the metaphors and the characters. I am really hoping that the Disney version of this play which is coming out this Christmas will still have some of the effect, even though they are cutting out some of the most poignant songs (basically taking out some of its teeth) and will encourage some to go back and watch the old 1980’s version with Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason.

    And that is my top 5. Some also-rans:
    Ghostbusters II soundtrack (much better than you’d think, according to 12 year old me)
    The Sound of Music
    Nearly any Warner Brother’s Cartoon
    Mary Poppins
    Gosford Park
    The Muppets
    Muppet Christmas Carol
    On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
    Paris je ti’ame
    Return to Me
    The Producers
    Wonder Boys

  7. 5. The Warriors, particularly the Barry Vorzan tracks: The Warriors Theme, The Fight, and the Baseball Furies Chase. Those tracks perfectly establish the weird mood of the film with their heaviness, mixed with the dreamy electronic/synthesizer sound. Then you have several groovy tracks filled with great 70s chicka wacka guitars. And the cherry on top is Joe Walsh’s ‘In The City’ the final song in the film, it rolls over the credits, but it’s the perfect end to their epic journey musically and lyrically.

    4. Hi Fidelity – Great jukebox soundtrack with stuff from all over the place including a fantastic cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ by Jack Black. A movie in large part about the importance of music in our lives, set in a record store by a guy who obsessively makes Top Five lists. How could I NOT include this one.

    3. Oh Brother Where Art Thou – I love the Coen Brothers. They masterfully use music in all their films, but this one I listen to as a stand alone record. Great, sing-along songs.

    2. Rushmore – A movie about an angry young man in a jacket features music from angry young men in jackets. Lots of great British Invasion tracks by the Kinks, the Who, and John Lennon, as well as lesser known acts like Creation and the Faces. Mix that with Mark Mothersbaugh’s interstitial pieces and this Soundtrack is guaranteed to elicit a certain set of emotions from me.

    1. This is Spinal Tap – The music from the funniest movie ever about Rock ‘n Roll was intended as a parody of the ridiculous excess of heavy metal. It barely managed to stay parody, though, as it shared a song title, ‘Heavy Duty’ with a song on Judas Priest’s ‘Defenders of the Faith’ released the same year. Stonehenge, Rock ‘N Roll Creation and Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight, are all pretty damned good metal songs in their own right, and while funny as hell, the This is Spinal Tap soundtrack also managed to be one of my favorite metal records from 1984. Genius.

  8. Here are my top 5 scores

    1. Star Wars
    2. Superman
    3. Annie
    4. Ben Hur
    5. Phantom of the Opera
    6. Popeye (everything is food!!!!!!)
    7. Footloose
    8. Dirty Dancing
    9. Rocky III

  9. Frederick, aka Darth Macho on

    You guys covered a lot of my choices. Great podcast and excellent topic.

    Here are my favorites:

    5. Jurassic Park (1993): A dinosaur epic needed a majestic score, and they nailed it.

    4. The Little Mermaid (1989): My favorite Disney animated movie, we played “Kiss the Girl” at our wedding.

    3. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003): It’s funny that so little emphasis was placed on the song from the classic ride, yet they outdid themselves with the score.

    2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): The music ties in so perfectly with the story and the character.

    1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980): From the upbeat tempo accompanying a snow speeder across the tundra of Hoth, to the sad romantic interlude on Cloud City, the music is perfect throughout, but no song in any movie is as epic as the Imperial March, which emphasizes the awesome that is Darth Vader in this movie.

    Honorable Mentions: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Lion King, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, Beetlejuice…

  10. This was a tough one because back in the 70s and 80s I used to buy movie sound tracks on vinyl because there were so many great movie soundtracks. It was hard to limit it to only five, but here goes.
    #5: Live and Let Die. Let’s face it – if it wasn’t for all the naked ladies prancing around in silhouette, the majority of James Bond opening numbers were utterly forgettable – but I find myself humming Live and Let Die forty years later! It’s only number 5 because the rest of the movie music was pretty standard stuff.
    #4: Jerry Goldsmith’s Klingon Theme from most of the Star Trek movies. Okay, admittedly, he retreaded this theme from a different sci-fi soundtrack he had scored – was it Battle Beyond the Stars? But from the first Dah-dum Da-Dum Da Da Da Dum ticky ticky ticky ticky ticky it got my blood stirring. Even if you didn’t know the first thing about Klingons, that motif told you that you were dealing with some total hard cases who weren’t about to take any guff from anybody!
    #3: This was a hard one. I was torn between Raiders of the Lost Arc, That Thing You Do and Skyfall for this one, but since I already picked a James Bond one and several of you already picked ROTLA, I’ll go with That Thing You Do. Classic late 50s early 60s rock and roll! You hadda be there – and I was!
    #2: Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It would be hard to find any music that ever fit a movie better. Nuff said!
    #1: Carter Burwell’s soundtrack to True Grit. If you ignore the fact that the gospel song this is based on was written twenty years after the time of the movie, you can’t beat this one. He used “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and deconstructed the tune and used bits and pieces of it to portray suspense, excitement, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, adventure and everything inbetween. This was the first movie soundtrack album I have purchased in over twenty years, which tells you how much I liked it.

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