60. Guardian’s Of The Galaxy. Released: 2014. Featuring:Bowie and The Runaways. Why It’s Good The film’s hero Star-Lord carries a Walkman with his Awesome Mix Vol.1 featuring classic rock. Director James Gunn told NME: “All the songs were written into the script and baked into the story – which is what makes it work so well.”
Credit: Universal Music
59. Drive. Released: 2011. Featuring: Cliff Martinez. Why it’s good: The former Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer merged ’80s synth sounds with up-to-date electro for this sexy, brooding score. Haunting and intense it mirrors the mindset of Ryan Gosling’s stuntman turned get-away driver and lingers in your mind long after the film has finished.
58. The Great Gatsby. Released: 2013. Featuring: Jay-Z, Jack White, Lana Del Rey, The xx. Why it’s good: Baz Luhrmann divided opinion with Gatsby‘s soundtrack. Purists were baffled by his decision to blend ’20s tracks with hip hop – “what do you mean ‘flappers dancing to Jay-Z’?!”. Ultimately it’s a powerful backdrop to his decadent take on the story.
57 Tron. Released: 2010. Featuring: Daft Punk. Why it’s good: It’s the all-encompassing result of mixing the duo’s dancefloor expertise with the drama of a 100-piece orchestra. As we said when the film came out: “commissioning Daft Punk to do the soundtrack for Tron Legacy is perhaps the best idea that anyone within the Disney Corporation has had”.
56. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Released: 2012. Featuring: The Smiths, Sonic Youth and David Bowie. Why it’s good: Compiled by Alexandra Patsavas, listening to the Perks soundtrack means immersing yourself in the world of a music-obsessed early ’90s teen. It’s a perfect fit for a coming-of-age tale about mixtapes, first-dances and “good music”.
55. Spring Breakers. Released: 2012. Featuring: Cliff Martinez, Skrillex and James Franco. Why it’s good: Ominous and unsettling, Cliff Martinez and Skrillex’s instrumentals captured that ‘oh-my-god I’ve lost my friends I’m going to be stuck in this club forever’ feeling. It’s the perfect tone for a girls-gone-wild-gone-horribly-wrong movie.
54. Hanna. Released: 2011. Featuring: The Chemical Brothers. Why it’s good: With sirens, hip hop samples and Middle Eastern details, The Chemical Brothers composed a creeping industrial score that trickles as an eery undercurrent beneath the story of Hanna, a teenager trained to become assassin by her father.
53. Pretty in Pink. Released: 1986. Featuring: New Order, The Psychedelic Furs and The Smiths. Why it’s good: Headed up by a remake of ‘Pretty In Pink’, what would an ’80s ‘alt girl wins’ teen film be without a songlist of cult rock tracks? From ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’ to ‘Do Wot You Do’ and ‘Bring on the Dancing Horses’, it’s a nostalgic treat.
52. Inside Llewyn Davis. Released: 2013. Featuring: Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Nancy Blake. Why it’s good: Not only is Inside Llewyn Davis about a folk singer, it also features Justin Timberlake – was there ever a risk of its soundtrack being anything less than delicious? Highlights include an unreleased studio version of Dylan’s ‘Farewell’.
51. Slumdog Millionaire. Released: 2008. Featuring: A. R. Rahman and MIA Why it’s good: Mysterious instrumentals, Bollywood numbers, MIA’s thumping ‘Paper Planes’ and of course ‘Jai Ho’ (let’s forget the Pussycat Dolls version); Rahman’s energetic soundtrack painted the final brush strokes of Danny Boyle’s vibrant image of Mumbai.
49. 127 Hours. Released: 2011. Featuring: A. R. Rahman. Why it’s good: the hyper-real intensity of Danny Boyle’s rock-jumpin’, leg-sawin’ true-life film is made all the more unnerving by Rahman’s plangent Oscar-nominated score. Dido and Rollo Armstrong contributed lyrics to one of the songs, ‘If I Rise’. This too was nominated for an Oscar, for Best Original Song.
48. 500 Days Of Summer. Released: 2009. Featuring: The Temper Trap, Hall & Oates, Doves. Why it’s good: OK, the film is unbearably cheesy at times, but they nailed it with the soundtrack, a warm-and-fuzzy combo of indie classics (‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’) and chiming contemporary anthems (‘Sweet Disposition’).
47. Black Swan. Released: 2011. Featuring: Clint Mansell. Why it’s good: Who’d have thought that bloke from 90s grebo types Pop Will East Itself would end up scoring one of the most acclaimed films of the year? He might have won an Oscar, too, if the classical elements hadn’t disqualified him. Also notable for an intense club scene soundtracked by The Chemical Brothers.
46. Blackboard Jungle. Released: 1955. Featuring: Bill Haley & His Comets. This social commentary film set in an inner-city school is not remarkable in itself, but since it featured Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock’ – exposing the song to a mass audience for a first time, and propelling it to Number One i America – the film can be credited with “breaking” rock and roll.
44. Dancer In The Dark. Released: 2000. Featuring: Bjork. Why it’s good: Not content with playing the lead role in Lars Von Trier’s dense and challenging film, Bjork also co-authored the classical-tinged soundtrack. The song ‘I’ve Seen It All’, with Thom Yorke, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song.
43. Easy Rider. Released: 1969. Featuring: Steppenwolf, The Byrds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Why it’s good: Would this road movie be remembered as such a classic were it not for its musical accompaniment? It’s essentially a roll-call of the greatest rock anthems of the late ’60s: ‘Born To Be Wild’, ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’, ‘The Weight’.
42. Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Released: 2008. Featuring: Vampire Weekend, Devendra Banhart. Why it’s good: Music was obviously crucial to this romantic comedy: screenwriter Lorene Scafaria even submitted a CD compilation with her original script. The end result was just a really good indie-rock mixtape – to sit alongside a film with bags of charm.
Credit: Debbie Smyth
40. Shaft. Released: 1971. Featuring: Isaac Hayes. Why it’s good: Of all the great Blaxploitation soundtracks to emerge in the 70s, this is the one everybody remembers. The Theme From Shaft, with its wah-wah intro, is now cinematic shorthand for a certain kind of atmospheric cool, referenced endlessly in TV and film.
39. Greenberg. Released: 2010. Featuring: James Murphy. Why it’s good: This low-key comedy drama starring Ben Stiller and Rhys Ifans is rescued from mediocrity by James ‘LCD Soundystem’ Murphy’s score. He didn’t write all the songs – he also picked a few choice tracks by his favourite bands, such as Galaxie 500, The Sonics, and Duran Duran.
38. There Will Be Blood. Released: 2007. Featuring: Jonny Greenwood. Why it’s good: Paul Thomas Anderson commissioned Radiohead’s guitarist to score the film after hearing Greenwood’s solo track ‘Popcorn Superhet Receiver’. The resulting score ended up being nominated for a Grammy. Greenwood describes it as “orchestral music that’s slightly sinister.”
37. Where The Wild Things Are. Released: 2009. Featuring: Karen O And The Kids. Why it’s good: This adaptation of a children’s book called for music with a sense of wonderment – and Karen O delivered, recruiting collaborators such as Bradford Cox (Deerhunter) and Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner to create a soundtrack that works as an album in its own right.
36. Kill Bill. Released: 2003. Featuring: Nancy Sinatra, Isaac Hayes, The RZA. Why it’s good: Say what you like about Quentin Tarantino’s hyperactive films, the man knows how to assemble a good soundtrack. It’s full of great moments, but the highlight has to be Tomoyasu Hotei’s stirring ‘Battle Without Honour Or Humanity’, which plays over O-Ren Ishii’s entrance scene.
35. Marie Antoinette. Released: 2006. Featuring: New Order, The Strokes, Adam And The Ants. Why it’s good: A pretty terrible film, redeemed by a beautifully curated, anachronistic post-punk/electronic soundtrack. In fact you’d probably enjoy Sofia Coppola’s movie more if you were blind-folded throughout.
32. Pulp Fiction. Released: 1994. Featuring: Al Green, Neil Diamond, Chuck Berry. Why it’s good: From Samuel L Jackson (back when he starred in good movies) holding forth on the merits of the royale with cheese to Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ and of course the Chuck Berry track from the iconic dance scene, this was full of delights.
31. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Released: 2007. Featuring: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis. Why it’s good: Along with their work for 2005’s The Proposition and 2009’s The Road the Grinderman duo cement their reputation as the go-to guys for desolate, austere noises for movies.
30. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Released: 2004. Featuring: Jon Brion, E.L.O., The Polyphonic Spree. Why it’s good: Michel Gondry’s mind-expandingly profound film demanded an intelligent soundtrack to match. The highlight? Beck and Jon Brion’s whispery cover version of the Korgis’ ‘Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime’.
29. The Royal Tenenbaums. Released: 2001. Featuring: Mark Mothersbaugh. Why it’s good: The Devo lynchpin’s original tracks were peppered amongst some of the best songs of the last four decades. Nico, Bob Dylan, The Clash, The Ramones and The Velvet Underground are part of the credible line-up for Wes Anderson’s odd tale.
27. The Straight Story. Released: 1999. Featuring: Angelo Badalamenti. Why it’s good: This is one of David Lynch’s least Lynchian films, so it makes sense that his favourite composer Angelo Badalamenti deviated from his trademark jazzy style, opting for a melancholy folk mood that perfectly complements the film’s low-key beauty.
26. Romeo + Juliet. Released: 1996. Featuring: The Cardigans, Radiohead. Why it’s good: So mid-nineties it actually opens with a Garbage track, the Romio + Juliet soundtrack was matching indie acts to emotional scenes way before Twilight. The Cardigans’ ‘Lovefool’ and Radiohead’s best ever B-side, ‘Talk Show Host’, were particular highlights.
22. Goodfellas. Released: 1990. Featuring: Shangri-Las, Aretha Franklin. Why it’s good: So important is music to this epic movie, Martin Scorsese actually wrote some of the songs in at the scripting stage. It’s girl-group heaven, though a shame that the song that soundtracks the famous ‘enter the club’ scene – The Crystals’ ‘Then He Kissed Me’ – is not on the album.
21. Empire Records. Released: 1995. Featuring: Edwyn Collins, The Cranberries, Cracker. Why it’s good: Not a huge hit at the time, this likeable film about record store employees has grown into a cult favourite over time. Its soundtrack – a grab-bag of scuzzy 90s indie-rock tunes – has a lot to do with that.
20. The Social Network. Released: 2010. Featuring: Trent Reznor. Why it’s good: The Golden Globe and the Oscar were well deserved. Nine Inch Nails man Trent Reznor created a cutting edge soundscape perfect for the tale of ambition and backstabbing. Grieg also crops up halfway through, which is nice.
19. This Is Spinal Tap. Released: 1984. Featuring: Spinal Tap. Why it’s good: Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest’s true achievement wasn’t in creating the greatest spoof movie of all time, but in recording an LP of bona fide rock classics to go with it. ‘Hell Hole’, ‘Tonight I’m Going To Rock You Tonight’, ‘Big Bottom’ – The Darkness this ain’t.
18. The Graduate. Released: 1968. Featuring: Simon & Garfunkel. Why it’s good: While ‘The Sound Of Silence’ opens the LP, it’s the ode to older women ‘Mrs Robinson’ that really went on to define the album. It’s since featured in numerous other flicks from ‘Forrest Gump’ to ‘The Holiday’ and has been covered (well) by The Lemonheads and (badly) by Bon Jovi.
14. The Breakfast Club. Released: 1985. Featuring: Simple Minds. Why it’s good: This couldn’t be more 80s if it came wrapped in pink legwarmers. Opening with Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, the soundtrack to arguably John Hughes’ best film was the work of Keith Forsey (who also produced the soundtracks to Flashdance and Beverley Hills Cop II).
12. Purple Rain. Released: 1984. Featuring: Prince. Why it’s good: Platinum 13 times over and frequently cited as one of the best albums ever – let alone soundtrack album – Prince’s sixth album saw him progress from funk and R&B into pop (albeit twisted, spacey pop). ‘When Doves Cry’ is still one of his top three tracks.
11. The Virgin Suicides. Released: 2000. Featuring: Air. Why it’s good: While the soundtrack itself wasn’t too bad (and featured Heart and Todd Rundgren), Air’s trippy and lethargic score was an astonishing piece of work that stands up as one of their best albums period. Phoenix’s Thomas Mars provided vocals for ‘Playground Love’.
10. The Blues Brothers. Released: 1980. Featuring: The Blues Brothers. Why it’s good: While Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi honour hits from the likes of Steve Winwood and Elvis with panache, it’s the appearances from Aretha Franklin and James Brown that make this album. You don’t get that pedigree on Shrek.
9. Reservoir Dogs. Released: 1992. Featuring: Stealers Wheel Why it’s good: ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ was as much a fixture of student dorms in the nineties as Che Guevara, but the likes of Sandy Rogers and some judicious snippets from the film itself really shaped this into a landmark soundtrack.
8. Clockwork Orange. Released: 1972. Featuring: Wendy Carlos. Why it’s good: Stanley Kubrick’s ultra-dark reinterpretation of Anthony Burgess’ seminal novel needed a suitably twisted soundtrack, and Wendy Carlos (credited as Walter as the album was released before her sex change op) provided a distorted and synthesised take on classical greats.
7. Blade Runner. Released: 1992. Featuring: Vangelis. Why it’s good: Vangelis’ darkwave synthesizers lent an uncanny power to Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, but fans would have to wait a full decade for the soundtrack to be officially released. Since then it’s become a key reference for bands: Editors and Glasvegas are among the acts who have tried to mimic its icy textures.
5. Garden State. Released: 2004. Featuring: Simon & Garfunkel, Iron And Wine, Nick Drake. Why it’s good: You can probably trace the explosion of cutesy indie-folk bands (Noah & The Whale, Mumford etc) back to Zach Braff’s influential cult classic, which deployed acoustic music to devastating emotional effect.
4. Natural Born Killers. Released: 1994. Featuring: Nine Inch Nails, Cowboy Junkies, Bob Dylan. Why it’s good: Soundtrack co-producer Trent Reznor watched the film over 50 times to “get in the mood”, before assembling a cacophony of competing styles, ranging from his own industrial rock, through to Leonard Cohen and L7. The result was as heavy and deranged as the film.
3. Trainspotting. Released: 1996. Featuring: Iggy Pop Why it’s good: It’s hard to visualise Ewan McGregor being chased down a street without ‘Lust For Life’ playing in your head, while Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ – and its “lager, lager” chants – encapsulated the thril of getting wasted, while Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ was deployed to devasting effect.
2. Dazed And Confused. Released: 1993. Featuring: Various guitar heroes. Why it’s good: Foghat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple – the archetypal high school stoner movie was built on classic rock foundations, pulling off the neat trick of making you nostalgic for an era you (most likely) never even lived through.
1. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Released: 1992. Featuring: Angelo Badalamenti. Why it’s good: Combining plangent beauty with a kind of clanking evil jazz, this is one of those endlessly evocative soundtracks that takes up residence in your subconscious and never leaves. Listen to the theme online.