Every single one of Cameron Crowe's films has an excellent soundtrack, but this is definitely my favorite. I spun the shit out of this all through high school--knee deep in everything grunge at the time, this soundtrack perfectly captures the Seattle alt rock scene and the twenty-somethings that were living it. There's nary a weak spot on the album--from Paul Westerberg's "Dyslexic Heart" and "Waiting for Somebody" to Pearl Jam's "State of Love and Trust" and "Breath," and outstanding tracks from Chris Cornell, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, Mother Love Bone, Smashing Pumpkins, Mudhoney, The Lovemongers and, yes, Jimi Hendrix, the Singles soundtrack still stands as the benchmark of all soundtracks.
2. VELVET GOLDMINE
Todd Haynes' semi-fictitious chronicle of all things '70s Glam Rock boasts one of the greatest collections of covers and originals of the era, and a killer house band to boot. That band--The Venus in Furs--is comprised of Suede's Bernard Butler, David Gray's drummer Clune, Paul Kimble of Grant-Lee Buffalo, Andy Mackay of Roxy Music, and Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood and Thom Yorke, and they put their stamp on Roxy's "2HB" and "Ladytron," and Eno's "Baby on Fire." The album also features great tracks by Shudder to Think, Pulp, T-Rex, Lou Reed, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Teenage Fanclub, Brian Eno and Iggy Pop-esque Wylde Ratttz (featuring Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore).
3. THE LAST WALTZ
THE greatest concert film ever (argue with me, fine, but I won't budge) boats one of the best soundtracks ever. The Martin Scorsese film captured the last performance by The Band at Winterland in San Francisco, and boasts an all-star lineup of friends performing their own as well as The Band's music. Neil Young, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, The Staples Singers, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, and Bob Dylan are all on-hand for this tremendous, unmatched night of music. Seek out the 4 disc uncut version, and crank up the Blu-Ray disc of the film for pure audio ecstasy.
That Wes Anderson sure likes his music--his soundtracks are always full of great, semi-obscure tracks that are staples in most audiophiles collections. Highlights include Creation's "Making Time," The Faces' "Ooh La La," Chad & Jeremy's "A Summer Song," and The Kinks' "Nothing in The World Can Stop Me Worryin' About That Girl." Honorable mention to The Life Aquatic soundtrack, which features Seu Jorge's takes on David Bowie classics, all sung in Portuguese.
5. PUMP UP THE VOLUME
Christian Slater's underground radio DJ sure played some great, GREAT music. One of the seminal soundtracks of the early '90s, it features Concrete Blonde's killer cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows"; The Pixies UK Surf version of "Wave of Mutilation"; Bad Brains and Henry Rollins' "Kick out the Jams"; Soundgarden's "Heretic," and the thrash classic "Titanium Expose" by Sonic Youth. Still holds up fantastically today.
6. THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE
Miserable remake, awesome world soundtrack. Director Jonathan Demme held up completion of the film for a year to find the appropriate musical backdrop to his international thriller, and the work at least shows in the music. Highlights include "Mr. Kennedy" by The Soft Boys, "Les Enfants Purdus" by Angelique Kidjo, "Mentira" by Manu Chao, "Epoca" by Gotan Project, "Sous Le Soleil Exactement" by Anna Karina, and "It's a Wonderful Life" by Sparklehorse. An adventurous, rewarding listening experience. Oh, and don't miss late director Ted Demme's tongue-in-cheek reggae homage "Bigga Man."
7. UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD
Wim Wenders has also said that American rock music is one of his main inspirations when he makes movies, and all of his soundtracks prove this. Outside of his terrific collaborations with Ry Cooder, Until the End of the World is his strongest overall musical offering. With previously unreleased tracks from Depeche Mode, R.E.M., and Elvis Costello working hand in hand with amazing tracks by Nick Cave, Lou Reed, T-Bone Burnett, and Talking Heads, it creates a spectacular other-worldly mood. Bonus points for including gorgeous ballad "Calling All Angels" by Jane Siberry with K.D. Lang.
8. HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
This one is a little bit of a sticky wicket, as most of the songs were composed by Stephen Trask and performed by star John Cameron Mitchell (who starred in the original Off-Broadway musical), it's still an addictive, glam-rock soundtrack experience. "The Origin of Love," "Wig in a Box" and "Midnight Radio" are prime sing-a-longs, and "Wicked Little Town" often ends up on repeat in my player (the Tommy Gnosis version).
9. PRETTY IN PINK
All of John Hughes' '80s films had fantastic new-wave rock soundtracks, but Pretty in Pink boasts the best lineup of them all. The Psychedelic Furs' title track was the actual inspiration for the film--and the soundtrack also features Echo & The Bunnymen, New Order, INXS, Joe Jackson and the underscore for the big dance, OMD's "If You Leave."
10. EVERYTHING'S GONE GREEN
"What the hell is this?," you may be thinking. What the hell it is is this: a fantastic collection of Canadian Indie-music. With a handful of songs from fairly established artists (Jason Collett of Broken Social Scene, Black Mountain, Sloan, Caribou) to lesser-known bands (Raised by Swans, Hawaii, Andre Ethier, The Golden Dogs), it also features one of my favorite songs of the last decade: Final Fantasy's "The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead."
11. HIGH FIDELITY
While John Cusack's character would be pissed this didn't make Top 5, it's a great, eclectic mix of contemporary (Beta Band, Stereolab) and classic rock (Bob Dylan, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Velvet Underground, Stevie Wonder), the kind that line the shelves of every snobby record store employee (like...me).
12. THE LOST BOYS
Joel Schumacher's teen vamp flick was one of my favorite movies as a youngster, and the soundtrack had a lot to do with it. Lou Gramm's "Lost in the Shadows" is a bit of a co-title track with Gerard McMann's "Cry Little Sister (Theme From The Lost Boys)," and both leave lasting impressions. Echo & The Bunnymen offer up a cover of The Doors' "People Are Strange," and Tim Cappello's "I Still Believe" is unforgettable (but mostly because of its use in the film, where a greased-up, long-haired rocker donning a snake rocks a saxophone solo on the Santa Cruz boardwalk). One thing I've always hated about that town--all those damn vampires.
13. PULP FICTION
Music nerd (and all around irritating cinemaphile) Quentin Tarantino put together one of the best-selling soundtracks of all-time in Pulp Fiction, combining classic soul, surf guitar and other fun oddities into one listening experience. Most will recall Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man," or Dick Dale's "Misrilou," or maybe Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," or Urge Overkill's cover of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon." Zed's dead, baby.
14. MALCOLM X
Spike Lee's uneven but ultimately epic bio-pic of the great Malcolm X often has its superior soundtrack overlooked. Yes, it's got a then-timely Arrested Development track, but it also sports Junior Walker's "Shotgun," The Ink Spots' "My Prayer," Louis Jordan's "Beans and Cornbread," and Billie Holiday's "Big Stuff." Great classic jazz, soul and standards.
15. NATURAL BORN KILLERS
Oliver Stone's movie might have been sensory overload, but it's soundtrack plays like a cool, calm journey. Leonard Cohen's "Waiting For The Miracle" starts things off on a somber, sinister note, and other highs include The Cowboy Junkies cover of Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane," Bob Dylan's "You Belong to Me," and a bunch of tracks by Nine Inch Nails.
16. PURPLE RAIN
Prince's masterpiece--it would be a truly GREAT soundtrack if it featured tracks from Morris Day and the Time and Apollonia. Still, it has "Let's Go Crazy," "When Doves Cry," "Darling Nikki" and the infamous title track.
17. BETTER OFF DEAD
This may seem like an unusual choice to include, but this soundtrack has also stuck with me. From Rupert Hine's score and tracks "With One Look" and "Arrested By You" the primary attractions here, it also has great contributions from Howard Jones, Martin Ansell, Teri Nunn, and E.G. Daily (Dottie from Pee Wee's Big Adventure!)
18. DAZED AND CONFUSED
Richard Linklater's '70s high school flick is already a contemporary classic, and it's soundtrack is the perfect collection of classic stoner rock. Alice Cooper, Sweet, The Runaways, Deep Purple, ZZ Top and Black Sabbath are all on display here. The follow up collection, Even More Dazed and Confused, is worth getting as well.
19. THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT
Guy Pearce, Hugo Weaving and Terence Stamp are all phenomenal in the film, but they'd be nothing without these great tracks to lyp-sync to. Forgotten songs like Paper Lace's "Billy Don't Be a Hero" and R.B. Greaves' "Take a Letter Maria" go hand-in-hand with popular disco and pop favorites like Vanessa Williams' "Save the Best For Last" and Abba's "Mamma Mia" for a truly boisterous hour of music.
20. THE CROW
Brandon Lee's swan-song was this dark, fun gothic comic-book tale with an incredible lineup of '90s alt rockers to score it, from Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Rage Against the Machine and Stone Temple Pilots. It was definitely a dorm-room favorite back in the day.
21. SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
You've got to be in a certain mood, for sure, to enjoy this, but there is a reason it's one of the best selling soundtracks of all time. The Bee Gee's dancefloor classic, it features "How Deep is Your Love," "Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive," alongside other disco hits like Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You" and Tavares' "More Than A Woman."
22. THIS IS SPINAL TAP
Chris Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer make a convincing pseudo hardrock band, as shown in Rob Reiner's brilliant mockumentary. They are more than musically adept on their convincingly terrible songs like "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You," "Big Bottom," "Sex Farm," and, my personal favorite, "Stonehenge" (a song in danger of being trampled by a dwarf).
23. JUDGMENT NIGHT
An ambitious experiment, teaming up one grunge act with hip hopper per song (with totally mixed results), the soundtrack to Judgment Night might not have totally worked, but it's a fascinating listen none-the-less. The good: Helmet & House of Pain's "Just Another Victim," Teenage Fanclub & De La Soul's "Fallin'," Dinosaur Jr. & Del The Funky Homosapien's "Missing Link." The bad: Biohazard & Onyx's "Judgment Night," and Therapy? & Fatal's Come and Die. Oh, and Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill are on hand as well.
24. NAKED IN NEW YORK
Another weird selection by me, but another soundtrack I used to spin over and over again. The film had limited life on video, but the soundtrack sports good '90s alt rock from little known bands like The Greenberry Woods, Rheostatics, Tripmaster Monkey, The Ocean Blue and The Judybats. Give it a listen--you just may like it more than you'd like to admit.
25. WICKER PARK
WHY this, of all movies, would have a cool, indie-rock soundtrack is beyond me, but it does. Stereophonics, Snow Patrol, Death Cab For Cutie, Mates of State, The Shins, Broken Social Scene, The Stills and Mogwai all appear, and The Postal Service's cover of Phil Collin's "Against All Odds" is a must-have.
The Last Unicorn
and many, many more...feel free to post some of your favorites in the comments!