We wanted to give one last shout out to The Man With the Iron Fists soundtrack before we shut up about it (at least until the end of the year lists), so thought we could dig into other movie soundtracks and come up with a list of our favorites. I’m sure to some of our reader’s dismay, we decided to implement a couple rules.
Rule #1: No musicals. Yes, there are a lot of great musicals put on film that maintain great soundtracks. It is a little difficult to distinguish composed musicals from pop music though. Don’t worry, musicals will get their own list one day, and Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and The Sound of Music will be honored. We just all need to see Book of Mormon first.
Rule #2: No film scores. Sorry John Williams and James Horner, but today is not your day. Once again, we wanted to parse this list down to something a bit more manageable (and believe me, it still wasn’t manageable). Film scores will also have their day.
Without further ado, hit the jump, and feel free to comment on what we missed, mistakenly included, or anything else that comes to mind.
Wes Anderson, along with Tarantino and Cameron Crowe, are the three directors to get movies on this list whose work always includes a killer soundtrack. They just have a way with using music, and Rushmore is no different. The collection includes a few big names like The Who and The Kinks, but is dominated by the music of Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh to great success.
9. The Wackness
Before 50/50 made director Jonathon Levine a critical darling by making cancer funny, The Wackness almost made Levine a critical darling by sending Josh Peck and Ben Kingsley roaming around NYC peddling weed out of an ice cream cart. The movie is good, but doesn’t meet the greatness of the predominantly hip-hop soundtrack. Notorious, Biz Markie, and Tribe highlight this flawless collection.
8. Super Fly
Super Fly is the name, and blaxploitation is the game. The sweet and socially conscious sounds of Curtis Mayfield grace the entire soundtrack for Super Fly, making this ostensibly just his third studio album in addition to a soundtrack. Let’s just say the effect of the music from Super Fly dwarfs the any lasting effects the film may have.
7. American Graffiti
American Graffiti features mostly 50’s music, and all songs under three minutes long. That is just the way they did it back then, and this soundtrack packs twenty-one of the best 50’s tracks onto one singular album. Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and The Platters highlight an album without a weak track to speak of.
6. Hard Day’s Night
This dropped a lot on the list because of confusion over whether or not it should be considered a soundtrack. Technically it is, but I ask myself whether or not A Hard Day’s Night (the movie) would exist without A Hard Day’s Night (the album). My answer: No. So, this great album took a hit as a soundtrack because of the questionable merits of the film itself. There ya have it.
5. Vanilla Sky
Vanilla Sky is one of those very mature movies that I think all of us saw at a very young age. There were a lot of adult themes, which we didn’t really understand, but were also intrigued by (no, I’m not talking about killing somebody during sex). This ushering into adulthood came to the tune of a Cameron Crowe soundtrack, featuring the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sigur Ros, and Radiohead.
4. Black Snake Moan
This delta blues compendium accompanies one of the most underrated movies of the past twenty years, Black Snake Moan. Nothing beats filthy blues while a religious black man chains a young white nympho to a radiator in order to purge her of her desire to sin. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t quite catch on, but the soundtrack is positively timeless.
3. Pulp Fiction
The music of Pulp Fiction was featured heavily in one of our past Top Ten lists, Tarantino’s Ten Triumphs. Not only are songs like “Misirlou”, “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”, and “You Can Never Tell” great songs, but they accompany iconic moments in cinema. That is kind of Tarantino’s forte though, and we all look forward to Django Unchained to see what undervalued songs Tarantino mines from the past next.
2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
“Man of Constant Sorrow” was the runaway crowd-pleaser, but the rest of O Brother, Where Art Thou‘s soundtrack was great as well. The Soggy Bottom Boys were joined by Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, and Harry McClintock for a folky American classic of a soundtrack. The Coen Brothers can join the other three directors mentioned above as guys that know how to pick ’em.
1. Purple Rain
I’m gonna save your breath for you. No, the same argument I just made against Hard Day’s Night does not apply here. Purple Rain would have existed without the album, and just replaced the immaculate Prince soundtrack with other 80’s classics. But, Prince wanted to be a superstar and do it his own weird way. “Let’s Go Crazy”, “When Doves Cry”, and “Purple Rain” are the mega-hits, but the album as a whole is maybe Prince’s most solid work to date.
Todd – Boogie Nights
Todd is like the polar opposite to Dirk Diggler, more baby carrot than grandaddy cucumber. But, while out in Tinseltown he did find his fair share of Rollergirls and cocaine, while groovin’ to same sounds as Diggler such as Marvin Gaye, The Commodores, and ELO. Those days may be over, but there is one quote that sums up Todd’s time in L.A.: “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you think….and it’ll make you laugh some more. Spinal Tap is a great Christopher Guest intro with a great hard-rock metal soundtrack to move the entire project along. Two cheers to Wes for not being a slave to the classics and demanding Yellow Submarine, or whatever film Wilco scores in the future.
Austin – Man With the Iron Fists
This soundtrack is phenomenal, and if this movie is any good whatsoever, it should threaten to crack this list at some point in the near future. Combining the biggest personality in Rap (Kanye), the biggest personalities in rock (The Black Keys), and a lot of solid to great Wu-Tang Clan makes for a killer album. And making it all better is that every track is original, made for the movie.