Cinema’s Best Soundtracks

A few weeks ago, the much-anticipated Tron: Legacy soundtrack from Daft Punk — a.k.a. those two French dudes in robot helmets — hit shelves everywhere. The critical reaction to Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter’s work? Some hate it, some love it. But regardless, the release got us thinking so we gathered a collection of our favorite motion picture soundtracks or scores in cinema history.

Tron: Legacy is out this weekend on December 17.

The Graduate (1967)

Director: Mike Nichols

Music by Simon & Garfunkel

At the end of The Graduate, as Benjamin grabs Elaine, we witness a protagonist broken by frustration but overtaken by hope. They finally escape, and in that moment of relaxation, as “Sounds of Silence” chimes in, Benjamin crashes — identifying with his own realization that he doesn’t know what the hell to do, he didn’t grow up and he’s the same fearful 20-year-old as before. Subtract the song? You’re left with an empty, emotionless scene. So here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson — for breaking Benjamin. We really do love you more than you’ll ever know.

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Director: Richard Lester

Music by The Beatles

Sure, throwing The Beatles on the list may seem like an easy cop-out, but sometimes you just need to take a moment and recognize that there’s a reason the Fab Four are widely regarded to be one of the greatest bands the world has ever known. Because, quite simply, they are fucking awesome. A Hard Day’s Night captured Beatlemania at its highest point and showed off what the group did best: music.

Once (2007)

Director: John Carney

Music by Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglová

In Once, we don’t even know the main characters names, but that doesn’t matter. With each song, we feel their heartbreak, their frustration and perhaps most importantly, their love. A much-deserved Oscar winner for Best Song, “Falling Slowly” will continue to be the best-fucking-heart-ripped-out-break-up song for years to come.

Trainspotting (1996)

Director: Danny Boyle

Music by Various Artists

Sex, heroin, and punk music: does much more need to be said? Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting not only used great music, but maximized its cinematic potential. Without the peppy, catchy “Lust for Life” from Iggy Pop or Lou Reed’s heartbreaking “Perfect Day,” the atmosphere of the worlds — both good and bad — of hard drugs would’ve been lost.

(Warning: This clip features heavy drug use. NSFW)

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Director: Gus Van Sant

Music by Various Artists

In his short career, the late Elliott Smith managed to be one of the most prolific songwriters of the modern music era. And despite his songwriting being so unbelievably sad, perhaps his most famous track, “Miss Misery,” gives hope. The Oscar-nominated song found its fame placed at the end of Good Will Hunting, softly playing behind a man who has decided to leave all he knows just to see about a girl.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Director: Wes Anderson

Score by Mark Mothersbaugh, Songs by Various Artists

In The Royal Tenenbaums, director Wes Anderson looked to one of the most brilliant musical minds of the past 40 years: Mark Mothersbaugh. The Devo-frontman contributes to an odd collection of artists — ranging from Nico to Elliott Smith — to form a seamless stretch of music that flows together so effortlessly the songs feel more at home on the soundtrack than in their place of origin.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Director: Rob Reiner

Music by Spinal Tap

Turn it up to 11.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Score by John Williams

With 45 Oscar nominations, it’s safe to call John Williams one of the most prolific and successful composers of all-time — and Raiders of the Lost Ark is his finest work. Through the grand and dramatic score, he channeled all his talent to capture the true essence of Indiana Jones and forever thrust him into the spotlight as a true hero.

Almost Famous (2000)

Director: Cameron Crowe

Music by Various Artists

Secretly, we all wish we were rock stars during the ’60s and ’70s. Few films illustrate the culture of spurring fame like Almost Famous. And what would a rock ‘n’ roll film be without rock ‘n’ roll? This soundtrack is more than a sweet mix-tape your cool uncle gave you. The music — from Elton John’s anthem “Tiny Dancer” to the harmonies of Yes — perfectly shows the development of a young boy tossed into one helluva situation, yet somehow emerges a mature young man.

Psycho (1960)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Score by Bernard Herrmann

One way to measure success in cinema is to look at how a film stands up over time. Psycho, though released fifty years ago, still contains one of the most terrifying moments in movie history: the infamous shower scene. The reason for its enduring success? That disturbing screech.