26 Soundtracks That Were Way Better Than The Movies

It’s not that these movies were BAD — it’s just that the soundtracks for them were really, really awesome.

1. Empire Records [1995]

This is about as mid-90s as it gets, with songs by Gin Blossoms, The Cranberries, Better Than Ezra, Edwyn Collins, and Evan Dando.

Edwyn Collins, “A Girl Like You”

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2. Romeo + Juliet [1996]

This one overflows with prime alt-rock – pre-OK Computer Radiohead, Garbage, The Cardigans’ “Love Fool,” and an actually really great song by Everclear.

Radiohead, “Talk Show Host”

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3. Belly [1998]

Late ’90s hip-hop, in a nutshell: DMX, Ja Rule, Jay-Z, Drag-On, Noreaga, D’Angelo, and about half of the Wu-Tang Clan.

DMX, Method Man, Nas, and Ja Rule, “Grand Finale”

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4. Suburbia [1997]

A lost gem! This one features outstanding material from Sonic Youth, Beck, Superchunk, and a version of an old X song performed by Elastica and Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus.

Elastica featuring Stephen Malkmus, “The Unheard Music”

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5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon [2009]

All of the Twilight soundtracks are pretty good, but this is the peak of the series, with strong original songs by Bon Iver with St. Vincent, Death Cab for Cutie, Thom Yorke, Lykke Li, and Grizzly Bear.

Bon Iver and St. Vincent, “Rosyln”

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6. Poetic Justice [1993]

This soundtrack features the debuts of Usher, along with strong cuts from TLC, Mista Grimm featuring Warren G and Nate Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and Babyface.

Mista Grimm, “Indo Smoke”

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7. Batman Forever [1995]

This one is waaaaaaay better and more eclectic than it needs to be, with excellent hits by U2 and Seal (“Kiss From A Rose”!), plus outstanding tracks from Sunny Day Real Estate, Mazzy Star, PJ Harvey, Brandy, Method Man, Massive Attack, and The Flaming Lips.

U2, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”

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8. Garden State [2004]

This is the soundtrack that dragged sad guys with beards and acoustic guitars back into the mainstream. The Shins, Iron and Wine, Coldplay, Nick Drake, Colin Hay, and yet more Shins.

The Shins, “New Slang”

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9. The Crow [1994]

So much angst! Nine Inch Nails covering Joy Division, The Cure, Rage Against the Machine, Pantera, and Stone Temple Pilots at their very best.

Nine Inch Nails, “Dead Souls”

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10. Coneheads [1993]

This one is odd, but kinda works, with rare cuts by R.E.M. and Red Hot Chili Peppers mixed in with random hits by Soft Cell and Paul Simon. Just ignore the track with Barenaked Ladies covering Public Enemy.

R.E.M., “It’s A Free World, Baby”

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11. Saturday Night Fever [1977]

The movie was a big deal, but let’s be real, Saturday Night Fever was all about the music and this soundtrack is one of the biggest records of the ’70s and the defining album of the disco era. This is the Bee Gees at their pinnacle – “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Night Fever,” “You Should Be Dancing,” “Jive Talkin’” – but there’s strong stuff from Kool and the Gang and The Trampps too.

Bee Gees, “Night Fever”

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12. Above the Rim [1994]

This is pretty much nonstop classic West Coast hip-hop, with cuts from SWV, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, Tha Dog Pound, plus Warren G and Nate Dogg’s immortal “Regulate.”

Warren G featuring Nate Dogg, “Regulate”

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13. Reality Bites [1994]

The Reality Bites soundtrack is like a strange, sentimental, and totally lovable mix tape featuring old hits from U2, The Knack, and Squeeze alongside songs by Dinosaur Jr., Juliana Hatfield Three, and uh, Ethan Hawke covering The Violent Femmes. All that, plus Lisa Loeb’s “Stay”!

Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories, “Stay (I Missed You)”

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14. Glitter [2001]

This movie may represent the lowest low of Mariah Carey’s career, but the soundtrack is still pretty solid.

Mariah Carey, “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On”

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15. Top Gun [1986]

The music of Top Gun is even more bombastic than the movie itself – Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone,” Loverboy’s “Heaven In Your Eyes,” and Berlin’s astonishing “Take My Breath Away.”

Berlin, “Take My Breath Away”

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16. Juno [2008]

Juno made twee mainstream by introducing millions of people to Belle & Sebastian and The Moldy Peaches, but the soundtrack also includes classic songs by Cat Power, Sonic Youth, and The Velvet Underground.

Cat Power, “Sea of Love”

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17. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist [2008]

For some reason studios feel compelled to put a lot of cool music on the soundtracks of movies starring Michael Cera. This one includes material by Vampire Weekend, We Are Scientists, Band of Horses, Shout Out Louds, and Devendra Banhart.

Shout Out Louds, “Very Loud”

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18. Purple Rain [1984]

This is Prince’s best album and one of the greatest records of all time, but the movie is only just okay.

Prince, “When Doves Cry”

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19. The Bodyguard [1992]

The Bodyguard is a mediocre movie blessed with a soundtrack featuring some of the greatest material of Whitney Houston’s career.

Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You”

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20. Bulworth [1998]

You probably don’t remember this comedy starring Warren Beatty, but the soundtrack sold a million copies on the strength of the smash hit “Ghetto Supastar,” plus material from Eve, RZA, Method Man, and Dr. Dre.

Pras, Mya, and Ol Dirty Bastard, “Ghetto Supastar”

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21. American Graffiti [1973]

This soundtrack, featuring 41 cuts, is basically a primer on late ’50s/early ’60s pop, with classics from Buddy Holly, The Platters, The Beachboys, Chuck Berry, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, The Flamingos, and The Big Bopper.

The Platters, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”

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22. Singles [1992]

Cameron Crowe movies always have outstanding soundtracks, but this one really captured the early ’90s grunge moment with classic songs from Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains, as well as the first hit from The Smashing Pumpkins, who had nothing to do with Seattle rock at all.

The Smashing Pumpkins, “Drown”

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23. Shaft [1971]

This is pretty much the same deal as with Prince – the movie is fine, but the soundtrack is a landmark in the history of funk.

Isaac Hayes, “Theme from Shaft”

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24. Pump Up the Volume [1990]

Weirdly, the soundtrack to Pump Up the Volume does not include the M.A.R.R.S. song “Pump Up the Volume.” It does, however, feature memorable material from Sonic Youth, Pixies, Bad Brains featuring Henry Rollins, Soundgarden, and Concrete Blonde.

Pixies, “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)”

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25. Great Expecations [1998]

This one has an odd mix of material, with glossy cuts by Pulp, Tori Amos, Chris Cornell and Duncan Sheik side by side with songs by Iggy Pop and The Grateful Dead.

Pulp, “Like A Friend”

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26. Marie Antoinette [2006]

Sophia Coppola movies always have great soundtracks, but in this case, it’s like she made a cool mix tape featuring New Order, Gang of Four, The Strokes, and The Cure, and then decided to make a movie.

New Order, “Ceremony”

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