When you're a teenager, soundtracks are the easiest way to discover new music. Often serving as a time capsule of a certain era and style, a great soundtrack combines a concept and theme that fits with the film while also collecting great songs you've never heard before. They are a mixtape for millions, an album diverse enough to cross over to a broader audience than any single band's album. The greatest soundtracks of the '90s were common experiences for kids who grew up with them — whether it was windows-down driving in your first car blasting the Clueless soundtrack, making out with the cutest girl at school while the Love Jones soundtrack pumped out of your stereo, dancing in your bedroom with a flashlight going off and on at two beats per minute while playing Trainspotting, or culling no less than three songs from the Reality Bites soundtrack for your crush's mixtape. Remember? Maybe this Spotify mix will help.
Rankings were determined by asking a series of questions and comparing each soundtrack on the basis of the answers... Does it hold up today? How many truly great songs are on it? How many terrible songs are on it? How good and important were the biggest singles? Does it set a certain mood and maintain a concept, like a good album should? Was the soundtrack introducing new songs and artists (as opposed to just collecting current hits)? And perhaps most importantly, how much will listening to it again make you feel young?