7 Movies With Great Soundtracks: My Personal Favorites

Many films just wouldn’t be the same without an amazing soundtrack to serve as the backdrop to the action, the character relationships, and the emotion portrayed. However, some movies definitely do better in the music department than others.

For some movies, the soundtrack nearly outshines the movie itself and for others, the soundtrack amplifies a scene making it more than it ever would have been on its own or with a different song to back it up.

In this article, I’ll list out some of my favorite movie soundtracks. It’s probably no mistake that some of the movies on this list are also some of my favorite movies of all time. A soundtrack can really make or break a movie.

As an acoustic folk singer/songwriter myself, I may be a bit biased on some of these choices, but here’s my somewhat subjective list of the best movie soundtracks of all time.

1. Harold & Maude

A quirky cult classic from the 70s, Harold and Maude tells the story of Harold, a young guy obsessed with faking his own death, and Maude, an eccentric woman who is about to turn 80 years old. This is one of the most unusual love stories ever filmed, but it’s one of my personal favorites.

While the film is a cult classic today, the movie wouldn’t have been half as effective without the music of Cat Stevens as a backdrop. From the opening scene to the final sequence, Cat Stevens’ songs have a huge presence in the film. His songs do a lot of help move the story forward and make the film seem unique. The characters also sing one of his songs during the movie as well.

This movie is well worth a watch if you love films that are a bit quirky and weird or if you love Cat Stevens

Unfortunately, getting an actual copy of this soundtrack will prove difficult. The album was released on cassette and vinyl in Japan in 1972, and there was another vinyl release of only 2500 copies in 2007. Fortunately, all of the songs are available separately on other releases by Cat Stevens.

2. Once

A more recent film, Once is also one of my personal favorite movies and also has one of the best soundtracks. Once is set in Dublin and is centered around two musicians who meet and decide to record an album together. However, there’s also a lot more to it than that. It’s the story of two people who come together and affect each other’s lives in unexpected ways.

The movie features the music of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who in real life, make up the band The Swell Season. Glen Hansard is also the longtime frontman of the Irish rock band, The Frames.

If you like singer-songwriter music and you want to see a simple but effective story being told, Once is a great movie to consider watching, or at least listening to.

Of course, if you’re into musicals, you might want to learn more about the broadway version. This movie has been adapted to the stage and has become a hit on broadway. The broadway version many of the same songs from the movie.

3. The Graduate

I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I left one of the best-regarded films of all time off of this list. The Graduate is about Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman), a recent college grad who is seduced by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (played by Anne Bancroft). The movie is a very popular piece of film history that is currently at #17 on AFI’s “100 Years… 100 Movies” list.

The soundtrack features the music of Simon & Garfunkel, making it one of the best soundtracks of all time. The film helped to put Simon & Garfunkel on the map. Mrs. Robinson, The Sound of Silence, and Simon & Garfunkel’s rendition of Scarborough Fair all are featured in the soundtrack.

If you’ve never seen The Graduate, you should. The movie is one of the most well-made films of all time and the soundtrack is unforgettable. The pairing of the two is even better.

4. O Brother Where Art Thou

O Brother Where Art Thou is another movie with a great soundtrack that is also simply a lot of fun to watch. The story follows several inmates who escape a chain gang in search of buried treasure. The movie was made by the Cohen Brothers but the story is actually based on The Odyssey by Homer.

The movie is very “folksy” and features plenty of music throughout. This music is mostly in the vein of bluegrass, old-time country, and blues. Legendary musicians and singers fill in the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou including Alison Krauss & Union Station, Gillian Welch, Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris, and John Hartford.

With musicians like this featured, it’s no surprise that the soundtrack won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2001.

5. Garden State

Garden State is another cult indie favorite movie in which the soundtrack is nearly a character all its own. Zach Braff wrote, directed, and starred in this indie flick. The soundtrack ended up winning Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media at The Grammys.

The film follows Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) as he returns home for his mother’s funeral. He subsequently meets “manic pixie dream girl” Sam (Natalie Portman) who quickly introduces Andrew Largeman and plenty of indie film lovers to The Shins.

Garden State is really the quintessential “indie film” and when I was younger I watched it over and over again. The music featured on this soundtrack is top-notch. Among others, the movie’s soundtrack includes songs by The Shins, Iron & Wine, Alexi Murdoch, Nick Drake, Coldplay, and of course, Simon & Garfunkel.

6. The Big Lebowski

Another cult favorite, The Big Lebowski features some of the weirdest and most memorable music moments ever put into film. In The Big Lebowski, Jeff Lebowski aka “The Dude”, gets mistaken for a millionaire who has the same name. He finds himself mixed up in a ridiculous but potentially deadly plot.

Plenty of trippy drug-induced sequences are in the movie and songs such as “The Man in Me” by Bob Dylan and the early Kenny Rogers psychedelic pop hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” help to make this the cult favorite film that it is.

Also featured in the film and/or on the official soundtrack are songs by Elvis Costello, Captain Beefheart, Henry Mancini, Townes Van Zandt, and more.

7. Good Will Hunting

It would be difficult to write a list of movies with great soundtracks without mentioning the film that put Elliott Smith on the map and introduced him to depressed teenagers everywhere. The late Elliott Smith is one of the best singer/songwriters of the modern age.

Good Will Hunting stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and served as a kind of launching pad for them as well. The movie follows Will Hunting (Matt Damon) who has a genius-level IQ and works as a janitor at MIT. He struggles to reach his full potential, however, and this movie follows his journey.

The movie features some of the best songs by Elliott Smith including Between the Bars, Say Yes, Miss Misery, Angeles, and No Name #3. Some of the other artists featured on the soundtrack include The Dandy Warhols, Luscious Jackson, and Al Green.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of other movies with great soundtracks out there. However, the ones listed above are some of my personal favorites. If you need a movie to watch that uses music in great ways and serves as an excellent backdrop, then you can’t go wrong with any of the above films.

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