The All Time Greatest Soundtracks

You can’t beat a good soundtrack. Or is it a score? More of a thing in America than Britain for most of the 20th century, now that movies come out at the same time on both sides of the pond simultaneously everybody loves them, so grab your popcorn, switch off your phones, and come with us on a journey through the twenty best soundtracks – or scores - of all time.

20. Pi (1998)
Clint Mansell of 80’s “Grebo” band Pop Will East Itself out of nothing gave us this, a quite brilliant mash up of cutting edge electronic music which also featured Aphex Twin, David Holmes, Orbital and Massive Attack.

19. The Wicker Man (1973)
Sergeant Neil Howie’s fruitless search for the missing Rowan on the Hebridean outpost of Summerisle was spooky enough, but the purity and menace of its traditional folk accompaniment – created by Paul Giovanni and Magnet – gave the creeping dread a whole new otherworldly dimension.

18. The Harder They Come (1972)
What it lacked in acting and plot, The Harder They Come made up for by introducing the world to reggae (Widely believed to have been so named after Toots & The Maytals “Do The Reggay”), but the undoubted high point was star Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It if You Really Want”.

17. Blade (1998)
A vampire flick with a daywalking twist, what lead Wesley Snipes mono-expression was made up with the slick and sick choices of music, the highlight being a truly remarkable techno remix of New Order’s Confusion, cued in on-screen just as everyone gets showered in blood.

16. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Practically everything around the production of Apocalyse Now was well, apocalyptic, from the weather to the self-destructive cast, but Kilgore’s use of Wagner is unforgettable, as was the inspired choice of The Doors for the opening credits.

15. Donnie Darko (2001)
From a period where art house movies jacked into the mainstream, here was a real curio, Gary Jules taking his stripped back version of Tears For Fears Mad World to the top of many charts, accompanied amongst others by period greats courtesy of The Church, Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen.

14. Shaft (1972)
Much parodied (And pointlessly remade), Shaft remains a product of its time, but the unforgettable wah wah of Isaac Hayes theme tune is one of the songs most inextricably linked with its host movie ever.

13. Baby Driver (2017)
Director Edgar Wright is an absolute music trainspotter and the collection of artists gathered for this chase movie extraordinaire doesn’t fail to disappoint, ranging from Dave Brubeck to Queen to Run The Jewels to The Commodores.

12. Straight Outta Compton (2015)
The story of LA rap crew NWA presented a love-hate dichotomy, as did its soundtrack, because if you loved gangster rap, it was the thing for you and if you didn’t it wasn’t. And we do, so we did.

11. Kill Bill 1 & 2 (2003/4)
Quentin Tarantino’s films are like a box of chocolates for sure, but coming on the heels of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, on Kill Bill he served up severed everything and revenge rock by the ton, Uma Thurman offing entire armies to the sound of Nancy Sinatra and the 5,6,7,8’s.

10. Help! (1965)
The Fab Four’s flicks might not have been acting masterclasses, but this was them at near peak musically, Ticket To Ride and Yesterday jostling for a place in their greatest songs collection.

9. Ocean’s Eleven (2000)
Maverick Irish DJ/Producer David Holmes had already diversified into film before this first major studio release – as smooth as the criminals in it, the choice cuts included his own (Gritty Shaker & many others) alongside Elvis, Quincy Jones and The Philadelphia Orchestra.

8. Pretty In Pink (1986)
Molly Ringwald’s turn in John Hughes superb coming of age tale was more virtuous than the hooker of the Psychedelic Furs original song from which it took its name. But with turns from The Smiths, OMD, INXS, New Order and Suzanne Vega the prom was one to always remember.

7. Lost In Translation (2003)
Sofia Coppola had worked with French duo Air on The Virgin Suicides, but the calibre of artists she opted in this time was outstanding, from Sebastien Tellier, Phoenix, Death In Vegas and Kevin Sheilds of Shoegaze mavens My Bloody Valentine. Bill Murray’s existential crisis had never sounded better.

6. Black Panther (2018)
We’re perhaps too close to it to really assess the true significance of Black Panther as an exercise in bringing a grand view of the extent to which African music has influenced musicians around the globe; Kendrick Lamar’s curation is astute and genuine, the only drawback being that to reach a mainstream audience it had to be couched inside a comic franchise.

5. High Fidelity (1998)
Nick Hornby’s book about an elitist, obsessive music snob and the equally elitist staff of his record shop – along with the messy dissolution of his relationship – made for a predictably great film, especially for Scottish cult auteurs The Beta Band and anyone who hated Falco.

4. Purple Rain (1984)
Prince believed that a film in which he would take the lead role was all part of his ascent to becoming the world’s most complete superstar performer; the final result was a predictable ego rollercoaster, but the title track and When Doves Cry were both worth the admission fee alone, arguably in fact more than the movie was.

3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Tartantino (Q) appears again, this time in his definitive guise as the master storyteller. As with all great celluloid, it completely changed the context of Dusty Springfield’s Son Of A Preacher Man whilst Urge Overkill’s cover of Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon minted a new classic.

2. Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s mind blowing exercise in futuristic dystopia was both visually stunning and decades ahead of its time; Vangelis – who also transformed Chariots of Fire – provided a sonic canvas that turned it into an epic.

DRUM ROLL............

1. Trainspotting (1998)
The surrealism of Danny Boyle’s brutal adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s brutal novel about Edinburgh junkies was given sub-titles on its American release; the soundtrack gave Iggy Pop’s career a late renaissance via Lust For Life and turned Underworld’s Born Slippy into a synthetically high anthem.

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