The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks of All Time

From Purple Rain to men of constant sorrow, a perfect soundtrack has no genre.

As any film lover will tell you, a great soundtrack is much more than some complementary ambience for a movie. The relationship between a film and its soundtrack is a symbiosis unlike any other. A suspenseful rhythm can tip off viewers to the rising tension in an otherwise calm setting. An uptempo track can escalate a chase scene into a heart-racing adrenaline rush. And, of course, a well-timed swell of strings can trigger some visceral waterworks.

Beyond its capabilities as a storytelling device, though, a soundtrack can come to represent the very essence of a film in itself. A track list can serve as a map to the narrative’s emotional arc: its opening theme capturing both the naivety and foreshadowing of all that is to come; its crescendoed number ushering in the climax; and its final track echoing the catharsis (or confusion) of a film’s ending.

The best soundtracks are the ones that become nearly inextricable to their original motion picture. Such is the reason that Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” can make us instantly feel like we’re Benjamin Braddock, floating listlessly in a pool of existential dread. Or, how the first seconds of Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” can transport us to the diner stick-up scene at the start of Pulp Fiction.

There’s no guaranteed formula for a great soundtrack. Some are written specifically for the film. Others are carefully curated by a music supervisor. But they all have one thing in common: a great soundtrack will stick with you forever. In no particular order, we’ve curated a list of our best soundtrack picks of all time, along with their most memorable tracks.


The Graduate

Best Track: “Sound of Silence,” by Simon & Garfunkel


Best Track: “Superfly,” by Curtis Mayfield


Best Track: “Lust for Life,” by Iggy Pop

The Harder They Come

Best Track: “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” by Jimmy Cliff

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Best Track: “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” by The Soggy Bottom Boys and Dan Tyminski

Purple Rain

Best Track: “Purple Rain,” by Prince


Best Track: “Ooh La La,” by Faces


Best Track: “Yesterday,” by the Beatles

Do the Right Thing

Best Track: “Fight the Power,” by Public Enemy

2001: A Space Odyssey

Best Track: “Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, TrV176 1. Prelude,” by Richard Strauss, Berliner Philharmoniker, and Karl Böhm

Saturday Night Fever

Best Track: “Stayin’ Alive,” by the Bee Gees


Best Track: “Theme from Shaft,” by Isaac Hayes

The Social Network

Best Track: “Hand Covers Bruise,” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Black Panther

Best Track: “All the Stars,” Kendrick Lamar and SZA

Dazed and Confused

Best Track: “Sweet Emotion,” by Aerosmith

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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