These Are The Best Movie Soundtracks Ever

By Brian Myers | Updated

the crow

Filmmakers often rely on more than just cinematic scores to give proper mood and tone to their work. A properly curated selection of songs can elevate the emotions on screen while also giving audiences a sense of familiarity and relatability. There have been hundreds of films with great track listings, but we’ve compiled a list of which ones are in the running for best movie soundtracks of all time.

The Crow (1994)

The film that follows resurrected rock musician Eric Draven on his quest for revenge against the gang that killed him and his fianc√© is set against the definitive soundtrack for 1990s teen angst. Right out of the gate, fans get to hear “Burn” from 80s post-punk band The Cure, leading into other no wave and goth favorites that include a fantastic cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” by Nine Inch Nails and “Snakedriver” by The Jesus and Chain.

This best movie soundtrack nominee also includes heavy-hitting tracks from Helmet (“Milktoast”), Pantera (“The Badge”), and Rollins Band (“Ghost Rider“). The choice of music, as well as the cinematic score by Graeme Revell carry The Crow‘s deep emotional range of sorrow to rage to a level that makes audiences feel the film as much as they are seeing it.

SLC Punk (1998)

This period piece follows two punk rockers from Salt Lake City in their first months as college graduates. Stevo and Heroin Bob begin this phase of adult life with a lifestyle and an outlook that is humorously nihilistic and live their day-to-day with the least amount of responsibility as possible.

From the film’s opening moments, where Stevo and Heroin Bob attack a pair of rednecks with melee weapons, the soundtrack works to give jolts to the adrenaline. The scene cuts into the opening credits (over iconic punk art) with “Sex and Violence” by The Exploited. The best movie soundtracks nominee has songs that get even better from there, filling the audience’s ears with Fear’s “I Love Livin’ in the City,” The Stooges’ “1969,” and “Kill the Poor” by Dead Kennedys.

Forrest Gump (1994)

forrest gump 2 tom hanks

This double-disc soundtrack followed the Academy Award-winning film over the same decades that spanned the life of its title character, helping to give the vibe of each era on the screen. This best movie soundtracks nominee begins with Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” and the Elvis Presley classic “Hound Dog” before ending with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s “Against the Wind.”

The choice of music for the Forrest Gump soundtrack shows how each track is carefully curated for each scene. CCR’s “Fortunate Son” captured the emotions of a young man being sent to fight in Vietnam like no other track, as did Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” during one of Jenny’s most volatile moments.

Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

The punk soundtrack to end all punk soundtracks played while the dead rose from their graves to feast upon the living in this cult classic. The film follows a group of punkers as they party in a cemetery, only to have their gathering disturbed when a chemical accidentally released from a nearby crematorium causes the dead to claw their way out of their graves.

Psychobilly band The Cramps opens the best movie soundtrack nominee with the aptly named “Surfin’ Dead” as other great punk tracks follow. “Party Time” by 45 Grave, “Eyes Without a Face” by The Flesh Eaters, and “Dead Beat Dance” by The Damned all work in tandem to give a zombie comedy the best music to set against rebellious youth battling the undead.

Superfly (1972)

This classic blaxploitation film follows cocaine dealer Youngblood Priest as he pulls out all the stops in his efforts to leave the drug trade once and for all. Soul musician Curtis Mayfield was tapped to compose a combination soundtrack and score for the film’s music, which resulted in one of the most riveting musical endeavors of the musician’s storied career.

This best movie soundtrack nominee opens with “Little Child, Runnin’ Wild” and “Pusherman,” setting the mood for the film’s opening sequences. A handful of instrumental tracks are scattered throughout before the title song, “Superfly,” closes out a brilliant musical endeavor.