10 Music Soundtracks That Are Better Than the Movie

Sometimes, music makes a movie; other times, it interferes with its flow. However, there are occasions when a film’s soundtrack stands alone as a masterpiece, outlasting the movie by decades. Which movies struggled to keep up with their musical accompaniments?

1. Into the Wild (2007) Eddie Vedder

Into the Wild (2007)
Image Credit: Paramount Vantage.

There are many Into the Wild fans, and I am one of them — but anyone shaking their head in rage must listen to the soundtrack. Eddie Vedder and Chris McCandless’ quest for an escape from society make for a five-star combination, exemplified in “Society” and “No Ceiling,” two contrasting songs about remorse and free abandon. The album is the perfect blend of open-sky Americana and Vedder’s bittersweet, soulful croon, a stand-alone masterpiece that outguns its movie partner.

2. Romeo and Juliet (1996) Various Artists

Romeo + Juliet (1996) Claire Danes, Leonardo DiCaprio
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Anyone of a certain age will look back fondly on the ’90s, especially on Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet. However, the question is: Do you remember the movie or the soundtrack better? For me, it’s the latter — who can argue with the list of talent that includes Radiohead, Garbage, and the Cardigans? One might argue that the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack is peak-nineties cool.

3. Judgment Night (1993) Various Artists

Judgment Night (1993) Emilio Estevez, Stephen Dorff
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Before The Hangover became a global hit, we had to make do with other misadventure comedies such as Judgment Night. Nobody can remember what happened in that film, but find a Biohazard fan in 1993 who didn’t love the band’s titular duet with Queen’s hip-hop crew Onyx? If that wasn’t enough, we have Helmet and House of Pain’s “Just Another Victim,” while there is “Real Thing,” a Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill collaboration (yes, you read that right).

4. Chariots of Fire (1981) Vangelis

Chariots of Fire (1981) Ben Cross, Ian Charleson
Image Credit: 20th Century-Fox.

The movie Chariots of Fire is a British classic directed by U.K. cinema stalwart David Putnam, who also helmed Midnight Express, Local Hero, and The Killing Fields. However, you must ask yourself whether you can remember much else other than that beach scene. If so, there is a good reason for that — the French composer Vangelis. His deep analog synth-based soundscapes are a huge part of the film’s success; the spine-tingling title theme must be one of the most iconic musical arrangements ever written.

5. Superfly (1972) Curtis Mayfield

Superfly (1972)
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Rolling Stone’s Bill Crandall nicknamed Curtis Mayfield the Gentle Genius in celebration of the artist’s remarkable career. However, he overlooks what some might consider Mayfield’s greatest work, his soundtrack for the Blaxploitation classic Superfly. The movie is iconic, preaching an anti-substance abuse message, depicting the reality for inner-city Black Americans, and leaving us with some great one-liners — that soundtrack, though. If “Freddy’s Dead” doesn’t fill the listener with soul, then “Little Child Runnin’ Wild” and “Pusher Man” will.

6. Once (2007) Glen Hansard

Once (2007) Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová
Image Credit: Buena Vista International.

The John Carney movie Once features Irish musician Glen Hansard playing a heartbroken musician and vacuum cleaner repairman who meets a charming Czech girl in Dublin who helps him write an album. The movie is now a global hit, though, thanks to its incredible soundtrack. The well-known “Falling Slowly” is a romantic duet masterpiece, though other tracks such as “When Your Mind’s Made Up” stand out. The music is so good that a successful Once stage play has toured several countries since its 2007 debut.

7. You Were Never Really Here (2017) Johnny Greenwood

You Were Never Really Here (2017) Joaquin Phoenix
Image Credit: StudioCanal.

Instrumental music score lovers need to keep their eyes peeled for two words: Johnny and Greenwood. The Radiohead and Smile guitarist is also a concert-level violinist with an astounding solo discography, including There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread. His collaboration with Scots director Lynne Ramsay on her experimentally dark You Were Never Really Here is transcendent. While the movie is a testament to creative sound editing and narrative structure, the soundtrack’s sleazy electro-synth makes for a mesmerizing solo album.

8. Top Gun (1986) Various Artists

Top Gun (1986) Tom Cruise
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

While the Top Gun: Maverick soundtrack cannot lay a hand on the movie, its predecessor blows the original film out of the sky. We all love Tom and Val’s brinkmanship, Tony Scott’s delicious aerial fighter set pieces, and that needless beach volleyball scene. However, can they beat Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” or the fact that the Godfather of dance music, Georgio Moroder, was involved in several tracks? Either way, the Top Gun soundtrack wins this sky duel.

9. Saturday Night Fever (1977) The Bee Gees

Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

When a movie soundtrack sells 40 million copies, we can agree that it may be better than the movie. While John Travolta’s ’70s disco vehicle, Saturday Night Fever, was iconic and sent Travolta to a stratospheric (literally, he flies planes, you know) career, the soundtrack will be played long after the movie is forgotten. The Bee Gees peaked with this soundtrack, featuring anthems “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” among others.

10. Singles (1992) Various

Singles (1992) Matt Dillon, Cameron Crowe, Jeff Ament, Chris Cornell, Layne Staley
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Cameron Crowe and good musical soundtrack choices are synonymous, but none of his films quite match the Singles soundtrack — especially when viewed retrospectively. I can’t even recall the movie plot, just the cameos from my rock heroes, such as Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, and Jerry Cantrell. With tracks from Seattle’s finest, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam to choose from, the movie stood no chance in this contest.

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