For a movie soundtrack to be considered one of the “best”, we need the following: a movie that just wouldn’t be the same without the soundtrack and songs that just wouldn’t be the same without the movie. On that basis, we’ve selected some universal winners.
The Last Days of Disco, 1998
We forget how the community is doomed when the film starts with “Doctor’s Orders,” Carol Douglas’ euphoric pop song. Dancefloor anthems from Diana Ross, Chic, and Sister Sledge play back-to-back. At the heart of the vivid film is the nightclub of the early ’80s. It is a hotbed of drama: sexual psychodramas, girl-on-girl pettiness,and fraudulent schemes. And most of the characters are privileged, self-centeredyuppies. Yet, the most unpleasant people in New York create an intoxicating atmosphere.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, 2003, 2004
OK, you expected this one. Quentin Tarantino has professed his love for vinyl more than once, and Kill Bill movies are acts of pastiche urgency, combining martial arts, spaghetti Western, and even anime in the context of the main female character’s pursuit of revenge.
Both volumes swing wildly, from the thrust of Isaac Hayes’ “Run Fay Run” and Luis Bacalov’s somber Old West mix of harmonica and strings to the irrepressible funk-rock attack of Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei and Gheorghe Zamfir’span flute vibes. The movies are Tarantino’s personal listening sessions because it’s always all about him.
Waiting to Exhale
With its weightless melodies and signature soul snares,this is still a soundtrack we listen to all these years later. Producer-songwriter Babyfacegathered a superhero team of the most popular and powerful women in R&B to put the film’s themes of female individuality and empowermentand kinship across as forcefully as possible.
The soundtrack went platinum 7 times and features highlights like Whitney Houston’s “Exhale” (Babyface plays the drums), Chaka Khan’s creative version of “My Funny Valentine”, and Brandy’s fun, youthful “Sittin’ Up in My Room”.
The Shining, 1980
Director Stanley Kubrick used snatches of synthetic innovator Wendy Carlos’ work, sampling sepulchral electronics at the beginning of the film as the Torrance family is on their way to the hotel. Throughout the film, the eccentric director opts for classical Eastern European music, with GyörgyLigeti’s orchestral lurches and shrieking Krzysztof Penderecki strings to warn of the dangers ahead. “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta” by BélaBartóklends an air of terror to the child’s tricycle romps.