A captivating storyline is crucial for a movie to be worth watching. But it is the best original movie soundtracks that add emotion and depth to films.
Movie soundtracks complement characters, enhance landscapes, and add emotional depth to a film. From The Bodyguard to Saturday Night Fever, the best original movie soundtracks take us back to the time and setting of the film. They evoke emotions and memories, which is why music is important to film.
Just take a look at 10 of the best original movie soundtracks that have made iconic films. These films include The Bodyguard, Saturday Night Fever, Dirty Dancing, Purple Rain, Waiting to Exhale, Super Fly, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Shaft, American Graffiti, and Almost Famous.
Why Movie Soundtracks have a Big Impact
A movie soundtrack can really make or break a scene. It can give an emotional punch and set the mood perfectly. And it can create a sense of tension or nostalgia. What stands out is when a song is used in such a way that connects the audience to the film on a deeper level – when it becomes a memorable part of the movie. It’s the cherry on top.
So, let’s get into 10 of the best original movie soundtracks.
This 1992 romantic drama thriller starred Whitney Houston on her acting debut.
The Bodyguard soundtrack is one of the best original movie soundtracks of all time with over 45 million copies sold worldwide.
Whitney Houston’s renditions of songs like I’m Every Woman by Chaka Khan and I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton helped to make the soundtrack one of the best in her career.
The ballads I Have Nothing and Run to You were nominated for Oscars.
Saturday Night Fever
A dance drama released in 1977, Saturday Night Fever, is powered by disco music.
With Disco as the key genre, it’s no surprise that the soundtrack, primarily contributed to by The Bee Gees, is the biggest disco album in history. Some of their hit songs include Stayin’ Alive, More Than a Woman, Night Fever, and How Deep Is Your Love which are ever-green.
Having sold over 40 million copies worldwide, the soundtrack album epitomised disco on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether or not you have been to a Disco or night club, you will know it as an international sensation.
This 1987 romance drama dance film has one of the best original movie soundtracks which captures the vibe of the time—1963. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack album, which is the original soundtrack to the movie, has sold 32 million copies worldwide. It is a mix of pre-pump pop music from artists like The Five Satins and The Ronettes.
The Dirty Dancing movie and album, became pop-culture juggernauts. Apart from being one of the best-selling soundtrack albums of all time, it spent 18 weeks in the number-one spot on the Billboard 200 chart.
An interesting fact about this blockbuster soundtrack album is that some of the album’s musicians knew nothing about the movie.
The rock musical drama of 1984 tells the semi-autobiographical story of Prince. The movie’s official soundtrack by Prince and the Revolution sold over 25 million copies worldwide – giving it an official place in our Best Original Movie Soundtracks list.
The opening number Let’s Go Crazy and When Doves Cry reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, while the title track Purple Rain was number 2. The soundtrack album spent 24 consecutive weeks on top of the Billboard 200.
The innovative and experimental aspects of the soundtrack’s music, has been listed as culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant in the list of sound recordings of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
Waiting to Exhale
The soundtrack album of the 1995 romantic drama film, Waiting to Exhale, sold over 11 million copies worldwide and spent five weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The album features songs from some of the biggest names in R&B and Soul music, such as Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, and Aretha Franklin.
The number-one hit songs of this soundtrack were;
- Whitney Houston’s Exhale (Shoop Shoop), which won a Grammy for best R&B song,
- Toni Braxton’s Let It Flow,
- Mary J. Blige’s Not Gon’ Cry, and
- Brandy’s Sittin’ Up in My Room.
This 1972 blaxploitation neo-noir crime drama follows the daily routine of an African American cocaine dealer, Priest. He attempts to score one last deal before retiring from the underworld drug business.
The soundtrack of this movie was written and produced by soul musician, Curtis Mayfield. It’s one of the few soundtracks that out-grossed the film it accompanied and is considered to have ignited an entire genre of music with the blaxploitation soundtracks.
The record stood out as one of the best original movie soundtracks for its groundbreaking themes of poverty and drug abuse. Everyone from soul singers to TV score composers in the following decades were influenced by it.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
The symphonic soundtrack of the original Star Wars film contributed to making George Lucas’ grand space opera an emotional and cultural masterpiece. So, it is no surprise it is one of the best original movie soundtracks.
Composed by John Williams and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, the score took 8 sessions record.
It starts with the Main Title, then Imperial Attack, and on to Princess Leia’s Theme. It goes on to The Last Battle, The Throne Room and End Title. And it is undoubtedly the most memorable soundtrack for an American film.
An Academy, Golden Globe, Grammy, and BAFTA, you name it – this soundtrack has won them all.
The first of the Shaft film series, a crime-action genre, was released in 1971. While this was one of the biggest movies that year, a part of that success is attributed to Isaac Hayes’ ubiquitous soundtrack. Hayes was already one of R&B’s great innovators.
The soundtrack was mostly instrumental and carefully composed by Hayes. And the theme song was one of the greatest film scores, described as a revolutionary funk/soul masterpiece.
With its unique and catchy sound, the theme became so popular that it spins in nightclubs and during halftime at football games. It also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The 1973 coming-of-age comedy drama’s soundtrack portrays the early rock ’n roll culture. The diegetic music was crucial to the mood of every scene, and was heard by the characters themselves. It turned American Graffiti into a slice of 1950’s nostalgia.
George Lucas was known for Star Wars before American Graffiti. And it is the soundtrack of the latter which was the key to its success. The artists featured on the soundtrack include The Flamingos, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, and Fats Domino.
The songs are mostly rock and doo-wop hits from the mid-to-late 1950s which struck a nostalgic chord with the audience. With back-to-back hits like Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & The Comets, and Lee Dorsey’s infectious Ya Ya, Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode and the growling Green Onions by Booker T, the soundtrack is an eloquent work of art.
It won a Grammy Award, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the soundtrack of Almost Famous is one of the best.
Noteworthy songs include Led Zeppelin’s That’s the Way, and David Bowie’s I’m Waiting for the Man. It was a first Grammy for Led Zeppelin and for the world of film soundtracks.
Other great artists with famous songs who featured, include Simon and Garfunkle (America), Elton John (Tiny Dancer), Lynyrd Skynyrd (Simple Man), The Beach Boys (Feel Flows), and The Who (Sparks).
When the soundtrack was re-issued in May 2021 as an expanded 5 CD/7 Long-playing (LP) boxed set, it was the first time all the music featured in a film had been released in one set.
The best original movie soundtracks have the power to elevate a film and make it truly unforgettable. From Whitney Houston’s powerful ballads in The Bodyguard to the disco beats of Saturday Night Fever, each of the ten soundtracks not only sold millions of copies worldwide, but they became cultural phenomenons, evoking emotions and memories for decades.
They have become timeless pieces of art that will be enjoyed for generations to come. So put on your headphones, press play and let the music transport you to the world of these iconic films.