Top Movie Soundtracks Ever Recorded

While the visual presentation of movies is undeniably important, it is arguably the soundtrack which does more to convey emotions, set the tone and make a film memorable.

To celebrate and single out the significant contribution made by cinematic soundtracks, here is a look at the finest examples ever to blast out around auditoriums worldwide.

Pulp Fiction

Any film aficionado reading this list would likely have expected at least one Quentin Tarantino movie to make an appearance, and while there are merits to the majority of his soundtrack choices throughout his career, it is Pulp Fiction that stands out as his most significant work in this context.

It is the eclecticism of the soundtrack that is most remarkable; the fact that songs from different decades are used side by side without this feeling forced or phoney. Another of its assets is the way that the soundtrack is frequently used in contrast to the excess of the action on screen; sweet ballads and romantic ditties overlay drug overdoses and violence, making it palatable and often funny.

Casino Royale

The modern Bond era began in 2006 with Daniel Craig’s first outing as everyone’s favourite super-spy, and for once the soundtrack and score were updated in a way that didn’t instantly date the film a little further down the line.

From the guttural theme song featuring rock vocalist Chris Cornell to the soaring orchestral score that underpins everything from live roulette and poker games in stylish gambling houses to dramatic car chases and tragic moments, this is 007’s best-sounding outing so far.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

A classically quirky comedy-drama from the Coen brothers, this madcap movie burst into cinemas over two decades ago, yet managed to transcend the silver screen and seep into other areas of pop culture thanks to its soundtrack.

With songs gleaned from and inspired by the 1930s setting, the downtrodden, economically depressed nature of the time pours from every note, and it is surprisingly uplifting in spite of its occasionally morose subject matter. The fact that the album version of the soundtrack sold millions and earned Grammies should be further proof of its impact.


Whatever you think of Wes Anderson as a filmmaker, you cannot deny that Rushmore is an impressive sophomore effort from a director whose distinctive aesthetic is as indelible and recognizable as any of his more vaunted peers.

Once again, the soundtrack of the movie sells the setting, and while it features many well known artists, the fact that a lot of the tracks used are not their more obvious hits demonstrates Anderson’s dedication to thinking outside the box, and steering clear of the clichés and tropes that more mainstream creatives fall into.

This Is Spinal Tap

Often heralded as being the funniest movie ever made, the music of Spinal Tap is also key to its impact and helps its pastiche of an over-the-top metal band to land, rather than missing the mark.

The songs featured in the film are not just humorous knock-offs of genre standards, but entertaining nuggets in their own right, riddled with jokes and a good level of musicianship that puts them head and shoulders above other satires of the industry.

Apocalypse Now

Journey into the dark heart of one of cinema’s greatest works of art with its soundtrack which, like the film itself, is drenched in elements of creative genius, as well as chaos and pain.

In addition to era-appropriate pop hits, there are also orchestral classics, most notable of which is Ride of the Valkyries, a truly terrifying Wagner composition that accompanies one of the film’s most memorable scenes.

About the author

There’s a lot of music out there - good music. At Essentially Pop our remit is that we cover music that deserves to be heard, with a particular focus on independent artists. That doesn't mean we won't cover your old favourites - rather we hope to give you some new favourites as well.

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