9 movie soundtracks that live in our heads for free

When you’re a movie buff, it’s easy to find something worthy of appreciation in every movie offering. Whether it’s a powerful single shot or a memorable line-up delivery, even movies considered total train wrecks (like Tommy Wiseauit’s terribly comical Bedroom) have gained cult appreciation over time. While some visual offerings may be lackluster, there’s always one thing that can save them: a killer soundtrack.



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Every once in a while, a clever mix of sounds creates a listening experience so powerful that audiences call it a “masterpiece.” For decades, beloved and tattered vinyl sleeves have contained well-worn musical stories that accompany our own. Of the child who listens The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert under the covers, to the athlete getting out of bed at 4 a.m. with Rocky theme as an alarm, fans all say thank you for the music.

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The beach (2000)

Danny BoyleThe dream of Thai island fever is seriously asleep. The beachbased on Alex Garlandbest-selling novel, features a young Leonardo DiCaprio as thrill-seeking backpacker and lost soul Richard. After a traumatic encounter, he receives a map of a secret island paradise, where all is not as it seems.

Dream titles from sugar ray and Asian Dub Foundation dissipate as Richard descends into madness and an increasing tempo. Each tense moment is accompanied by an equally thrilling audio experience, with the “video game scene” a doozy. While “Pure Shores” and “Porcelain” were the standout tracks of the day, it’s the inclusion of New order and The chemical brothers that capture the deeper meaning of this alternative classic. Available to stream on Freevee.

baby driver (2017)

With one of the most masterful soundtracks of this decade, it’s no surprise that Edgar Wright was nominated for a Grammy. Having practiced his vision of the single-shot opening scene with Christmas Fielding years before, baby driver was long in coming and did not disappoint.

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Bill Pope, the cinematographer, called the film “a postmodern musical”. Every action, shot and sound is planned to the rhythm of the almost continuous score. As he explains, “the world acts in music”. The eclectic and moving collection stems directly from Baby’s iPod and draws audiences deeper into her world, piece by piece. Turns out you need a score for a score. Available to stream on Fubo.

purple rain (1984)

The delay, great Prince was many things; an outstanding virtuoso, an accomplished performer, a great actor? Maybe not, but the third best-selling album of 1984 makes up for any lackluster line delivery. Loosely based on his life, Prince stars as The Kid, a misunderstood up-and-coming talent with a rocky family life and big dreams.

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Sprinkled throughout the film as timely reminders of his mastery of stage presence, Prince and the Revolution perform live songs that express the Kid’s innermost thoughts. A scene in which he calls Apollonia “Darling Nikki” and writhes mockingly on the floor, howling like only Prince could, is hauntingly effective. Almost everyone also shed a tear over “Purple Rain” at some point. Or at the very least, ran to karaoke. Available to stream on Roku.

Gatsby the magnificent (2013)

australian filmmaker Baz LurhmannThe inclination of F. Scott Fitzgeraldof the great American novel, Gatsby the magnificent. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire who befriends his humble neighbor, throws lavish parties, and longs for what could have been.

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Collaboration with the executive producer Jay Z was a stroke of genius. The jazz-remixed, hip-hop-infused soundtrack became so popular after the film’s release that there was an explosion of “Gatsby” themed parties all over the world. A key theme of the book is its critique of such excessive lavishness, but hey, a little party never killed anyone. On the other hand, Gotye, The XX and Lana Del Rey served up dark big band ballads that reveal the underlying sadness of Fitzgerald’s work. Available to stream on HBO Max.

pirate radio a.k.a The boat that rocked (2009)

You know there’s something magical about a movie when it can make you miss a moment long before you were born; that’s the beauty of pirate radio (also published as The boat that rocked). In the 1960s, a team of rebel DJs run an illegal radio station in the middle of the North Sea. Defying the Conservative government of the day, they bring the best of rock and roll to the young masses of Britain.

No doubt one of Richard Curtis‘ greatest movies, all-star cast that includes Bill Nighy comes as no surprise to fans of his other works love in fact and Four weddings and a funeral. Memorable scenes include teenagers dancing to “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinksa furious rebellion rages on the soundtrack of “My Generation” by WHOand who could forget when Simon (Chris O’Dowd) mourns her grief while miming “Stay With Me Baby” by Lorraine Ellison. Hysterical, but moving. Available to rent on AppleTV.

Forrest Gump (1994)

From the 1950s to the early 1980s, Forrest GumpThe soundtrack plays like a “best of” compilation from each decade. The way the story is told through Forrest’s eyes, each song is used to guide viewers through the poignant next stage of his life.

The film contrasts Forrest’s experience during the Vietnam War with popular protest songs from Clearwater Revival Splashback and jimi hendrix, which adds insight into the true feelings of the overly optimistic man. Also, “Go Your Way” by MacFleetwood is a great song for when you just feel like running. Available to stream on Paramount+.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

We cannot talk about film soundtracks without mentioning the one that inspired a movement. Anachronistic soundtracks were rarely used before Baz Luhrmann took over, and it’s a good thing he did. Setting by Shakespeare classic game Romeo and Juliet These days, “Verona Beach” was a thing, but the grunge soundtrack added a whole new layer of teenage angst to the star-crossed lovers story.

Romeo + Juliet not only introduced Shakespeare to a new generation, but it now also serves as the perfect time capsule of the style, rage and rebellion of the 90s. Grunge defined the decade. Before the internet, when teenagers were bored and broke, music was their religion. To scream One inch punch as they sail into a moody sunset with Radiohead, suddenly these characters are us. This aquarium scene still has the power to haunt. Available to stream on HBO Max.


Shrek 2 (2004)

The beloved, green ogre returned after the invincible success of Shrek and, somehow, made a sequel that’s better than the original. Taking place in Far, Far Away, Shrek meets his royal in-laws for the first time. Meanwhile, a prince with serious mummy issues attempts to win Fiona and the throne. Audiences also got a glimpse of Human Shrek.

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It was a difficult choice between Shrek and Shrek 2 here, to be honest. Whereas Shrek brought us the incomparable smash press (get it?) “All Star”, Shrek 2 gave us “I Need a Hero” sung to perfection by Jennifer Saunders. It’s perfectly possible “Accidentally in Love” by count crows is just as iconic as smash the mouth‘s, and can anyone hear “Funky Town” without thinking about this magical movie? Available to stream on Peacock.


Dusk (2008)

Stephanie Meyeris a phenomenal success Dusk The franchise is experiencing a resurgence in popularity as those too young to enjoy the dark vampire love story when it first released are now discovering its campy appeal. While the gritty script and wooden performance may leave a lot to be desired, there’s a part of the first Dusk film that still blows collective minds: the soundtrack.

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Hayley Williams didn’t need to go that hard, but she did, and the fans will be forever grateful to her. Paramore, a longtime staple on any teen’s alternative playlist, wrote two songs for the film, both of which are certified bangers. So there’s nothing but Muse and Linkin Parksuperstars of the time, alongside smaller independent artists like Iron & Wine and The black ghosts. There is also a rather intimate piece performed by Edward himself, Robert Pattinson, which is sure to have put a few hopeless romantics to sleep over the years. Available to stream on PrimeVideo.

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Christy J. Olson