The best movie soundtracks of all time

23 February 2021, 16:38 | Updated: 24 February 2021, 10:47

Ewan McGregor takes off to the sounds of Lust For Life by Iggy Pop
Ewan McGregor takes off to the sounds of Lust For Life by Iggy Pop. Picture: Liam Longman/Figment/Noel Gay/Kobal/Shutterstock

Let's take a look at some of the best film soundtracks ever compiled, from Trainspotting to Pulp Fiction.

  1. Trainspotting (1996)

    Danny Boyle's era-defining look at life in Edinburgh's seedy underbelly kicked off with the classic scene of Ewan McGregor haring it down the road to Iggy Pop's Lust For Life. From there, the soundtrack included New Order's Temptation, Sing by Blur and the evergreen Born Slippy by Underworld. And, for added authenticity, the smackhead anthem Perfect Day by Lou Reed.

  2. Singles (1992)

    The soundtrack to Cameron Crowe's comedy featured a who's who of grunge acts: Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Smashing Pumpkins and Screaming Trees. Only Nirvana were conspicuous by their absence.

  3. Pulp Fiction (1994)

    Quentin Tarantino's stone cold classic opened to the surfin' sounds of Misirlou by Dick Dale and featured Jungle Boogie by Kool And The Gang and loads more cult rock and soul. But it was the cover of Neil Diamond's Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon by Urge Overkill that sticks in the memory - mainly down to fact that its soundtracks Uma Thurman's character about to almost cark it on heroin.

  4. About A Boy (2002)

    Damon Gough aka Badly Drawn Boy provided the soundtrack to this adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel, staring Hugh Grant. It includes the wonderful Silent Sigh and Hornby himself has lauded the track A Minor Incident in his book 31 Songs.

  5. The Beach (2000)

    Danny Boyle again, this time casting Leonardo di Caprio in Alex Garland's tale of a secret beach paradise gone wrong. Blur, Leftfield, Moby, Underworld, Faithless, New Order and UNKLE with Richard Ashcroft all featured, but it was girl pop act All Saints and Pure Shores that was the hit.

  6. Kill Your Friends (2015)

    Kill Your Friends follows a ruthless A&R man in the 90s British music scene, so it’s no surprise it has a killer soundtrack. Based on John Niven's novel of the same name, the ‘Britpop thriller’ features tracks from Blur, Oasis, Radiohead, The Prodigy and Echo and The Bunnymen.

  7. Kids (1995)

    Larry Clark directed this movie about promiscuous teenagers encountering HIV in the mid-90s, which starred Chloë Sevigny. The soundtrack featured post-rock legends Sebadoh and Slint, plus a whole heap of Beastie Boys.

  8. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010)

    Edgar Wright directed the movie based on a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley, which had an excellent selection of tunes, including tracks by Beck, Frank Black, The Black Lips, The Bluetones, Blood Red Shoes, Broken Social Scene and the not-very-nice Under My Thumb by The Rolling Stones.

  9. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

    Britain's finest heavy metal band hit America for a turbulent tour in support of their Smell The Glove album and the subsequent documentary has a great soundtrack. From the gender politics of Big Bottom, the conceptual Stonehenge to the just plain fun (Tonight) I'm Going To Rock You (Tonight), the album captures a band in a period of transition. Better than Shark Sandwich.

  10. The World's End (2013)

    The final helping of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s 'Cornetto Trilogy' features absolute bangers from the likes of Primal Scream, Suede, Pulp and Blur.

  11. Easy Rider (1969)

    Perhaps the best movie to come out of the counterculture in the late 1960s, Dennis Hooper and Peter Fonda star as two bikers out to lose themselves in the back roads of America. Along the way, they pick up Jack Nicholson and drive up and down on their "hogs" to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and The Byrds. Any motorcyclist who says they've never had Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf run through their head as they ride is a LIAR.

  12. The Great Gatsby (2013)

    Another freeform Baz Luhrmann adaptation of a classic story: Jay-Z produced the album, which featured a collaboration between Beyonce and Andre 3000, Lana Del Rey, The xx, Florence And The Machine, Jack White and Nero.

  13. 500 Days Of Summer (2009)

    The romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel featured an outstanding soundtrack including tracks by Black Lips, Regina Spektor, Wolfmother. Alongside those heroes were the classic There Goes The Fear by Doves, Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap and Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths.

  14. Purple Rain (1984)

    Mr Prince officially went from cult figure to pop superstar on the release of this semi-biographical movie. P plays "The Kid" and the film details his troubles with his band, his parents and his woman. All of this is soundtracked by classics like Let's Go Crazy, When Doves Cry, I Would Die For U and the title track.

  15. 24 Hour Party People (2002)

    Michael Winterbottom's tale of Anthony Wilson and the rise and fall and rise and fall of the legendary Factory Records label was sure to have a great soundtrack. Covering the two very different brands of Manchester music - from post-punk to the acid house-tinged "baggy" era - everyone's present and correct. Happy Mondays provide the title track, Joy Division dominate, there's some old school punk from The Clash and Buzzcocks and the new song from New Order (Here To Stay) is no slouch either.

  16. A Hard Day's Night (1964)

    The album that accompanied The Beatles' debut movie featured one side of songs from the film and one side of new tracks - their first album to be enitrely comprised of Lennon and McCartney compositions. The film side includes the storming title track, Can't Buy Me Love, I Should Have Known Better and other beat-era classics.

  17. The Crow (1994)

    Tragedy cursed this adaptation of the influential comic book, with star Brandon Lee being killed during filming after a prop gun misfired. A long shadow appropriately hung over the movie, which bears a suitably dark soundtrack: Nine Inch Nails cover Joy Division, The Cure recorded their most gothic song (Burn) and The Jesus And Mary Chain, Pantera and Stone Temple Pilots all feature.

  18. Quadrophenia (1979)

    The Who's 1973 concept album forms the backbone to Franc Roddam's movie version of the Mod odyssey. However, it's the 1960s tracks on the accompanying soundtrack album that set the scene for the tale of Phil Daniels as Jimmy The Mod: Green Onions by Booker T and the MG's, Louie Louie by The Kingsmen and a couple of songs by the Who's former incarnation The High Numbers.

  19. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

    The unique Marvel comedy was a runaway success due to its fresh take on the superhero genre, it’s dark humour and its amazing music. The soundtrack is based on a mixtape in the film called, Awesome Mix Vol 1, and includes the likes of David Bowie, Marvin Gaye and The Runaways.

  20. Pump Up The Volume (1990)

    This Christian Slater comedy-drama about a pirate radio station is all but forgotten now, but the soundtrack is pretty cool and a great snapshot of the era, featuring Pixies, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden and US hardcore punkers Bad Brains collaborating with Henry Rollins on a cover of the MC5 classic Kick Out The Jams.

  21. Submarine (2010)

    Comedian and actor Richard Ayoade directed this sweet coming of age saga and got none other than Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys to write five songs for the soundtrack. The nearest thing we'll get to a Turner solo album for the time being.

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