Top 5 Movie Soundtracks of All Time. Ever.

In anticipation of the 84th Annual Academy Awards, Music and Movies writer MJ Galbraith combines the two for his Top 5 movie soundtracks of all time. Think he has it wrong? Let him know with your comments below.


The O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack accomplished a lot of things, least of which was convincing a generation of music fans that they did, in fact, like country music. And bluegrass. And gospel. And old-timey–you get the idea. Soon after the movie’s release, you couldn’t sit in a college bar on a Saturday night without hearing ‘I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow’ enough to eventually get sick of it–at least a little. While that song is great, it’s the Emmylou Harris-Alison Krauss-Gillian Welch ‘Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby’ that’s the real gem.


Pump Up the Volume is early 1990′s campy greatness about angsty teens, parents and teachers who just don’t get it, the early days of ‘alternative’ music, and a pirate radio station on the back of a Jeep Wrangler. So of course it has a great soundtrack: Leonard Cohen, the Pixies, Was (Not Was), Soundgarden, Sonic Youth, etc.


The Bob Dylan ‘bio’ pic I’m Not There is divisive as all get out. I know serious Dylanophiles who can’t stand it and others (i.e., me) who count the movie as one of their all time favorites. Going in, I expected to like the movie but to hate the soundtrack–few phrases make my skin crawl like ‘tribute album’ does. Turns out, I love it too. ‘Goin’ to Acapulco’ by Jim James and Calexico is one of my favorite things ever.


After watching Singles, the studio that was behind Cameron Crowe’s 1992 film was moments away from deciding to not release it. Then Seattle blew up and the studio realized who all these bands were in the movie and on its soundtrack: Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, and Screaming Trees. The soundtrack probably sold more copies than the movie did tickets, yes, but there are so many great songs on here that only one movie could prevent it from coming in at number one…


Number one with a bullet: High Fidelity. If ever there was a more perfect union of music and movie, I have yet to see it. It’s so funny and sad and smart and honest and the soundtrack kicks fucking ass. While the CD version of the soundtrack is limited in its fifteen songs, it does an admirable job in trying to represent the many, many songs featured in the film. The use of Bob Dylan’s ‘Most of the Time’ kills every time.

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Mike G

Mike G

Mike G is a songwriter and local musician, freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, lover of travel, and a terrible mechanic. When MJ graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Creative Writing, he was immediately barraged with 'questions' of "What are you gonna do, teach?" He is determined to not get a job teaching. So far, so good. With music, MJ's traveled the country touring on his songs. Having spent time in places from Chicago to Seattle, LA to New Orleans, and Nashville to NYC, he is convinced that Detroit and its 'burbs have the the highest concentration of 'native' songwriting talent anywhere. Eat it, New York. You too, LA. MJ started writing for the Urbane Life in the summer of 2011. He also writes for a handful of other websites as well as an immigration lawyer. He used to work in a publishing house. He's glad he's out. 


  • Totz the Plaid

    Mike, you’ve got some great ones on there, but I disagree. Here’s my list (I’m using a top 15 format):15: Rocky Horror Picture ShowBrilliant cheesy goodness. This music is almost impossible to take seriously, but it’s so much fun that ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Add in the fact that a few of the songs are legitimately GOOD standalones and you’ve got a classic soundtrack.
    14: Reservoir Dogs
    Tarantino’s first soundtrack is also his best. Combining Stephen Wright’s dry K-Billy radio bits in among the selection of ’70s hits brings a cohesion to the album. Unfortunately the two dialogue samples briefly break the flow, and explain why this disc isn’t up a bit higher.

    13: Singles
    I’m not as big of a fan of 90s alt-rock as you are, so this drops down the list, otherwise your argument stands.
    12: This is Spinal Tap/A Mighty Wind (tie)Christopher Guest is the master of the mockumentary, and these soundtracks show why. Both movies feature extensive use of original music, and every single song manages to simultaneously be both a perfect recreation of and brilliant satire of its film’s musical style.

    11: Almost Famous
    Cameron Crowe is a master of matching film and music, and this movie is a masterpiece in that regard. The soundtrack, unfortunately, doesn’t compile all 50+ songs used in the movie, but still manages to be a mini-masterpiece on its own.

    10: Pump Up the Volume
    What you said above works for me.

    _9: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
    Again, I’m deferring to your justifications posted above.
    _8: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
    This brilliantly genre-busting comic-book adaptation comes with an equally brilliant soundtrack. Mixing such artists as Broken Social Scene, the Rolling Stones, Metric, T. Rex, Beck and a number of original songs, this comes off less as a soundtrac and more as the best mixtape you never made.
    _7: OnceGlen Hansard is easily one of Ireland’s greatest songwriters (and one of the finest singers ever), and along with Markéta Irglová he supplied all but one of the songs for this brilliant musical. The limited edition includes a pair of bonus Van Morrison covers, but that’s icing on the cake.

    _6: The Commitments, vol. 1 & 2This brilliant early-90s movie about the rise and fall of Ireland’s best (and only) soul band comes with some of the finest soul covers you could ever hope to hear. Bonus points: that phenomenal male lead vocalist? Only sixteen years old when the movie was shot.
    _5: Purple RainThe movie is, at best, a cheesy guilty pleasure, but the diminuitive Minneapolis-based musical genius was at the top of his game as far as songwriting is concerned.
    _4: I’m Not ThereInsert your reasoning here.
    _3: High FidelityI agree completely with your post there, but you can read on to see why it sits at #3 on my list.
    _2: Yellow Submarine SongtrackWhile “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” are more consistent as albums, only the U.S. versions are really soundtracks. Instead, I chose this. Feeling very much like a mid-period ‘Best of’ compilation, this disc blows most other soundtracks away for one reason: it’s the Beatles. I had to dock it a few points for failing to include what is arguably the single greatest Beatles song: “A Day in the Life” which is also the only song in the movie not included (not counting George Martin’s orchestral compositions).

    _1: Woodstock: Three Days of Peace, Love & MusicEither this release completely slipped your mind, or you’re kidding me by not including it. I’m going to assume the former.

  • Bonnie Caprara

    Hey, Mike! What about The Big Lebowski soundtrack?