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Film Soundtracks: The Best Soundtracks to Movies

Updated on April 15, 2012

Film Soundtracks

The Best Soundtracks to Movies
The Best Soundtracks to Movies | Source

Film Soundtracks

What are the best soundtracks to movies?

Good film soundtracks need to be effective enough to enhance the movie watching experience and accentuate the emotion the scene is trying to express. However, they also need to be subtle enough not draw attention to themselves. If film soundtracks are too heavy handed then they will snap you out of the movie, which is the opposite of what soundtracks to movies are supposed to do.

The best soundtracks to movies become synonymous with the movie they accompany so that when you hear them you are transported back to the movie in your mind.

Film soundtracks have become an important part of the movie industry and are usually released as an album around the same time as the movie. The first movie to have a commercially released film soundtrack was the 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Walt Disney, which had a soundtrack released in early 1938. Now it has become common for a movie to have a commercially available soundtrack accompany it, with varying degrees of success. The best soundtracks to movies, in terms of album sales, are usually known for a single blockbuster song that features prominently in either the movie or the movie’s marketing. An example of this is the 1994 blockbuster, The Bodyguard.

To illustrate the influence of film soundtracks on the music industry, consider that only ten albums are credited with having over 40 million worldwide sales. Of those ten, three are movie soundtracks: The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album, Dirty Dancing (soundtrack) and Saturday Night Fever. Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture has sold over 30 million copies and Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture over 28 million.

The Best Soundtracks to Movies

  • The Bodyguard (1992) - 44 million albums sold
  • Dirty Dancing (1987) - 42 million albums sold
  • Saturday Night Fever (1977) - 40 million albums sold
  • Titanic (1997) - 30 million albums sold
  • Grease (1978) - 28 million albums sold

The Bodyguard Film Soundtrack Video

Film Soundtrack: The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album

The Bodyguard movie soundtrack is widely considered to be the most successful of all time. Having sold over 44 million copies, it is the best selling film soundtrack of all time and the fourth most sold album period, following Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and AC/DC’s Back in Black. It is one of only three film soundtracks to sell over 40 million copies and is has sold over two million more copies than Dirty Dancing and four million more copies than Saturday Night Fever. The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album sold fourteen million more copies than the film soundtrack for Titanic, which was also a global phenomenon that heavily piggybacked on the success of the signature song.

Arista Records released The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album on November 17, 1992. Its success rode the wave of the movie’s flagship song, "I Will Always Love You", which was a sensation around the world. The performance made the already established Whitney Houston into a superstar. Houston and Clive Davis executive produced the film soundtrack and it contained a variety of songs performed by Houston but also included performances by Kenny G and Aaron Neville, Lisa Stansfield, The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M., Kenny G and Joe Cocker. It sold one million copies it its first week, making Houston the first act to ever do so. The signature song, "I Will Always Love You" was written by Dolly Parton in the early 1970’sand had previously reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs.

Considering that in almost twenty years no film soundtracks have even gone close to The Bodyguard in terms of album sales, it is like to forever sit at the top of the totem poll of the best soundtracks to movies.

Dirty Dancing Film Soundtrack Video

Film Soundtrack: Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing (soundtrack)

Before there was The Bodyguard, there was the Dirty Dancing film soundtrack. Released in 1987 it lasted for 18 weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 album sales charts. Jimmy Ienner and Bob Feiden were executive producers of the soundtrack and it featured music by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, The Ronettes, Eric Carmen and more. Even Patrick Swayze had a song contribution (She's Like the Wind). The signature song "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes played a large role in the success, as did Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes”

A 20th Anniversary Edition film soundtrack was released in 2007 that had 27 tracks and DVD disc accompanying it.

Saturday Night Fever Film Soundtrack

Film Soundtrack: Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track

Primarily composed and performed by the Bee Gees and released in 1977 to accompany the movie Saturday Night Fever, Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track was the biggest selling movie soundtrack of all time. Since then it has been surpassed by The Bodyguard and Dirty Dancing film soundtracks. However, it is still one of only ten albums to have sold over 40 million copies. While the best film soundtracks define a movie, Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track defines an era. The album show cased the disco phenomenon with hits like "How Deep Is Your Love", "Night Fever", "More Than a Woman", "If I Can't Have You", "More Than a Woman", "Jive Talkin'", "You Should Be Dancing" and "Stayin' Alive", all written by the Bee Gees (Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb & Maurice Gibb).

Titanic Film Soundtrack Video

Film Sountrack: Titanic

Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture

A few years after the success of The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album, another film soundtrack caused a global phenomenon. Like the mammoth boat described, the movie titanic was a bohemeth, However, unlike the ship the movie and the soundtrack refused to sink. Once again, a film soundtrack was able to ride the wave of a signature, chart stopping track. In the case of Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture, it was "My Heart Will Go On", performed by Celine Dion and written by written by James Horner and Will Jennings. The song won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Original Song. The rest of the album was the movie’s score, composed and conducted by James Horner. With over thirty million copies sold it is the second most successful movie soundtrack of all time and in the top 25 most sold album ever. Such success is especially unique in that other than “My Heart Will Go On, the film soundtrack is entirely orchestral.

Grease Film Soundtrack Video

Grease Film Soundtrack

Film Soundtrack: Grease

Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture

Unlike The Bodyguard and Titanic film soundtracks, the success of Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture is based on more than just one song. Although "You're the One That I Want" was incredibly successful, "Grease”, "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and “Sandy” were all prominent songs on the charts. The movie Grease was a hit at the box office and as a musical, it’s soundtrack played a prominent role in that. However, what is striking about Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture is its longevity. The film soundtrack has reached number in 1978, 1991 and 1998 following new releases of the album. Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture was released by Polydor Records, with many of the tracks recorded by the film’s stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Having sold over has sold over 28 million copies, is the sixth best-selling soundtrack album ever.

Soundtracks to Movies by QuentinTarantino

Tarantino Film Soundtracks
Tarantino Film Soundtracks

Tarantino Film Soundtracks

Many of the soundtracks to movies by Quentin Tarantino have gained a cult following. Tarantino revitalized having dialogue excerpts on his film soundtrack albums, which was a smart move considering the slick, critically acclaimed dialogue his films are known for. Tarantino Film soundtracks are also known for introducing listeners to other genres of music. For example, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack contains rock and roll, surf music, pop and soul. The Jackie Brown soundtrack also has a variety of music genres, particularly soul.

The most successful soundtrack to movies by Tarantino is the Pulp Fiction Soundtrack. Upon release in 1994 it eventually made it to number twenty-one on the Billboard charts and went on to sell over two million copies over the next two years. Highlights include the "Royale with Cheese" dialogue by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, Jackson's recitation of "Ezekiel 25:17”, "Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield, "Let's Stay Together” by Al Green and "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill, which reached number 59 on the Billboard 200 as a single.

For more information about Tarantino film soundtracks, check out the links below.

Pulp Fiction Film Soundtrack

Film Soundtracks

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Drive Movie Soundtrack

Film Soundtracks Poll

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