The soundtrack of the summer will undoubtedly be Lin-Manuel Miranda’s highly anticipated “Hamilton” follow-up: HBO Max's “In the Heights,” which was written during his sophomore year of college back in 1999.
But until then, let’s take a look back at eight movie soundtracks that span genres, appeal to a wide array of audiences, and stand the test of time — especially with the ongoing 90s pop culture takeover. Read on to take a look and have a listen to some of our favorites.
"Pulp Fiction" (1994)
Rolling Stone says Quentin Tarantino’s groundbreaking movie has a soundtrack that sounds like “one of the world’s coolest mixtapes, which made it an instant classic when it came out,” and we can’t help but agree. Right off the bat, a high-energy surf rock track sucks us into the story before the opening credits have a chance to play out — cut with Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie.” Mix in Chuck Berry’s 1964 hit “You Never Can Tell,” and you get one of the most memorable scenes in recent cinematic history: Uma Thurman and John Travolta boogying away at a spontaneous diner dance contest.
"The Crow" (1994)
This cult classic stands the test of time with a soundtrack that spans grunge, industrial, and alternative rock and continues to rock decades on. Featuring music by Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, The Cure, Violent Femmes, Pantera, and more, fans will find a range of songs they’ll be hard-pressed to encounter anywhere else, like specially-created covers of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” and Poison Idea’s “The Badge” framing this dark superhero fantasy film.
"Cruel Intentions" (1999)
This iconic 90s teen drama delivers on the music front with a soundtrack that features an array of 90s bangers, from Blur’s “Coffee & TV," Placebo’s “Every You, Every Me,” and “Colorblind” by the Counting Crows to “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim and another staple of the era: Love Spit Love’s cover of “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths.
Vice calls it a collection of tunes that captures “the dark heart of adolescence,” embodied by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe’s manipulative games with co-stars Reese Witherspoon and Selma Blair, and one listen will have you back in their lairs.
"High Fidelity" (2000)
Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, “High Fidelity” tells the story of a music snob and his love life, so it's no wonder that the movie's accompanied by a killer soundtrack. Star and co-screenwriter John Cusack listened to around 2,000 songs with his team while narrowing down the selection to the film’s 70 song cues — 15 of which end up on the official soundtrack. It’s well worth a listen for Jack Black’s rendition of “Let’s Get It On” alone but also features favorites from The Velvet Underground, Stereolab, Bob Dylan, and The Kinks.
"Billy Elliot" (2000)
Any album that includes “I Love to Boogie” by T. Rex is okay by us, and that’s just one of several hits (“Children of the Revolution,” “Cosmic Dancer,” “Ride a White Swan”) from the English rock band included on the beloved “Billy Elliot” soundtrack.
Rounded out by more bumping tracks like “London Calling” by The Clash and “Town Called Malice” by The Jam, it’s a certified Brit-rock bop fest to enjoy on its own or while watching Jamie Bell absolutely kill it with those electric dance moves.
"Lord of the Rings" (2001)
For lovers of more instrumental and classical music, the sweeping soundtrack of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is a dramatic delight. Composed and conducted by Howard Shore, two of the three installments won Academy Awards for Best Original Score, and all three won Grammys for Best Score Soundtrack Album. The ethereal Enya also composed a popular track for the first of the films, titled “May It Be,” which was nominated for numerous awards as well.
"The Last Kiss" (2006)
Zach Braff’s taste in music took the spotlight with his critically-acclaimed debut “Garden State” and rocks steady with this follow-up effort about the crossroads that comes with hitting your thirties. The Atlantic calls Braff’s ability to put together a curated selection of songs “ingenious…[and] immediately evocative both of the movie they are associated with, and a certain period of time.” With “The Last Kiss,” fans will find a similar treat with considered picks from Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, and others.
Winner of the 2007 Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film, this Irish indie effort tells the story of two struggling musicians who happen to meet and start making music together as their relationship evolves — the result of which is the dreamy, multi-award-winning soundtrack. One of those includes an Oscar for Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s standout ballad “Falling Slowly,” which the folk rock duo composed and performed, along with the rest of the film’s original songs.