The 10 best ’90s movie soundtracks
Whether it’s a beautifully orchestrated score or a chart-topping hit, certain songs fit with certain movie scenes in a big way. Movie soundtracks have become so common, many movies go into production with the album already in mind. Many directors have already picked out songs for certain scenes before they even film them. It’s hard to listen to Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” without picturing Michael Madsen dancing around and cutting someone’s ear off.
Some movie soundtracks are like mixtapes from your favorite directors. Some have one or two hits, then cobble together songs from other bands under the same label. Even if a movie isn’t very good, the soundtrack might still be absolute dynamite. Drop a CD in your boom box as we look at the best movie soundtracks of the ’90s.
Airheads is like a great comedy combination of Dog Day Afternoon and This Is Spinal Tap. A struggling band hijacks a radio station and holds people hostage for a chance at fame. The movie is about rock ‘n’ roll, so the film’s rockin’ record is full of great headbanging hits. It features The Ramones, Prong, Anthrax, Primus, White Zombie, and a track from The Lone Rangers. It also has the movie’s theme song, a version of Motörhead’s “Born to Raise Hell” featuring Ice-T and Whitfield Crane. If what they say in the movie is true, Lemmy isn’t gone; he just went back home.
Escape From L.A. (1996)
Written and directed by John Carpenter, Escape From L.A. was the follow-up to Escape From New York, which was met with mostly negative reviews. While John Carpenter and Shirley Walker created an amazingly funky Western-inspired score, many folks overlooked this awesome song collection featuring Tool, Toadies, Sugar Ray, Deftones, Clutch, Ministry, Tori Amos, and others. It also includes “The One” by White Zombie, written by Rob Zombie specifically for this film. He would then go on to direct the remake of another John Carpenter film, 2007’s Halloween.
Some of you might not have heard of Freaked, but that’s okay. This strange gem from writer/co-director/star Alex Winter is not for everyone. In this comedy, brat pack sleazebag Ricky Coogan is a spokesperson for EES (Everything Except Shoes) who must travel to South America to improve the company’s image. From there, things get weird. The movie is completely un-PC and disgusting, but also wonderful, with some of the best practical effects and costumes of all time. This soundtrack is one of coolest, most rip-roaring of the decade. Featuring Henry Rollins, Blind Idiot God, Butthole Surfers, Paul Leary, and Axiom Funk, this one is a true friggin’ jam fest! The catch is, it’s technically never been released…until now.
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From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, and written by Quentin Tarantino, From Dusk Till Dawn is an awesome action/horror movie about two brothers on the lam who kidnap a family as hostages to get them across the border into Mexico. That’s just the start of the nightmare in store for all of them. This movie also boasts an awesome country rock soundtrack featuring ZZ Top, The Blasters, The Mavericks, Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother Jimmie, and of course Tito and Tarantula, who play the band onstage in the movie. It also has some of the best dialogue snippets from the film, including a colorful speech from Cheech Marin about a certain part of the female anatomy. Check out the movie on Amazon.
Possibly one of the best movies about crime ever made, Goodfellas was directed by Martin Scorsese and based on screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy. Scorsese weaves a tale that is fun, dark, and extremely intense. Part of that is due to the songs in the film. While the official soundtrack is a few great tracks from the film, it barely scratches the surface of all the music used. This movie spans several decades, and each and every song captures the time perfectly. (The list is too long to name.) One sequence, near the end, utilizes eight songs in the period of just a few minutes, adding to the already tense scenes. Find the songs yourself and create your own master soundtrack as you watch along on Netflix.
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Grosse Pointe Blank is a funny movie about a contract killer who takes a job in his hometown at the same time as his 10-year high school reunion. The film features fun action and awkward comedy. One of the characters works at the local radio station, playing hits from the past, so this soundtrack is another great collection of classics, like the Violent Femmes, the Clash, Guns N’ Roses, Faith No More, Pete Townshend, David Bowie and Queen. Similar to Goodfellas, there are many more songs from the film that didn’t make it onto the soundtrack.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
This Paul W.S. Anderson film is usually accepted as one of the better video-game based movies of the past. Mortal Kombat‘s music is just as memorable as the fights with one of the best techno/rock movie soundtracks of all time. It introduced many to the likes of Gravity Kills, KMFDM, Orbital, Fear Factory, Napalm Death, Type O Negative, and of course, that recognizable theme song from the Immortals. The awful sequel to this movie also had a cool soundtrack. Watch Mortal Kombat on Netflix.
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Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pulp Fiction, the breakout hit from Quentin Tarantino, swept the indie scene and influenced so many filmmakers, a fitting legacy given that the whole movie is inspired by other movies. These interwoven stories about what bad people do when they’re not always being bad changed the movie game and had some truly memorable musical scenes. Featuring some amazing movie quotes and songs from Tarantino’s favorite albums, this soundtrack is a treasure. From Dick Dale to Al Green and Chuck Berry to Urge Overkill, this collection is great for relaxing, dancing, laughing, and loving, even if some songs remind you of awful things. Watch the film and then pick up the soundtrack on Amazon.
SLC Punk (1998)
Set in the ’80s, SLC Punk is the adventures of Stevo and Bob, the only two real punks in Salt Lake City, Utah. This movie is quirky and undeniably funny, but it’ll also sneak up on your emotions. Anyone who considers themselves a fan of punk music probably bought this soundtrack. Exploited, Fear, the Stooges, the Specials, the Ramones, the Dead Kennedys, and more make up this kinetic soundtrack. It’s great for moshing, even if you’re a mod, hippie, or redneck.
Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle and based on the book by Irvine Welsh, is a brutal look at the Edinburgh drug scene. It’s slick, and funny, but also weird and scary. Right from the opening, the use of music in this movie is fantastic. (Any movie that opens with Iggy Pop is gonna be a crazy one.) This soundtrack was so good, they released a second and both are worth owning. This soundtrack landed on multiple “best of” lists, and with good reason!