8 of the best movie soundtracks from the 1990s
From 'Wayne's World' to 'Titanic,' these are the movie albums that made us rock, weep, and even swing.
Before the Internet completely flipped the music industry upside down, the only true way to make your own mix tape was to burn a CD, record onto a cassette tape, or purchase a movie soundtrack. The decade of the 1990s defined this last option, with nearly every hit movie accompanied by an album of songs on compact disc or cassette. Generally, these LPs contained a couple songs you really wanted to hear – and many more that were quickly skipped and forgotten.
Every now and again, however, a movie soundtrack emerged that rocked car stereos and CD players from beginning to end. In some cases, the albums themselves were more impressive than the films that introduced them. Below are a handful of incredible 90's soundtracks that defined a generation and even today continue to stoke nostalgia with every play.
'Dazed and Confused'
Considered one of the best movies about high school, American director Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused" not only introduced us to future stars (including American newcomer Matthew McConaughey), but also produced one of the best classic rock mixes of all time.
Featuring such hits as American artist Alice Cooper's "School's Out," English rocker Dave Peverett's "Slow Ride," and American-Israeli legend Gene Simmons' "Rock & Roll All Nite," the "Dazed and Confused" soundtrack is a 14-track love letter to the music of the 1970s.
The disc was such a hit that the studio released a companion album in 1994, "Even More Dazed and Confused," featuring an additional 12 tracks of hits from ZZ Top to The Steve Miller Band.
'Romeo and Juliet'
A little over a year before his role in "Titanic" would turn him into the world's most famous actor, American Leonardo DiCaprio scored what was then the biggest blockbuster of his career with "Romeo and Juliet."
The modern-day reboot of William Shakespeare's tragic love story, "Romeo" not only scored with critics and fans, but also produced a triple-platinum soundtrack that reached #2 on the U.S. Billboard charts. The 17-track disc featured songs from such classic 90's bands as Everclear, Radiohead, The Cardigans, and Garbage. It was particularly popular in Australia, becoming the second-most popular album overall for 1997.
Regarded by critics as one of the greatest screenplays ever written, American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" is also much beloved for its eclectic soundtrack of American rock and roll, surf music, pop and soul. We'd expect nothing less for a movie that features American actors Uma Thurman and John Travolta twisting to Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell."
In addition to songs like "Son of a Preacher Man," "Jungle Boogie," and "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," the "Pulp" soundtrack was also propelled to #6 on the SoundScan charts by the film's opening track "Misirlou." A traditional song from the Mediterranean, it has since been used in everything from video games to television series and surfing documentaries.
Based on the eponymous "Saturday Night Live" skit, "Wayne's World" was the kind of movie we all thought might fail miserably, but managed to surprise with both its humor and endearing characters. It also left an indelible mark on a new generation of music fans who had had perviously never been exposed to the genius of British rock band Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Thanks to the film, the song rocketed to #2 on the Billboard charts – more than 17 years after its initial release.
In addition to Queen, the 14-track soundtrack also features Israeli-American singer Gene Simmons' "Feed My Frankenstein," American actress Tia Carrere's "Ballroom Blitz," and Garth's personal favorite "Foxy Lady," by American rocker Jimi Hendrix. In 1992, the soundtrack hit #1 on the U.S. billboard charts.
For those bands engaged in the mid-90s in the relatively small genre of "Retro Swing," the film "Swingers" was the catalyst that propelled them into the spotlight.
Directed by American Doug Liman, the 1996 comedy drama not only gave us catchphrases such as "you're so money," and "Vegas, baby!," but also reintroduced the world of swing dancing; with the film's plot line involving several Los Angeles club and lounges featuring the dance style.
Swing revivalists such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy were heavily featured on the 16 track disc, as were blues and standards from the likes of American crooners Dean Martin and Bobby Darin. Based on the success of the first soundtrack, a follow-up disc was released three years later called "Swingers Too!."
Directed by Canadian Allan Moyle and produced by Arnon Milchan, a prolific Israeli filmmaker, "Empire Records" was always destined to have a great soundtrack. The movie revolves around a group of young employees determined to prevent their beloved record store from being sold to a giant music chain. Naturally, the film's score is a veritable who's who of 90's rock – with bands like Better Than Ezra, Cracker, the Cranberries and Gin Blossoms all contributing tracks.
While the movie flopped at the box office, the soundtrack fared much better – with two hit songs (The Gin Blossoms "'Til I Hear It From You" and British musician Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You") cracking the charts. Ironically, it would take until 2012, 17 years after the film's release, before a vinyl record edition of the soundtrack was released.
Shaking your head at this selection? Don't. The soundtrack to the 1997 blockbuster by American director James Cameron is not only one of the best-selling albums of all-time, but also the #1 best-selling orchestral film score in history. Composed by the late great American James Horner, the disc contains 15 tracks from the film, including Canadian singer Celine Dion's mega-hit "My Heart Will Go On." According to Horner, the score was partially inspired by the work of Irish musician Enya, and also featured the wordless vocals of Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø.
The "Titanic" soundtrack remained at the top of the U.S. Billboard charts for a staggering 16 weeks. It would go on to sell 30 million copies worldwide and, not surprisingly, spawn a second disc from Horner called "Back to Titanic." No album since 1997 has spent at least ten consecutive weeks at #1.
'City of Angels'
Executive produced by Israeli Arnon Milchan and starring American actors Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan, "City of Angels" was a thought-provoking ode to the meaning of life that featured a beautiful soundtrack. The disc spawned a number of huge hits for bands, including the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris," Canadian-American singer Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited," and Canadian Sarah McLachlan's "Angel."
To date, the soundtrack has sold more than five million times in the U.S. and has been certified platinum five times. Showing its international appeal, the disc also soared to number one of the sales charts in Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland.
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