A movie’s soundtrack can make or break a film. An amazing set of songs can elevate an already stellar movie, or even help out a mediocre one. Conversely, poor song choices can be a movie’s downfall. Here is a list of my personal favorite movie soundtracks:
1. Garden State
“Garden State” lead actor, Zach Braff, received a Grammy as Compilation Producer for the soundtrack. It’s that good. The mellow and moody songs perfectly complement the indifferent attitude of Braff’s character, Andrew Largeman, as he visits his hometown in New Jersey for his mother’s funeral. The “Garden State” soundtrack is one of my favorite collections of songs ever, with bands such as The Shins, Coldplay, Nick Drake, Frou Frou and Colin Hay. Watching the movie for the first time after listening to the album innumerable times was a more surreal experience than I expected it to be, but I was not disappointed.
Listen to it: on a rainy day.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Though “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a sci-fi movie, the throwback, feel-good ‘70s hits worked surprisingly perfectly in this film. Big names like David Bowie, the Jackson 5, The Runaways and The Five Stairsteps are featured on this album that topped the U.S. Billboard 200 for 11 weeks. Listen when you’re in a grungy mood and imagine baby Groot dancing your angst away. Who could stay angry after listening to “Come And Get Your Love” by Redbone?
Listen to it: when roadtripping across the United States, or across the galaxy (it’s only a matter of time).
This Grammy-winning soundtrack from the 1999 Disney animated film was many kids’ introduction to Phil Collins. You can’t help but feel nostalgic for your Disney days when listening to “Trashin’ the Camp,” or sentimental about gorillas when listening to “You’ll Be in My Heart.”
Listen to it: when adulthood is getting you down. “Son of Man” and “Strangers Like Me” are especially helpful.
Good Will Hunting
Elliott Smith is the star of this soundtrack. His haunting, whispery vocals and gorgeous guitar picking make “Good Will Hunting” an even more poignant film. The lyrics and composition of “Angeles,” “No Name #3,” “Between the Bars” and “Say Yes” are pure poetry.
Listen to it: when you’re walking along the Esplanade on an overcast day.
500 Days of Summer
The eclectic soundtrack to “500 Days of Summer” mirrors the movie’s quirkiness. New and old songs are juxtaposed: Regina Spektor’s hiccupy “Us” and Feist’s “Mushaboom” are paired with Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bookend.” She & Him, a musical duo comprised of M. Ward and “500 Days of Summer” lead actress Zooey Deschanel, cover The Smiths’ song, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.”
Listen to it: when you’re having up-and-down mood swings.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This coming-of-age film has a soundtrack featuring ‘80s artists such as Dexy’s Midnight Runners, David Bowie, XTC, Cocteau Twins and The Smiths, just to name a handful.
Listen to it: when making your parents nostalgic. Whether you want to step into that territory, though, is a judgment call for you to make.
Jack Johnson’s soundtrack album, “Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George,” is full of sunny tunes. Johnson strums his guitar and assures you with his soothing vocals that everything is going to be alright.
Listen to it: when hanging out in a hammock.
Before you judge me for putting “Twilight” on this list (I can see you judging me, I can see you doing it right now), hear me out. Yes, the overly dramatic movie is even more subpar than the book series about a romantic relationship between a vampire and a masochistic high school girl, but the soundtrack is good. The soundtrack is so good, in fact, that it received a World Soundtrack Award, and features bands such as Muse, Paramore, Linkin Park and Iron & Wine. There’s also lesser known names such as MUTEMATH, The Black Ghosts and an original song by Robert Pattinson.
Listen to it: when you fly across the country to live in a small town with your dad, but end up falling in love with an immortal monster.
The Big Chill
“The Big Chill” centers around a funeral that brings together a once-close friend group. They confront one another, themselves and old issues are brought out again. Sound like your own family reunions? The soundtrack spans generations and might even bring your family together.
Listen to it: at Thanksgiving dinner.
The Breakfast Club
The songs featured in “The Breakfast Club” are mostly deep ‘80s tracks, ones you wouldn’t recognize unless you are a hardcore fan of that decade’s music. But “The Breakfast Club” soundtrack nonetheless deserves a shoutout. After all, what would Judd Nelson’s clenched fist against the sky be without “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.