Who doesn't love a great movie soundtrack? Sometimes an amazing soundtrack helps to define a movie's greatness (The Graduate, Harold and Maude). Sometimes the soundtrack is the only decent thing about a movie (Xanadu, anyone?). In rare cases, I hate a movie so much that I start to dislike the songs in it (The Big Chill). While the cinema lover in me can appreciate the perfect use of any style of music in a film, the following list will be specific to the general musical niche to which this blog caters. So we're talking punk rock, power pop, and rock and roll. Yeah, I know that
has a really awesome soundtrack. But come on: it doesn't rock. An additional rule: biopics, documentaries, and concert films don't count. I'm only counting movies in the traditional sense with characters, plot, etc. Alright: let's do this thing! Garden State
10. Repo Man (1984)
Ah, the days of "punk rock movies"! This soundtrack would be higher on the list if it didn't have Suicidal Tendencies on it. But Fear's "Let's Have a War" and Black Flag's "TV Party" alone make this an essential soundtrack. Plus you've got the Circle Jerks, Plugz, and Iggy Pop (performing the titular number). Repo Man is the opposite of The Big Chill.
9. Angus (1995)
One effect of underground punk groups signing to major labels in the mid-'90s was that sometimes you got to hear their music in mainstream movies. Green Day, the Smoking Popes, and The Muffs all have songs in this 1995 teen dramedy, as do the still "indie" Riverdales and Tilt. Talk about a pop-punk all star team! Throw in highly credible alternative rock bands like Ash and Love Spit Love, and you've got yourself a freaking cool soundtrack.
8. SLC Punk! (1998)
I'm not saying the movie was good. But for the most part, the makers of this film got the music right. Including such songs as Fear's "I Love Livin' in the City", the Stooges' "1969", The Ramones' "Cretin Hop", Dead Kennedys' "Kill the Poor", Adolescents' "Amoeba", Minor Threat's "Look Back and Laugh", and Generation X's "Kiss Me Deadly", the soundtrack is true to a punk rock movie set in 1985. Whatever happened to Matthew Lillard?
7. American Graffiti (1973)
From the mind of a post THX 1138, pre Star Wars George Lucas. As a primer on early rock and roll and doo wop circa the late '50s to early '60s, this soundtrack deserves high marks. You wonder about some of the omissions (Where's Little Richard? Jerry Lee Lewis?). But it's hard to go wrong with Bill Haley and the Comets, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Platters, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, the Beach Boys, Del Shannon, and the Five Satins. If you're going to do a period piece about teens cruising in 1962, you have to get the music right. Lucas did.
6. Adventureland (2009)
With its 1980s setting, this film's soundtrack could easily have gone the novelty/cheese route a la Wedding Singer/200 Cigarettes. Instead, its period selections mine the top artistic tier of '80s pop hits ("Your Love" by The Outfield and "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House) and the glory days of college rock (Violent Femmes, Jesus and Mary Chain). Most significantly, power pop and punk are represented with the New York Dolls ("Looking For a Kiss"), Big Star ("I'm In Love With a Girl"), Nick Lowe ("And So It Goes"), Husker Du ("Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely"), and The Replacements ("Bastards of Young" and "Unsatisfied"). Damn: I wish I had been that cool in the '80s. I was listening to Dokken in 1987!
5. Rock ‘n’
(1979) Roll High School
Duh! You've got the almighty Ramones in their absolute heyday playing all the hits, plus the MC5's "High School", Nick Lowe's "And So It Goes", and Eddie and the Hot Rods' "Teenage Depression". A no-brainer.
(1999) Detroit Rock City
I love this movie, and I love its soundtrack. It reminds me of my childhood days when rock music was fun and arena rock was all about the perfectly crafted hit single. Of course the KISS songs rule, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Songs by Thin Lizzy, T. Rex, Sweet, AC/DC, Ramones, Cheap Trick, The Runaways, and Angel fit in perfectly with the glam-pop/arena rock motif.
Times Square (1980)
If you're looking for a movie with a classic late '70s "punk/new wave" soundtrack,
Times Square is it! Allan Moyle would later direct another film noted for its soundtrack, Pump Up the Volume. But Times Square is way cooler. How many other mainstream movies have ever had The Ruts and Tubeway Army on the soundtrack? Really! The Cars, XTC, The Ramones, Pretenders, Patti Smith, Joe Jackson, Suzi Quatro, and a very early version of The Cure, among others, make this soundtrack a primo new wave artifact.
2. Goodfellas (1990)
Part of what makes Goodfellas one of the best movies ever made is its masterful use of popular music. True to the historical periods it covers, its uses the sounds of doo wop (Otis Williams and the Charms, Moonglows, Cadillacs), girl groups (The Marvelettes, the Crystals, Ronettes, Darlene Love), and Martin Scorsese's beloved Rolling Stones ("Gimme Shelter", "Monkey Man", "Memo from Turner") to epic effect. Watch this movie, and you'll never think of the piano outro to "Layla" the same way again. And has there ever been a more perfect song to close a movie than the Sid Vicious version of "My Way"?
1. Up the Academy (1980)
Up the Academy was supposed to be Mad magazine's version of Animal House. The only problem was that it wasn't funny. It was so unwatchable, in fact, that Mad quickly divorced itself of any association with the film. Directed by Robert Downey Sr. and featuring Ralph Macchio in his first starring role, this "comedy" about teen misfits at a military school is historically bad. But its soundtrack is historically good. Check out this list of songs that appeared in the movie:
Iggy and the Stooges- "Gimme Danger"
Dwight Twilley Band – "Trying to Find My Baby"
Blondie- "X Offender"
Eddie and the Hot Rods- "Do Anything You Wanna Do"
Modern Lovers- "Roadrunner"
Boomtown Rats- "Rat Trap"
Iggy Pop & James Williamson- "Night Theme"
Nick Lowe- "Heart of the City"
Cheap Trick- "Surrender"
Lou Reed- "Street Hassle"
Blondie- "One Way Or Another"
Ian Hunter- "We Gotta Get Out of Here"
David Johansen- "Girls"
And just to show you that the makers of this movie had no fucking idea what they were doing, only three of the above songs actually made it onto the soundtrack album!