Tarantino is famous for his blending of eccentric musical taste and on-screen mayhem. The two elements come together and give an unexpected edge to his work, a technique he’s been using since 1992’s Reservoir Dogs. The soundtrack sets the mood, the pace, and is a valuable weapon in any filmmaker’s arsenal. And while Tarantino does it right, there are a few other compilations out there that could give him a run for his money.
We thought it would be fun to bring you some of the other soundtracks worthy of a listen. It would be unfair to include anything before his time as a director began, and equally unfair to consider soundtracks with music composed specifically for use in a film. These are Screen Rant’s 11 Pop Music Movie Soundtracks Better Than Quentin Tarantino’s.
Featuring: Nazareth, Ted Nugent, and The Runaways
Given the subject matter of 1993’s Dazed and Confused, it makes sense that the soundtrack would be comprised of songs plucked straight from the zenith of weed culture: the 1960s and 70s. It’s the last day of school in 1976 for the film’s cast, and everyone is preoccupied with matters that are extracurricular in nature. Alcohol, dope, and sex are the true academic pursuits on display.
Iconic anthems like Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” play nice with the slower fare of Nazareth’s “Love Hurts,” a song capable of bringing even the toughest among us to tears. Each track is gold, sure to make both causal and ardent listeners exclaim “I LOVE this song!” at least once.
Featuring: The Jam, Barry White, and Aretha Franklin
John Cusack is doing what he does best in 2000’s High Fidelity: being a neurotic yet lovable everyman. After being dumped, Rob (Cusack) does the only natural thing: further punish himself by making a list of his top five break-ups and reliving each one. A former DJ, he’s fully immersed in both music and list-making cultures, and has a refined melodic palate all his own. Rob owns a mildly successful record store, haunted by Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (Jack Black) who are each the masters of their own rhythmic domains, cultivating tendencies that come across as snobbish to non-audiophiles.
Catchy tunes from Bow Wow Wow (“I Want Candy”) and Katrina & The Waves (“Walking On Sunshine”) balance out the more mellow contributions from Belle & Sebastian (“Seymour Stein”) and Peter Frampton (“Baby, I Love Your Way”).
Featuring: Edwyn Collins, Gin Blossoms, The Cranberries
The 1995 cult-favorite Empire Records gives audiences a glimpse into a day in the life of a team of independent record store employees. The movie opens with night manager Lucas (Rory Cochrane) taking a trip to Atlantic City with the nightly deposit and losing it all in an attempt to save the shop from being bought out by a chain. The trials and tribulations of the following 24 hours are the movie’s focus, and taught many retail staffers how to deal with shoplifters.
Every character has their own musical taste showcased at some point throughout the story, so the resulting soundtrack is a diverse one. Mark (Ethan Embry) is a Gwar fan, Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) gets everyone all riled up with some AC/DC, and they all get down when The Flying Lizards’ “Money (That’s What I Want)” plays over the shops loudspeaker courtesy of Gina (Renée Zellweger).
Featuring: Electric Light Orchestra, The Bee Gees, and Elton John
2013’s American Hustle follows con-man Irving (Christian Bale) and his con-partner Sydney (Amy Adams) as they become entangled in an FBI sting operation. Based on elements of a real FBI investigation (the Abscam scandal), director David O. Russell along with writer Eric Warren Singer created a sexy, glamorous stage to showcase some of the most beloved songs ever written.
Set in the turnover between the 1970’s and 80’s, the music of American Hustle is a character all by itself, as royalty from both Hollywood and the music industry come together. Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence dazzle onscreen to the tunes of musical titans like Elton John, Donna Summer, and The Temptations.
Featuring: War, The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye
1997’s Boogie Nights follows Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) as he navigates the porn biz after being “discovered” by a director. He’s on top (of his career!) as Dirk Diggler, but finds few lasting friendships. The fame goes to his head and, well, you know the rest. Criticized for it’s lofty portrayal of the industry in the 70’s, the movie angered a lot of people, including some of the stars (*cough* Burt Reynolds *cough*).
A few musicians on the soundtrack took issue with the film’s subject matter too. E.L.O’s Jeff Lynne is a notable example, but ultimately changed his mind after seeing (and loving) the final cut of the movie. Boney M, Three Dog Night, and Hot Chocolate all scored spots on the soundtrack as well.
Featuring: Redbone, The Jackson Five, and Norman Greenbaum
Awesome Mix Vol. 1 isn’t just awesome, it's out of this world. Marvel’s 2014 box office smash Guardians of the Galaxy boasts one of the most impressive soundtracks of recent memory. Centered around a gang of unlikely allies, the film follows Peter Quill, a.k.a Starlord (Chris Pratt), and his team as they kick some evil intergalactic ass.
In a highly futuristic universe, audiences might expect to hear the likes of Daft Punk (a la Tron) or The Chemical Brothers. But, famous for it’s quirks, GOTG throws a curveball, instead delivering R&B, soul, and classic rock. Cleverly woven into the fabric of the story, music is an integral part of Quill’s character and the viewers relate to him through it. Plus, watching him rock out to an old-school walkman while surrounded by other complex technologies is charming, and provides some grounding to an otherwise highly-fantastical film.
Awesome Mix Vol. 1 reached number one on the Billboard charts, not only in the soundtrack category, but in the rock one, too.
Featuring: Iggy Pop, Joy Division, Underworld
They say the first step on the road to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. When Renton (Ewan McGregor) decides to leave a life of heroin behind, he’s met with resistance from all sides. His team of strung-out Scottish comrades have questionable habits and defective moral compasses, but are a lovable bunch nonetheless. Directed by Danny Boyle, Trainspotting is based on a novel by Irvine Welsh, and shows off Edinburgh’s seedy, drug-laden underbelly, and the soundtrack reflects this mood admirably.
Perhaps the most recognizable song tied to the film is courtesy of musical legend Iggy Pop, who overcame his own struggles with heroin in the 1980’s. “Lust for Life” was co-written by David Bowie, and featured heavily in the marketing for Trainspotting. Underworld, a British electronic ensemble, lend their work to the soundtrack as well, giving the movie an ethereal-yet-stompy gloom.
Featuring: David Bowie, Falco, and Lou Reed
After learning that he will have to pay his own way into the Ivy Leagues, James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) takes a summer job at an amusement park called Adventureland, where you’re either a Rides guy or a Games guy. Kristen Stewart showcases her trademark cardboard performance, while Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader (who manages the park) use their minimal time onscreen to act circles around the rest of the cast, giving the flick some redeeming qualities. Another notable character comes in the form of Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva) who dances her little heart out to Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” day in and day out.
While the jury may still be out on whether or not Adventureland is a good movie, they all agree that it’s soundtrack is aces. Stewart’s character is into Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground, and Crowded House, so at least there’s something for your ears to look forward to!
Featuring: Duran Duran, Echo & The Bunnymen, and The Church
The premise of 2001’s Donnie Darko seems simple: a boy is haunted by a man-sized bunny rabbit (Frank) who makes him do bad things. Yet viewers still have differing interpretations of the movie’s events to this day. Its woebegone atmosphere intensifies as Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) becomes increasingly despondent following a freak accident (in which a plane engine falls from the sky into his house). Written and directed by Richard Kelly (Domino, The Box) the film also starred Gyllenhaal’s real-life sister Maggie, in the role of his on-screen sister Elizabeth.
The soundtrack is a love letter to the New Wave of the 80s. Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears both make an appearance, the latter in a notable long-shot through the school.
Featuring: The Clash, The Sonics, and The Hives
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, 2008’s RocknRolla is rife with inter-connected storylines and money-hungry badasses. Up and down, hilarious and terrifying, it’s a movie that needs to be seen to be understood.
In proper Ritchie fashion, RocknRolla’s soundtrack is an eclectic mix. Embracing raucous, feedback-laden guitars and bouncy dance tunes in almost equal measure. A thick layer of Flash & The Pan’s “Waiting For A Train” is applied over top of a clumsy dance between One Two (Gerard Butler) and Stella (Thandie Newton); The Subways’ “Rock and Roll Queen” scratches at the eardrums while a man gets stabbed to death with a pencil on-screen. Anything could happen!
Featuring: Radiohead, The Cardigans, and Garbage
Baz Luhrmann is a musical wizard. A fan of blurred boundaries, Luhrmann likes to manipulate historical timelines. From Moulin Rouge’s inclusion of Nirvana favorite “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to the Jay Z/Kanye West lovechild “No Church In The Wild” in The Great Gatsby, his films are always filled with a mix of past and present.
With the release of 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, Baz set his sights on Shakespeare, bringing the classic love story into the modern era. Introducing it to a whole new generation, but more importantly, in a whole new way. A common gripe students have with Shakespeare’s work stems from his flowery, antiquated language. However, the performances from Leonardo DiCaprio (Romeo) and Claire Danes (Juliet) have postmodern roots that resonated with audiences, making the source material easier to absorb. By including popular music in his adaptation, Luhrmann only strengthened this effect.
This movie is the reason you know all the words to “Lovefool” by The Cardigans. Admit it.
Honorable Mention: Space Jam (1996)
Nothing motivates hip-hop artists to collaborate faster than the Looney Tunes! B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man teamed up for the Monstars' Anthem “Hit ‘Em High” while R Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” soared its way to platinum status. Full of music written specifically for the film, it is disqualified from this list, but not from our hearts.
So what do you think of our list? What are your favorite soundtracks? Tell us about them in the comments below!
The Hateful Eight will be released in theaters on December 25, 2015.