Soundtracks that really outdid themselves

A KJHK collaborative article.

Movie soundtracks and movie scores are vital to creating a cinematic experience, and these soundtracks are ones that put the cherry on top of some great movies. 

The Way Way Back 

Natalie Lindsey | @justmenat_

This is one of my favorite movies of all time, and the soundtrack is just as touching as the film. The soundtrack takes you through the main character’s internal struggles in an emotional way that allows you not only to connect with him but with yourself as well. If you haven’t seen “The Way Way Back” yet, I firmly believe you need to. At the staff party we hear a bit of “Young At Heart” and “Power Hungry Animals” brings the main character to a hopeful point in his arc. I recommend the film to everyone and the soundtrack is just as amazing.

Transformers Revenge of The Fallen

Natalie Lindsey | @justmenat_

Now, this is a rock soundtrack through and through. With artists ranging from The Fray to Nickelback and then to Linkin Park, there is something for every rocker on this album. I personally enjoy the Transformer movies, but I know that may be an unpopular opinion. Nonetheless, I feel this soundtrack lines up perfectly with the intensity the movie brings. Plus these songs are great to jam out to in the car.

Garden State 

Cami Koons | @koons_cami

Zach Braff’s 2004 film “Garden State” is the epitome of indie filmmaking. The soundtrack, curated by Chad Fischer, who worked with Braff on the television comedy, “Scrubs,” is likewise an indie staple. Garden State features the Shins, Colin Hay, Nick Drake, Simon and Garfunkel, and many more amazing artists who complement the colorful story of finding your purpose after half a life of not knowing. My parents had the soundtrack on CD and I fell in love with the music long before I was old enough to watch the R-rated film. I love it even more now that I can put the sounds to the beautiful imagery of this inventive film. 

The Royal Tenenbaums

Cami Koons | @koons_cami

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a slut for a Wes Anderson film. It all started with my parents’ copy of the soundtrack to “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Just as with “Garden State,” this soundtrack was the music of my childhood and I didn’t know it came from a movie until later on. 

Anderson’s avant garde films are famous for featuring artists like: the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Velvet Underground, and Paul Simon. His second feature film, “Royal Tenenbaums,” is no different. These groups, along with original orchestral pieces, two songs from Nico and even the Charlie Brown classic, “Christmas Time is Here,” help create a timeless story of loving your family no matter what. 

On a side note, the scene featuring Margo Tenenbaum’s exit from the bus set to Nico’s “These Days” is one of the greatest scenes in cinema history. *steps off soapbox*

Baby Driver + Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Wyatt Hall | @thewyatthall15

Edgar Wright, director of “Baby Driver,” “Scott Pilgrim,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” among others, is known for his unique editing style. He puts a major focus on the soundtrack by editing the events of the movie along to the beat and rhythm of the music playing alongside it. You can’t pull that off without having some killer soundtracks alongside the films.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: How It Failed And Why It Deserved Better

“Scott Pilgrim” features a lengthy tracklist of Canadian garage rock music that will have you headbanging and grooving to that class grungy bass guitar sound. Shout-out to Metric’s “Black Sheep” in particular, a performance that is simply iconic. “Baby Driver” features a collection of old-timey rock music that will get your adrenaline going while Baby is drifting around street corners running from the police and criminals alike. I’ll occasionally throw on “Bellbottoms” or “Hocus Pocus” when I hit power mode on my Prius just to feel something.

La La Land

Wyatt Hall | @thewyatthall15

To Choose in La La Land. Reviewed by Elham Shabani | Film Matters Magazine

Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz, the director and composer of films such as “Whiplash,” “First Man,” and the one I’m highlighting here, “La La Land,” are truly artists when it comes to incorporating music into their movies. The two were roommates back in college, bonded over their mutual love of jazz, and went on to become partners in filmmaking where they made several movies about, yes you guessed it, jazz. One of these movies is the Academy Award-winning musical “La La Land.”

And that musical’s soundtrack is so good that it was nominated for not one but two original song Oscars, winning the category with “City of Stars.” You’ve got Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and John Legend all singing hit after hit from “Another Day Of Sun” to “A Lovely Night” to “Start A Fire” to “The Fools Who Dream.” Alongside those, are several stellar jazz pieces by Hurwitz that I’ve listened to countless times while driving, or studying, or really anything. If you ever feel like being taken on a journey of emotions at any point, simply listen to Epilogue and let the feelings rush over you.

Donnie Darko

Ellynn Mayo | @ellynnspeaks

Now, I don’t think I really have to explain my obsession about this soundtrack, because I’ve already written an intense dissection of the score (not the soundtrack) by Michael Andrews. Everyone knows the Tears for Fears song and “Mad World,” of course. Don’t get me wrong — “Head Over Heels” is a bop, and I adore Gary Jules. But my favorite song on the soundtrack is “The Killing Moon” by Echo & The Bunnymen. It’s just one of those epic songs that make me feel like shenanigans are about to begin. This movie is a cult classic if there ever was one, and I don’t think that its popularity decreases its importance. A true masterpiece.

Purple Rain

Deegan Poores | @d33gansaur

“Purple Rain” is kind of a cop-out choice. I mean, it’s considered not only to be one of the best soundtracks of the 1980s, but one of the best albums of all time. In terms of movie soundtracks that outdid themselves, there has never been another soundtrack that did what this one did. Prince took his signature electro-funk and made it rock harder, sweeter, raunchier, weirder, and more gorgeous, all at the same time. Songs like “Take Me with U” and “When Doves Cry” worked in the film as standard soundtrack-fare, but others like “Let’s Go Crazy” and the title track are performed by “The Kid” and are ingrained into the plot. While it is undoubtedly one of the all-time best albums, a part of me still wishes “Jungle Love” could have been fit in some way.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Kade Schoenfeldt |

While I couldn’t tell you the name of a standalone song from the “Birdman” score, the fervent jazz percussion provided by Antonio Sanchez interspersed with dramatic classical music is the perfect backdrop to Michael Keaton’s slow descent into madness as the hasbeen titular character. These meandering, jazzy drums, accompanied by the movie’s unique nearly-uninterrupted single shot, create a sense of true unease and anxiety appropriate for the ultimate fate of Keaton’s character. Few soundtracks contribute as much to the mood and atmosphere of the movie as this spectacular one does. 

Shrek 1 & 2

Jaya Chakka | @jaiyaofthebees

Look, I know Shrek is a HUGE meme nowadays… and rightfully so. It’s a pretty goofy, out there franchise. Nonetheless, there is no denying that the Shrek soundtracks (specifically for installments 1 and 2) absolutely SLAP.  Shrek takes the concept of a “traditional” fairytale and turns it upside down, and the choices of backing songs definitely reflect this. The track list has range, covering ground from Smash Mouth to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds to Rufus Wainwright. The songs behind Shrek are part of what make the movies so engaging, action-packed and fun for the whole dang family. 


Cate Manning | @catemanning

Not to downplay Martin Scorsese’s master filmmaking, but his soundtracks may be equally as memorable. In the honest opinion of someone who only recently watched it for the first time, the song selections in 1990’s “Goodfellas” drive the movie. From the opening to closing credits, over 40 songs are heard and there are very few moments of silence. Notable needle drops include “Then He Kissed Me” by the Crystals, “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream, and more from artists such as the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. Maybe this seems like a predictable choice, but I think this is a good example of how a great soundtrack can guide a movie. And the movie itself is fine I guess.

Guardians of The Galaxy vol. 1 and vol. 2: 

Natalie Lindsey | @justmenat_

We all knew these would have to make the list. When “Guardians of the Galaxy” was initially released marvel fans everywhere were talking about the soundtrack. Both movies brought back memories for older fans and introduced younger fans to some very influential songs and artists. If you plan to check these out, I would watch the movies first. Doing so allows you to truly witness the songs in a different way.

The Hunger Games Songs From District 12 and Beyond:

Natalie Lindsey | @justmenat_

This was one of the first soundtracks I ever really listened to and paid close attention to. While the songs don’t appear in the film, I quickly found that I was able to match songs to certain characters or plot elements from not only the movie but the book as well. So you can only imagine how excited I was as a 12-year-old Hunger Games fan. This soundtrack has songs for everyone, from soft and folky sounds to some quick and fast tunes. I highly recommend checking it out.