The best film soundtracks of the 80s and 90s

The best film soundtracks of the 80s and 90s

This list contains 7 of the best film soundtracks of the 80s and 90s – or thereabouts. At least they are my eyes (or should that be ears?) A great listen, each and every one of them. Not bad movies to watch, either…

The Lost Boys (1987)

Let’s face it, any album containing 2 INXS tracks was always going to win me over. The opening duet, ‘Good Times’, sung by Michael Hutchence and Jimmy Barnes (of Australian band Cold Chisel), is a corker. If there’s one song that I’d love to hear performed live, this has to be a contender. Not just anywhere, though – it would have to be at the Coogee Bay Hotel in Sydney, where both the former band and the latter artist have played in years gone by. In fact the Australian National Portrait Gallery even has a picture of Barnes, singing on that very stage. 

That will never happen now, of course – barring someone inventing a time travel machine that works (DeLorean or otherwise), to transport me back to 1984 (rather then 1985) when the aforementioned photo was taken, and my beloved Hutchence was still alive.

I also love Echo and the Bunnymen’s ‘People are Strange’ and the theme tune ‘’. All the tunes are good, with no sign of filler tracks whatsoever. They evoke the kitsch horror of the movie perfectly; the motion picture and accompanying soundtrack in perfect harmony.

You can see The Lost Boys soundtrack here

Grease (1978)

I know, I know – from the cool as Lost Boys to the super cheesy Grease? You have a point, but hear me out. And I also know this one pre-dates the 80s. But if you’ve ever been a teenage girl – and there’s fifty-fifty odds that you might have been, at some stage – you should understand. Singing your heart out to the jolly ditties ‘Summer Nights’,  ‘We go Together’, or ‘You’re the One that I Want’; the grittier (and dirtier) ‘Greased Lighting’; or the slushy, soppy song that is ‘Hopelessly Devoted’ – it’s all part and parcel of female puberty and frankly, an essential rite of passage. It’s also one of the best film soundtracks ever.

View the Grease soundtrack album here

Trainspotting (1996)

From Rydell High School to the grubbier parts of Edinburgh now, for what is possibly THE film soundtrack of the 1990s. Released right in the midst of the dance club and Britpop band ‘Madchester’ era, this film was huge, making massive stars of director Danny Boyle and actors including Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle. Jonny Lee Miller was even married to the mighty A-lister Angelina Jolie back then.

The track list reads like a Who’s Who of the mid-1990s – Blur, Sleeper, Primal Scream, Leftfield, New Order, Pulp, Elastica… even the ‘Godfather of Punk’ Iggy Pop has two tracks on there. Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’, used as it is in the film, is pure genius. If you think it glorifies drug-taking, just keep watching, until the very bitter end, of this groundbreaking movie.

Discover the fabulous Trainspotting soundtrack here

The Beach (2000)

Phew. From the frenetic, gritty backstreets of the Scottish capital to a tropical paradise. ‘The Beach’ is set on a picture postcard Thai island, boasting the most pristine peach of a beach. Things gradually start to sour, though, until the benign ‘cancer in the corals’ of Alex Garland’s novel turn malignant. The clear blue waters become sullied by blood when it all goes a bit ‘Lord of the Flies’ and the islanders begin to lose their grip on their Utopian universe. The music is one of the best film soundtracks of the times,  fitting both the film and the book beautifully, from ‘Pure Shores’ to ‘Spinning away’, ‘Brutal’ and ‘Out of Control’.

Find out more about The Beach soundtrack here

Romeo and Juliet (1996)

This modern take on Shakespeare was released the same year as Trainspotting, and despite being a love story, it also shines a spotlight on the grimier side of life. Mostly filmed in Mexico City and Boca del Rio (also in Mexico), parts were also shot in Miami; a city almost as infamous for its seedier side as it is renowned as a sunbaked holiday spot. 

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, after all. Some songs are, as you might expect, all ‘Young hearts run free’; while ‘Kissing you’ seems like something of a lament. My favourite is the Wannadies’ ‘You and Me song’, and not only because I once spent a crazy evening with one of my backpacking chums, literally jumping up and down on the floor like kids on a bed in a Sydney flat-share. We caused the manager of the block to hammer on our door and tell us to belt up. Perhaps not my finest hour, but it was one of the funniest…

See the soundtrack from Romeo and Juliet here

The Doors (1991)

I first watched ‘The Doors’ film some months before the mad half hour in Sydney had even happened, on a farm in South Australia near the Murray river, where I spent a few happy months picking apricots, scoffing peaches and mixing (for a change) with real Australians.

Atmospheric is the word that springs to mind; both for the film and for the Doors’ musical output, ‘Riders on the Storm’ being the ultimate – but not the only – case in point. ‘Light my Fire’ is of course a veritable anthem, although it is ethereal, as opposed to downright eerie, which I find ‘Riders on the Storm’ to be. Eerie isn’t a bad thing; I love a bit of gothic horror, and the Doors could deliver that in spades through their songwriting and performance. Not to mention the trance-like, hypnotic quality of much of their music. 

Val Kilmer, previously known to me as ‘Iceman’ in Top Gun, was brilliant and a thoroughly convincing Jim Morrison, and his Top Gun co-star Meg Ryan nailed it, too. Great film, intriguing story and a fabulous soundtrack to boot.

Check out The Doors soundtrack album here

Dirty Dancing (1987)

The release of this perennial girls’ film favourite coincided agreeably with my entering my teens – I was 13 when it came out. I was developing physically, and mentally, was starting to discover the power of a serious crush. All the girls, in 1987, had the hots for Patrick Swayze, but it wasn’t only his hip-swivelling that gripped our hearts (and nether regions). The movie’s music was utterly captivating, too.

I must point out, at this juncture, that the edition you want – if you so desire – is ‘Ultimate Dirty Dancing’, rather than the ‘Original motion picture soundtrack’. The latter omits Solomon Burke’s ‘Cry to Me’, for one thing – the very song to which Johnny and Baby finally get it on. A heinous crime (the omission, I mean, not the getting it on).

‘Do You Love Me’ is missing, too – the very song that plays, right there in that oversized barn-type place, where the whole love story begins and we first see some proper dirty dancing. Otis Redding is even disregarded, which is, frankly, unforgivable. ‘Ultimate Dirty Dancing’ is one of my top picks; what a shame the bigwigs saw fit to omit some of the most seminal tracks from the official version, thereby not making it one of the very best film soundtracks ever…

Look at Ultimate Dirty Dancing here

Marcy x

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