It’s mad to think that there were once wedding receptions which didn’t feature the Grease megamix enticing drunken potential T Birds and wobbly wannabe Pink Ladies to slur their way through Summer Nights. We have only lived in such an enlightened age for a mere forty years.

Grease was one of the first soundtracks to perfectly encapsulate a movie and achieve legendary proportions in its own right. I realise there was Saturday Night Fever before it but that the track listing was a bit hit and miss, Grease was all killers and no fillers and everyone had that album.

It got me to thinking about the best soundtracks that have graced our turntables in the last forty years. Some by units sold and some by being a perfect collection of songs to suit a movie.

The biggest selling soundtrack ever is The Bodyguard, which probably comes as no surprise to anyone who was around at that time.  Let’s face it, the movie was forgettable to say the least but to throw in a few well timed Whitney numbers to set the charts on fire and you guarantee bums on seats in the cinema. The songs have more than stood the test of time and assured The Bodyguard’s place in that Sunday afternoon classic hall of fame.

Another major soundtrack that gave a considerably ropey movie longevity is Purple Rain. At that point Prince couldn’t put a foot wrong musically and for a studio album to produce classics like Purple Rain, When Doves Cry and Let’s Go Crazy, it would be a perfect release. Warner Bros must have passed out when they realised their movie was going to be attached to it.

Soundtracks are often used as an extended trailer for a movie. That’s why so many just rely on one lead song rather than investing in a full killer soundtrack.  Has anyone got past Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” on the Armageddon soundtrack? Other times you feel it was a deal to allow the singer a chance to star in the film, I’m thinking of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” bizarrely featuring on Trolls.

Of course the opposite can happen. Controversially I’ve never been a fan of Dirty Dancing, I just don’t get the popularity of this film. However at the time everyone had a tape of the soundtrack and what a shocker, a ballad sung by Patrick Swayze. He did a pretty good job and to be honest, I’d much rather listen to the soundtrack than watch the film.

What Dirty Dancing and Grease both did well was to encapsulate the period in which they were set, but some soundtracks are a moment in time that we can look back on and remember. Human Traffic was always going to need a belting soundtrack as it centred around the club world of the late 90s so the producers enlisted dancefloor royalty including Fatboy Slim, Armand Van Helden, Orbital and Underworld who were still riding the crest of a wave from another movie soundtrack, Trainspotting.

The 90s were the golden age of soundtracks. I’d say that was thanks to a certain Mr Tarantino. He made the soundtrack such a part of the film, it is impossible not to love some of the crazy obscure songs he pushed to the forefront, think Hans Zimmer’s amazing work on True Romance, Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell from Pulp Fiction and the entire Jackie Brown soundtrack. They completely represent the films. Tarantino has said that he chooses the songs for the soundtracks as part of the writing process. He must have the best music collection in the world.

It might just be me but recent soundtracks haven’t been such works of art as in yesteryear. Obviously there are exceptions like Drive which is haunting and wonderful.  Call Me By Your Name is another smasher, you almost feel caught up in the hot 80s summer romance that the film depicts with tracks from the likes of Giorgio Moroder and The Psychedelic Furs. You can’t miss the two Guardians of the Galaxy masterpieces either, pulling up classics from Fleetwood Mac, ELO, George Harrison, David Bowie and the Jackson 5. The mixtape has a massive part to play in this movie so let’s hope that the importance of soundtracks will make its way back onto the priority list for producers and directors.

What are your favourite songs from the movies? Let me know in the comments below.

If all that has got you in the mood, see my playlist below for my top 20 movie bangers:

  1. Grease – Frankie Valli
  2. Streetlife – Randy Crawford
  3. Into The Groove – Madonna
  4. Skyfall – Adele
  5. Flashdance – Irene Cara
  6. Super Freak – Rick James
  7. I’ve Never Been to Me – Charlene
  8. Queen of the Night – Whitney Houston
  9. A Real Hero – College & Electric Youth
  10. Born Slippy – Underworld
  11. Independent Women – Destiny’s Child
  12. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
  13. Purple Rain – Prince and the Revolution
  14. Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr
  15. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  16. Mrs Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
  17. Stayin Alive – Bee Gees
  18. Lose Yourself – Eminem
  19. Axel F – Harold Faltermeyer
  20. Diamonds are Forever – Shirley Bassey