The Top 10 Greatest Movie Soundtracks Ever In The Whole Entire World

Lately I’ve started to notice, and consequently obsess over, the way that movies and tv shows feature songs where the lyrical mimics the exact same story that’s playing out on screen. Now I’m no music director, but even though Missy Higgins’ “Steer” is a lovely song I’m not convinced it should be the auto-choice for every scene involving a cute girl driving determinedly off into the sunset. Anyhow! I was inspired to compile the top 10 greatest movie soundtracks*.

* This top 10 is completely subjective, obviously. I’ve not listened to every soundtrack ever released nor have I developed any sort of rating system for the ones I have heard. What we have here is the result of a looming deadline, a quick scan of my iTunes library and a pop quiz sprung on a computer delivery guy who loathes the Grease Mega Mix as much as I do. So add your own favorite soundtracks below in the comments section. And if yelling at me for not including the Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack is going to somehow be therapeutic then by all means, let it out.

10. The Breakfast Club

Hey hey hey hey! Thank god for John Hughes. I suspect I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I’ve not grown up alongside John Bender and Allison Reynolds and Simple Minds. Admittedly the Pretty In Pink soundtrack would’ve beaten The Breakfast Club soundtrack in a 1986 dance off, but the latter was responsible for making “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” a defining song of the 80s. It’s seriously on every 80s ‘best of’ compilation in existence, look it up.

9. Reality Bites 

Back in the 90s one of my favorite movie scenes was when The Gang went to the gas station to buy snacks and they all started dancing to The Knacks’ “My Sharona”. Even though now I find the film to be slightly obnoxious, I’ll always be grateful to it for introducing me to artists like Lisa Loeb, The Juliana Hatfield and Dinosaur Jr. I still listen to the soundtrack on the reg and reflect on how I thought I’d be something at twenty-three.

 

8. Natural Born Killers


This is one of those few occasions where I loved the soundtrack but didn’t enjoy the movie. It’s compiled by Trent Reznor and features the likes of Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, L7, Nine Inch Nails, Juliette Lewis. It lacks nothing, there not a gap or lull to be found.

 

7. This Is Spinal Tap

I have this thing for movies that create fictional bands and then record their music for the soundtrack. If you’ve never seen it, This Is Spinal Tap is a rock/mockumentary about a British heavy metal band. The soundtrack consists entirely of tracks performed by Spinal Tap in the movie, such as “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight,” which you’ve possibly heard in many other films and never realised it’s by a fictional band.

 

6. Almost Famous

The only gripe I have about the Almost Famous soundtrack is that it could’ve easily been a double album or even a box set, so many great tracks from the film didn’t make the final cut. I can’t help but to adore the fictional hit “Fever Dog”, I’ve been waiting for Stillwater to release the album since 1973.

5. Twilight 

I was recently advised that a writer who mentions Twilight in a music-related post cannot be taken seriously as it’s an indication that they have absolutely no taste in or knowledge of quality entertainment. So take it with a grain of salt when I tell you that if you enjoy artists like Thom Yorke, Bon Iver, Muse, Metric, Lykke Li and Florence + the Machine then don’t let your distaste for abstinence-practicing vampires stand in the way of owning some killer soundtracks.

 

4. High Fidelity

At no surprise to anyone who has seen the film, the High Fidelity soundtrack is jam packed with cult bands, including Love, Stereolab and not one but two tracks from The Velvet Underground.

 

3. Josie & The Pussycats

When Laneia included “3 Small Words” in her ‘Like It’s 2003’ playlist, the whole internet applauded and agreed that the Josie & the Pussycats soundtrack is the most underrated thing. What more can I add.

 

2. D.E.B.S 

Remember when Lucy Diamond vowed to give up her life of crime for a shot of love with Amy and she danced around the compound to Erasure’s A Little Respect? Is the song stuck in your head now? You can hear it on this soundtrack, alongside a handful of other memorable and totally perfect song choices such as The Cure’s “Love Cats” and Goldfrapps’ “Strict Machine”.

 

1. Dazed & Confused 

“This is probably my favorite soundtrack. It’s filled with rock classics that remind me of being an American high school student coming of age during the 70s even though I’m not an American and I wasn’t alive in the 70s. That’s how good it is.” — Me, in our Build A Better Music Library post.

 


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Crystal is HR Director and Autostraddle OG. She's a 32-year-old Australian who's currently freezing her ass off in Chicago.

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171 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    Damnit, the Twilight soundtrack sounds gooood, but…I can’t look past the fact that it is still Twilight…

    Some of my best soundtrack nominees, in no particular order:

    -Beauty and the Beast
    -Star Wars
    -The Lion King
    -Blade Runner
    -Pulp Fiction
    -The Virgin Suicides
    -Purple Rain
    -Easy Rider

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    My best friend and I were OBSESSED with Reality Bites when we were teenagers back in the mid-nineties. I still do the “wak wak” bit whenever I hear Tempted by Squeeze on the radio…

  3. Thumb up 2

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    My list would definitely contain Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction.

    *dances round to Son of a Preacher Man*

    *injects heroin*

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    aw i like all of these

    another film w/ an amazing fictional band (3, in fact) is scott pilgrim vs. the world

  5. Thumb up 0

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    Josie YES! I think I listened to “you don’t see me” for weeks on end after a particularly tragic breakup. I also have a thing for instrumental soundtracks, like dramatic music? Blood Diamond, Avatar, The Rock. Excellent study materials. If there’s such a thing as being the champion of the library, Hans Zimmer will bring you that feeling.

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      Yes! I listen to a couple of original scores on the reg, including Road To Perdition, Pride and Prejudice, and Finding Neverland. It’s my paper-writing music, along with Stravinsky’s ballet scores and Satie.

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      I’m not usually one for instrumental soundtracks, but I could listen to the Lord of the Rings ones all day. The best ever are the Battlestar Galactica ones (all those poundy drums!), even though that’s TV.

  6. Thumb up 0

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    No Moon?
    No Fountain?
    No Inception?

    Instead you’ve got fucking inception that includes the most rote and derivative works of the respective artists it includes?

    What the fuck?

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      I am embarrassed by how much I love the Garden State soundtrack. I basically broke my Cd playing it on repeat in high school. So much good.

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      GARDEN STATE

      I loved this movie and the soundtrack feels more like a score to me…as though it were orchestrated specifically for the movie and not just a collection of songs.

      I <3 Huckabees has a really interesting score from Jon Brion! Not one i would listen to frequently apart from the movie, but one where the music also seems to progress the story a bit.

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      YESSSSS Garden State!

      As someone who worked in a music store when that came out, let me tell you it was a big freaking deal. It took me a really long time to get sick of it, too, which is really my favorite measure of how good/how much I like a CD.

  7. Thumb up 0

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    Yesss, awesome post. I loved the Josie & the Pussycats soundtrack THIS MUCH when I was twelve. Some of my favorites:

    Empire Records
    Velvet Goldmine (two awesome songs by a fictional band)
    Marie Antoinette
    Donnie Darko (both the soundtrack and the score)
    Amelie
    Sid & Nancy (worth it for Gary Oldman yowling out “My Way” by Frank Sinatra)
    The Commitments (also when a fictional band performs covers of real songs for a movie and you end up liking the covers better)

  8. Thumb up 0

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    As someone who really likes music from the ’60s, I must add The Graduate, Harold and Maude and, in more recent works, Remember the Titans and Rushmore.

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      Yes! The Blues Brothers soundtrack was actually in the original draft but I subbed in Twilight last minute because I thought I was possibly overdoing the ‘fictional band’ thing. It was the first soundtrack I ever owned, loved it.

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    I love some of the soundtracks mentioned here and in the comments. Great choices by everyone!

    Other OSTs I love:
    -The Wackness: Biggie! Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff! Biz Markie! Wu Tang! Tribe Called Quest! 90s rap was the shit.
    -Ghost World
    -Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist
    -Monsoon Wedding(Peep this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKsH1cPNhDw)
    -All Wes Anderson’s soundtracks

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    Lost Highway
    Singles
    Pulp Fiction
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch
    The Crow
    The Crow: City of Angels (but don’t watch the movie)
    Higher Learning (also if you haven’t seen this movie you need to do that right now)
    Trainspotting

    And this doesn’t have any musicals. You should do a thing about musicals. I love musicals. Like 10 Classic Musicals You Need To Watch If You Haven’t Already Seen Them And If You Have You Should Watch Them Again.

  11. Thumb up 0

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    I know I am cheating a bit but the Veronica Mars and Buffy soundtracks are pretty amazing.

    I would also like to add Dirty Dancing to this list.

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      DIRTY DANCING! is my completely subjective pick because I spent years 4-7 dancing around my living room to that soundtrack. On LP. It was awesome.

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      Oh man, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album introduced me to so many of my favourite bands way back when. Guided By Voices, Splendid, K’s Choice…

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        No one at my high school really enjoyed Buffy and so I felt like hot shit because I was jamming out to Rasputina and K’s Choice while they fawned over NSYNC.

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      +1 and while we’re on the Best Teen Soundtracks From the Late 90s Early 2000s, the 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack is always on repeat at my house.

      Also Shrek, NEGL. I don’t know if it’s good but that Frou Frou cover of Holding Out for a Hero is pretty flawless.

  12. Thumb up 0

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    I love this! Breakfast Club = amazing.

    I would have to add in:

    1) Cruel Intentions
    2) Romeo & Juliet
    3) Empire Records
    4) Clueless
    5) The Runaways

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    i was a live for all of 6 months of the 80’s and i still managed to own the Breakfast Club soundtrack on vinyl.
    such a good choice.

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    Going to second all the ones for Empire Records, because without its soundtrack, that movie just wouldn’t be very good (but it remains the only Renee Zellwegger movie I can stand).

    And I’m not going to yell at your for not including O Brother, Where Art Thou, but it’s definitely one of my favorites, and is an absolutely phenomenal album on its own. Ralph Stanley’s “O Death” is perhaps one of the most haunting songs of all time. And its version of “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is beautiful.

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      I’ve never actually seen/heard ‘Brother Where Art Thou’ but everyone tells me it has one of the best soundtracks ever.

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        It’s a pretty good movie, one of my fave Cohen brothers films, but seriously the soundtrack is AMAZING. It’s all traditional folk and bluegrass, with some of the great artists of the genre on it. Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, Dan Tyminski, and The Fairfield Four, among others. I cannot say enough good things about it.

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    Someone did “A Little Respect” on Singstar a couple of weeks ago and I had never heard it before and it got stuck on repeat in my head/itunes…I had got it OUT of my head UNTIL TODAY when I read this post. RETURN OF THE EARWORM!

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    Oh man. It breaks my heart not to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch or Death Proof. But I appreciate the [limited] time frame in which this was written, so I’ll refrain from using multiple question marks followed by exclamation points followed by a series of ones.

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      Little Miss Sunshine!! Yes! I watched it first on an airplane and I would’ve woken up everyone around me if I hadn’t restrained my cheering when I heard Sufjan Stevens. I watched it twice. Best 18-hour flight of my life.

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      Eternal Sunshine! I own that one, and I looooove it, but that could also just be because it’s probably my favorite movie ever.

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      THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS YES
      one word: nico
      i have many feelings about this soundtrack
      (they all fall under the “perfect” category though)

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    Josie and the Pussy Cats. Wow. I remember being…I think 12? And going through the “most painful moments of my life” as I wrote in my journal, listening to You Don’t See Me.
    Sewwww many feelings.

  18. Thumb up 0

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    Suckerpunch had a great soundtrack. The movie was terrible but the soundtrack is awesome.
    Also, Tron. Tron had a great soundtrack too.

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    Herbie: Fully Loaded also has a good oldie’s soundtrack. It seems to be common with Angela Robinson films good soundtracks…DEBS, Herbie, The Cure in “that” scene of season 5…

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    The Garden State soundtrack pulled me through and made me survive one very long, rough year. Zach Braff has a way of choosing such songs for soundtracks that they feel like they’re mix cds made just for you, just from him. The Last Kiss – while never touching Garden State – is also amazing.

    The Devil’s Rejects soundtrack is great because it’s got all that fantastic, classic southern rock AND soundbites from the movie itself.

    Others I never tire of:
    Magnolia, because yes, all that Aimee Mann really is necessary.
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Obvs.
    Evil Dead: The Musical, because yes I’m that much of a geek.
    Soundtracks from any and all Silent Hill game. Akira Yamaoka is so brilliant and the ambient, deep and heavy music he makes is so beautiful. Also the songs where Mary Elizabeth Mcglinn does vocals are ~awesome.

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      MAGNOLIA. yes yes yes. i mean, you’ve got aimee mann AND jon brion, an unbeatable combo. “now that i’ve met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?” and “momentum,” “wise up,” etc. ugh, just so amazing. it’s pretty much all i listened to my junior year of high school. but oddly enough, i never really got into aimee mann outside the magnolia soundtrack.

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    I had just been thinking about how I prefer films with great soundtracks over plot.

    A great soundtrack can make me like a mediocre film. (However, the great Twilight soundtrack has not made me like those film.)

    Some favourites of mine:
    – Musicals: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Cabaret, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Across the Universe
    – Non-Musicals: Sucker Punch, Harold and Maude, Velvet Goldmine, C.R.A.Z.Y., The Crow, Romeo + Juliet, etc.

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        It is fabulous. It is one of my favourite movies too. The music is a huge contributing factor to that. But overall, I think it is a great film.

        You are not the only one. Plus, I have forced many people into watching it with. Most of them liked it.

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        I love so much that they spent, like, the entire budget, on having a brilliant soundtrack. I feel like that is exactly what I would do if I were making a film.

  22. Thumb up 0

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    I’ve actually been recently listening to the Spider Man 2 soundtrack a lot. I’ve still never even seen that film, but I really like the soundtrack, and not just for Dashboard Confessional’s Vindicated.

  23. Thumb up 0

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    even though it’s no movie so technically i’m cheating but

    MUSIC FROM THE O.C.

    so. good.

    gosh, i listened to those 5 cds all through my teenage years and THEY’RE STILL SO GOOD! especially mix #2 and #4.

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      yes, the o.c. as embarrassing as it is to admit, i have the o.c. (and its music supervisor, alex patsavis) to thank for my enduring love of indie music. i remember buying mix 1 in eighth grade, and just listening over and over and over. it was like this new world of endless musical possibility opened up for me. never again would i listen to john mayer and dave matthews.

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      I think I wore out my copy of the Can’t Hardly Wait soundtrack from overplay. I liked every track except the one by Smash Mouth.

  24. Thumb up 0

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    The first movie soundtrack I ever bought was 10 things I hate about you and I still have it and it’s still wonderful. Ohhh Letters to Cleo.

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    just want to say that seeing all this “josie and the pussycats” love is really making me feel a lot less alone in the world.

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    Okay, my top 10, dgaf about repeating stuff from above.

    Hedwig
    Velvet Goldmine
    High Fidelity
    Empire Records
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album
    Blues Brothers
    Kaboom (okay, was unofficial, but all of the songs in that film were fucking rad)
    Marie Antoinette
    Singin’ in the Rain
    The Wizard of Oz

    OH GOD, THERE ARE TOO MANY AMAZING SOUNDTRACKS IN THE WORLD.

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      I never fail to be sad that “The Jitterbug” song & sequence never made the final cut of The Wizard of Oz, because otherwise it would easily be the best song in the film. Now it’s been reduced to an extra-credit Trivial Pursuit question.

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    ‘Velvet Goldmine’! Glam goodness, with bonus Ewan McGreggor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers singing. Too fun.

    Also, there’s this German movie called ‘Bandits’ about a group of women who form a band in prison, then escape and go on the run when they are taken to play at a police ball. The actresses wrote most of the songs and did all their own singing and even though I don’t think they played all of the instruments for the actual studio recording, they did play some and did play them in the movie. (Here are the music video for “Puppets” from the DVD and “Catch Me”, which is actually one of my favorite songs ever.)

    Jasmin Tabatabai, the actress who played Luna, is also a musician and still plays some of the songs when she’s on tour 🙂

  28. Thumb up 0

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    If you ever decide to do a great-TV-show-soundtracks list I am preemptively nominating Due South because 1) Stan Rogers, 2) Sarah McLachlan, and 3) at least two incredibly gay cops in love.

    (Elaine and Frannie were totally bangin’ and you cannot tell me otherwise.)

  29. Thumb up 0

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    Oh God I just thought of one that I’d completely spaced on and that no one’s ever really seen the movie but OMG the music…

    Six-String Samurai which is a mix of score and dialogue but also music from the Russian surf-punk rockabilly band The Red Elvises.

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    Romeo and Juliet FOR THE WIN! I will never tire of the soundtrack or the movie and CANNOT understand those that don’t like it….*sigh*

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    LOVE ACTUALLY
    Richard Curtis handpicked those songs and the give me goosebumps.

    Bridget Jones’s Diary had some nice songs in it as well.
    All by myself…. River deep – mountain high….

  32. Thumb up 0

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    Elizabethtown.

    I really loved Nino Rota’s score for The Godfather.

    Whomever mentioned Empire Records, Dirty Dancing and all Tarantino soundtracks, I totally agree.

    Also great are, Grosse Point Blank, Saturday Night Fever, The Wedding Singer, Goodfellas, Forrest Gump and Pretty in Pink.

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    I feel you are leaving out soundtracks based on the 60’s/70’s. Like, hello:

    Forest Gump
    The Big Chill
    Remember the Titans (cheesy movie, excellent soundtrack)

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    Definitely, definitely, definitely…

    Garden State
    Save the Last Dance
    Remember the Titans

    And obvs I could make the longest list ever with musicals alone. And Disney movies. I mean The Lion King? Come on.

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    The Twilight soundtracks are the BEST and when I found out that the last book was going to be split into two movies I was excited because that meant it would be split into two soundtracks. Whatever you think about the Twilight franchise, those soundtracks have legitimately good music.
    Another soundtrack I really liked was the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack… and of course Garden State because in high school that was how everyone found out about the Shins, etc.
    I guess musical soundtracks are a different story, but like, Moulin Rouge/RENT/Phantom of the Opera/Rocky Horror/etc have been very important to me.

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    Dazed and Confused. Yes.
    Almost Famous. Yes.
    High Fidelity. Yes!
    10 Things I Hate About You. Come on now.
    Forrest Gump. <– So amazing.
    500 Days of Summer.

  37. Thumb up 2

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    basically anything by quentin tarantino – pulp fiction, death proof, of course kill bill 1 and 2, ennio morricone kills me
    also hans Zimmer is not bad

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    I <3 the soundtrack to A Lot Like Love. Because the movie spans a long timeframe the music goes from 90s-tastic to more recent awesomeness.

    Also, Amanda Peet may or may not have influenced my love of that movie….

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    (500) Days of Summer and Elizabethtown are hands-down my two favorite non-original score soundtracks. Definitely.

    And I’m going to admit it here – I love the Twilight soundtracks.

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