Hundreds of Readers Told Us Their Favorite Soundtracks. Which Came Out on Top?

Some readers confessed to never having seen the film whose soundtrack they love; others even reported disliking it. No matter what they thought about the movie, however — including nothing — they were passionate about the music.

Finally, a shout-out to Carole Barrowman of Wauwatosa, Wis., for introducing me to “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, from “Baby Driver.” It’s playing as I write this.

Here’s a sampling of reader submissions:

Fran Cameron of Longmeadow, Mass., on The Harder They Come(1972):

I was 12, my brother 14. We walked past the theater poster for “The Harder They Come.” The choice to use lunch money for an R-rated movie about gangsters in Jamaica was simple. It was the first elaborate lie I told my parents. The songs opened the door to world music. Fifty years on, I don’t tire of this soundtrack.

Ferris Kerr of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on The Aristocats(1970):

I watched this movie feverishly as a kid, memorizing every catchphrase and tune. My favorite track as a child was “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat,” a classic. Now, as a grown adult, I regularly play “Cat’s Love Theme,” a gentle romantic leitmotif for the two main characters. Each year, Spotify reminds me of my slightly odd obsession by bumping it into my top-played songs of the year.

Lauren Rankin of Longmont, Colo., on That Thing You Do!(1996):

I was completely obsessed with the Beatles and ’60s pop culture, which was weird for a 10-year-old. I begged my mom to get me the CD. I listened to it obsessively over the years and still do to this day. The music is so catchy, so warm, so nostalgic, so good, that it has stayed with me for nearly 30 years.

Spencer Glesby of Santa Barbara, Calif., on Marie Antoinette(2006):

I was a fourth grader, green and eager to learn more about music. A family friend (who to me seemed to be the coolest person in the world) gifted me the soundtrack, and I spent the next year listening to it on repeat on my portable CD player, confused and excited about the seemingly anachronistic mix of new wave, post-punk, ambient and baroque songs. How on earth could this movie work? When I finally got my hands on a DVD, I was floored.

Michael Adams of New York on Ben-Hur(1959):

Saw it in the first run of the film as a child while my family was visiting Cincinnati. Had never been so overwhelmed by the narrative sweep and visual splendor of a film. And the music! The soundtrack was issued in two separate LPs, and I wore the vinyl of both to dust. Even now, a digital version of each note lives happily on my phone.

Susan Campbell of Rockford, Ill., on Valley Girl(1983):

I mostly remember watching it on VHS over and over with high school girlfriends during the mid-80s. I love the performance by the Plimsouls, especially, but all the songs take me back to being a new waver and wishing a young Nicolas Cage was my boyfriend.

Debi Bass of Bridgewater, N.J., on The Big Chill(1983):

I saw “The Big Chill” in 1983 in Boston when I was young and single and looking for love. Today, when I hear any of the songs, so many memories come flooding back about old boyfriends, dating, going on girls’ vacations and many more.

Lori Rhodes of Lisbon, Portugal, on Pretty in Pink(1986):

Loved the soundtrack more than the film — and was pleasantly surprised when I met my husband-to-be several years later and he played this cassette on our first road trip together.

Grace Bosley of New York on William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet(1996):

This soundtrack holds a special place in many still-brooding, angsty and lovelorn Xennial hearts.

Mary Beth Reece of Boulder, Colo., on Doctor Zhivago(1965):

This was my mom’s favorite movie; released the year I was born. She died in 1973 when I was only 7 years old. I love the movie too, but it’s really the soundtrack that can bring me to tears (in a good way, I think, and fairly quickly). Sometimes, it’s good to remember in this manner. Maurice Jarre’s score is beautiful, jarring, exotic and scary all at once.

Emily Chang of Los Angeles on Chungking Express(1996):

I was 19, it was my first spring at U.C.L.A., and I was a lonely person in a new city. The “Chungking Express” soundtrack will always bring me back to that campus and that spring. To being young enough to romanticize anything, even loneliness, with a song. To sketching up new dreams, and sharing them with new friends, friends with unique dreams of their own.

Heather Mead of Seattle on Singles(1992):

I was a freshman in college, a baby riot girl with purple hair, floral dresses, flannel and army surplus boots — obsessed with everything musical from Seattle. I wore out the cassette, dreaming of the day I’d move to Seattle and get to see those clubs and bands and the whole Seattle scene. Which I did four years later.

Christina Crowley of Georgia on The Lego Movie (2014) and its sequel:

Saw both movies in theaters with my son. We listened to the soundtracks all the time. In the car, at home, playing outside, playing inside, on walks, at bedtime, on birthdays, after school, before bed, while getting ready for school. All the time.

Dana Still of Parksville, British Columbia, on Local Hero(1983):

A Mark Knopfler masterpiece. The first time I ever played the whole album, I listened to it alone while lying on the floor. Right up until the 2 minute and 28 second mark of the final track, “Going Home,” when I was driven to my feet and impelled to dance around the room with joyous tears streaming until the end, after which I just started the album again.

Kevin Fox of Nashville on Until the End of the World(1991):

The continuity of vibe, not a skipper on the whole CD. So, great to have on when making out 🙂

Carole Barrowman of Wauwatosa, Wis., on Baby Driver(2017):

This is my go-to soundtrack when I’m in a mood. Doesn’t matter what kind. It’s a “kitchen sink” compilation. It’s got everything. Rock, blues, jazz, plus T. Rex and the best opening song ever: “Bellbottoms” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Try to stay under the speed limit.

Laurie Lynn Berger of Clarkston, Wash., on 8 Mile(2002):

I remember driving around in my Miata with the top down, jamming to that CD and marveling at a white guy who could rap with such originality and passion. The tracks contain so much pathos, humor and freshness. To this day I enjoy these tracks and gleefully rap alongside (badly!).

Kelly O’Brien of Seattle on Into the Wild(2007):

Eddie Vedder’s voice is a gift. I listen to it regularly when hiking. The music feels like being in the mountains, like being immersed in nature. To me, it’s 30 minutes of joy.

Virginia Lawro of Hilton Head Island, S.C., on “The Book Thief(2013):

When the book became a movie, I went to see it in Orlando, Fla., in 2013. Afterwards I often played the soundtrack in my classroom when the students were doing quiet work. The soundtrack captures the joys of youth, and the pain and suffering death brings to the village during WWII. The soundtrack takes me back into my classroom, a place where I so enjoyed my students and seeing them fall in love with literature.

Donna Verteramo of Rosendale, N.Y., on “Rushmore” (1999):

I loved the movie, but I loved the music more.

Alex Abrams of Winston-Salem, N.C., on If Beale Street Could Talk(2018):

Having never seen the film hasn’t stopped me from loving the soundtrack. It’s my go-to when I need some relaxing music. I’m listening to it now while a baby is crying on my flight to Chicago.

Brigid Riley of Minneapolis on One From the Heart(1982):

I’ve never actually seen the film by Francis Ford Coppola, but a friend introduced me to the soundtrack in the mid-80s and it’s been on my go-to list ever since. My friend and I both had kiddos at the time, so our excursions were auditory while in her living room in south Minneapolis with the little ones sleeping nearby. The combination of Tom Waits’s and Crystal Gayle’s voices is so unexpectedly right.

Stephen Kitts of Galveston, Ind., on The Rose(1979):

The soundtrack contains complete performances that only appeared in the film as snippets. I gleaned nothing from the album about the film’s contents other than its ending, but I was mesmerized. Of course I eventually saw the film, which is also mesmerizing, but I’m still, to this day, always a little disappointed when I watch the film, because the album is so burned into my brain.

Daniel Evans of Brooklyn on “Tron: Legacy” (2010):

The movie is memorable only for being somewhat bad, a derivative stab into the uncanny valley that didn’t satisfy anyone. The soundtrack though, arguably one of Daft Punk’s finest albums, is all beautiful lines of digital music that combines a couple of bangers that will get your blood thumping with some lovely atmospheric pieces that bring to mind a movie that could have been but never was.

Brian Beer of Dalton, Ga., on Judgment Night(1993):

I’ve never seen the movie! The soundtrack’s brilliant pairings of punk rock-metal and rap stars stands so well on its own.

Allyson Martel of Rochester, N.Y., on Chelsea Walls(2002):

I have yet to see this movie, but I still want to. It is Ethan Hawke’s directorial debut. I found the soundtrack at a record store and bought it without previewing it. The songs still pepper my life. It is Wilco-filled, atmospheric and includes a cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” The opening and end instrumentals were covered at my wedding.

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