Anyone with even the slightest shred of intelligence knows that the 90s were an indescribably awesome time for music, but what most people don’t realize is that 90s movies contributed heavily to this era of audio bliss.
I’ve compiled a list of the best soundtracks of the apathetic decade that provided a solid selection of grunge, indie, rap and power ballad songs.
Whether you have specific memories attached to the films themselves or you’re just looking to hear a long-forgotten tune, you owe it to yourself to check out these quintessential 90s movie soundtracks.
Batman Forever was one of the worst Batman films ever released and tried to use its celebrity star power to propel such a mediocre, forgettable film.
Sometimes, though, the worst movies happen to also have the most memorable soundtracks. Only in a place such as this could U2, PJ Harvey, Mazzy Star, The Offspring, The Flaming Lips and Method Man find their way onto the same album.
My personal favorite track is “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal and it definitely saw its fair share of radio play. It’s interesting that such a complex mixture of artists spanning so many genres could work cohesively together and what results is an interesting soundscape that still succeeds in its scope.
The pinnacle of 90s movies and fashion, Clueless is a behemoth of cultural references.
Its soundtrack does not disappoint with its fun-loving, airy sound. From the punky cover of “Kids in America” by the Muffs to an acoustic version of “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead, the soundtrack screams quality.
My favorite track is “Where’d You Go?” by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones because there’s nothing more 90s than ska. The scene when it’s played is also when Cher utters the insult “She’s a full-on Monet,” so it highlights one of my favorite parts of the film as well.
Reality Bites is not only Ben Stiller‘s directorial debut, but it’s also one of the most poignant twenty-something angst movies of all time. The twenties are all about not knowing who you are or where you’re going, but this album seems to hold an identity all its own.
This is the album that brought “My Sharona” by the Knack back into the public consciousness and launched the career of Lisa Loeb. Loeb’s “Stay” happens to be my favorite track on the album, as I’ve always had a thing for chicks with glasses and I’ve had several people tell me my girlfriend looks like her.
I’ll always remember going to see the Beavis and Butt-Head movie on opening night. I was the perfect age to appreciate the juvenile, giggly toilet humor of Mike Judge’s animated masterpiece and you better believe I was first in line to purchase tickets once they finally hit the big screen.
A movie as anticipated as this was required to have a bombastic soundtrack and Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was happy to deliver. From the 70s intro song “Two Cool Guys” by Isaac Hayes to the hyperactive “Love Rollercoaster” cover by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the soundtrack is a perfect complement to an animated comedy movie.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the desert hallucination sequence, so I’d have to say that White Zombie’s “Ratfinks, Suicide Tanks & Cannibal Girls” is the best track on the album. It has just the right amount of goofiness to make itself right at home on this album.
Back when Leonardo DiCaprio was young enough to be considered a teen heartthrob, he starred as Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s modern interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The film grabbed audiences by the eyes and ears and introduced a whole generation of young girls to the tragic love story.
Alongside the dazzling visuals of the film, the soundtrack housed a sprawling landscape of classic 90s tunes that still exist in my regular iTunes rotation after nearly two decades. There’s so many songs to love on this album that it’s difficult to choose just one. Garbage’s “#1 Crush” is an eery, obsessive love song while “Local God” by Everclear is a catchy alternative rock jam.
I had to choose two favorite songs off of this soundtrack because there was no way I could narrow down my choice. Both “Lovefool” by the Cardigans and “Talk Show Host” by Radiohead reside in my regular playlist. The former is a bubblegum pop masterpiece and the latter a crawling, somber think piece.
Back in 1995, I was obsessed with the Mortal Kombat movie. I was old enough to watch that kind graphic violence, but also young enough to geek out over the inclusion of so many of my favorite characters.
Admittedly, I was trying to avoid including soundtracks where there was only one song that stood out, but “Techno Syndrome” by the Immortals is such an electronic dance classic that I felt it was necessary to make an exception.
Not to discount the other fantastic artists like Type O Negative, Buckethead, Bile, KMFDM, Gravity Kills, and Fear Factory also present on the album, but “Techno Syndrome” blew them all completely out of the water. This song still elicits a combination of dancing and fake martial arts moves from me any time I hear it.
One of my favorite comedy movies of all time, Dumb and Dumber is one of Jim Carrey’s best roles. Both idiotic and heartfelt, it’s also one of the most quotable films ever. It is only fair that its audio accompaniment be subject to the same quality standards.
Although “Crash (95 Mix)” is a great trailer song for 90s teen films and “Whiney, Whiney (What Really Drives Me Crazy)” by Willi One Blood is a rump-shaking reggae romp, I’d have to give the award on this one to “New Age Girl” by Deadeye Dick. I’m terribly intrigued by any girl who “don’t eat meat, but sure likes the bone.” Mary Moon sounds like my type of chick.
I also just realized that the Butthole Surfers appear on nearly every soundtrack on this list and that simple fact brings me great joy.
Despite Michael Jordan’s terrible acting ability, nothing could fuck up the sublime blend of Looney Tunes, incompetent aliens, and professional basketball known as Space Jam.
Kids everywhere flocked to theaters to see Bugs Bunny’s ups and subsequently force their parents to buy them this fantastic soundtrack. Hip hop and R&B legends like R Kelly, Salt-N-Pepa, D’Angelo, Seal, and Coolio offered their unique talents to craft a memorable listening experience.
However, the coolest track is undoubtedly the titular “Space Jam” by the Quad City DJ’s. Both bass-heavy and tons of fun, the track opens the film with an in-your-face tune that makes you want to get out of your seat and dance.
Although largely unrecognized, Angus is the epitome of 90s teen movies. Its optimistic take on the apathetic-loser-turned-high-school-hero stereotype is a refreshing combination of comedy and angst and showcases James Van Der Beek in one of his earliest film roles.
The Angus soundtrack is a dream come true for any fan of geek rock and displays that carefree 90s attitude with each of its offerings. Both of Ash’s songs “Jack Names The Planets” and “Kung Fu” are wonderful alternative rock songs and, despite my lukewarm feelings toward Green Day, “J.A.R.” is a heartfelt punk ballad about a dead friend.
Back when Weezer didn’t suck worse than prostate cancer, they also provided my favorite track on the album. “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly” is an adorably humble love song and helps define some of the best work from a band that has strayed so far from their musical roots in recent years.
The Crow is one of my favorite films of all time. I remember watching this film over and over again when it came out on home video and being blown away by its comic book colors and dreary, gothic vision. I’ve already spoken at length about the tragedy associated with this film, but nowhere is it more apparent than in the brooding, despondent songs of its soundtrack.
The antipathy is ever present in songs like “Big Empty” by Stone Temple Pilots and “Dead Souls” by Nine Inch Nails. There are also angry tracks like “Darkness” by Rage Against The Machine and “Ghostrider” by the Rollins band.
The best track on the album is from one of my favorite bands of all time, the Cure. “Burn,” like most of Robert Smith’s work, is an atmospheric, moody dream of a song that takes the listener through worlds of doom and gloom that somehow sound both beautiful and triumphant.
I absolutely adore this soundtrack and it deserves it’ spot as number one on the list because of its dark overtones and tragic thematic ties to the collective feeling of the 90s.
I had a really hard time narrowing down my favorite 90s soundtracks to a list of only ten, so I appeased myself by including a lengthy list of honorable mentions. Before you bitch at me for omitting one of your favorites, please understand that I painstakingly compiled this list from my own memory and the advice of friends and tried my hardest to make it complete.