The 1990s was perhaps the last great decade of rock music, which coincided with perhaps the last great decade of soundtracks for TV and film (not scores). Even if the visual media wasn’t terribly good at times, the audio counterpart often thrived and offered important tracks (sometimes exclusive) from some great artists. Here are our Top 11 movie and TV soundtrack picks from the 90’s!
11. The Crow (1994)
Cult film hit The Crow spawned a 3x platinum soundtrack: The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, which topped the Billboard Top 200 albums chart, selling 3.8 million copes. Stone Temple Pilots’ “Big Empty” debuted here, and served as the lead single from this compilation… although the song’s real home ended up being STP’s album Purple which was released later that same year. Rage Against the Machine’s track “Darkness” is also a highlight.
10. Music from the Motion Picture Wayne’s World (1992)
The move Wayne’s World is probably best known for the scene when Wayne and Garth theatrically sing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” while driving down the road. “Bohemian Rhapsody” had a monumental resurgence after the movie became a hit, which has carried over to today. Needless to say, the movie’s soundtrack includes the Queen hit as Track 1. Other artists like Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper and Red Hot Chili peppers have strong offerings as well. With such a music-centric film, however, it’s pretty surprising that “All Night Thing” by Temple of the Dog, or “Everything About You” by Ugly Kid Joe were not included on the official soundtrack. Some versions do, however, include “Loud Love” by Soundgraden, so at least there is a little Chris Cornell in there somewehere.
9. Batman & Robin (1997)
Although it’s commonly accepted that Batman & Robin is the worst film in the series, Batman & Robin: Music from and Inspired by the “Batman & Robin” Motion Picture fared much better. The Smashing Pumpkins exclusive track “The End is the Beginning is the End” even picked up a Grammy win for Best Hard Rock Performance, and songs by Jewel, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and R. Kelly all became US Top 10 hits.
8. The Beavis & Butthead Experience (1993)
Based on the hit television show, The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience is a compilation soundtrack that includes both alternative rock and hip hop, with voice cameos/commentary from Beavis & Butthead themselves. The title is a reference to The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix’s original band. Besides the awesome collaboration between Cher and Beavis & Butthead on “I Got You Babe”, Megadeth’s “99 Ways to Die” is probably the highlight here. Nirvana’s In Utero outtake “I Hate Myself and Want to Die” is a close second.
7. The X-Files: The Album (1998)
Two soundtracks based on the TV show The X-Files were released over time. This one accompanied the 1998 feature film The X-Files: Fight the Future. Oddly enough, only one song ever made it into the actual movie: “Crystal Ship” by the band X, which is a cover of a song by The Doors. “Teotihuacan” is not in the film techinically, but it does roll with the credits at the end, and is an instrumental written by Noel Gallagher of Oasis. The alternate version of Foo Fighters’ “Walking After You” is excellent, as is “One More Murder” by Better Than Ezra.
6. Lost Highway (1997)
Here’s a scenario where it seems more people owned this soundtrack than owned the movie itself. Lost Highway is based on the David Lynch movie of the same name, and the soundtrack went Gold, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard 200. “Apple of Sodom” by Marilyn Manson, “Eye” by The Smashing Pumpkins, and “Heirate Mich” by Rammstein are all highlights of this electronic/metal-tinged album, but it’s certainly Nine Inch Nails’ track “The Perfect Drug” that stole the show here. The song was an international hit throughout 1997, however was only finally performed live in 2018. NIN writer/singer Trent Reznor expressed his dissatisfaction with the track in 2005, stating …”I’m not cringing about it, but it’s not my favorite piece.”
5. Godzilla: The Album (1998)
Like Batman & Robin, the 1998 adaptation of Godzilla was reviewed poorly, despite big box office sales upon release. However the movie’s soundtrack Godzilla: The Album had more to offer. Ben Folds Five used the soundtrack to debut an previously-unreleased song called “Air”. Foo Fighters also contributed an unreleased song called “A320”, Jamiroquai with “Deeper Underground”, and Rage Against the Machine brought “No Shelter” to the table. All four of these songs are strong, excellent additions to their respective artists’ catalogs, helping make the Gozilla soundtrack better than the film it’s based on.
4. Batman Forever: Music from the Motion Picture (1995)
1995 saw a much more colorful, cartoony take on the Batman franchise with Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, and Tommy Lee Jones. Guess what came with it? A soundrack! Batman Forever: Music from the Motion Picture delivered two inescapable songs in 1995: “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal, and “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” by U2. These two tracks seemed to dominate the airwaves and MTV the entire summer, and rightfully so. “Kiss From a Rose” swept the following Grammy Awards, picking up Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” brought them two Grammy Nominations that year. However, the previously-unreleased Sunny Day Real Estate song “8” is one of the compilation’s highlights.
3. Last Action Hero: Music from the Original Motion Picture (1993)
In our minds, Last Action Hero: Music from the Original Motion Picture is the best heavy rock soundtrack of the 90’s decade. AC/DC’s “Big Gun”, Megadeth’s “Angry Again”, Alice in Chains’ “What the Hell Have I?” AND “A Little Bitter”. Fishbone, Tesla, Def Leppard, Queensryche, Anthrax… I think we’ve made our point. Megadeth, AC/DC and Alice In Chains are the winners here, though. Not to mention, the movie is a Schwarzenegger blow-em-up action film that takes place within another film. So it’s Schwarzenegger Inception with a metal soundtrack. Yes please.
2. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet: Music from the Motion Picture (1996)
Say what you will, the Leonardo DiCaprio adaptation of Romeo & Juliet was artful and well done, as was William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet: Music from the Motion Picture. Unless you were living under a rock during the 90’s you’ve all heard “Love Fool” by the Caridgans and liked it, even though you won’t admit it outwardly. Garbage’s “#1 Crush” is haunting and perhaps one of their finest tracks, as is Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host”. The music in this compilation certainly compliments the mood of the film… it’s just a bummer that the song from the end credits (“Exit Music” by Radiohead) wasn’t also included.
1. Singles (1992)
Oh boy. Singles is literally a movie about being young and in the music scene in the 1990’s, directed by Cameron Crowe, and the soundtrack is a treasure trove of the Seattle grunge/alternative music. Hell, members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam even have speaking roles and live performance clips in the movie. But no, it’s not a documentary. Long hair, flannel shirts, good bands, Seattle. There’s no way this soundtrack can be anything but No. 1 on our list, when it includes “Would?” by Alice in Chains, “Seasons” by Chris Cornell, “Breath” by Pearl Jam, “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone, “Birth Ritual” by Soundgarden, “Drown” by The Smashing Pumpkins, and “Nearly Lost You” by Screaming Trees. You want 90’s? This is 90’s.
What are some of your favorites? Obviously we didn’t include everything here, and a notable runner-up for us would be the soundtrack to Velvet Goldmine. However, these are our Top 11 soundtracks from the 90s.