“Vanity Fair” picks the best soundtracks ever — and so can you


In their next issue, Vanity

will publish their list of the top 40 movie soundtracks

of all time
. But

we don’t need to wait to find out their top 10: Purple Rain, A Hard Day’s

, The Harder They Come, Pulp Fiction, The

, Superfly, Trainspotting, Saturday Night

, American Graffiti and The Big Chill.

I don’t know about you, but

this is not exactly my top 10. I own and agree with a few — A Hard

Day’s Night
, The Graduate, American Graffiti and

The Big Chill
. And Purple Rain is tricky. I can understand

why others would rank it as such, but I wouldn’t. Ranking soundtracks

is complicated though, because there can be so many factors to consider.

Do the songs tell the story of the movie? Do they evoke scenes from

the movie? Are they just a collection of great songs? Ten people could

probably come up with ten different criteria for what makes a great


Therefore, instead of analyzing

Vanity Fair
‘s selections, I’m going to have more fun making my own

list. Here are the parameters: It must be a movie soundtrack. I must

own it. I must have listened to it in the past year.

And I’ll give each pick a category for context. And I won’t pick all

movie musicals (even though I could.)


The Sound of Music (Best movie

musical soundtrack)

This one is a no-brainer. The Sound of Music is, without question, my pick for

best movie musical ever, so it stands to reason that the soundtrack

would be the best movie soundtrack.


Coal Miner’s Daughter (Best

bio-pic soundtrack)

This album is perfect because

it evokes the movie but doesn’t require the movie; it’s a great country

album in its own right. Sissy Spacek

is brilliant in her interpretation (as opposed to imitation) of Loretta

. The only problem is that Beverly D’Angelo does not

really evoke Patsy Cline.


1969 (Best ’60s music soundtrack that nobody owns)

I’m not disrespecting The

Big Chill
. I own it. I love it. But the mediocre 1988 Robert

Downey Jr.
, Keifer Sutherland and Winona Ryder movie

has a kick-ass soundtrack. It opens with Jimi Hendrix‘s cover

of “All Along the Watchtower” and moves on to Cream’s “White Room”

and The Animals’ “When I Was Young.” And that’s just the first three

tracks. The remaining nine, including “Time of the Season,” “Wooden

Ships” and “Windows of the World,” all rock.


Cabaret (Second best movie musical


I was going to limit this to

only one musical, but I just couldn’t omit this. It’s Liza Minnelli

at her best. (I may actually be a gay man.) And Joel Grey

at his best. Additionally, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” is the most

unexpectedly chilling representation of the rise of the Nazi regime

I’ve ever heard. (It’s the most powerful scene in the movie and it retains

its effect on the album.)

Take a look at the scene from

the movie.


The Lost Boys (Best Soundtrack that reminds me of college)

For some reason, The Lost

was the tape (remember tapes?) I listened to when I was getting

ready to go out in college. The music is a distinct brand of mid-1980s

synth-rock: plenty of guitars, but some drum machines, too. “Cry Little

Sister (Theme From the Lost Boys)” is kind of haunting. And it has

surprising good covers of “People Are Strange” and “I Still Believe,”

by Echo and the Bunnymen and Tim Cappello, respectively.


Streets of Fire (Best Bombastic ’80s Soundtrack)


of Fire

neither a perfect movie nor a perfect soundtrack, but what’s good about

it is so good that deserves special recognition. The movie opens with Deborah Van Valkenburgh

(I used to love her) sort of mooning at Diane Lane as she lip-synchs

to a bombastic, Bonnie Tyler-esque song, “Nowhere Fast.” And it

closes with a similarly bombastic (Jim Steinman-produced) “Tonight Is What It Means

To Be Young.”

If you’ve never seen it (and

don’t mind watching the end of the movie first), check out “Tonight

Is What It Means To Be Young” (with Spanish subtitles). There’s a

little bit of talk and the end of Dan Hartman‘s “I Can Dream

About You” first.

Amazing, isn’t it? Unfortunately,

the CD rearranges the songs so that “Tonight” is not the last

song. That messes up the flow. But there’s a great Maria McKee

ballad, and some other gems as well.


Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
(Best Dolly Parton soundtrack)

Have I mentioned that I like Dolly Parton? Perhaps once or twice. This album

not only contains the original version of “I Will Always Love You”,

but also a Dolly duet with Burt Reynolds (“Sneaking Around

With You”). And an intro by Jim Nabors. And a song “Texas

Has a Whorehouse in It” sung by Dom DeLuise. It is wonderful.

Wonderful, I tell you.


Swing Kids (Best period-piece soundtrack)

Swing Kids has some

amazing big-band tracks — “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “It Don’t Mean A

Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon.” Unfortunately,

these songs are intercut with incredibly depressing mood music. But

the good tracks make the album worthwhile.

It is, however, a wee bit disturbing

to realize that this is the third Nazi-related soundtrack I’ve selected.

Perhaps a little Wagner next.


Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Best soundtrack

about failed transgender surgery)

If you’ve never listened to Hedwig and the

Angry Inch

you should; this is one of the great rock musicals. John Cameron

Mitchell has a Broadway-caliber voice that he uses to full effect

on songs ranging from the rock ballad “Wicked Little Town” to the

show-tune-y “Wig in a Box” to the punk-influenced “Angry Inch.”

The song-writing is inspired and uncomfortable, and Stephen Trask‘s

collaboration makes for a lot of brilliant music.


A Mighty Wind
(Best faux-folk soundtrack)

The music in Christopher Guest

movies is good. The Spinal Tap

music was good. And A Mighty Wind is good, too. While a few of

the songs, e.g., “Start Me Up,” are cheap jokes, others such as “Old

Joe’s Place,” “Blood On the Coal,” “A Kiss at the End of

the Rainbow” and “A Mighty Wind” so perfectly evoke the hootenanny

classics that they’re brilliant.

And there they are. Remember,

these are just my top picks from my collection — and I had to leave

out some of my favorites. Chime in with your picks.

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