The 20 Soundtracks That Defined The 1990s

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    img.album {            opacity:0.8;            filter:alpha(opacity=80); /* For IE8 and earlier */    }    img.album:hover {        opacity:1.0;        filter:alpha(opacity=100); /* For IE8 and earlier */    }    a.header {        font-family: "Fjalla One";        color:#ababab;        font-size:28px;        line-height:30px;        text-decoration:none;    }    a.header:hover {        font-family: "Fjalla One";        color:#333333;        font-size:28px;        line-height:30px;        text-decoration:none;    }[1960s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s) [1970s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s) [1980s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-80s) 1990s [2000s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-00s) [2010s](/features/2010s-soundtracks-reader-choices) ![]( *Select an album to hear samples and to find out why it made our list.* ![]( [![Buena Vista Social Club](]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p2%29 [![Swingers]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p3%29 [![Singles]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p4%29 [![Reservoir Dogs]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p5%29 [![Trainspotting]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p6%29 ![]%28 [![Crimson Tide]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p7%29 [![Dead Man]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p8%29 [![Fight Club]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p9%29 [![Jurassic Park]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p10%29 [![Out Of Sight]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p11%29 ![]%28 [![Romeo + Juliet]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p12%29 [![The Shawshank Redemption]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p13%29 [![Terminator 2]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p14%29 [![Pulp Fiction]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p15%29 [![South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p16%29 ![]%28 [![The Commitments]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p17%29 [![The Piano]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p18%29 [![The Lion King]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p19%29 [![Titanic]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p20%29 [![The Bodyguard](](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s/p21) ![](   

Buena Vista Social Club
Composer: Various Artists
Buena Vista was the breakout music doc of the decade and a story that ran and ran (and then ran a bit more) as a small, Cohiba-puffing corner of the musical world opened its borders to millions of new fans. It was the brainchild of Cuban guitarist Juan de Marcos González and Ry Cooder, an American guitarist and film scorer with a passion for roots and blues, who reunited Cuba’s venerable musical posse and turned them into Central America’s answer to the Blues Brothers. The 1997 album led to Wim Wenders’ 1999 documentary which led to a whole lot of love from the Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, et al. Without them, it’s hard to imagine a Searching For Sugarman or even an Anvil! The Story Of Anvil. Back to the menu

Composer: Various Artists
While films like Swing Kids and even The Mask paid tribute to the swing jazz revival, it was this Jon Favreau/Vince Vaughn breakthrough that really nailed the ‘60s revival vibe that ran through mid-‘90s Los Angeles. Indeed, it was in large part due to Swingers that the neo-swing movement hit the mainstream, catapulting as it did bands like the scene-leading Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (who contribute tracks and appear in the movie) into the spotlight. The soundtrack isn’t all Lindy Hops and wingtips, however, as it also features an eclectic arrangement of funk, smooth jazz and country. Dean Martin’s You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You, meanwhile, makes up the film’s heart and soul, while Bobby Darin’s I’m Beginning To See The Light marks its optimistic sign-off. Back to the menu

Composer: Various Artists
Cameron Crowe’s none-more-grunge slacker romance demanded a none-more-grunge slacker soundtrack. The album rounds up usual Seattle suspects Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Mudhoney, but also imports talent from further afield, like The Screaming Trees (Ellensburg), The Smashing Pumpkins (Chicago), and The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg (Minneapolis). Pearl Jammers Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament make up Matt Dillon’s band Citizen Dick in the film, and while there’s no Dick on the soundtrack, there’s a rare outing for Pearl Jam’s first incarnation, Mother Love Bone. The album went hit the Top 10 of the Billboard chart. Andrew Wood would’ve liked it there. Back to the menu

Reservoir Dogs
Composer: Various Artists
Sure, the suits looked cool and the dialogue was sparky and, hey, everyone loves a Mexican stand-off, but music was essential to Tarantino’s Hollywood calling card, a big part of what made him stand apart from the rock or synch-themed crime dramas that preceded him. Tarantino’s debut – and many of his subsequent efforts – was built around the coolest riffs of the most obscure ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s tunes he could find, just as his filming style often resurrects obscure stars, shooting angles and approaches. It’s surely one of the most-played soundtracks ever; one every self-respecting student displays prominently and many ‘90s DJs reportedly built their playlists around. It’s a hugely influential selection that changed how we approach soundtracks just as Tarantino’s visual and storytelling style changed filming. Back to the menu

Composer: Various Artists
It’s remembered for Born Slippy [see sidebar], but Danny Boyle’s counter-culture classic is a veritable Wurlitzer of acid house, Britpop and iconic rock. If it had been a house party, it would have found Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry rubbing shoulders with Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn, the pumping electronica of Leftfield, Underworld and John Digweed’s Bedrock pissing off the neighbours, and Underworld’s Karl Hyde barking his lunatic poetry in a kitchen full of ravers. Like the film, it didn’t so much capture the zeitgeist as frog-march it down Princes Street at the point of a bayonet – not for nothing did it become a staple in four million CD collections and spawn a sequel. One day, the film may follow suit. Back to the menu

Crimson Tide
Composer: Hans Zimmer
In 1995, just after the release of submarine thriller Crimson Tide, Hans Zimmer described his creative process thus: “I wake up around noon, light a cigarette, get a cup of coffee, sit in the bathtub for an hour and daydream. Good tunes come when you’re not thinking about it.” More composers might want to adopt the Bathtub Technique, as it certainly works for Zimmer. There’s nothing too radical about his score for Tony Scott’s Cold War actioner — there are male voices chanting in Russian, bombastic motifs and a lot of tense, propulsive synth — but it’s massively effective. Putting Zimmer squarely on Hollywood’s action-movie sonar, over the next few years he was to score Broken Arrow, The Rock and The Peacemaker. Back to the menu

Dead Man
Composer: Neil Young
Long before Johnny Depp stuck a dead bird on his head, his CV was full of trippy curios like Jim Jarmusch