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10 Movies from the Late 2010s with Great Soundtracks


Some movies can get away without a soundtrack (or with a minimal soundtrack), if the content speaks for itself loud enough. Great movies in this tradition include No Country for Old Men, Rear Window,A Separation and Open Hearts. That said, music makes it so much easier for the audience to be engaged with the material. Sometimes, it can even make us care for stories and characters we wouldn’t normally care about. And that’s all for the best, since one of the primary missions of cinema is to take audiences on explorations of new territory and different modes of being, alongside characters who can be strange compared to the ones viewers are familiar with in their personal lives and close entourage.




We’ve already looked at movies from the early part of the 2010s with great soundtracks, but what about the second part of the decade? From 2015 to 2019, there certainly were many great soundtracks that captivated audiences. These films from the 2010s were elevated by their soundtracks (original songs, needle drops, or a mix of the two) in memorable ways. We’ll see how the music also went hand-in-hand with the movies’ themes.

Update February 23, 2024: This article has been updated with more memorable soundtracks from the late 2010s with incredible songs, needle drops, and music that you’ll want to listen to even when you’re not watching the movie.


10 Call Me By Your Name (2017)


Call Me By Your Name is one of Luca Guadagnino’s best movies as it tells the love story between teenager Elio (Timothée Chalamet in the role that made him a star), and Oliver (Armie Hammer), Elio’s father’s research assistant in an Italian 1980s summer. The music complements the film perfectly, as it has the same sense of discovery, angst, and first love in the 80s energy as the character, making it the perfect companion to the story.

Sufjan Stevens Wrote Three Original Songs for the Film

Guadagnino has always known how to use music to increase the emotions in scenes, but this film might be his best in that regard. The soundtrack is full of unique songs that add to the scenes they appear in, mixing classical music with eighties hits like Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way, but the best decision the director made was to ask Sufjan Stevens to record three original songs for the movie, that elevates both the story and the soundtrack to a new level. “Mystery of Love” was nominated for the Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, and Stevens’ rendition at the show was breathtaking, even if it didn’t win the award (it lost to Coco’s “Remember Me”, another great song). Stream on Hulu


Related: Best Film Scores of the 2000s

9 Moana (2016)

Moana

Release Date
November 23, 2016

Runtime
103

Released in 2016 as Hamilton was becoming a full fledge worldwide phenomenon, Moana featured original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The story of the titular character, a young girl who goes looking to save her island after a dark plague has taken over with the help of a powerful demi-god struck a chord with audiences. The movie was a box office hit, but in the years since its release, it has become a staple of Disney, typically trending on Disney+ as one of the most in-demand streaming films. Part of that is due to the film’s soundtrack.


What Kid Doesn’t Love “I Am Moana”

Who knew that Dwayne Johnson could sing, but the hit song “You’re Welcome” became an earworm that nobody could get out of their head? The main song, “How Far I’ll Go,” might have at the time felt like a “Let It Go” wannabee, but in the years since, it is hard to deny the impact of the song. From the glam-rock “Shinny” to the catchy “We Know The Way”, the soundtrack is filled with hit after hit with no skips. The best might be “I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)”, beautifully carried by star Auli’i Cravahlo (who fans can now hear in Mean Girls). Just like with “Let It Go”, you can judge the movie’s success by how many young kids belt out at the top of their lungs, “I am Moana!”. Stream on Disney+.


8 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a film full of firsts for Sony. The first animated film with a unique style. The first Spider-Man animated movie, the first Miles Morales as Spider-Man movie, and the first film with as many famous songs as part of the soundtrack. It was an absolute success in all those firsts. The movie has heart, fun, and mesmerizing animation, mixing all those qualities with some incredible voice acting from actors as different as Nicolas Cage, Jake Johnson, and John Mulaney, and a beautiful message about how anyone can be a hero.


The Best Scene Works Because of the Mix of Score and a Needle Drop

The movie mixes songs by famous artists like Post Malone, Nicki Minaj, and Juice WRLD with an original score, perfectly. The centerpiece of the soundtrack, is without a doubt the scene in which Miles connects memories, words and ideas together in his mind, finding the inspiration to become Spider-Man. Going up and down with Spidey’s swings, Daniel Pemberton’s score, mixed with “What’s Up Danger”, rises many times only to swerve back down without entirely climaxing. Like the best music, it leaves the listener wanting more for a while before taking full flight. Stream on fuboTV


7 The Greatest Showman (2017)

The Greatest Showman was Hugh Jackman’s passion project for years, as he wanted to play PT Barnum in a musical. The character is an entrepreneur who changed his life by creating a unique circus. Mixing 19th-century costumes and ways of thinking with 21st-century music and lyrics makes for a unique film that looks at Barnum as a man way ahead of his time, and the music follows suit. What was seen as an initial box office disappointment, The Greatest Showman became the little film that could be a surprise hit, and much of that was thanks to the soundtrack of the movie.


An Incredible Mix of Lyrics, Choreography, and Singing

This film is one of the best movie musicals of the 21st Century, so of course, it has an incredible soundtrack that, with time, has eclipsed the movie itself as it has become the movie’s lasting memory for many people who watched it back then. Benji Pasek and Justin Paul, who had just created the songs for La La Land, wrote the original songs, and it shows. “This is Me”, “A Million Dreams”, and, especially, “Rewrite the Stars”, have an incredible mix of lyrics, choreography, and singing by everyone involved, creating spectacular musical numbers. The soundtrack was one of the best-selling albums of 2017, and with all those hits, it was no surprise. Stream on Disney+


6 A Star is Born (2018)

Read Our Review

A Star is Born is the latest remake (the fourth) of the 1937 film of the same name. This is the story of a past-his-prime and with addiction issues famous musician, Jack (Bradley Cooper who also co-wrote and directed the movie), who helps a talented young singer named Ally (Lady Gaga) get a musical career, while also falling in love with her. The actor-director learned to sing and play the guitar for the role and cast famous singer Lady Gaga as Ally, her co-lead, so from the start, it was obvious that the film would live and die on the chemistry between them and the songs’ quality.


“Shallow” Won an Academy Award for Best Original Song

This remake is one of the saddest romantic movies of all time. The movie is about two successful musicians, and the soundtrack had to reflect that, so there are collaborations with many famous real-life musicians, like Jason Isbell, Mark Ronson, and Lukas Nelson. The results speak for themselves with hits like Music To My Eyes, Before I Cry, and Always Remember Us This Way. Even then, the best of them all, the showstopper that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, is the duet Shallow, sung by both actors. It shows the incredible chemistry between the two lead characters, and in the film it’s the moment Ally becomes a star. The soundtrack has become a phenomenon of its own, being a top seller in many countries, getting golden and platinum certifications, and becoming a karaoke staple all over the world. Stream on Hulu


5 Coco (2017)

Coco

Coco

Release Date
October 27, 2017

Runtime
109

Coco was a movie all about music, so of course, the film was going to be on this list. Coco follows a young boy, Miguel, who lives in a family that hates music and forbids it from being played due to his great-grandfather having left the family for music. Miguel dreams of being a musician, and when he takes the guitar of the legendary musician Ernesto de la Cruz, he winds up in the land of the dead. Miguel encounters a colorful new friend named Hector and many of his long-dead relatives, and involves having to confront his own family’s past.


A Soundtrack That Lives On

Coco‘s signature track, “Remember Me,” is a standout. In the context of the movie, it takes on many different forms. There is a lively party version played at the beginning, a sweet touching lullaby between father and daughter, and a final tribute for a dead relative. When Miguel plays the song for his grandma Coco it is almost impossible not to cry. Coco is filled with many more great songs, particularly “Un Poco Loco,” which is a great dance song, with “Proud Corazón,” a beautiful final song. Pixar was never known for doing musicals, but Coco showed they could be just as good as Disney Animation. Stream on Disney+.


4 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

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After a first film that surprised even Marvel with its incredible success both at the box office and being the number one album on the Top billboards, there were many more expectations for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, both as a movie and with its soundtrack. This time, the story is all about fathers and sons, as Peter discovers who his dad really is, Ego the Planet, played by Kurt Russell, and learns who was his emotional father, Yondu, played by Michael Rooker.


The Soundtrack Has a Dramatic Role in the Movie

James Gunn surprised everyone with the first film in the franchise and its incredible soundtrack, so the needle drops in this movie had to be, at least, as great as in the first one, not an easy feat. The director succeeded in crafting an album full of incredible songs that had a greater emotional maturity than the previous film. He starts the film with the Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky, while the credits appear and the new Baby Groot is fighting his way on the mission, showing he hadn’t lost his musical touch between films. That song is the first of many great ones, like Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me”, and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”. Like in the first movie, music has a dramatic role, as it’s the music Peter’s mother left him before she died, making those tunes sound more emotional. The best song, though, comes from Peter Quill’s new Zoom with Cat Stevens, “Father & Son,” which was a fitting tribute from his adopted father, Yondu, in one of the franchise’s most emotional moments. The soundtrack didn’t achieve the sales success of the first one but still finished as the eighth most-sold album of 2017, so it’s obvious that audiences love Gunn’s taste in music and how it works in his films. Stream on Disney+


Related: These Are Period Romance Movies We Can’t Live Without

3 La La Land (2016)

La La Land is a perfect love story between actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), telling their whole relationship, from before they met, until their end as a couple. Director Damien Chazelle was a drummer, so music is always present in his films, but this was his first try in the musical genre, using his love for seventies musicals like Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg as an influence for this unique film that got Emma Stone her first Academy Award.


The Songs Are Great in Their Own

This movie is a gift, and it’s not often that original songs written specifically for movies are that strong. “City of Stars” isn’t just a great song in a movie, it’s a great song, period. The same can be said for “Someone in the Crowd”, “A Lovely Night”, and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, making audiences swoon at this love story. The songwriting team of Benji Pasek and Justin Paul have done other projects, like The Greatest Showman, and Aladdin, where they proved their songwriting creativity, but they will always be remembered for their contributions to this film. It’s a soundtrack that can be enjoyed and loved as its own thing, but Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone certainly add their charm to it in the film. Stream on Tubi TV


2 Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther was the first film with a mostly black cast in the MCU, telling the story of the African country of Wakanda. Director Ryan Coogler wanted to create a techno-futuristic African state with its own costumes, sets, and music while telling the story of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and his country in a moment in time when everything the Wakandans stand for is being tested by exterior forces and an incredible villain named Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who has his personal reasons to change the way the King thinks.


The Soundtrack and the Original Score Are Impressive

Coogler and his team created an impressive soundtrack and original score. Composer Ludwig Göransson’s score is fantastic, but his most important contribution was creating a leitmotiv for Wakanda with talking drums and a tambin, used now in the MCU every time the country appears on the screen. The soundtrack, though, is as good, with songs by artists like Kendrick Lamar (who curated the whole soundtrack and with whom to collaborate), Travis Scott, and The Weeknd, that help mix the traditional with the new, the African with a much more modern musical vision. This idea is not only followed by the music but also by its characters to create a unique, special music and feel for this story. The movie won the Oscar for Best Original Score, and Kendrick Lamar’sAll the Stars” was nominated for Best Original Song, proving that the music was one of the film’s biggest assets. Stream on Disney+


1 Baby Driver (2017)

Read Our Review

While shooting a commercial, director, Edgar Wright had the idea of creating a film where the music synched perfectly with the action. That was the creative seed that became Baby Driver. The soundtrack was so important that it appeared in the script as if it were dialogue in this story about Baby (Ansel Elgort), an incredible heist driver who synchronizes his driving to music. When he falls in love with Debora (Lily James), he tries to leave his delinquent past behind. Unfortunately, it’s much tougher to do than he thought.


The Soundtrack Is a Character in the Film

Director Edgar Wright always has great needle drops in his movies, from Hot Fuzz to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but never more than in this film where the music is a character, and every driving scene is edited to the song both Baby and the audience are listening to, creating one of the most iconic characters in Edgar Wright’s films. It is as if the whole movie was the best music video ever, as the action always follows the music and complements it. Baby’s musical taste is also impressive, full of 70s rock classics: from The Button Down Brass’s “Tequila” to Queen’s “Brighton Rock”, and T-Rex’s “Deborah”. Special mention goes to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms” which starts the film with a bang in what might be the best scene in the whole movie. Fun fact, Edgar Wright and James Gunn cordinated the songs on the soundtracks for Baby Driver and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as they came out the same summer and didn’t want to repeat a song. Stream on DIRECTV




This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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