As the nation continues to dab tears from matinee screenings of A Star Is Born, you know what else is born? An opportunity to dig back into some highly treasured selections from soundtracks past. This playlist is far from exhaustive but it runs the gamut of decades, genres (both musical and cinematic), and dare I say emotions? Before diving in, please remember many of these dazzling songs are better left outside the dated context of their film originations (I’m looking at you, creepy-ass Mannequin); not everything is like wine–best when aged–as it turns out. But, boy, do these tracks stand the test of time. Dig it.
“Shallow,” performed by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
A Star Is Born (2018)
Might as well start with this delightfully gut-churning, heart-wrenching banger, right? Although Ally (the character played by Lady Gaga, but also the IRL Gaga) technically penned the track (alongside Mark Ronson and others), it comes especially alive paired with Jack’s (Bradley Cooper) gruff blue-eyed soul. Sparse piano tinkles and steel guitar elevate the existential, anguished emotions, leading way for Gaga’s powerhouse vocals ringing raw over crashing cymbals. Even if you have yet to actually cry along to A Star Is Born in theaters, the standalone recording challenges you not to at least get sniffly at the hope firmly centered in the heart of this restless number.
“Danger Zone,” performed by Kenny Loggins
Top Gun (1986)
There’s a natural bridge from the deep end right into the danger zone, probably. Top Gun is a canonical buddy flick, boosted by this Dad’s-in-the-garage-doing-stuff jam. Made perhaps specifically with forecasted nostalgia in mind, Loggins injected “Danger Zone” with shimmering guitars and the exact scent of motor oil and Friday night optimism.
“Friday,” performed by Ice Cube
Speaking of Friday night (sorry), no one could have predicted this 1995 classic would one day be repurposed to promote a mysterious basketball league in 2018 (if anyone is willing to clearly, succinctly explain BIG3, I’m all ears). Originally rooted in this super stoned comedy, Cube used the film’s titular track to show serious waxing chops outside N.W.A as well as the film itself to show this dude is way more than a rapper–he’s a full-fledged artist.
“The Harder They Come,” performed by Jimmy Cliff
The Harder They Come (1972)
1972’s The Harder They Come brought reggae to much of mainstream America’s attention. Natch, the film’s star–who, simultaneously, is often considered a major pioneer of the genre through his own ambitious musical career–dictated the soundtrack that still deeply slaps today.
“J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva),” performed by Green Day
Apparently, I’m one of the last remaining people on this planet recalls–oh-so fondly–the coming-of-age movie 23 years after its release. The traditional oddball story (also featuring Kathy Bates as the titular nerd character’s mother and James Van Der Beek as the popular kid determined to make Angus’s life a living hell) laid a platform for a killer soundtrack, including this oft-forgotten, upbeat independence anthem that never showed up on a proper Green Day release till 2001’s International Superhits! “And I think it’s all right / That I do what I like / ‘Cause that’s the way I want to live / It’s how I give, and I’m still givin’,” indeed.
“Mrs. Robinson,” performed by Simon & Garfunkel
The Graduate (1967)
I don’t know a single woman who entered her 30s (regardless of marital status) without the famed Mrs. Robinson archetype gleefully dancing across her frontal lobe. It’s always a good time to celebrate the hot matriarch getting it in with some young stud, which is why the trope continues to perpetuate and isn’t likely to stop. Pair with that this cheerful acoustic canticle from perhaps the most docile duo of all time and we’re nearing legendary status.
“Kiss Me,” performed by Sixpence None The Richer
She’s All That (1999)
She’s All That forever changed the makeover reveal game; Anna Paquin proved herself as not only quite formidable at herding Canadian geese on their migration way, she was downright charming in taming Rachel Leigh Cook’s brows. Distinguishable from the first few chords, Sixpence’s Leigh Nash’s tender silver vocals made everyone forget the outfit originated in Christian rock—your father’s map be damned. (See also: the music video’s inclusion of Freddie Prinze Jr.’s face IN THE SKY like Mufasa, wow.)
“Stayin’ Alive,” performed by Bee Gees
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
I once dated a nurse who told me he learned to pump chests during resuscitation to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive,” which is ironic considering the prevalent drug use in the John Travolta disco criterion. Brothers Gibb really delivered a sparkling bundle of dancefloor tinder with this one.