Whether it’s about music or not, the quality of a soundtrack can make or break any film. A bad one can make otherwise emotional scenes appear cheesy, and a good one can elevate the impact of a well-written script and potentially move viewers to tears. For example, how would you feel if The Breakfast Club ended with Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and Shrek opened with Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” rather than vice versa? It just wouldn’t work. Luckily, there are a ton of great movies out there that have soundtracks as good as — if not better than — the films themselves.
With over 200 million subscribers worldwide, Netflix has become the leading streaming service in the game. As it’s continued to churn out films at a rapid rate, releasing one new original film per week in 2021, the streamer has become a master soundtrack curator. Thanks to a significant placement in the 2019 romantic comedy Someone Great, Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” gained increased fanfare that helped it become a No. 1 hit nearly three years after its initial release. Additionally, the platform’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga spawned “Husavik (My Hometown),” which received a Best Original Song nomination at the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021. Between those films and many others, here are 23 movies on Netflix with excellent soundtracks.
This Netflix original rom-com centers around a Rolling Stone journalist played by Gina Rodriguez, so it’s only right that the film boasts a top-notch soundtrack. In fact, its use of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” actually catapulted the song to hit success years after its initial release. Other critically-acclaimed bops featured in the movie include Lorde’s “Supercut,” Frank Ocean’s “Moon River,” and Robyn’s “Missing U.”
Adapted from Jenny Han’s best-selling book series of the same name, To All the Boys follows Lara Jean Covey (Lana Candor) as her private love letters are received and read by the boys who were never meant to see them. The latter two films in the Netflix trilogy were accompanied by a soundtrack of original and previously-released music from the movies. Among the many songs are MARINA’s “About Love,” FLETCHER’s “On Fire Again,” and Spice Girls’ classic “Wannabe.”
Featuring an ensemble cast of Kevin Hart, Terrence J, Taraji P. Henson, Regina Hall, Gabrielle Union, and Wendy Williams, this 2012 romantic comedy centers on a group of girlfriends who begin applying advice from Steve Harvey’s 2009 book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man to their relationships. After learning about the book, their boyfriends start reading it too, attempting to turn the tables on their partners. From Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” to James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” to an original titular track by Jennifer Hudson and Ne-Yo, the film’s soundtrack will have you bopping all the way through.
This 2021 young feminist comedy directed by Amy Poehler follows a teenage girl who tackles sexism at her school after finding inspiration from her mom’s rebellious Riot Grrrl past. Its soundtrack features lots of angsty music from women like Beth Ditto of Gossip, Princess Nokia, Tierra Whack, Lucy Dacus, as well as covers of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” and “Big Mouth” performed by viral teen band The Linda Lindas.
Angelina Jolie received her first Oscar for her performance as the rebellious Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted, which follows 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen’s (Winona Ryder) experience at a 1960s psychiatric hospital in New England. Based on the real-life Kaysen’s memoir of the same name, the 1999 psychological drama’s soundtrack is packed wall-to-wall with songs from classic acts like Aretha Franklin, The Mamas and the Papas, Wilco, and The Chambers Brothers.
6. The Holiday
Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, The Holiday stars Cameron Diaz as LA-based filmmaker Amanda Woods and Kate Winslet as London writer Iris Simpkins. After leaving their respective cheating significant others, the two women list their houses on a home swap website and switch places for the holiday season — where they find new lovers, played by Jack Black and Edward Burns. The 2006 rom-com features a wide array of music, from Christmas classics like Wham!’s “Last Christmas” and Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” to The Killers’ “Mr Brightside” and Cheryl Lynn’s “Got to Be Real.”
7. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird takes place in the 2000s and follows a high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) who can’t wait to leave her hometown of Sacramento, California, for college. The coming-of-age film’s soundtrack features many time-tested hits from the era, like Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me,” Alanis Morisette’s “Hand in My Pocket,” Ani DiFranco’s “Little Plastic Castle,” and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads.”
8. Work It
Released in 2020, this Alicia Keys-produced jukebox musical comedy film follows an 18-year-old striving to refine her dance skills in order to enter a competition. Pop star Sabrina Carpenter stars in Work It, which features three of her songs on its soundtrack: “Let Me Love You,” “Looking at Me,” and “WOW” with Zara Larsson. Watching it feels like a night at a club, as it also features recent pop hits from Dua Lipa, Ciara, Meghan Trainor, and Normani.
9. Red Notice
Despite its polarizing critical response, Netflix’s Red Notice became the platform’s most-watched film within 28 days of release to date and will receive two sequels, set to be filmed back-to-back. Dwayne Johnson stars in the 2021 action film as FBI agent John Hartley, who teams up with art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) against his better judgment in the hopes of locating and prosecuting criminal Sarah Black (Gal Gadot). Soundtracked by well-known songs from the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” to The Notorious B.I.G.’s self-titled hit featuring Lil’ Kim and Puff Daddy, you’ll enjoy the music of Red Notice no matter your thoughts on the film.
Following a young pageant beauty queen nicknamed Dumplin’ with a deep connection to Dolly Parton, this 2018 Netflix original coming-of-age comedy features an entire soundtrack of the country legend’s music. It includes six new songs like the Oscar-nominated “Girl in the Movies” as well as new versions of her classic hits like “Jolene” and “Here We Go Again” recorded as duets with singers like Sia, Macy Gray, Miranda Lambert, and Elle King.
Released in 2010, The Social Network tells the true story of the controversial mid-2000s founding of Facebook and the many lawsuits that followed. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as founder Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as billionaire investor Eduardo Saverin, and Justin Timberlake as Napster co-founder Sean Parker, the only thing bigger than the film’s cast is its Oscar-winning score, crafted by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. In addition to its widely acclaimed score, the film features The Beatles’ “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” and the White Stripes’ “Ball and Biscuit.”
Based on the real-life annual music competition, this Netflix original musical comedy stars Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as Icelandic performers determined to win. Its Grammy-nominated soundtrack includes the Oscar-nominated “Husavik (My Hometown)” as well as other original songs by the writers behind many of Ariana Grande’s hits — and “In the Mirror,” a track performed by Demi Lovato, who appears in the film.
13. Les Misérables
Taking place in early 19th century France, this Oscar-winning 2012 musical film adaptation stars Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, who is being hunted by policemen for breaking parole but vows to take care of a factory worker’s daughter in the meantime. Also starring Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried, Les Misérables spawned a top-charting soundtrack of new versions of Broadway favorites like “I Dreamed A Dream,” “Suddenly,” and “On My Own.”
Largely known for his spooky yet kid-friendly Goosebumps franchise, Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy marks the first time R.L. Stine’s books have been adapted into truly terrifying horror films. Each Fear Street film focuses on a specific year in the fictional town of Shadyside, and since the first one takes place in 1994, it features iconic hits from the era. From Radiohead’s “Creep” to Iron Maiden’s “Fear of the Dark,” Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer,” and Snoop Dogg’s “Gz and Hustlas,” fans of mid-’90s music are bound to recognize a few classics.
15. Get On Up
This critically acclaimed 2014 biopic chronicles the life of funk legend James Brown, played by the late Chadwick Boseman and told in the first person from his point of view. The film also stars Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jill Scott, and Dan Aykroyd, and it features a slew of Brown’s memorable hits, including “I Got You (I Feel Good),” “Get Up Offa That Thing,” and “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”
Titled after Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby,” this 2019 Netflix original rom-com centers around an ex-teenage couple who rekindles their relationship years later. In addition to Carey’s hit, the film features original music performed by the fictional band Hello Peril (including a track called “I Punched Keanu Reeves”) as well as bops like Big Freedia and Lizzo’s “Karaoke,” Keys’ “Pawn It All,” and Ludacris and Bobby V’s “Pimpin’ All Over the World.”
17. The Prom
After the original Broadway version was nominated for six Tony awards, filmmaker Ryan Murphy adapted the LGBTQ-focused comedic musical The Prom for Netflix and cast Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and James Corden in its lead roles. Mainly written by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, the musical boasts upbeat, hilarious, and touching tunes about acceptance and love, including “It’s Not About Me,” “Tonight Belongs to You,” and “Zazz.”
Starring Davis as well as Boseman in his final film role, this Oscar-winning musical drama follows real-life blues singer Ma Rainey during a turbulent recording session in 1920s Chicago. It centers on the recording of the titular song “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” but also features other known hits by the musician, including “Deep Moaning Blues,” “Those Dogs of Mine,” and “Hear Me Talking To You.”
19. Top Gun
Tom Cruise stars in this 1986 blockbuster action drama as Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a longtime U.S. Navy aviator who’s sent to the TOPGUN school for elite Naval Fighters. During his time there, he’s forced to train a new team of fighters and confront his father’s death while preparing for a dangerous mission. The film’s soundtrack features production by disco icon Giorgio Moroder as well as songs including Cheap Trick’s “Mighty Wings,” Kenny Loggins’ “Playing with the Boys,” and Berlin’s Oscar-winning single “Take My Breath Away.”
Released in 1997, this beloved romantic comedy stars Julia Roberts as Julianne Potter, who struck a deal with her longtime friend Michael O’Neal (Dermot Mulroney) to get married if they were both single by 28. But when he announces he’ll be marrying 20-year-old Kimberly (Cameron Diaz) four days before Julianne turns 28, she realizes she’s actually in love with him and must do everything in her power to stop the wedding. The film’s soundtrack features iconic love songs including Tony Bennett’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” empowering anthems like Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” and a recurring rendition of Dionne Warwick’s “I Say A Little Prayer.”
Bradley Cooper stars in Silver Linings Playbook as a former psychiatric patient living with bipolar disorder who meets a young widow (played by Jennifer Lawrence) and enters a dance competition with her in order to win back his estranged wife. Nominated for eight Oscars in 2013, the film features an exquisite soundtrack of classic music from Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Stevie Wonder, as well as original tracks from Alt-J and Jessie J.
This ridiculous 2002 romantic comedy stars Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, and Selma Blair and features tracks like Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” Usher’s “U Got It Bad,” and Peaches & Herb’s “Shake Your Groove Thing,” which are sure to have you singing along. Even more memorable is the film’s original “Penis Song” and cast performance of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” that saves Blair’s character from an uncomfortably sticky sexual scenario.
23. Malcolm & Marie
Sam Levinson teamed up with his Euphoria colleague Zendaya and actor John David Washington for this black-and-white romantic drama about a filmmaker and his girlfriend as their relationship is challenged by a series of self-realizations one night. Executive produced by Kid Cudi, the film boasts an eclectic soundtrack featuring Warwick’s “Get Rid of Him,” Outkast’s “Liberation,” James Brown’s “Down and Out in New York City,” and Little Simz’s “Selfish,” perfect to accompany the moody film.
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