Soundtrack albums to movies or TV shows are so hit and miss. Where old CDs go to die in the dollar bins there's so many of them from soundtracks to movies and sometimes the movies were more worthless than the soundtracks to themselves.
When your grandparents were still alive chances are they had The Music Man or The Sound Of Music or West Side Story in their collection and judging by many of them waiting on Landfill Row, all three albums are plentiful to find. My late ex GF Isabella had The Music Man on Cd along with the Queensryche albums that she tended to favor and drive many people up the wall, myself included. But in the 60s many a Brit band would put some of their songs out on the exploitation movies of long ago. Beatles with A Hard Day's Night or Help! although how United Artists managed to get some of those Beatles songs in the first place back then, they wouldn't get in this greedy age now. As for myself, one of the earliest record buys that I had when I finally got a job was buying Yellow Submarine and playing side 1 most of the time, whereas the second side of George Martin background music I may have visited once. Somebody threw away a copy of Magical Mystery Tour and it was a one of those direct mastering albums that Mobile Fidelity put out for a few more dollars. Can't say I played it more than once either but it may be worth something after I depart from this world. Period piece bands of that era, (Dave Clark Five, Herman Hermits) also had their share of movie soundtracks but I never paid much attention to them. While Rolling Stone puts Simon & Garfunkel The Graduate in their all time best, I never cared for that album it was boring more than inspiring.
The late 60s begin to have decent movie soundtracks to which major labels starting adding more rock and roll songs to the albums, The Wild Angels (Tower), come to mind with Davie Allen's Blue's Theme being a garage rock classic with that fuzztone guitar. Easy Rider (MCA) in its original form remains a decent sampler of getting on your motorcycle and ride all over America and Born To Be Wild forever gave John Kay a decent lifestyle, since that song has been played every day somewhere for the past 45 years, but the lesser known stuff (If You Wanna Be A Bird, Don't Bogart Me) rises to the top in bizarre tunefulness. A lesser known soundtrack to a movie nobody ever saw Homer (Cotillion) is the first soundtrack to use a Led Zeppelin song (How Many More Times) and three Buffalo Springfield tracks and the obscure band Hearts And Flowers Rock n Roll Gypsies. At that time came out Woodstock, the first and best soundtrack to a event that most everybody has missed and those who did are probably retired. Less said about the Woodstock 94 and the end all of Woodstock 99 the better.
Best soundtrack of the early 70s was American Graffiti (MCA) and perhaps the best use of using music to a movie. This soundtrack basically did one thing and that was preserve and got people interested of all the great music of the 50s and early 60s although better comps have popped up since, none could capture the moment of cruising the avenues in 1962. But more importantly it gave rock star credentials to the late great Wolfman Jack. The other soundtrack that defined the 70s, Saturday Night Fever (Reprise) with The Bee Gees leading the way with their uptempo hits and gave credence to The Trammps with Disco Inferno. But it could be blamed for the rise of The Village People too. Rock and Roll High School (Sire) was a 1979 S/T to the movie that featured The Ramones but just as well gave valuable time to the likes of Devo and Eddie And The Hot Rods which lead me to seek out the latter's albums. Over The Edge (WB) was a forgotten movie featuring an early Matt Dillon but it stole key tracks from The Cars and Little Feat's All That You Dream. Animal House (MCA) turned Shout into another inescapable song you hear at the sports arena. But for stoner comedy fun, you can't get no better than Up In Smoke from Cheech And Chong.
By 1980, it was standard practice to use music to sell soundtrack albums and Urban Cowboy and Fast Times At Ridemont High did that, the former giving country music a shot in the arm in sales the latter a more new wave, although Valley Girl (Rhino) did a much better job on the new wave side of things. Heavy Metal, which wasn't all metal did very well although why they decided to throw in Journey's Empty Arms is confusing. Mad Magazine's only movie venture, the forgotten and not all that great Up The Academy (Capitol) contains Roadrunner from The Modern Lovers. Porky's Revenge (Columbia) may have been a terrible movie but Dave Edmunds scoring the soundtrack and adding music is much better, one of a few soundtracks that are better than the movie (ie: Looking For Mr Goodbar, Ruthless People).
The 1990s and beyond are basically mix tapes of an era and Dazed And Confused (Giant/M Label) does for 70s rock like American Graffiti did for 60s music, makes it an big event although I thought that the movie was a bit overdone. The flop Empire Records (A&M) and Angus (Reprise) showcases the up and coming bands of that particular time (Gin Blossoms, Ape Hangers, Green Day) making better Soundtracks than movies. Quintin Taratino's Pulp Fiction (MCA) is a odd blend of soul music, surf music and Urge Overkill. But even better would be High Fidelity (Hollywood) which Bob Dylan gives them the haunting Most Of The Time and Almost Famous (Dreamworks) with Led Zeppelin's That's The Way, The Beach Boys Feel Flows, and Every Picture Tells The Story and leaves Maggie May out in the cold. Cameron Crowe makes a great mix tape but Tom Hanks goes one further and That Thing You Do (PlayTone/Epic) he gets songwriters to make songs up like it was 1964 all over again, all down to the Mitch Miller like Loving You Lots And Lots, but it is Mike Viola's biggest moment when he comes up with the title track to the movie. It's a great story line to which many a band have gone that down long road, of playing at dives and making a hit song and making the big time only to have it slip away with defections and egos.
But for the most part, soundtracks nowadays can be as disposable as the movies themselves. But when done right, such as The Harder They Fall, they can also educate and let the listeners seek more out of different types of music such as Reggae or Jazz (Bird-OST Verve). But for myself, what I provided as a list are the ones that really made an impact on myself. And hopefully maybe for you too.
My all time faves.
The Who-The Kids Are Alright (MCA)
Cheech And Chong-Up In Smoke (WB)
The Harder They Come (Mango)
Easy Rider (MCA)
American Graffiti (MCA)
Porky's Revenge (Columbia)
Almost Famous (Dreamworks)
Dazed And Confused/More Dazed And Confused (Medicine Label)
That Thing You Do (Epic)
This Is Spinal Tap (Polydor)
Saturday Night Fever (Reprise)
O Brother Where Art Thou (Lost Highway)
Heavy Metal S/T (Full Moon/Elektra)
The Big Chill S/T (Motown)
The Wild Angels (Tower)
Repo Man (MCA)
Rock N Roll High School (Sire)
Acopalyse Now (Elektra)