Film Threat archive logo


By Hammad Zaidi | August 23, 2011

Hi Everyone. I hope you all had a nice week (damn, my former stint in Texas wanted me to drop a “y’all” on you, but the 21 years of California in me resisted…). Anyway, continuing with last week’s entrée into the world of music and film, this week we’re going to cover wildly successful soundtracks from films released from 1981-2011. Since most of the films we’re discussing were studio releases, we’ll also mention the few, but proud indie films that have enjoyed having a very successful soundtrack. Like always, my intention today is to provide you with information on what has worked in the past. Remember, whether your film is an indie “David” or a studio “Goliath,” audiences is going to like what they like, regardless of the budget. Okay, here we go spinning into more soundtracks.

The Big Chill (1983)
This two hour and forty-one minute drama about thirty-somethings, who spend a weekend coping with their friend’s death, was helped greatly by its classic rock soundtrack. In fact, the soundtrack was so wildly successful, that it got a sequel instead of the film getting one. That’s right, “More Songs From The Big Chill” proved that the music is what drove this film’s sales.

Purple Rain (1984)
With over 13 million copies sold in the United States alone, this breakthrough effort from Prince remains the second highest selling motion picture soundtrack of all time. That says quite a bit, considering the film is 27 years old, and only one film, The Bodyguard (1988) has sold more copies of their soundtrack. The fact that the film cost less than $7 million to make and made $68,392,777 domestically in 1984 doesn’t hurt either.

Footloose (1984)
The only crime worse than green lighting a film about a town where dancing has been deemed illegal is remaking this incredibly stupid storyline. However, thanks to the Kenny Loggins’ hit single, Footloose, the soundtrack for the film sold over 8 million copies domestically in 1984, so it is more than plausible that an updated version will do the same when it gets released on October 14th.

  • Side Note: A short film of mine played on “Tennessee Night” at the Nashville Film Festival in 2001, in the same program with Craig Brewer’s short film. Craig is directing and writing the 2011 version of “Footloose,” so I give him my good vibes and the best of luck!

Platoon (1986)
This epic Viet Nam war drama was nominated for eight Oscars, winning four. The $6 million dollar budget raked in a hefty $138,530,565 domestically alone. The soundtrack was wonderfully littered with classic rock songs from the 1960’s and the 1970’s, resurrecting sales for popular songs that found a whole new generation of consumers for their music.

Top Gun  (1986)
Piloted by Kenny Loggins’ hit single Highway To The Danger Zone, The soundtrack album for this Tom Cruise starrer flew past the “platinum album certification” several times over. The film did pretty well too…earning $353,786,701 at the worldwide box office ($176,786,701 in the US). That’s not bad for a $15,000,000 production budget.

  • Side Note: Kenny Loggins had two number #1 hit songs and a third song that was also a hit, all from motion picture soundtracks in the 1980’s. His songs, “Footloose” and “Highway to the Danger Zone” both soared to the top of the charts, while “I’m Alright” from “Caddyshack” (1980) also sold more than a few vinyls’.

New Jack City (1991)
Known far more for its soundtrack than its contribution to the cinematic arts, this Wesley Snipes, Ice-T crime drama became one of the indie films to make a mint with their soundtrack. It did however earn over $47 million at the domestic box office. Suddenly, distributors and financiers alike started to take notice of the music attached with film proposals.

*Indie Classic* Dazed and Confused (1993)
This Richard Linklater directed film, which featured Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Milla Jovovich, Nicky Katt, and an uncredited appearance by Renee Zellweger, had an awesome rock-based soundtrack from the 1970s. This indie film had it all, budding stars, a great script, and a soundtrack that truly captured the essence of the era.

The Bodyguard (1992)
This Kevin Costner-Whitney Houston romantic drama has a soundtrack that sold more than 16 million copies domestically alone, making it the highest selling motion picture soundtrack of all time. The film, which had a $25,000,000 production budget, made $410,900,000 worldwide, with $121,945,720 of it in the USA. That’s right, this film earned $288,954,280 of it’s worldwide gross outside of the United States, proving once again how important it is for filmmakers to consider how their film will play worldwide, not just here in the USA.

Forrest Gump (1994)
With $679,400,525 earned worldwide, $329,694,499 of it here in the USA, and a litany of Oscar wins including “best-picture” and “best original score,” this gem of a film sported a killer soundtrack, which sold over 6 million copies in the USA alone.

The Lion King (1994)
With $328,539,505 earned at the domestic box office and Elton John singing, the soundtrack to this film roared it’s way to selling over 10 million copies domestically alone. Not bad for a few animated lions…

*Indie Classic* Pulp Fiction (1994)
Known more for its Oscar win for “best original screenplay” for Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary, and resurrecting John Travolta’s career, this classic film had a soundtrack that truly embodied the film’s feel, much like Harold and Maude (1971) and The Graduate (1967) did in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Titanic (1997)
In addition to the fact that this picture made over $600,788,188 at the domestic box office and a total of $1,842,879,955 worldwide (1.842 billion), the soundtrack sold more than 8 million copies, firmly planting it in the top ten selling soundtracks of all time.

8-Mile (2002)
With an international box office gross of $242,924,075, this Eminem gem gifted his music to millions of people who may not have been a fan until they saw the film. The soundtrack, of course, became the vessel that drove the film’s success worldwide.

Okay, people. That’s what I’ve got for you this week. Yes, it’s sad it’s been over 9 years since we’ve been gifted with a great soundtrack (okay, I’m sure there have been a few good ones since 2002), but that just means the time is ripe for your film to create the next multi-million CD-selling, generation defining soundtrack. Thanks again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon