When a perfectly crafted movie soundtrack takes a great film to the next level, we get a defining cultural moment. These perfect pairings are few and far between but when they occur, they have the power to define even a decade.
Dust off your vinyl as we count down the best-selling movie soundtracks of all time for a nostalgic look back:
10. “Flashdance” (1983): The standout track from this musical romance was Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” and inspired over 6 million copies sold in the US.
9. “Space Jam” (1996): Michael Jordan’s theatrical debut came with a pumped-up soundtrack, featuring the worldwide hit “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. Six million copies were sold and six million people were welcomed to the Space Jam.
8. “Waiting to Exhale” (1995): The soundtrack for this movie featured primarily black female artists, including the film’s star, Whitney Houston. It sold 7 million copies and also received eleven Grammy nominations—and won Best R&B Song for “Exhale (Shoop Shoop).”
7. “Grease” (1978): The original movie musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John was a smash hit. The soundtrack was the second-best selling album of the year, just behind the soundtrack for “Saturday Night Fever”. It was a big year for John Travolta. “Grease” sold 8 million copies and had the nation clamoring for more.
6. “Titanic” (1997): “Titanic” is one of the most successful films of all time and the soundtrack followed in the film’s footsteps. Eleven million copies have been sold, greatly influenced by Celine Dion’s heartwrenching “My Heart Will Go On.”
5. “Dirty Dancing” (1987): The classic dance film that depicted the romantic dalliance between Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray had a stunning soundtrack. “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” has graced wedding receptions for the last three decades, and the soundtrack sold over 11 million copies.
4. “Forrest Gump” (1994): Tom Hanks’ incredible role as Alabama simpleton Forrest Gump was accompanied by a rollicking soundtrack that tracked rock music through the 20th century. Featuring Elvis Presley, Three Dog Night, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and many more, the soundtrack sold over 12 million copies.
3. “Purple Rain” (1984): Anything Prince touches turns to gold and “Purple Rain” was no exception. The soundtrack to Prince’s semi-biographical film was certified 13 times platinum, sold 13 million copies, and is widely considered his greatest work.
2. “Saturday Night Fever” (1977): The quintessential disco movie starring John Travolta was a massive hit and the soundtrack was mainly composed by the Bee Gees. It sold 15 million copies nationally and reawakened a love for polyester jumpsuits and disco balls.
1. “The Bodyguard” (1992): This film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner holds the title of greatest selling soundtrack album of all time, with 17 millions copies sold in the US and over 42 million copies sold worldwide. The soundtrack features Whitney Houston’s iconic cover of “I Will Always Love You”, which would go on to be butchered by countless contestants on singing competition shows. The movie’s soundtrack is also the fifth best-selling album of all time.