Comedy movies aren’t usually known for their soundtracks. The purpose of a comedy is to make the audience laugh, so setting the right musical tone tends to be a secondary concern. But a distinctive soundtrack can go a long way toward making a movie memorable.
From the mix of pop hits and zombie scores in Shaun of the Dead to the ‘70s rock playlist in Dazed and Confused to the iconic musical numbers in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, some of the greatest soundtracks in movie history have been in comedies.
10 School Of Rock (2003)
The role of Dewey Finn in Richard Linklater’s School of Rock was the perfect vehicle for Jack Black’s talents. A phony substitute teacher who discovers his students’ musical gifts allowed Black to show off his talents as a comedian, a musician, and a wholesome mentor.
Any rock ‘n’ roll-themed movie needs a bunch of rock hits on the soundtrack, and School of Rock doesn’t disappoint with licensed tracks from AC/DC, The Who, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin.
9 Rushmore (1998)
While his recent films have utilized entirely original scores, Wes Anderson used to mix in licensed pop hits from iconic artists like the Rolling Stones among the original compositions.
The most distinctive-sounding Anderson movie is his coming-of-age comedy Rushmore, whose soundtrack uses songs by British Invasion artists like the Who, the Kinks, and John Lennon to capture Max Fischer’s youthful rebelliousness.
8 Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
Edgar Wright’s flair for soundtracks was introduced in his stylish horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead, which contains a mixture of familiar pop hits, like Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” and Duran Duran’s cover of “White Lines” (performed by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), and iconic zombie movie scores composed by the likes of Goblin and Fabio Frizzi.
According to MovieWeb, Wright originally only used music from existing zombie classics as temp tracks while he was editing the movie. However, he ended up liking the way it lined up so much that he decided to just license the temp tracks and leave them in.
7 Raising Arizona (1987)
The original score for Raising Arizona, composed by regular Coen collaborator Carter Burwell, perfectly captures the zany slapstick tone of the film – particularly with the main title theme, “Way Out There.”
Burwell’s use of banjos and yodeling pairs beautifully with the movie’s live-action cartoon aesthetic and leans into the wholesome absurdity of the narrative.
6 The Blues Brothers (1980)
Recurring sketch characters from Saturday Night Live usually don’t survive the transition to the big screen, but John Landis’ The Blues Brothers is one of the most beloved comedies ever made. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd reprise their SNL roles as Jake and Elwood Blues as they get their band back together in a bid to save their old orphanage from closure.
The movie’s musical numbers are just as memorable as any gag in the script. Cab Calloway performs “Minnie the Moocher,” Aretha Franklin performs “Think,” and Ray Charles performs “Shake a Tail Feather.”
5 Birdman (2014)
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Best Picture-winning dark comedy Birdman is shot and edited to look like one continuous take. In keeping with this free-flowing visual style, the score is made up of a long, rambling solo jazz percussion performance. The jazz drummer occasionally appears on-screen.
Since Antonio Sánchez’s original music is complemented by the jazz recordings of Joan Valent and Victor Hernández Stumpfhauser (and some classical pieces by Mahler, Ravel, Rachmaninov, and John Adams), it was disqualified from Oscar contention. But Birdman did win a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.
4 Back To The Future (1985)
Almost everything in Robert Zemeckis’ time-travel comedy Back to the Future is perfect, from Michael J. Fox’s on-screen chemistry with Christopher Lloyd to the airtight storytelling, and Alan Silvestri’s iconic musical score is a big part of the movie’s idiosyncratic identity.
Not only did Silvestri give Back to the Future one of the catchiest themes of all time; his high-energy orchestrations perfectly matched the intensity of every unexpected stakes-raising plot turn.
3 Pulp Fiction (1994)
Quentin Tarantino is renowned for his needle-drop soundtrack moments, and while most of his movies are dramas with humorous elements, his 1994 hit Pulp Fiction has enough big laughs to qualify as a full-blown comedy.
From the opening credits set to Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” to the Jack Rabbit Slim’s dance contest set to Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” Tarantino’s sophomore feature has just as many unforgettable musical moments as laugh-out-loud gags.
2 The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
On top of being a spot-on homage to the science fiction classics of the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has some of the catchiest musical numbers ever put on film.
From the romantic ballad “Dammit Janet” to the glam rock hit “The Time Warp,” the Rocky Horror soundtrack is filled with gems that fans of this legendary cult classic still sing along to today.
1 Dazed And Confused (1993)
Another Linklater movie, Dazed and Confused is one of the most acclaimed coming-of-age comedies (and hangout movies) of all time. Shot in the ‘90s, set in the ‘70s, and relevant as ever today, it offers a timeless snapshot of youth. Linklater immerses audiences in the 1970s setting with classic rock tracks.
This soundtrack plays like a quintessential ‘70s rock playlist: Kiss, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd – the list of legendary artists featured in this movie is practically endless.
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