The 10 Best Romantic Comedy Soundtracks

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The 10 Best Romantic Comedy Soundtracks

Can you imagine the Say Anything boom box scene without Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” or that final fist pump in The Breakfast Club without Simple Minds’ “Don’t Forget About Me?” It’s difficult to process, because those songs are so crucial to the scenes, characters and moods that are at play in those classic romantic comedies. Music is important in almost any film, but it can serve a special purpose in the flicks we like to call “rom-coms.” There’s usually someone falling in (or out of) love as the film progresses, and the soundtrack is a great tool to track characters’ blossoming (or crumbling) relationships. Some movies on this list aren’t your typical “rom-com”; maybe they’re a little more serious. But they all fit under the larger “romantic” and “comedy” genre umbrellas, and they all are filled with really great music. In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s take a look back at some of the best soundtracks in rom-com history. Don’t forget your boom box.

1. 500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer is practically a punchline among indie fans. The elevator scene where Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel’s characters share their mutual love of The Smiths while “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” blares from Gordon-Levitt’s headphones has been skewered via meme and unironically plastered all over Tumblr for years. While it’s hard to watch that scene now without suffering second-hand embarrassment, the characters tapped into something very real—when you find another person who loves The Smiths, you will instantly feel more connected. You also can’t talk about the music from this movie without mentioning Regina Spektor or The Temper Trap. Spektor’s benevolent, uplifting “Us” and The Temper Trap’s utterly perfect radio breakout “Sweet Disposition” are a time capsule of 2009, but other inclusions from Hall & Oates and Simon & Garfunkel make it feel timeless. Between Joy Division t-shirts and references to Sid Vicious, it’s a film forever indebted to its musical touchstones. —Lizzie Manno

2. Crazy Stupid Love

Crazy Stupid Love, one of the most underrated romantic comedies of the last decade, isn’t necessarily a “music movie.” It’s the story of a separated couple trying to find their way back to each other, while their children explore love and loss in their own ways, too. But it becomes something much more powerful as the story goes on, when the couple’s eldest daughter (played by Emma Stone) gets caught up in a whirlwind romance of her own. The ambivalent ending scene is tracked seamlessly to “Blood” by The Middle East, a song that will probably make you cry. Nina Simone and Miike Snow also contribute to some of the movie’s best music moments. —Ellen Johnson

3. The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada was an instantly iconic movie, and it arrived with an instantly memorable soundtrack to match. The movie’s opening sequence is perfectly paired with KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See,” a placement that helped propel the soft roots-pop number to radio popularity. Later on, we hear Madonna’s “Vogue” (which makes sense for a movie based on operations at the gargantuan fashion magazine), Alanis Morrisette’s “Crazy” and, last but certainly not least, U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” while the newly fashionable Andy Sachs rides around in a sleek black limousine through the streets of where else but the City of Lights itself: Paris. This movie was released in 2006, and my heart still hasn’t recovered. —Ellen Johnson

4. Garden State

Garden State’s soundtrack is unique for a few reasons. For one thing, it’s unusual that a film’s star (and in this case, also director) would curate the soundtrack as Zach Braff did here. It’s also one of those films with a soundtrack that would be an amazing mixtape or playlist, even without the context of the film. The soundtrack went on to win a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album in 2005, and crucially, it turned a huge audience on to Albuquerque indie rockers The Shins, whose songs “New Slang” and “Caring is Creepy” both appear. Beyond James Mercer’s warmth, there are also stirring and soothing numbers from Coldplay, Nick Drake and Bonnie Somerville. —Lizzie Manno

5. The Graduate

The Graduate has long been hailed as one of the greatest film soundtracks ever. It switches between previously released Simon & Garfunkel classics and horn-laced instrumentals from composer Dave Grusin, leading to a distinctly American compilation of acoustic folk and easy-listening armchair pop. It’s a weird combination that somehow works side by side. It achieves harmony because this juxtaposition depicts both the radical cultural shift of the late ’60s and the rat race that Dustin Hoffman’s character felt pressured by. In short, it’s music that both young people and their parents would’ve been listening to at the time. Plus, the soundtrack features arguably the greatest recorded version of “The Sound of Silence” as track one, but even the softer reprise that closes the album is worthy of an ugly cry. —Lizzie Manno

6. Pretty in Pink

John Hughes films forever influenced the perception and mythology of the American teenager. His coming-of-age films like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink are still referenced and parodied today, and it’s hard to imagine the ’80s without those flicks—in part because of their iconic soundtracks. Though New Wave eventually became mainstream, it was rooted in the same kind of outsider aesthetics that Hughes’ films embrace. Pretty in Pink’s selections include the Psychedelic Furs (whose song that shares the film’s name was featured in the opening sequence), Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, INXS, The Smiths and Echo & the Bunnymen. This soundtrack is practically New Wave canon. —Lizzie Manno

7. Silver Linings Playbook

Folks may have forgotten about this endearing David O. Russell flick from 2012, but it deserves to live alongside the best of 2000s rom-coms. It may have also been a vehicle of musical discovery for some people, especially when it comes to a certain rock band by the name of Alabama Shakes. The Shakes’ 2012 song “Always Alright,” a one-off single released ahead of their debut album Boys & Girls, played during the Silver Linings Playbook credits, right after our heroes Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) survived their amatuer dance competition. There are also cuts by Stevie Wonder and the Johnny Cash-featuring version of Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country.” —Ellen Johnson

8. Someone Great

Someone Great, the delightful 2019 Netflix rom-com directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, is a great music movie for lots of reasons. Firstly, its title is derived from an LCD Soundsystem song. I could stop right there, but I don’t have to, because Robinson also divulged that this movie was inspired by Taylor Swift’s 1989 album, and Swift in turn wrote her Lover track “Death By A Thousand Cuts” about Robinson’s movie. It’s almost too meta to bear. Someone Great also gets some credit for boosting the popularity of Lizzo’s 2017 track “Truth Hurts,” which reappeared on the rapper/singer/flautist’s 2019 album Cuz I Love You. Elsewhere, the movie plays Lorde’s “Supercut,” Phoebe Bridgers’ “Motion Sickness,” Vampire Weekend’s “Mansard Roof,” Robyn’s “Missing U” and so many more beloved indie classics at the most devastating of moments. It’s literally a movie about soulmates growing apart, so don’t expect to not sob when you hear Frank Ocean’s cover of “Moon River.” —Ellen Johnson

9. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before might be based on an unrealistic premise—the idea that someone would mail your secretly-written love letters to each respective crush is insane—but the way this Netflix film portrays teen romance is both unique and profound. There’s a bubbly humor and attention to detail peppered throughout Lara Jean’s charming, millennial-centric tale, so it’s fitting that incisive, modern indie-pop fills the film’s soundtrack. Highlights include Cayetana’s cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent,” Wild Nothing’s “Chinatown” and Matthew Dear’s Tegan and Sara collab “Bad Ones.” —Lizzie Manno

10. You’ve Got Mail

“I turn on my computer, I wait patiently as it connects, I go online, and my breath catches in my chest…” That was just a live reenactment of me firing up YouTube to watch the “Dreams” Upper Westside Scene in what could be the greatest, purest romantic comedy of all time, You’ve Got Mail. The Cranberries’ classic, hopeful rock song establishes an air of possibility in this particular scene, and the characters will spend the rest of the movie chasing that feeling of prospect. Kathleen Kelly’s (Meg Ryan) perky gait in this particular scene would be enough to brighten anyone’s day, but the musical delights don’t stop there: The rest of the movie is very often soundtracked by a poised, adult-contemporary singer/songwriter from the 1970s, and it’s positively perfect for the film’s tone. Harry Nilsson serves us “The Puppy Song,” Louis Armstrong bequeaths unto us the “Dummy Song” and Randy Newman croons “Lonely at the Top.” We also can’t forget a cheerful rendition of “Rockin’ Robin.” You’ve Got Mail may be the only rom-com soundtrack you can listen to with your four-year-old. —Ellen Johnson

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