Music has gone along with cinema since the beginning – originally in the form of live orchestras or a theater organist accompanying silent movies. When the first sound films were released, the sound was music – not dialogue.
The first commercially released movie soundtrack was that for the 1937 Disney animated classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” put out in the form of an album of 78 rpm disks in 1938. Soundtrack albums became popular on a large scale in the 1940s, and they haven’t stopped since. Many movies have distinguished themselves with memorable soundtracks over the years, often featuring hit songs that either made their performers stars or embellished their fame. (These are the most popular songs originally written for movies.)
To determine the most popular soundtracks of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed performance data for movie soundtracks on the Billboard 200 album charts. Soundtracks were ranked based on an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 is worth 200 points, a week at No. 2 worth 199 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 200 worth one point. Billboard data is current through the week of March 18, 2022. The biggest song on each soundtrack album is based on the total number of plays on Spotify.
Soundtracks from films from six decades appear on our list, 19 of which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 list.
Thirteen movie soundtracks from the 1960s are represented. The year 1964 alone gave us four: “Goldfinger,” “Zorba the Greek,” “Mary Poppins,” and “My Fair Lady.” The following year was represented by three films: “The Sound of Music,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “Dr. Zhivago.” Another noteworthy year was 1994, featuring soundtracks from “The Lion King,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Soundtracks from Prince’s “Purple Rain” and “Saturday Night Fever” occupied the top position on the Billboard 200 for 24 weeks each, the longest stays at No. 1 of any soundtrack on our list.
“Moana,” the animated Disney film about female empowerment, stayed in the Billboard 200 for an unparalleled 316 weeks. Another Disney animated movie about girl power, “Frozen,” also made the top 10 and was on the Billboard 200 for 178 weeks, with its sequel, “Frozen II” remaining there for 90 weeks. (Here’s a list of the best original songs from Disney movies.)
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