Every great movie needs a great soundtrack to accompany it, but obtaining licensing rights from the copyright owner of the music is no easy feat. However, when done correctly, a soundtrack can become the perfect playlist.
Some of the most iconic soundtracks have gone multi-platinum, and others have gone on to win Grammys. This does not just happen by chance; to get the aesthetic ambiance of a film right, big bucks are spent to obtain the ideal songs to fit.
Here are a few movies that are known for their iconic soundtracks and some of the history behind them.
- Dazed and Confused
Movie Budget: $6.9 million
Gross Profit: $8 million
“Dazed and Confused” is known for its soundtrack that includes Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone” and so many more memorable tracks. However, to obtain the rights for this star-packed lineup, a massive ⅙ of the film’s $6.9 million budget was put toward the soundtrack. With the cost of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” coming out to $23,000 and Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” costing $80,000 it is no wonder that such a large portion of the film’s budget went toward the soundtrack.
Grossing less than $8 million in the United States, the film was initially considered a bust at the box office. Nonetheless, in the years since its 1993 release, Dazed and Confused has gone on to become a cult classic and its soundtrack is now certified double-platinum.
- The Boat That Rocked (AKA Pirate Radio)
Movie Budget: $50 million
Gross Profit: 36.6 million
This 2009 British comedy centers around a pirate radio station that broadcasts to the United Kingdom from international waters during the 1960s. Due to its rock music-based subject matter, this soundtrack is packed with hits from The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys and The Who.
Although this soundtrack features many memorable artists, it only grossed $36.6 million at the box office. The official cost of “The Boat That Rocked” soundtrack is not currently available, but based on the tracks featured it is assumed that a large portion of the budget went toward obtaining licensing rights.
While the film itself has approximately 60 songs, the official soundtrack only features 32 songs on two disks.
- Almost Famous
Movie Budget: $60 million
Gross Profit: $47.4 million
Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll all come at a price, and for “Almost Famous,” that price tag took up a large portion of the film’s overall $60 million budget. The cost of this unforgettable soundtrack was a whopping $3.5 million.
However, considering that the soundtrack has over 50 songs, featuring Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and The Who’s “Sparks,” the $3.5 million price point is entirely understandable.
Unfortunately, due to poor marketing and having a niche audience demographic, “Almost Famous” was a flop at the box office. Luckily, it has since gained notoriety and its original tracks, such as Stillwater’s “Fever Dog,” still get thousands of Spotify listeners each month.
- Empire Records
Movie Budget: $11 million
Gross Profit: $303,841
Although “Empire Records” is now considered a cult classic, it only made $150,800 on its opening weekend, and had only grossed $303,841 by the end of its North American run.
Although initial interest in the film was low, the soundtrack was perfectly curated to match the rebellious spirit of the “Empire Records” staff. The Cranberries’ “Liar,” The Martinis’ “Free” and Gwar’s “Saddam A Go-Go” are just a few examples of this unmatched soundtrack.
As time has gone on, Empire Records has finally received significant recognition, and the songs included in the soundtrack have anywhere from 300,000 to 32 million plays on Spotify.
Movie Budget: $60 million
Gross Profit: $487.8 million
While all three of the “Shrek” films have distinct soundtracks, the original movie has to be one of the most memorable in cinematic history. Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” has become recognizable as “that song from Shrek,” and The Proclaimers’ “I’m On My Way,” is still remembered for its feature in the film.
The original cost of the soundtrack is not currently available, however, in July 2021, North Star Media acquired a portion of the Shrek franchise’s original composition royalty rights for $2.2 million.
Emily Brower is a journalism major and content writer for KCPR. Cindy Nguyen is a graphic communication major, designer and DJ trainee for KCPR.