Movies will not be the same without music. Imagine watching “The Graduate” without the folk-rock of Simon & Garfunkel. The songs in some movies, especially in the 21st century, have often gone viral. In some cases, they are arguably more popular than the movie itself.
24/7 Tempo reviewed historical data from the Billboard 200 top album chart going back to 1963, the first year for which Billboard top 200 albums data is available. These rankings are primarily based on physical album sales but also include streaming and downloads starting in 2014.
The most popular soundtracks on the list are song-driven and have had significant cultural impact in several ways. These soundtracks have either top charts for weeks, or have sold millions of copies, or have helped create iconic movie scenes.
Several genres are represented in the list, from classical music to rock, punk, and pop.
Some soundtracks are universally loved and have remained popular throughout the years. The best songs have become musical standards — these are the absolute best songs in history.
To determine the most popular soundtrack album since 1964, 24/7 Tempo reviewed historical data from the Billboard 200 top album chart going back to 1963. Billboard’s album rankings are based on Nielsen SoundScan sales data.
We ranked the albums based on an aggregate score composed of the number of weeks each album spent on the Billboard 200 chart in the year of its release weighted by the position it occupied each week. A week at No. 1, for example, would be worth 200 times more than a week spent at No. 200 in the aggregate score.
An album’s score is based on its performance in the 365 days following its first appearance on the Billboard 200 chart.
The only exception in the list is the soundtrack for “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 1971. This album, which was recorded by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, was the most popular that year. However, the actual musical, which was based on the album, was made in 1972.