8 The Godfather
(1972) The very first shock that audiences got from The Godfather? That would have to be the music that ran during the opening credits: Instead of the musical blam-blam-blam that one might expect to accompany Mafia mayhem, a distant, mournful trumpet theme slowly swells with orchestration, like an old man's memories slowly filing back. While that tune as well as the film's love theme have become pop-culture signifiers invoking instant parody or homage, the score itself brought Fellini collaborator Nino Rota long-overdue acclaim in America, and it remains a disturbing benchmark for its very sense of quiet.
9 Purple Rain
(1984) Purple Rain is a monument to mad ambition. Until '84, America knew Prince as the raunchy Minneapolis groove-crafter behind hits like "1999." After Purple Rain, he became a movie star (well, momentarily), a scolded corrupter of American tykes, andin the minds of critics and fanssomething of a genius. Purple Rain proved that music was the true object of Prince's insatiable lust, and musically, the soundtrack served up a genre-bending smorgasbord: warped psychotropic funk ("When Doves Cry"), regal power balladry ("Purple Rain"), and classic-rawk riff-o-rama ("Let's Go Crazy").
10 2001: A Space Odyssey
(1968) If you hear "The Blue Danube" without immediately picturing gleaming spacecraft doing cosmic cartwheels, you have far greater powers of dissociation than we do. Or maybe you're just one of the few who has never seen Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi classic and had your classical-loving world rocked by his marriage of 19th-century music and 21st-century imagery. When Kubrick dumped the score he'd commissioned from Alex North and decided to use his own temp track as soundtrack to "the ultimate trip," he ensured that few would ever again listen to "Also Sprach Zarathustra" without thinking of space babies.
(1955) The classic Rodgers and Hammerstein song score had already won America's heart via a Broadway cast album. But it got sun-drenched and bronzed when director Fred Zinnemann chose to shoot the film on location (in Arizona). Audiences who wanted a souvenir of the CinemaScope-size movie got a grand one in this album, which happened to sound, yes, as big as all outdoors. "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," surreys, fringe, friendly farmers, a state anthem so rousing it almost makes our national one seem somnolentall this glorious Americana takes us on location, in our imaginations, each time we listen anew.
12 The Harder They Come
(1973) This vital compilation introduced most Americans to reggae music, and for that alone it deserves our lofty ranking. But Harder's relevance isn't merely historical. Nearly 30 years after its release, the soundtrack remains one of the few non-Bob Marley albums to make it into the collections of casual reggae fans. And it's no mystery why; these 12 tracksfeaturing Jimmy Cliff's spiritual and sweet "Many Rivers to Cross," the rude-boy menace of his title track, and the Maytals' "Pressure Drop"are as heartfelt and urgent (in their own gentle, loping way) as anything coming out of the States at the time.