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Bathtub scene from Gummo
Bathtub scene from Gummovia YouTube

Five cult 90s film soundtracks that changed music forever

From the satanic black metal of Gummo to the pill-popping synth of Trainspotting, these are the scores that reshaped the landscape of music

Music and film have long been creative bedfellows. Whether it’s new faces in electronica trying to make the same synth-soaked shapes as Nicolas Winding Refn’s iconic soundtrack to Drive, or a slew of musicians trying to channel the spirit of director David Lynch, it’s hard to imagine the influence of one without the other. No era is this clearer than in the ever-imitated 90s, a decade that gave birth to some of the greatest film soundtracks of all time. To celebrate this explosive moment for pop culture, we’ve sifted through our cult filmic favourites to find the ones that altered the course of music forever. And while they're not all here (we'd be here all day) these are the ones we felt burned the brightest.

GUMMO (1997)

With its grainy home-movie aesthetic, outlandish vaudevillian influences and decidedly anti-romantic depiction of America, Harmony Korine’s 1997 weirdo cult classic Gummo is considered innovative in every sense of the word. Needless to say, its erratic soundtrack plays no small part in its predication for originality. From the blood-curdling screams of Nifelheim, the pummelling black metal of Brujeria and the camp, horror-gore of The Electric Hellfire Club, the Gummo soundtrack channelled a kind of satanic darkness from beginning to end, and tapped into the American metal underground, kick-starting a wide-spread obsession with the genre that has lasted for decades. Madonna, Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison also make appearances, injecting a dose of all-American pop hits into the film’s stormy landscape.

RUSHMORE (1998)

Cinematic auteur Wes Anderson has always displayed an insane attention to detail, and this extends to his film soundtracks. In fact, his musical choices are so admired that one anonymous super-fan made an exhaustive, 166-track playlist of almost every song that has appeared in the director's eight-film ouvre. However, it was the eclectic soundtrack to 1998’s Rushmore that really made its mark. The combination of ex-Devo new wave king Mark Mothersbaugh’s original film score and a slew of British invasion classics (The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon) created a difference in tone that would influence the musical landscape to follow, with bands like Grizzly Bear and The Dirty Projectors following in it’s immaculately eccentric steps.

LOST HIGHWAY (1997)

This neo-noir psychological thriller from renowned surrealist David Lynch was sewn together with feverish, alienating complexities, making it one of his harder-to-follow cinematic creations. However, it was the soundtrack that really elevated the film to cult status. Produced by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, the music plunged the film into total darkness via the industrial, razor-sharp sounds of Marilyn Manson, Rammstein and original compositions from Reznor himself. Reznor would go on to be regarded as one of the most influential artists in music, and this soundtrack marked one of his first musical forays into film. His deep baritone vocals, sample-soaked industrial shapes and gothic predications would go on to be imitated time and time again, and Lost Highway embodies this style perfectly. 

TRAINSPOTTING (1996)

The synth-stuffed soundtrack that burned so brightly in Danny Boyle’s grimy, heroin-addled adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name catapulted the dark, glistening sounds of British club culture to American shores and defined an era full to the brim with drugs and a fast-changing musical landscape. It also became known for giving old classics new meanings; a Sleeper rework of Blondie’s “Atomic” gaining new life as a climactic sex anthem and Blur’s bleak deep cut “Sing” becoming the sound of empty-hearted grief and the nightmare of withdrawal.

THE DOOM GENERATION (1995)

Gregg Araki’s much-loved teen epic The Doom Generation defined disaffected youth and quickly garnered a loyal cult following, propped up by its eyebrow-cocking dark humour and the chaotic, surrealist universe it inhabited. The film’s enduring legacy is not only down to its stylistic appeal and norm-defying themes, but also because of its soundtrack, a mish-mash of bands like Aphex Twin, Nine Inch Nails and Jesus and Mary Chain, who all embodied the darkness of the film, and the darkness of the 90s, in one fell swoop. Industrial 80s trio Skinny Puppy also make a cameo as a homophobic ‘gang of goons’, elevating the film from cult classic to music-nodding masterpiece.