Stranger Things seems to have won the internet, and rightfully so! The hit Netflix series pulls off the incredible feat of serving as a loving homage to sci-fi and horror film of the 1980s whilst still being original and unique enough to feel fresh. The show owes this success to lots of factors but, as you can probably imagine, we think the show’s biggest strength is its soundtrack. In celebration of Stranger Things‘ fantastic (and lets admit it – really fun) soundtrack, we look over the 10 best soundtracks on television.
Stranger Things uses a lot of different tricks to teleport us back in time to the 80s, but none are most crucial than the synth. Seriously, the opening, synth-y theme of the show alone is enough to get the nostalgia feels flowing (even for people who weren’t alive then!).
Add to this a mixture of bands like The Smiths, Jefferson Airplane, The Clash and New Order and you’ve got one epic soundtrack (and, therefore, a new go-to Spotify playlist!)
Having said that, our pick for best soundtrack currently on TV actually goes to another show – Fargo. Loosely based on the 1996 film of the same name, the show takes the original’s blend of black comedy, drama and crime and amps it up to 1000. Add to this a stellar cast, unique visuals and completely different storyline each season (similar to American Horror Story) and you’ve got one of the most innovative and exciting shows currently airing. Plus its soundtrack is truly next level, mixing massive tracks like ‘War Pigs’ with obscure, impossible to find gems like the Japanese funk song below.
Life on Mars?
Naturally we’re talking about the UK original here, not that US remake which we refuse to acknowledge. Centred around a police officer from 2006 waking up in the 1970s, the BBC series made excellent use of vintage cars, incredible costumes and, of course, a killer soundtrack to transport audiences back in time. Plus, any show named after a Bowie song surely has to make the list?
In addition to an incredible score, Breaking Bad consistently used unexpected and often super-obscure song choices to complement the incredible cinematography and acting on screen. Check out our favourite musical moments from the show here or relive one of its amazing, signature montages.
Plus, Modest Mouse actually appeared on the show! Wonder how they feel about this clip being distributed…
Mad Men received widespread acclaim for its historical authenticity and success in re-creating the 60s era, and like Stranger Things and Life on Mars it owes much of this to its incredible soundtrack. Plus, the show gets bonus points for being the first to use an original Beatles’ master track (‘Tomorrow Never Knows’) which apparently cost the studio $250,000. Was it worth it?
In addition to often integrating music into scenes rather than just playing it over the top (referred to as diegetic music if you want to impress your film nerd friends), this HBO classic pulled off the impressive task of having its opening theme re-recorded for each season. Tom Waits’ ‘Way Down in the Hole’ was covered by The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Neville Brothers, DoMaJe (made up of five local Baltimore teenagers) and Steve Earle respectively. Got a favourite rendition?
Rick and Morty
For an offbeat comedy that revolves around a drunken grandfather and his impressionable grandson travelling through space and time, Rick and Morty gets pretty heavy in places and always uses music to pull off these emotional moments. Case in point – the season 2 finale. And here we were thinking Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ could never be used in an original way again…
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Looking to re-live the 90s? Look no further than Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer which somehow managed to pull off the perfect mix of high school drama and horror tropes. In keeping with this creative blend, the show always managed to find unique ways to use music, be it in the form of a musical episode where all the characters break into song, performances at fictional nightclub ‘The Bronze’ or that classic theme song which turns a horror theme into pure 90s punk- pop.
Still greatly missed, Scrubs had the perfect blend of quirky comedy, heartbreaking drama and weirdly accurate observations on modern life. Its soundtrack always managed to flag which of these elements we were in for. To avoid breaking your sacred heart (sorry), we’ve decided to go with this moment as our favourite use of music on the show: