As any serious music fan knows, it's the songs that make good films great. Just in time for the Oscars, TIME runs down the best movie sound tracks ever.
West Side Story, 1961
By Frances Romero
This film came with an impeccable pedigree: the original Broadway production featured lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, music by Leonard Bernstein and choreography by Jerome Robbins, and was itself an adaptation of Shakespeare's classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Young Puerto Rican immigrant Maria (Natalie Wood) and dreamy Tony (Richard Beymer) fall in love despite finding themselves on opposite sides of a gang war brewing in New York City between the Sharks (the Puerto Ricans) and the Jets (the whites). But it's not the story so much as the music that counts, from Maria's "I Feel Pretty" to Tony's "Maria" to ensemble classics like "When You're a Jet" and "America." The sound track spent 54 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, still a record for any album of any kind. It won a Grammy for Best Sound Track Album — Original Cast, and went triple-platinum. The film, meanwhile, won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.