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A Tribute To The Music That Made Us: 8 Unforgettable ‘90s Movie Soundtrack Moments

Sing it with me: 🎵 Near, far, whereeeeever you are 🎶

Written by Jennifer Garcia
Originally Published: 
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The Nostalgia Issue

Have you ever heard a song and thought to yourself, “Oh, I love this movie?” Of course you have! Music has the magical ability to transport us all, and sometimes, the place it transports us to isn’t just a memory — it’s a memory in the form of a movie.

And when it comes to transportive songs, there’s no arguing that ‘90s films boast some of the best. The soundtracks of that decade are like a time capsule, instantly taking you back to where you were and who you were with when you heard them.

Need proof? Get ready to take a nostalgic stroll down cinema, er, memory lane.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

The haunting melody of “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” takes you to Sherwood Forest, where a young Kevin Costner robs the rich to feed the poor. The Bryan Addams song was the No. 1 single for 16 weeks in 1991. Alan Rickman was fantastic as the dastardly (and sexy) Sheriff of Nottingham, and we can't forget Christian Slater as young Will.

The Bodyguard (1992)

Whether you are partial to the original or the Whitney Houston cover, it’s almost impossible to hear “I Will Always Love You” without time-traveling back to 1992 and The Bodyguard. I think we were all rooting for them to figure it out and live happily after, although, um, spoiler alert... the absolute heartache in the song lets you know that their love was just not meant to be.

Of course, the incomparable Dolly Parton wrote the song and originally performed it in 1982’s The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas when she broke Burt Reynolds’ heart. So, this one is a tear-jerker, no matter which movie comes to mind for you.

Pretty Woman (1990)

“Pretty woman, walkin’ down the street. Pretty woman, the kind I’d like to meet. Pretty woman, don't walk away….” Did you have a mental picture of those thigh-high black boots? Or was it that iconic red dress worn to the opera with the gorgeous diamond necklace, after which Vivian declares, “It was so good, I almost peed my pants?” As the unlikely couple in this classic, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere were funny and corny while molding a place in our hearts.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

You know exactly which scene I'm going to reference, right? Bad boy Patrick Verona (played by the late, great Heath Ledger) is being chased by security guards in the bleachers as he belts out, “You're just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you. You’d be like heaven to touch; I want to hold you so much.” You will probably only hear this on classic adult radio, but just the song’s opening lines are enough to take me back to the angsty halls of high school and the drama of the cool kids, the smart kids, and the jocks.

Ledger’s wild curls were on full display in this adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, and I see them every time I hear the song “I Want You to Want Me,” which was originally sung by Cheap Trick and covered by Letters to Cleo for the movie. Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt earned multiple Teen Choice Award nominations for the film, a breakthrough for all of them.

Mermaids (1990)

Whenever I hear “If you wanna know if loves you so, it’s in his kiss,” my mind starts running a video of Cher, Winona Ryder, and Christina Ricci in this cult fave. For me, the best part of the movie was the fact that dinner included cheese puffs and marshmallow/fruit skewers. Although you probably won't hear “The Shoop Shoop Song” on the radio much these days, it’s never its ability to take me right back to the ‘90s.

Fun fact: The word “shoop” variously refers to a doo-wop nonsense sound sometimes used as mild slang for having sex, internet slang for work in Photoshop, or a humorous singular form of the word sheep, according to the slang dictionary. None of those make sense in the song, but it all makes sense in my heart.

Ghost (1990)

Whoopi Goldberg was hilarious as psychic Oda Mae Brown in Ghost. And, honestly, who could forget Patrick Swayze yell-singing, “I'm Henry the 8th I am?” But the song that instantly brings me back to this movie (not to mention a tangle of emotions) will always be “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. “Woah, my love, my darling, I've hungered for your touch a long, lonely time” streams through speakers, and suddenly I know how to spin clay on a pottery wheel in my mind! Demi Moore mostly just made a mess with it, and I'm confident in my ability to do at least that.

Titanic (1997)

Celine Dion had the world’s best-selling single in 1998 with a song of sadness and longing. “Near, far, whereeeeever you are, I believe that the heart does go on”... ugh, one line fills me with the anger of knowing (without a doubt) that Jack *could* have fit on that door! Regardless, it’s a beautiful song — whether you instantly think you are “King of the World” or simply refuse to let go.

Con Air (1997)

Lynyrd Skynrd released the Southern rock classic “Sweet Home Alabama” in 1974, but every time I hear it, I see Nicolas Cage in all his action glory in the prison plane caper Con Air. Even though the movie only got a 58% score from Rotten Tomatoes, it was a box office success and has become a cult classic with many quotable lines. Case in point: Steve Buscemi, as serial killer Garland Greene, quips, “Define irony: a bunch of idiots dancing on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash.”

A Final Thought

The German word “fernweh” means a longing to be somewhere you’ve never been. Although I’ve never ridden through a forest on horseback with a band of outlaws, guarded a pop star, solved murder with a psychic sidekick, or prevented a plane of convicts from causing mass mayhem, these songs make me feel like maybe I was there. The music from ‘90s movies can take all of us back to somewhere in time. So, when you think about it, these soundtracks are both a catalyst and cure for fernweh.

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