Top 7 Movie Soundtracks of the 1970s

The soundtrack is one of the most crucial elements of a film. A movie could have the biggest stars, the craziest effects, and the most elaborate scenes that force viewers onto the edge of their seats, but if the score falls short, so does the film.

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Cinema in the 1970s didn’t seem to have that problem. It was a decade of espionage, space exploration, John Travolta, and some of the most phenomenal soundtracks, ones that resounded with the era’s style. Here are our top seven movie soundtracks of the 1970s.

7. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Whether the leading man is Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, or Daniel Craig, every James Bond film is made special from the very beginning. Yes, the prowling, suspense-inducing orchestra playing throughout gives the movies their backbone, but it’s the opening theme that immediately makes sparks fly.

Each film receives a new introduction, a fresh song seemingly shot into existence from the barrel of a smoking gun. And 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever fired off one of the greats. The great songstress Shirley Bassey sang the film’s titled track, her second theme after 1964’s Goldfinger. Long-running Bond composer John Barry took care of the rest.

6. A Star is Born (1976)

A Star is Born has been redone every few decades, always with a star-powered soundtrack each time, but none have been quite like the 1976 remake featuring Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand. The two performers have enormous talents that translated beautifully on stage.

Composer Roger Kellaway was in charge of music, but Streisand helped pen a handful of tunes on the soundtrack. The film was not received with great critical acclaim, but it saw a fair amount of attention during award season that year, garnering at least one music-related nod at every ceremony.

5. Star Wars (1977)

Speaking of stars… The year 1977 ushered in what would be the biggest movie franchise today: Star Wars. With the galaxy-traversing plot came one of cinema’s most memorable themes à la John Williams. Aside from the rebel forces, the Jedi factions, and that ever-fickle dark side, the film’s grand score has been one of the main throughlines, connecting all the following installments.

4. Grease (1978)

Grease is the word, is the word that you heard / It’s got groove, it’s got meaning / Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion / Grease is the way we are feeling, plays the cool, groove-inducing title sequence to Grease. The 1978 ’50s-set musical harbors hit in every Ramma lamma lamma, ka dingity ding da dong and Shoo bop shoo wadda wadda yippity boom da boom.

Led by Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Grease is an all-around good time soundtracked by lovable doo-wop, pop, and rock and roll.

3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Another musical deserving of some love is the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It is a dramatic sidestep from the high school escapades of Grease, but an essential all the same. The Rocky Horror Picture Show became a cult classic mainly because of the music. It was catchy, memorable, and interactive. During showings of the film today, audience participation is encouraged, so it’s best to know “The Time Warp” forward and back in case you ever find yourself at one.

2. Shaft (1971)

The funk-soul compositions that scored the 1971 film, Shaft, were a big part of its success. Courtesy of the great Isaac Hayes, the soundtrack was sexy, brooding, and a unique foil for the crime drama to unfold. Pensive cymbal hits, thumping bass lines, and scratching strings define much of the film’s themes as scenes of investigation, discovery, and ass-kicking play out.

1. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Saturday Night Fever defined the 1970s. Carried on the moves of Travolta, the 1977 dance film had a major impact on pop culture during the decade and its soundtrack added fuel to the ever-blazing disco fire. The Bee Gees were responsible for much of the film’s music, crafting for the soundtrack what would be some of their own biggest hits like “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever.”

Photo by Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty Images

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