02/18/2014 02:59 EST | Updated 02/18/2014 03:59 EST

The Best '90s Soundtracks Ever


On Feb. 18, 1994, "Reality Bites" hit the mall multiplexes and now the Winona Ryder-starring saga of alt-era twentysomethings has turned 20 itself and is probably chainsmoking on the thrift-shop couch and listening to Violent Femmes before its shift at the Gap.

"Reality Bites" was part of a cinematic movement documenting the lives of Gen X, ranging from the pirate radio-themed "Pump Up The Volume" in 1990 and the Seattle-set "Singles" in 1992 to the youth-gone-wild "Kids" in 1995 and "Trainspotting" in 1996. But as much as these films were full of memorable scenes and iconic dialogue, they were also fuelled by their soundtracks.

The '90s was a time when a mixtape was actually a cassette, a playlist was a term used only by radio DJs and iPods were yet to exist outside of Steve Jobs' brain. CDs had taken over, and most of us were convinced to buy them over fusty old tapes, but in 1990 a CD-recorder cost $35,000 and by 1995, that number had only dropped to $995.

In other words, if you wanted a CD-quality mix of songs, soundtracks were your only bet. And this need was filled by this spate of alt-soundtracks. But it wasn't just Gen-X films that rose to the occasion. While many of these soundtracks were the equivalent to an alt-rock tasting menu, Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" reimagined what a soundtrack could be, while the soundtrack to Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" was nearly as cinematic as the movie.

Even failed movies, like "Judgement Night," wound up producing era-defining soundtracks while others, like "New Jack City," "Hackers" and "Swingers" helped launch niche subgenres into the mainstream.

And so here are the 20 best '90s soundtracks we could recall. Let us know if we missed any good ones in the comments.

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