On Parks and Recreation, Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) tries to explain to April (Aubrey Plaza) that he has so many soundtracks because, “I kind of look at it like it’s your favorite directors making a mix tape just for you.” While that’s a cute and naïve way of looking at it (although in the case of Cameron Crowe movies, probably true), for the most part, soundtracks serve to support the film. They’re part of the storytelling apparatus. Sometimes the choices can be super obvious (there’s a moratorium on using “Sympathy for the Devil” until 2067), but at their best, soundtracks find just the right songs for just the right moment and open up your musical tastes, or take a song you already loved and use it in a new, surprising way.
We’ve run down the best soundtracks of the 21st century, and we encourage you take some time and enjoy them. And please sound off in the comments about which soundtracks from this century are your favorite.