Best R&B Movie Soundtracks

List Includes 'Purple Rain' and 'Waiting To Exhale'

The Bodyguard Poster
(RDA/Getty Images)

A great film soundtrack consists of quality, memorable tunes that stay with you long after a movie has ended. The best soundtracks are cohesive units that can be enjoyed even without the benefit of seeing the film. Although most great soundtracks consist primarily of new music (particularly ones created during the urban movie golden age of the 1990s), with Prince's Purple Rain being the prime example, sometimes a compilation of classics can also hit the ear's sweet spot, such as the soundtrack for the 1995 film, Dead Presidents.

Date released: November 17, 1992

Noteworthy songs: "I Will Always Love you," I'm Every Woman," and "I Have Nothing"

The Bodyguard is the best-selling soundtrack of all time with over 45 million copies sold worldwide. Whitney Houston recorded six records for the album, and seven additional songs featured Kenny G., Aaron Neville, Lisa Stansfield, Joe Cocker, and other artists. The soundtrack won three Grammy Awards including Album of the Year. The first single, "I Will Always Love You," spent 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, which at the time was a record. David Foster produced "I Will Always Love You," "I Have Nothing," and Run To You." L.A. Reid and Babyface wrote and produced "Queen of the Night."​

Date released: June 1984.

Noteworthy songs: "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy" and the title track.

This innovative, groundbreaking chart-topping soundtrack, which generated five hit singles, was written, produced, arranged, and performed by Prince and his band, The Revolution. It also set the standard for music integration into films, as many of the songs were performed onstage by the band during the movie.

Purple Rain won an Academy Award for Original Song Score in 1985. and a Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. It was also nominated for Album of the Year. The title song won Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The album spent 24 consecutive weeks at number one the Billboard 200 albums chart, and has sold over 22 million copies worldwide.

Date released: November 1995.

Noteworthy songs: "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)," by Whitney Houston; "Sittin' Up in My Room," by Brandy; and "Not Gon' Cry," by Mary J. Blige.

This legendary soundtrack, which was written and produced by Babyface, received a total of eleven Grammy nominations including Album of the Year, and Song of the Year for the title tune, which won Best R&B Song. The album remained at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart for five weeks and Top R&B Albums chart for ten weeks. It was certified seven times platinum. Waiting To Exhale also received an American Music Award for Favorite Soundtrack, and "You're Makin' Me High"/"Let It Flow" by Toni Braxton was named R&B Single of the Year by Billboard.

The album featured one of the greatest lineups of African-American women on one project. In addition to Houston, Braxton, Blige, and Brandy, it also featured Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, and TLC.

Date released: July 1971.

Noteworthy songs: The title track, "Theme from Shaft."

This classic soul album consists mainly of instrumentals composed by Isaac Hayes, but also features his vocals on three songs: "Soulsville," "Do Your Thing" and "Theme from Shaft."

"Theme from Shaft" won an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, and a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement. The album won a second Grammy for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special. The soundtrack reached number one on the Billboard 200, R&B, and Jazz charts. In 2014, the album was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Date released: July 1972.

Noteworthy songs: "Pusherman," "Freddie's Dead," and the title track.

Its sales were bolstered by two million-selling singles, "Freddie's Dead" (#2 R&B, #4 Pop) and the title track (#5 R&B, #8 Pop).

This classic soundtrack was the fourth solo album released by Curtis Mayfield who composed and composed all nine tracks. At the time of its release, it was one of the rare soundtracks to earn more revenue than the film. The album remained at the top of the Billboard 200 for four weeks, and the R&B chart for six weeks. The singles "Freddie's Dead" and the title track both sold over two million copies. In 1998, Super Fly was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Date released: June 1992.

Noteworthy songs: "Give U My Heart," by Babyface featuring Toni Braxton and "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men.

The triple-platinum soundtrack for the 1992 movie Boomerang starring Eddie Murphy reached the number one spot on the Billboard R&B album chart and number four on the Billboard 200. Aaron Hall, Johnny Gill, and TLC were also featured on the album.

Date released: March 1991.

Noteworthy songs: "I'm Dreamin'," by Christopher Williams; and the title track by new jack swing trio Guy.

The New Jack City soundtrack remained at number one on the Billboard R&B chart for eight weeks and peaked at number two on the Billboard 200. It was a powerful blend of R&B and hip-hop and R&B, featuring Keith Sweat, Levert, Johnny Gill, Queen Latifah, Ice-T, and 2 Live Crew.

Date released: September 1997.

Noteworthy songs: "We're Not Making Love No More," by Dru Hill; "What About Us," by Total; and "A Song for Mama" by Boyz II Men.

This soundtrack was certified double platinum, peaking at number four on the Billboard 200, and number on the R&B chart. Usher, Monica, Jay-Z, and Earth, Wind and Fire were also featured on the Soul Food. album. Producers included Babyface, Diddy, Teddy Riley, and Timbaland.

Date released: September 1976.

Noteworthy songs: The title track, "I Wanna Get Next to You;" and "I'm Going Down;" all by Rose Royce.

Produced by Norman Whitfield (who created numerous Motown hits for Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and The Temptations), Car Wash won a Grammy Award for Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special. The soundtrack was also the debut album by the R&B band Rose Royce. The title track reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts and was certified platinum.

Date released: May 1976.

Noteworthy songs: "Something He Can Feel," which was later famously covered by En Vogue.

The Sparkle soundtrack was a collaboration of two legends: Aretha Franklin, who sang every song, composed and produced by Curtis Mayfield. The album was certified gold and hit the top of the Billboard R&B chart. The classic single, "Something He Can Feel,"  also number one.

Date released: September 1995.

Noteworthy songs: "If You Want Me To Stay," by Sly & The Family Stone; "Walk On By," by Isaac Hayes; and "The Payback," by James Brown.

The Dead Presidents soundtrack reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart and was certified gold. The list of classic artists also included Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Barry White, and The O'Jays.

Date released: October 1999.

Noteworthy songs: "Let's Not Play the Game" by Maxwell; and "The Best Man I Can Be," by Case, Ginuwine, RL, and Tyrese.

This soundtrack peaked at number two on the Billboard R&B chart, and number 16 on the Billboard 200. Artists featured on The Best Man include Beyonce, Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill, and Faith Evans .

Date released: March 1997.

Noteworthy songs: "Hopeless," by Dionne Farris and "The Sweetest Thing," by Lauryn Hill and the Refugee Camp All-Stars.

This soundtrack, which features Maxwell, Xscape, The Brand New Heavies and Groove Theory, was very prominent in the film starring Larenz Tate and Nia Long as bohemian poetry fans who became lovers.

Date released: April 2012.

Noteworthy songs: The title track, by Jennifer Hudson and Ne-Yo featuring Rick Ross; "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)" by John Legend; and "Won't Make a Fool Out of You" by Marcus Canty.

The Think Like A Man soundtrack features classics by Earth, Wind & Fire ("That's The Way of the World") and Luther Vandross ("Never Too Much"), as well as new music from Kelly Rowland and Keri Hilson.

Date released: May 1995.

Noteworthy songs: "Freedom (Theme from Panther)," featuring an all-star lineup of over 60 female R&B and hip-hop artists, including Aaliyah, Monica, Vanessa Williams, Mary J. Blige, En Vogue, SWV.  TLC, and Queen Latifah.

The Panther soundtrack was certified gold, and also included music from Bobby Brown, Usher, George Clinton, The Notorious B.I.G., Brian McKnight, and Slash from Guns N' Roses.

Date released: April 1991.

Noteworthy songs: "A Heart Is a House for Love," by The Dells and "Nights Like This," by After 7.

Patti LaBelle and Andre Crouch were also​ on The Five Heartbeats soundtrack. Directed by and starring Robert Townsend, the film tells the story of a fictional 1960's male vocal group similar to The Temptations.

Date released: June 1998.

Noteworthy songs: A cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire," by Babyface and British R&B singer Des'ree.

Babyface was involved in producing the film Hav Plenty as well as the soundtrack which peaked at number six on the Billboard R&B chart. The list of artists also included Erykah Badu, Chico DeBarge, Faith Evans and SWV.

Date released: February 1973.

Noteworthy songs: "The Boss," by James Brown.

This funky 11-song collection was recorded for the 1973 blaxploitation film Black Caesar starring Fred Williamson. "The Godfather of Soul" composed, produced and performed the songs with his band, The JBs, and singer Lyn Collins.

Date released: April 2000.

Noteworthy songs: "Fool of Me," by Meshell Ndegeocello; and "I'll Go," a Donell Jones remake of a Rahsaan Patterson tune.

The Love and Basketball soundtrack features the classics "Love & Happiness" by Al Green, and "Sweet Thing" by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. it also includes music from Maxwell and The Black Eyed Peas.

Date released: October 1994.

Noteworthy songs: "People Make the World Go Round," by The Stylistics; "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," by Stevie Wonder.

This Spike Lee movie soundtrack consists of music from the early 1970s, including classics from James Brown, The Jackson Five, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Sly & The Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Issac Hayes, and The Staple Singers.

Edited by Ken Simmons on April 5, 2016