The Top 5 Reggae Film Soundtracks

You will hear many of the genres influenced by reggae in film soundtracks but rarely hear reggae music. It seems reggae is still regarded as a niche when it comes to film music.  

There have been many films over the years with subject matter that demand that reggae is the foremost genre for the soundtrack or incidental music which I'll get onto in a minute, however, wouldn't it be great to hear reggae feature more in the Hollywood blockbusters released every year.

There have been great reggae soundtracks over the years but the associated films have, in the main, related to Jamaican and reggae culture. However, a great soundtrack is a great soundtrack and for me the following are my top 5 reggae soundtracks.

1) Jimmy Cliff 'The Harder They Come' (from The Harder They Come, 1972)

This is the title track to the great Jamaican reggae film The Harder they Come. Sung by and starring one of the legends of reggae Jimmy Cliff whose character arrives in Kingston looking for work and, after some initial setbacks he ends up recording his first song, "The Harder They Come," but that's when his troubles start. The film is rough, tough with plenty of attitude. This is my number one soundtrack because of the impact the film had in bringing reggae to the world. It was a trailblazer.

2) Toots & The Maytals ‘Pressure Drop’ (from The Harder They Come, 1972)

This is such a great track by the great Toots & The Maytals  Although it is from the same film I could not omit it from the list. The tenant of the song is 'what goes around comes around' in the words of Toots & The Maytals "The pressure’s going to drop on you..."

3) Junior Murvin 'Police and Thieves' (Rockers 1978)

This film featured so many reggae greats like Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, Big Youth, Gregory Isaacs, Jacob Miller, Robbie Shakespeare, Burning Spear and Dillenger. Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace plays a hard up musician trying to earn some extra dollars and calls on his friends when he needs to tackle some local "bad bwoys". To pick a track from this film is difficult but Police and Thieves was a song that resonated with life at the time and is such a classic with that great falsetto by Junior Murvin.

4) Black Uhuru – ‘Youth Of Eglington’ (from The Lunatic, 1991)

The film is about a Jamaican village 'lunatic' who can talk to animals, trees and anything else. The soundtrack is one of the great urban reggae songs of the era by one of my all-time favourite bands Black Uhuru.

5) Faybiene Miranda – ‘Prophecy’ (from Yardie, 2018)

Yardie was directed by Idris Elba based on the novel of the same name and is a gritty no-nonsense tale of a character whose past catches up with him. A must-see film if you are a reggae fan. Prophecy was one of the defining songs of the 70s with its urban feel and heavy bassline along with its haunting vocals and political message it captured the attention of the public and was subsequently banned from Jamaican radio.

Best Reggae Film Soundtrack Moment

I Am Legend (2007) is an American post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film starring Will Smith. In the clip, as the character Robert Neville M.D, he tells the character, Anna, about Bob Marley while 'Stir It Up' plays in the background.

"He had this idea. It was kind of a virologist idea. He believed that you could cure racism and hate... literally cure it, by injecting music and love into people's lives. When he was scheduled to perform at a peace rally, a gunman came to his house and shot him down. Two days later he walked out on that stage and sang. When they asked him why - He said, "The people who are trying to make this world worse are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness."

See the excerpt from the film below.

In my opinion, this is a very underrated moment in film history for reggae where a scene in a successful 'mainstream' Hollywood film, that is not about Jamaica or reggae culture, not only uses reggae music but takes a key moment in Jamaican political history and relates it to the current situation of Will Smith's character.

This shows that reggae music/culture can work in movies at the deepest level. So let's hope that the music directors and music supervisors out there give some of us reggae songwriters and composers a bit of the action.