11 of My All-Time Favourite Soundtracks With Important Life Lessons

I love stories told through music and maybe that’s why I love movie soundtracks so much, especially those from children’s movies and/or animations that combine funny and silly song lyrics with real life lessons geared towards children (and adults alike) learning more about the world and how to navigate it. Lessons I’ve taken away include those on self-love and accepting yourself for who you are, having faith, and working hard!

Listening to soundtracks and going on the journey with the character(s) often really spurs me on when I need a little push or some extra confidence to take on whatever challenge I’m trying to overcome. Here are my favourite soundtracks of all time (so far), and I have included a few childhood favorites that are still worth listening to (and maybe even making time to watch the movies)! As a bonus, I’ll also share some of the lessons I took away from listening to some of the best songs on them and/or from watching the movie in general!

1. The Sound of Music (1965) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 14 songs - 45:20 minutes

Favourite song(s): My Favorite Things”, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen

It was so difficult to narrow down my favorite songs from The Sound of Music, and after much deliberation I decided on “My Favorite Things”, sung by the lovely Julie Andrews, and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”. The movie follows the life of the patient and kind Maria (the worst nun you will ever meet), who finds her place with the von Trapp family as their governess, growing closer to the family after some initial conflict. The filmmakers, using their artistic license, touch on the atrocities of the Nazi regime as the von Trapp family is affected, while also taking us on the journey of an epic love story with two of the main characters. Maria is unwavering in her positivity in this film, and that is embodied in “My Favorite Things” as well. The song pushes you to find the good in times where you’re scared or upset, which I think is a good reminder to have to approach life with more optimism and less pessimism.

My other favorite, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, is a classic coming of age song, filled with blissful naivety that reminds me of me when I was younger too. Though Ralph’s words rub me the wrong way and seem patronizing, it’s such a beautiful (and ironic) moment between Liesl and Ralph. The song also speaks to not always knowing who people really are, and serves as a cautionary song to be careful of “eager young lads and roues and cads.” Finally, the film is filled to the brim with loving familial moments that will have you calling up your family immediately!

 

2. Mulan (1998) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 12 songs - 51 minutes

Favourite song(s):I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, “Reflection

Mulan is one of my favourite movies with a strong female lead character. I think this movie, as well as the soundtrack, were formative in my childhood, showing a strong young woman who is hard-working, wise, and tactical - skills not often represented in the overly feminized or fragile representations of women characters. I love this movie because it challenges ideas of femininity and being a woman, as well as challenging gender roles and gender stereotypes while promoting women’s empowerment. This soundtrack takes you through Mulan’s journey through a war with the Huns, as she makes the ultimate sacrifice to fight in the place of her injured war-hero father. However, since women are not allowed to fight in the army, she pretends to be a man for a large portion of the movie providing for some interesting and funny situations (does Shang have an identity crisis in his strong liking to Ping?). This soundtrack speaks of family loyalty and hard work as she trains to improve her combat skills, and arguably becomes the best warrior in the span of the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” which also happens to be one of my all-time favorites from the soundtrack. The song is incredibly witty and cleverly constructed, and my favorite part is the ironic line Shang says during training, “Did they give me daughters, when I asked for sons?”

Mulan is her own person in this movie, she is a strong, funny, smart, and loving woman of colour who is represented as a well-rounded and fleshed out character. We witness her impeccable growth throughout the movie (evident in how far she progresses from the song “Reflection” and in her growing self-confidence and quick-thinking); she is not a backdrop for any other characters and owns her own narrative, which is not often how movies have represented women, more especially women of colour.

 

3. Hamilton (2015) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 46 songs - Act 1: 70:58 minutes, Act 2: 71:15 minutes

Favourite song(s):That Would Be Enough”, “Dear Theodosia

So this is a bit of a cheat because it’s not a movie, but Hamilton has a phenomenal soundtrack composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (check out some awesome Hamilton memes here!). The composition is incredible, as Lin Manuel Miranda skillfully tells a story with impeccable sound and lyrical genius. While listening to the soundtrack though, I think it would be remiss for me not to mention that one needs to be aware of and have conversations with people around the potential glorification of colonialism and white supremacy embodied by the forefathers. Objectively this soundtrack is amazing, but it is important to see things in multiple lights and challenge or carefully consume messages of what we listen to, and so while the soundtrack follows the struggles and successes of Hamilton, it is important to then ground yourself in the actual history around America’s forefathers before you start yelling about how much you love everything about Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. I think it is crucial to be aware of the history behind these characters portrayed and their influences on American history (e.g. many of the founding fathers owned slaves, George Washington had a mouth of teeth made from those pulled out from enslaved people, etc.), I think it is important to consciously and responsibly consume theatre and movies in general by being aware of some of the harder to digest realities. However, it is also important to note that the Hamilton cast is extremely diverse, with people of colour as main characters in an acclaimed and incredibly successful production, creating more spaces for people of colour in theatre, where they have been systematically and historically excluded.

That Would Be Enough” is an emotional and affectionate song between Hamilton and Eliza. In this, Eliza connects with Hamilton’s feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy in his failure to provide for his family and build his status. However, I love this song because it speaks to the importance of relationships with the people you love, casting aside what they can get you and material things; it shows the immeasurable value of the important people in your life and that having them in your life and around, “that would be enough” - it’s all about loving people for who they are and not what they can get you. “Dear Theodosia” is my other favourite because it’s a beautiful lullaby that shows a parent's willingness to sacrifice everything for their child, as well as unconditional and infinite love. Full disclosure, I think I cried the first time I heard it.

 

4. The Prince of Egypt (1998)- Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 19 songs - 76 minutes

Favourite song(s): Through Heaven's Eyes

The Prince of Egypt is based on the biblical story of Moses; the film follows him from infancy into adulthood. My favourite song on the playlist is “Through Heaven’s Eyes” which is sung by Tzipporah's father, the high priest of Midian. The song talks of community and not valuing the individual above the group, as well as teamwork, togetherness, and compassion. I love this because this song speaks to valuing others and not looking down on people who may not have what you have or be where you are, but reminds us to be humble and down-to-earth, because honestly you’ll ever know where you’ll end up; this is a message I relate to and strongly believe in.

 

5. Joseph, King of Dreams (2000) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 7 songs

Favourite song(s): You Know Better Than I

This is also a biblically inspired animation, and so it is not surprising that there is a theme of trusting in God and His plan that permeates the movie and soundtrack, and “You Know Better Than I” is a perfect example of this. In this touching scene, Joseph is imprisoned after being wrongfully accused of betraying the pharaoh. Eventually, he is exonerated and rises in his position and saves the whole city from famine with his gift of foresight and dream interpretation. However, he spends a good amount of time in prison even though he’s innocent, and in that time starts to question God and His power at this low point.

I think this is something that a lot of religious people fall into, praising God when everything is going well, but questioning and losing faith in Him when we come across challenges. And while people say that bad things happen for a reason, I don’t quite agree with that statement, but I do agree that God makes good come out of the bad things we experience in some way, even if only to make us more resilient. “You Know Better Than I” takes us into Joseph's psyche, as we watch him come to terms with the bad that is happening, having faith in God’s hand and surrendering to his plan even if you can’t see ahead the bumps in the road like God can. I think this is an incredibly humbling song that reinforces my trust when I need boost.

 

6. Frozen (2013) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 32 songs - 69:40 minutes

Favourite song(s): Love Is An Open Door”, “Let It Go

Frozen is a really great movie - from the relatable characters to the cutest little snowman, Olaf, it’s a must see. Beyond that, though, the film actually addresses a lot about identity, peer pressure, self-acceptance, and embracing who you are as a flawed individual; I think is an important message for children to consume, as they are at greater risk of having their sense of self-worth and identity formation impacted by peers. However, I think it’s a good reminder for children and adults alike to be genuine, authentic, and to embrace yourself (even if not specific faults or vices because we can always better ourselves) for who you are, and “Let It Go” is a melodic example of this. Queen Elsa has magical powers to build anything with ice and becomes self-exiled, afraid of the consequences of her kingdom’s discovery of that power. In this epic song Elsa embraces who she is and builds a grand castle in the process (superb multitasking!), ending on a strong and assertive note that “the cold never bothered [her] anyway”.

Love Is An Open Door” has a very different tone but I love it just the same in its comedic value as well as irony. This quirky song is worth a few good laughs and is a great song to sing along to with friends! I think that may be why I love it so much more now, because I've had so much fun listening to it on car rides with friends while singing to it at the top of our lungs!

 

7. Moana (2016) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 40 songs - 75:48 minutes

Favourite song(s): How Far I’ll Go”, “Where You Are

Moana is one of the best animations I’ve ever seen, hands down, and the soundtrack is just as brilliant! Moana goes on a journey to save her island despite being told that no one is supposed to leave the island. Everyone is comfortable and satisfied on the island and so there is a fear of going beyond the reef where the dangers of the unknown lie, as well as more tumultuous seas. In “Where You Are” Moana’s father, Chief Tui, tries to convince Moana not to keep seeking the adventures of the sea and find happiness at home. My favourite part of this song come close to the end where Moana’s wise grandmother gives her advice to listen to her father, but to also know when to pursue her, sometimes stubborn, passion and follow her own voice and call to her destiny. While it is not an easy journey for Moana, it is an essential one that proves to be key to her own survival as well as that of her entire island which is testament to the fact that sometimes you disagree with older and wiser people or members of your family which can cause tension, but sometimes taking risks and following what you want is important, and often they come to see that as well just as Moana’s parents did. “How Far I’ll Go” is the perfect representation of that drive and passion to swim towards your dreams, and though there is hesitation in her voice in some places, she still gets in the boat and tries, and sometimes this is just the song I need to hear for the reminder that I need to step outside of my comfort zone and take more risks, even when it terrifies me.

 

8. Annie (2014) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 18 songs - 51 minutes

Favourite song(s): You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”, “Opportunity

Annie, an orphan living with Ms. Hannigan, is the most endearing little girl who goes on a journey to try to find her parents that abandoned her when she was younger. In this modern version of the movie, we watch her as she changes the lives of everyone around her, filling an emptiness in a rich New Yorker, Will Stacks, that he did not know was even there. I really enjoy listening to “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” because I think it captures the charm, innocence, and exuberance that Quvenzhané Wallis has in her role as Annie, and expresses the importance of a good attitude and positivity. “Opportunity” is a hauntingly beautiful song sung by Quvenzhané Wallis about seizing the opportunities you’re given and not taking them for granted, as well as pursuing your dreams and taking your moment to shine when you get the chance. I think we all need a reminder of what opportunities we are fortunate to have, and so this is a great youthful reminder of that - “I won’t waste it, I guarantee!”

 

9. The Princess and the Frog (2009) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 17 songs - 55 minutes

Favourite song(s):Almost There

The Princess and the Frog is a re-telling of the classic children’s story, with a little twist (you’ll see!). Tiana is a hard-working entrepreneur hoping to start up her own restaurant. From an early age her parents instill dedication in her that takes her a very long way in the end. She goes on an adventure as she tries to achieve her dream of owning her own restaurant, as well as honour her father’s memory and wish since he doesn’t live long enough to see it. “Almost There” is a key moment where we get to envision her dreams with her, while standing in a grungy old building she can still see the success she aims to achieve without losing hope, while also being willing to put in all the hard work it takes to get there. This is a song of the perseverance necessary to surmount the uphill battle one can expect to encounter on the way to victory.

 

10. The Parent Trap (1998) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 9 songs - 29 minutes

Favourite song(s):L-O-V-E”, “Here Comes The Sun

I cannot count how many times I’ve watched The Parent Trap; this was the go-to Sunday movie with my family when I was a kid. With this soundtrack, it’s less about the soundtrack standing alone (though still great), but the associations I have of this movie and what was happening in the scenes. “Here Comes The Sun” is in the scene where Annie goes to the studio with her mother, that then transitions into “I’ll Never Let You Go”. This song signals the beginning of that beautiful scene and that’s really the reason I love it! “L-O-V-E” is also a wonderful song featured on this soundtrack, sung by Nat King Cole. I love Nat King Cole so I love most, if not all, of his songs that I’ve heard and this one is no different. Come to think of it I also love love songs so it’s probably the combination of several things that I love coming together to make this song so exceptional. Cole’s suave, persuasive, and tender but self-assured voice, adds volumes to the romantic scene it is coupled with in the movie!

 

11. The Lion King (1994) - Wiki

Soundtrack Length: 12 songs - 46:40 minutes

Favourite song(s): Hakuna Matata

This might be predictable and corny but my favourite The Lion King song is “Hakuna Matata” sung by my favourite trio Simba, Pumbaa, Timon. “Hakuna Matata” roughly translates into “no problems” or “no worries” in Swahili, which is primarily spoken in east African countries. As someone who is often overthinking and worries a lot about everything, this song is just a good reminder to chill (I apparently have zero chill so...) It’s an anthem about being able to let go and be carefree, expressed through Pumbaa and Timon’s luxurious foraging and relaxed lifestyle.

I think this serves as a reminder and complements many of the messages from the other songs about hard work. Self-care is critical to success, and so taking time out is not wasted time, but time to re-energize and recharge to refresh and prepare to continue on. I also love this song because Pumbaa and Timon are just so entertaining and loveable. Their voices and lines are extremely funny and animated, so you can almost see the scene playing out in your mind just by listening to the song. From the slurping of “grubs” to the quick and witty exchange between the two (as well as the puns weaved in) these makes for an entertaining and stimulating experience for children and adults alike!

If you get the chance, make sure to check out some or all of these soundtracks and I can assure you that you’ll become obsessed with at least some of them. Let us know in the comments which are your favourite soundtrack or songs and why!

Image Sources: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, gif

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