Matt Damon and Ben Affleck might be established stars today, but dial back to 1997, and they were barely known twenty-somethings with no history and no credibility. Fortunately, they also had a script that would end up taking them to the Oscars and put them on every director’s radar for years to come. It may have taken them blood, sweat, and tears to get it made, but Good Will Hunting transformed their careers, showed Robin Williams could be more than just a clown, and, gave every music lover the chance to hear some first-rate ’90s alt-rock. Here’s how we rank all the songs on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack.
15. Between the Bars (Orchestral) – Elliott Smith
Although the Good Will Hunting soundtrack includes the full version of Between the Bars, it also includes an orchestral version. At just a fraction over a minute long, it’s short, but very, very sweet.
14. No Name #3 – Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith contributes numerous gorgeous tracks to the soundtrack of Good Will Hunting, not least the lovely No Name #3.
13. Why Do I Lie? – Luscious Jackson
Luscious Jackson only ever had a few hits, and Why Do I Lie? wasn’t one of them. But hit or not, it’s still an awesome track.
12. Will Hunting (Main Titles) – Danny Elfman
We only get two snippets of Danny Elfman’s score on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack. Fortunately, both of those are enough to give us a taste of the magic he worked across the film.
11. Say Yes – Elliott Smith
Another wistful beauty from Elliott Smith next, this time in the shape of the lovely Say Yes.
10. Fisherman’s Blues – The Waterboys
After building their reputation on big, grandiose rock, The Waterboys went in a new direction on 1998’s Fisherman’s Blues, scaling down the theatrics and adopting a more low-key, traditional approach. The results were startlingly good, with the title track standing out as one of the album’s chief gems.
9. Weepy Donuts – Danny Elfman
We get to hear two cuts of Danny Elfman’s score on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, one of which is the wonderfully touching Weepy Donuts.
8. Boys Better – The Dandy Warhols
By the time they came around to recording their second album, The Dandy Warhols had given up on garage rock and moved to a bigger, more power pop-influenced sound. It didn’t go down well with all their fans, but it did at least give us pure pop gems like the sublime Boys Better.
7. Angeles – Elliott Smith
After several years of releasing music on independent record labels in Portland, Elliott Smith’s career took a turn in 1997 when he signed to the Steven Spielberg-founded DreamWorks Records in LA. As Genius notes, Angles seem to represent Smith’s internal struggle with the move, a struggle that culminates in the line, “so glad to meet you, Angeles.”
6. Somebody’s Baby – Andru Donalds
Jackson Browne has always been someone you can rely on to write a top tune. In 1982, he and Danny Kortchmar[ came up with Somebody’s Baby. They originally wrote it for the Ridgemont High movie soundtrack, but it subsequently went on to become a massive hit in its own right. Released as a single in July 1982, it reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Browne’s highest-charting single of all time as well as his last ever top ten single. Numerous artists have covered it in the years since then, including Andru Donalds for the soundtrack of Good Will Hunting.
5. Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty
In 1978, Gerry Rafferty earned one of the biggest hits of his career with Baker Street, which soared to number one on the Cash Box chart and held onto the number 2 position of the Billboard Hot 100 for a massive 6 weeks. It also topped the charts in Canada, Australia, and South Africa, while entering the top 5 in the UK. That same year, the song picked up the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.
4. As the Rain – Jeb Loy Nichols
Jeb Loy Nichols’s 1997 album, Lovers Knot, may have sold poorly, but the reviews were sensational, with The Memphis Flyer describing it as “an earthy, organic album that belied [Nichols’s] roots in alt-country music while revealing his adventurous spirit” and KEXP.org saying “Nichols and his sweetly soulful songs are the deserved focus here, and this rich, subtle gem is one of the year’s best albums.” There’s not a bad song on the tracklist, but As the Rain is particularly lovely.
3. Miss Misery – Elliott Smith
While Elliott Smith contributed several credits to Good Will Hunting, his only original song contribution was Miss Misery, a startling, heartbreakingly beautiful song that managed to claim a nomination for Best Original Song in the 1998 Academy Awards before ultimately losing out to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On.
2. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? – Al Green
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? was written by Barry and Robin Gibb and first released by the Bee Gees in 1971. It proved a major hit for the group, taking them to number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and topping the Cashbox charts for two weeks. It’s been recorded by numerous artists since, including Al Green, whose 1972 version has been included on everything from Good Will Hunting and The Virgin Suicides to Notting Hill and The Book of Eli.
1. Between the Bars – Elliott Smith
According to Genius, Between the Bars explains the power of addiction; the call of a drink. In it, Smith describes how he used to be someone else, someone with potential. Then he discovered his new love and worst enemy, and together, he and his poisonous companion began to consume more and more of each other. Smith wrote numerous songs about his battles with drink and drugs, but rarely so eloquently as here.