I find certain directors are more aware of great music, and of how to integrate it into their films, than are others. Jim Jarmusch, Martin Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, and David Lynch come to mind. But maybe my favorite use of music is in the movie The Last Picture Show; lots of Hank Williams on the radio in the old pickup truck driven in the movie, perfectly reflecting the grim, dying small-town and sepia-hued Texas landscape.
The Big Chill started a revival of 60’s R&B music.
The Blues Brothers has some performances by legends like Ray Charles, Aretha, James Brown and Cab Calloway that are iconic and with them all being gone, precious. Yes, it was a silly comedy but the music was epic. Some of the sound track music without performances is great too, Sam and Dave come to mind.
Another crass but legendary comedy with good music is Animal House. The "Otis Day" performance of "Shout" is fantastic. Sam Cooke is featured heavily.
Edit to add: The Wizard of Oz. That music has become part of the cultural subconscious.
I'm not big on keeping track of directors, etc but the music in "Hell or High Water" is simply fantastic. I consider it outlaw country. Has a real edge to it. Fits perfectly with the scenes in the movie. Chris Stapleton performs Outlaw State of Mind - almost a country dirge. Played it last night!
Great nominees, fellas! Another favorite of mine is American Graffiti, which perfectly depicts the era immediately before the arrival of the British Invasion, which changed everything. The band playing at the Jr. Prom is exactly what the Frat Bands (as the great Rock ’n’ Roll historian Greg Shaw called them. Different than the Garage Bands which emerged in the wake of that invasion.) of the early-60’s were like. I oughta know, I was in one!
Lots of good comments above. Among the recommendations I am familiar with I would particularly second "The Last Picture Show" (a great film even apart from the music), "American Graffiti," and "The Blues Brothers." Regarding the latter, although I recognize that aside from the music it could legitimately be considered to be "a silly comedy," as stated above, on each of the several occasions my PhD wife and I have watched it we have enjoyed it immensely as comedy as well as for the music.
A thread such as this would not be complete, however, without prominent mention of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," a classic 1964 romantic French film directed by Jacques Demy and starring Catherine Deneuve, in which every word is sung rather than spoken. The music having been composed by Michel Legrand.
"Breaking Away" features many popular Classical pieces interspersed throughout the movie that fit with the particular scenes used in. I really like this movie! Plus the strong and silent lead character throughout... the Masi Gran Criterium!!! (Of course hose in the know, know) Orange bikes are the fastest; Velominati Rules
"Inna Gadda Da Vida" drum solo during the mayhem scene in Manhunter (the first of the movies involving serial murderers based on the Silence of the Lambs books) and in some ways, the best, directed by Michael Mann.
One of the more perfect marriage of film and music I can recall was from a movie called "Sorcerer" (1977). An ambitious William Freidkin film that was overshadowed at the time of release by a little thing called Star Wars.
The score is by Tangerine Dream and the edited sequences, particularly of the men determined to resurrect old delapidated trucks into something that might reliably get them through 200 miles of jungle roads, is something special to witness. The music was recorded first, before the scenes had been finished. Freidkin was so impressed by the music itself, that he recomposed and reshot many of the scenes around it. The result is mesmerizing.
@ivan_nosnibor Speaking of Star Wars.....an amazing and powerful sound track which was certainly fully integral to the impact of the visual effects. However, I think Williams must have gotten a lot of direct inspiration from Dvorak's New World Symphony.
Alfred Hitchcock knew the value of a great soundtrack,Vertigo is a good example. Benard Herrman did some great music for Hitchcock's films. Basquiat soundtrack is my favorite of assembled songs with American Graffiti coming in as a close second.