1990s

Soundtracks of Cinema: ‘Romeo + Juliet’

Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack - Every Song in Baz Luhrmann's 1996 Movie

The Romeo + Juliet soundtrack includes music by Radiohead, Prince and Garbage. This info article contains spoilers for Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 movie. Check out Vague Visages’ Soundtracks of Cinema section for more music guides.

Now streaming on Hulu and Paramount +, Romeo + Juliet features a soundtrack designed for moody outsiders and hopeless romantics. Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 William Shakespeare adaption stars a pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo Montague, while My So-Called Life’s Claire Danes co-headlines as Juliet Capulet. Back in the fall of ’96, the soundtrack caught my attention as a 16-year-old high schooler, thanks to music from alternative rock bands like Everclear and Garbage. Twenty-five years later, I appreciate the film’s overall pop culture value, and certainly the chemistry between the two leads. Here’s a Soundtracks of Cinema breakdown of Romeo + Juliet‘s songs and how they are used.

Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack: Every Song in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Movie

Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack - Every Song in Baz Luhrmann's 1996 Movie

  • “Pretty Piece of Flesh” by One Inch Punch (00:03:00): The Romeo + Juliet soundtrack song plays as Sampson Montague (Jamie Kennedy) teases a group of nuns by licking his nipple. The character’s punk rock vibe aligns with the lyrical message, while the alternative sound matches the modernity of Luhrmann’s adaptation. The scene quickly takes an ironic turn when Sampson is frightened by the arrival of Abra Capulet (Vincent Laresca).
  • “Talk Show Host” by Radiohead (00:09:00): “Talk Show Host” kicks in as Caroline Montague (Christina Pickles) wonders about the whereabouts of her son, Romeo, who appears in a wide shot at the beach. The lyrics capture the mentality of DiCaprio’s character, who struggles with his place in the world shortly more meeting his beloved Juliet. The Romeo + Juliet soundtrack song plays later on in the movie at 01:32:00 during a mash-up with Garbage’s “#1 Crush.”
  • “Angel” by Gavin Friday (00:19:00): As fireworks explode on the evening of a Capulet party, Juliet stares into the sky as “Angel” scores the moment. The character’s costume reinforces the thematic message, and the song continues over a transitional sequence at Sycamore Grove.
  • “Young Hearts Run Free” by Kym Mazelle (00:19:00): Juliet’s idealism and innocence is contrasted by a party sequence at Sycamore Grove. Harold Perrineau’s cross-dressing character, Mercutio, boogies to the opening sounds of “Young Hearts Run Free” and entertains various members of the Montague family, with Romeo citing his “soul of lead” as an excuse not to dance. The Romeo + Juliet soundtrack song picks up at 00:23:00 during a slo-mo sequence, and then ramps up when Romeo and company enjoy some ecstasy.
  • “Kissing You (Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet)” by Des’ree (00:25:00): In one of the film’s most poignant scenes, “Kissing You” plays when Romeo spots Juliet while attempting to sober up. As Des’ree performs the song at a Capulet party, the star-crossed lovers gaze at each other from opposite sides of a fish tank. “Kissing You” scores the entire sequence, which concludes with a first kiss between Romeo and Juliet. The instrumental also functions as a musical motif throughout the film.
  • “You and Me Song” by The Wannadies (00:45:00): When Juliet says good night to Romeo from her balcony, “You and Me Song” works as a transitional number for a cityscape montage. The Romeo + Juliet soundtrack song drowns out as the camera zooms in on Pete Postlethwaite’s Father Laurence, who delivers a telling soliloquy about plants and poison.
  • “When Doves Cry” by Prince (00:48:00): A choir sings “When Doves Cry” as Father Laurence agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet. The lyrics align with the modern flavor of Luhrmann’s adaptation, evidenced further as a church scene shifts to the streets of Verona beach.
  • “Local God” by Everclear (00:52:00): “Local God” underlines Romeo’s community reputation when he meets his group of “capital punks” at the beach. It’s a fitting choice by Luhrmann, as Everclear’s lyrics reference Shakespeare’s Romeo and a group of friends who feel poetic while hanging out together. In the movie, DiCaprio’s Romeo jokes about his “pump” being “well-flowered,” a comedic moment that plays out as the song volume boosts.
  • “Lovefool” by The Cardigans (00:53:00): As Romeo promises to marry Juliet, “Lovefool” complements a close-up visual of DiCaprio’s face. Luhrmann then shifts to a bedroom sequence featuring Danes’ character, with a red-pink color palette thematically aligning with Romeo + Juliet soundtrack song’s warm lyrics. Moments later, Juliet receives good news yet loses some of her innocence upon learning about Romeo’s romantic intentions.
  • “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” by Quindon Tarver (00:56:00): Immediately after Juliet learns that she’ll soon be married to Romeo, “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” scores a wedding sequence. Thematically, the lyrics underline the fact that the young lovers deserve to be happy together, even if some of their relatives don’t necessary approve of the union. The moment marks the end of innocence for both Romeo and Juliet, as their romance becomes especially complicated soon after.
  • “Little Star” by Stina Nordenstam (01:07:00): “Little Star” plays softly during Juliet’s “Come, Gentle Night” monologue after Mercutio’s death. The song’s title correlates with the character’s wish that Romeo will become the face of heaven after her death. Juliet remains an idealistic teenager in this moment, a young woman who fully intends to live a long life with her beloved husband.
  • “#1 Crush” by Garbage (01:32:00): Moments before DiCaprio’s character learns about Juliet’s death, the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack song plays during a musical mash-up with Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host.” DiCaprio’s character writes about his cheerful thoughts, with Garbage and Radiohead fusing together as Jesse Bradford’s Balthasar Montague arrives with heart-breaking news.
  • “Exit Music (For a Film)” by Radiohead (01:53:00): As Romeo + Juliet concludes, “Exit Music (For a Film)” plays over the end credits. The song is the fourth track on Radiohead’s 1997 album OK Computer,  and the lyrics tell a story about doomed lovers whose relationship is affected by familial conflict.

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The Romeo + Juliet soundtrack also includes:

  • “Whatever (I Had a Dream)” by Butthole Surfers
  • “To You I Bestow” by Mundy.

Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor and chief film critic.

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