U2 have always made what you might call "cinematic" music. Think of the dramatic soundscapes that build and build before opening up into grand, valley-filling, 360-degree-spinning hooks ("Bad," "Where the Streets Have No Name"), or the moody, montage-ready synth-and-bass textures they created with Eno and Lanois ("Promenade," "Mothers of the Disappeared"), which suggest great Michael Mann movies never made. It's unsurprising, then, that Hollywood started calling, especially after the boys from Dublin became movie stars in their own right via Rattle & Hum.
Yet outside of a few tentative forays in the 1980s, it wasn't until German auteur Wim Wenders approached the band in 1991, looking for music for his sci-fi epic Until the End of the World, that the band began to make original soundtrack work an integral aspect of its art. From that point forward, U2 have maintained a sideline industry as situational songwriters, crafting tunes outside of their own song-cycles and occasionally doing so for singers not named Bono. This has allowed them to experiment with modes and genres as disparate as jazz, lounge, Celtic balladry and candied pop.
Gathered together, the following 12 songs run the sonic gamut and span over 20 years yet nevertheless comprise a surprisingly satisfying, oddly cohesive and uniquely unselfconscious body of work — a shadow U2 album that's only visible in the rearview.