With the Oscars right around the corner, we wanted to reflect on the power that music has within any given film. The score of a film can achieve effects with an audience that wouldn't be possible without music — such as melancholic music during a tearful goodbye, or tense, rising strings to complement paranormal happenings.
There are thousands of examples of soundtracks that go above and beyond, but we narrowed it down to what we think are the absolute best examples. That being said, here are our picks for the top 10 movie soundtracks and scores of all time.
10.) Pulp Fiction (1994)
Although it’s not an original soundtrack like others on this list, Pulp Fiction is a prime example of how the soundtrack of a film can serve the plot. “Misirlou” by Dick Dale sets the tone right away, as this surf-rock soundtrack starkly contrasts the actions depicted on screen. These beachy tunes provide such strong juxtaposition to the plot that it makes the viewer completely engage with the film with a sense of wonder and confusion.
9.) Rocky (1976)
The “Rocky” theme has become the ‘montage song’ for an entire generation, and when watching the song in action it’s clear why. This score is so uplifting and inspiring, and it’s been providing goosebumps for nearly 40 years. Aside from the original score, the series features classics such as “Eye of the Tiger” in Rocky III, and other songs that have (unfortunately) become cliches due to their popularity in the film series.
8.) Ghostbusters (1984)
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! We KNOW you sang that. Everybody knows the song, and for that it’s one of the most successful title tracks of all time. So much so that the song has found success beyond the film, and is used apart from the movie an incredible amount. The Ghostbusters soundtrack is guaranteed to stick in your head for hours, but who doesn’t love the super-80s vibe?
7.) The Lion King (1994)
It’s safe to say that Elton John, Hans Zimmer, and Tim Rice knocked this one right out of the park. The Lion King’s soundtrack is full of all-time classics like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Hakuna Matata”, but possibly the most iconic of them all is the intro to “Circle of Life”. Once you hear it, you won’t forget it!
6.) Indiana Jones (1981)
The main theme from Indiana Jones has essentially become the main theme for adventure, more generally, as it’s hard to hear this tune without thinking of an explorer in a jungle ruin. This melody truly sticks in the listeners head, and for that reason, it’s one of the most distinguished scores of all time.
5.) Django Unchained (2012)
A Tarantino flick makes the list again, as his creative use of music in Django Unchained truly set the soundtrack apart. There’s an engaging blend of western, rap, and funk music, and these are on full display in the film’s theme song, “Unchained”. This soundtrack is absolutely unforgettable, and full to the brim with total bangers.
4.) O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000)
This soundtrack is vastly different from the rest of the list, and that’s exactly why it’s so special. This film’s soundtrack features songs of a genre that’s been all too lost to time — the Delta Blues. The rural, southern energy of these songs is almost enough to make the listener sweat themselves, enveloping them into the plot.
3.) Star Wars (1977)
The Star Wars theme has got to be one of the most well-known pieces of music of all-time, and its tune has become synonymous with space and sci-fi over the years. Moving away from the cultural connotations, it’s flat-out good. The entire score for the series has an incredibly powerful, emotional, and most of all, memorable sound.
2.) Dunkirk (2017)
If this list were “Top 10 Panic-Inducing Soundtracks”, Dunkirk’s score would be the winner by a landslide. Hans Zimmer uses multiple conventions from both classical music as well as sound design that make this 100-minute score incredibly cohesive with what’s on screen. He also plays upon auditory illusions to truly “paint pictures” with sound.
1.) Interstellar (2014)
This iconic score from Hans Zimmer is absolutely out of this world (pun intended). Zimmer does a wonderful job of morphing his score with sound design, making for music that truly feels as if it’s part of the story. Aside from that, his score perfectly captures the emptiness, size, and futuristic energy of space, and leaves the listener with somber thoughts of existentialism.
Get it on the go. Download the full playlist on Spotify: