Film Music: The 100 Best Movie Soundtracks Of All Time

Best Film Soundtracks

Table of Contents

Music contributes significantly to the perception and evaluation of the action and ideally creates the distinctive atmosphere of a film. Even the movie genre can be partially identified by the score alone or just a few chords, and film music amplifies or softens the impressions and thus the feelings and thoughts at what we see.

Sound and picture in successful combination provide a unique, realistic experience in the cinema and front of the TV. We feel fear, hope and even shed tears for the film’s protagonists. One could even say that music can manipulate us.

Of course, film music can only impress us accordingly with an excellent acting performance and a quality production. However, the most famous film scenes would not have been able to unfold their effect so impressively and would not have remained in our memory to the same extent had it not been for masterful film composers, outstanding singers, and virtuoso musicians musically underscore them.

Purple Rain (1984)

As the song says, he never wanted to cause pain. The soundtrack to his heavily mythologized, occasionally silly origin story, full of tantalizing melodrama and breathtaking on-stage performances, consists of nine killer songs that propelled Prince to a higher level of superstardom.

From the joyous opening song “Let’s Go Crazy” to the tear-jerking catharsis of the title track, the album finds the Purple One at the height of his musical, lyrical, and erotic powers. Hits here include “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “When Doves Cry,” and, of course, the princè de résistance, “Purple Rain.” The eight-minute opus “Purple Rain” is one of the “most poignant blues-soul songs ever recorded.”

By making the (still quite good!) Banning music by the film’s other bands – Apollonia 6 and The Time – to their albums, Prince left Purple Rain to stand on its own as a symbol of his world-conquering, motorcycle-revolutionary, purple-trench-coat-rocking genius. The competition never stood a chance.

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

The Bee Gees were commissioned to provide the soundtrack to the film “Saturday Night Fever” only after its production. This directorial decision was probably one of the best, as the Bee Gees were the ideal cast for the job.

Within three days, “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” and “More Than A Woman” were released. Almost every male moviegoer at the time wanted to be like Tony Manero (John Travolta), who danced his way into the hearts of the ladies on the dance floor. This circumstance is undoubtedly due to the soundtrack, in addition to the acting.

It is curious that the drummer of the band, Bernard Purdie, could not take part in the shooting in Paris. Thus it was decided to play (“loop”) two bars of his drum recordings from the song “Night Fever” in the song “Night Fever” in an endless loop. The band took the liberty of naming a drummer “Bernard Lupe” (the drummer’s name and as a pun on “looping”) in the credits. As a result, this became a sought-after musician until it finally became apparent that this musician did not exist at all.

The soundtrack was for a long time the best-selling album until Micheal Jackson replaced it with his “Thriller”.

West Side Story (1961)

The New York Philharmonic musical director, Bernstein, was an extremely successful composer choice for the film version of the sensation from Broadway. The film version of “West Side Story” by directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins achieved even more popularity and fame than the Broadway version of the play. This is undoubted because Bernstein and his lyricist Stephen Sondheim hired three times as many musicians for the film’s musical accompaniment as initially intended.

However, the additional costs for this were quickly recouped: the film music is a real firework in the form of a symphony orchestra!

A Star Is Born (2018)

Bradley Cooper, director and star of the contemporary remake of the long-running musical A Star Is Born, had never sung before he took the stage as backcountry singer Jackson Maine. Fortunately, he hired some very talented musicians to create the film’s soundtrack, a mix of blues, country, folk-rock, pop, and eventually an Oscar hit (“Shallow”).

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Cooper not only shared the mic with mega-pop star Lady Gaga, who wrote and performed much of the soundtrack, but Americana artist Jason Isbell also provided lyrics for one of Jackson’s biggest hits, “Maybe It’s Time.”

The collaboration between Gaga, Cooper, Lukas Nelson, and other artists like Jason Isbell and Diane Warren stands on its own with its fusion of roots rock and pure pop. Perhaps the film’s most outstanding achievement is making Jackson Maine and Ally believable real-life stars with catchy and accomplished songs. “Shallow” was the obvious single, but the more reflective pieces are also excellent. From Jackson’s folky “Maybe It’s Time” to Ally’s smash “Why Did You Do That,” there isn’t a single wrong track to be found.

Even the dialogue tracks of the musical album are not worth skipping over.

The Pink Panther (1963)

Henry Mancini opted for the invasive use of horns in the title tune of “The Pink Panther” to create a sonic sense of being caught. Moreover, with this soundtrack, Mancini succeeded in establishing his unique Symphonic Jazz with Latino elements in the masses.

The film and music were such a success that the pink four-legged friend was later honored in the form of a comic book. A real cult film classic!

Dance of the Vampires (1967)

Krzysztof Komeda was the genius behind Roman Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires. He combined Eastern European folk songs, eerie choral vocals, and a love anthem to create a unique masterpiece of film music.

Unfortunately, the rising star in Hollywood’s composer firmament was denied a successful career because he died at the age of 37 due to a fall at a party. The musical of the same name later achieved world fame and is still one of the most successful stage plays in many countries.

Play Me the Song of Death (1968)

In this case, the melody is better known than the film and yet inseparable from it: Ennio Morricone immortalized himself with “Man With A Harmonica” in “Play Me the Song of Death.” The Italo-Western is one of the most successful representatives of its genre and constructing a railroad in the Wild West. Morricone did a great job because who wouldn’t have the image of cowboys with drawn guns in his head during this sequence?

One of the most played film compositions with an extremely high recognition value. The soundtrack sold over ten million copies.

Clockwork Orange (1971)

Walter Carlos adapted classical pieces, z. B. Beethoven’s 9. Symphony or Rossini’s “Thieving Magpie” through electric impulses, alienated by the vocoder precursor Spectrum Follower, makes every note sound wonderfully bizarre and eerie. The inner turmoil of Walter Carlos during the composition of the soundtrack is audible because while he was composing and recording, he underwent a sex change, with the result that Walter became Wendy.

Nevertheless, a successful soundtrack only made the film better.

The Godfather, The Godfather – Part II (1972/74)

Nino Rota’s “Godfather Waltz” reflects all the melancholy and tragedy of the Corleone clan in New York. The story of the Mafia family is peppered with murder and family honor, betrayal, grief, and melancholy.

The weight of the burden on Don Corleone and his son Michael is masterfully brought out in the title theme. The second most famous Der Godfather song is “Kay,” composed by the director’s father, Carmine Coppola. It is a variation of Duke Ellington’s “Lotus Blossom” and is dedicated to the beautiful Corleone wife Kay, who is dying of grief in the face of her husband’s profession.

Tragic and yet promising to the end.

Jaws (1975)

John Williams was not taken seriously at first by director Steven Spielberg when he played his melody, consisting of two notes, on the pia№ Fortunately, Spielberg trusted the composer’s judgment and expertise as to the effect of sound.

The crescendo sequence of notes created the necessary tension in the film and is now one of the most famous sequences. It works even in parodies and when just showing a dog catching its ball.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Richard O’Brien is responsible for the party hit “Time Warp.” The composer even had a supporting role as Riff Raff in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

The first great Rocky in film history was not Silvester Stallone, but the protagonist of the same name. “Time Warp” developed into the Queer statement of the gay movement of the time and was a bright spot of pop culture in the 1970s.

Dirty Dancing (1987)

“My baby belongs to me!”What woman hasn’t had this phrase come up in her dreams at one time or another? What girl wouldn’t have wanted to be “Baby” in 1987? Patrick Swayze, or “Johnny,” was also well received by his fellow sexagenarians – dark clothing, sunglasses, upright gait, and always a casual move in his repertoire.

If this guy didn’t score with the ladies, who did?! But not only did the acting performance of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze go down in history, but also the film soundtrack to DEM Dance Film “Dirty Dancing.” Timeless radio classics like “Hungry Eyes” and “She’s like the wind” are still played on the radios 30 years later. But no other song is more associated with “Dirty Dancing” than “I’ve had the time of my life,” which stands for the final dance scene in the movie.

This one can’t do without incidental music, and the movie would have ended downright boring without incidental music at this point. The two singers, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes received an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy for their vocal performance, even though both were hesitant to be hired for the film, as it was considered a low-budget movie at the time. Their decision in favor of the movie duet was the right one, as the song sold over 50 million copies worldwide. “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” was Warner’s third Oscar-winning film soundtrack track in the 1980s, and that record remains unbeaten to this day.

8 Mile (2002)

“Lose Yourself,” a hard-edged rap song written with blood, sweat, and mom’s spaghetti, is still relevant. The rest of the soundtrack to Marshall Mathers’ semi-autobiographical origin story isn’t quite as memorable. Still, the mix of Shady-Esque interludes (D12, Obie Trice), early ’00s rap luminaries (Jay-Z, 50 Cent), and old-school legends (Rakim, Gang Starr) is an illuminating study of Eminem’s taste as a producer. At the present moment, it’s hard to imagine a mainstream pop star, let alone a struggling Detroit rapper, possessing the creative pull and overall vision to pull off a hard-hitting, idiosyncratic soundtrack like this one on this scale, topping the charts and conquering stadiums.

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Rocky (1976)

Bill Conti succeeded in creating a sportsman’s anthem without equal with “Gonna Fly Now”. Makes you want to jog up the stairs ahead just like in the movie.

The winning combination of choir, orchestra, and soul band make this soundtrack a finely crafted masterpiece. Other tracks on the album, such as “Take You Back,” pay tribute to Philadelphia, a struggling city at the time. Bands that were hot at the time, like “Kool & the Gang,” also got a nod on the album.

Rocky III” also joins the ranks of winners with its soundtrack. Which song is on almost every Workout Playlist to find? Right, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. The song stood for unlimited stamina and was therefore perfectly suited as the title track of “Rocky III.”

For weeks, the song was #1 on the Billboard charts, received a “Grammy” award and an “Oscar” nomination, and sold nearly 10 million copies worldwide. Incidentally, “Another one bites the dust” was to become the theme song of Rocky III. However, the band refused to use the music in Rocky III. So the director asked Survivor, who had written the song “Eye of the Tiger” for “Karate Kid.”

The directors of both films agreed, and the film was finally released for “Rocky III.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Sometimes it does happen that sequels occasionally outshine their predecessors. Now, we’re not saying that the second installment of James Gunn’s Marvel adventure is narratively superior. But we say it’s the decisive winner when it comes to the great retro mixtape-inspired soundtrack.

A joyful and nostalgic mix of oldies and classics – think “Mr. Electric Light Orchestra’s “Blue Sky,” Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” – these tracks are the premium content of your dad’s cassette collection.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

John Williams made himself immortal with the soundtrack of “Star Wars.” The legendary theme tune is recognized by everyone, anywhere, anytime, in any context. No further explanation is required.

The songs “Han Solo And The Princess”, “Yoda’s Theme” and the “Imperial March” are also very popular and have a similarly high level of recognition. Not surprisingly, even aliens recognize this tune.

Trainspotting (1996)

Danny Boyle’s black comedy about heroin addiction and economic depression twitches, pulses, and grooves to the many Britpop and Rock songs, selected for the soundtrack. Adapting Irvine Welsh’s cult novel, the filmmaker used music by Pulp, Sleeper, Primal Scream, Blur, Underworld, New Order, and Brian Eno to immerse viewers in the dark world in which his film is set. Eno’s song “Deep Blue Day,” normally a fairly soothing track, accompanies the scene where Ewan McGregor’s Renton dives headfirst into a toilet bowl to fish out his opiate suppositories.

Lou Reed’s lovely “Perfect Day,” now often used with a dash of irony, scores an accidental overdose.

After the album’s release, the film’s huge fan base prompted record label EMI to release a second soundtrack that included additional songs featured in the film and tracks used as inspiration or filler for certain scenes during production. People couldn’t get enough.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

John Williams probably provided the most parodied film score – in the form of the “Raiders March” in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The royalties collected for this film song must be worth billions of dollars.

Unfortunately, Williams lost to Vangelis’ “Chariots Of Fire” at the “Oscar” ceremony in the same year, but this did not diminish the song’s success.

Das Boot (1981)

Klaus Doldinger had racked his brains for a long time about conveying the mood onboard a submarine amid the turmoil of World War II in the film music for “Das Boot.” Finally, he came up with sonar sounds in the song, making the song a bull’s eye with a high recognition value. Viewers can put themselves aboard the submarine and be part of the crew as they embark on their last fateful mission in World War II to the tune of “Waiting,” “Sinking,” “Grounded,” and “Trapped.”

With this composition, the jazz genius Doldinger became a great screen composer and immortalized himself.

Drive (2011)

If there is one literary device that filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has masterfully decoded, it is juxtaposition. See Exhibit A: Drive, a violent action flick backed by a collection of dazzling, romantic, ’80s-inspired pop tracks.

Ryan Gosling plays a stunt performer who moonlights as a getaway driver and gets involved with some small-time West Coast gangsters. But don’t expect him to tell you that – there’s very little dialogue from his character. Fortunately, we have The Chromatics, Lovefoxxx, College, and Desire to fill the awkward silence with dreamy tunes.

Legend (1985)

Jerry Goldsmith is responsible for this admittedly cheesiest than cheesy movie soundtracks, but he knew how to tailor beautiful melodies to elves and unicorns alike like no other. Americans and Canadians listened to Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack in the cinema, while Europeans enjoyed Goldsmith’s fairy-tale orchestra.

The entire soundtrack was performed by a real orchestra, backed only by synthesizers to supplement it. The musically underscored scene where the unicorns appear in the clearing by the creek is etched in the memory of every moviegoer in the 1980s.

Twilight (2008)

The moodiness of teenagers has never sounded so sexy. Twilight is a love story between a high school student and a vampire who can’t resist her; Twilight is the quintessential gothic teen melodrama. The soundtrack elevates the paranormal romance of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling book to more extraordinary, more decadent emotional heights. Given the story’s Pacific Northwest setting, the soundtrack is appropriately laid-back and alternative-rock. Artists such as Linkin Park, Iron & Wine, and Collective Soul provide thought-provoking music. Leave it to Paramore, who offered the Grammy-nominated original lead single “Decode” to capture the dangerous, unadulterated desire of Edward and his beloved Bella.

It’s tender and lusty, like what brought many young fans to the franchise in the beginning – and if the baseball scene, for example, were as hot (and silly) as it was without the use of Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole”? Probably not.

The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship (2001)

Howard Shore composed each character from “Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship” with its motif – whether Gandalf or Sauron, they all received their musical tribute. Since the composer had not only a few weeks, but the production of the film dragged on for months, he had the necessary time to produce powerful, captivating sequences for the battle scenes and gentle, beautiful passages for the intimate moments of the protagonists.

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Despite being purely classical, the soundtrack is one of the most captivating and impressive cinematic works of the modern era. A true tour de force, as powerful as the film itself!

Black Panther (2018)

Compiled by Kendrick Lamar and Anthony Tiffith. The album often feels more like a TDE music project than a traditional soundtrack – which means it’s incredible.

Lamar’s voice and sensibility extend throughout the record, with many genres and artists featured here. (“King’s Dead” remains a hit with audiences.) Like the rest of the creative team behind the wildly successful and acclaimed black superhero film, Lamar was driven by the power of director Ryan Coogler’s vision. As the director told radio station NPR, the original plan was for the (very busy) rapper to contribute only a few songs. “Then he came in and watched quite a bit of the film,” Coogler said. “And the next thing I knew, they booked a studio and started working on it.”

The album features socially-motivated hip-hop from Lamar as well as rap heavyweights like SZA, 2 Chainz, Future, and others. The album is balanced by Khalid from pop and Jorja Smith from R&B, giving Wakanda the epic soundscape it deserves.

Vaiana (2016)

Lin Manuel-Miranda left the stage of Hamilton and entered the world of Disney when he signed on to produce the music for what many are calling the House of Mouse’s “most perfect film.” We have to assume that the superlative refers not only to the animated gem’s suited Polynesian voyager and her empowering journey to save her family’s island but also to the brilliant soundtrack, with tracks like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s chilling rap-pop number “You’re Welcome” and Auli’i Cravalho’s award-winning anthem “How Far I’ll Go.”

Back to the Future (1985)

By structure alone, Back to the Future is perhaps the perfect soundtrack. Hit original songs, iconic classics, a memorable film score, and a few B-sides by legendary musicians; in just 10 pieces, pretty much everything is included. The soundtrack goes beyond that, though, co-opting a classic and another all-time classic in a truly unforgettable scene that makes the movie score and original hits almost secondary.

Just play the riff of “Johnny B. Goode” in a public place and wait to see how long it takes for someone to yell out “Marvin Berry”.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

In addition to a wintry score by Danny Elfman, Smith contributed several beautiful pieces from his album Either/Or and also wrote an original soundtrack, “Miss Misery,” a husky, wide-eyed waltz that casts bittersweet echoes on an empty highway, subtly echoing the film while adding new, universal dimensions of longing. It almost won an Oscar, but the prize was irrelevant; in its new snow globe capture of an all-too-sensitive soul begging the world for forgiveness, “Miss Misery” was Smith’s perfect equation.

Gone with the Wind (1939)

The excellent melody for the final scene of “Gone with the Wind,” mistakenly traded as a love theme, is one of the most famous film tunes worldwide. When Rhett Butler leaves his Scarlett O’Hara, and she sinks to the ground on the porch steps with a broken heart, one might think that Max Steiner’s music is about love in vain, but the hymn is dedicated to the plantation “Tara,” the location of the action in the film.

The soundtrack runs over two and a half hours and almost won an Oscar in 1940, but fell short of the soundtrack of Herbert Stothart’s “Wizard of Oz”.

Ben Hur (1959)

Allegedly, the soundtrack to the classic film “Ben Hur” is the most extended film score ever recorded, lasting over three hours. Hungarian composer Miklós Rósza, who had already made a name for himself at the time through his work with Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, proved ideally cast to provide the musical accompaniment to this epic drama adaptation an impoverished prince fights his way back to the top as an enslaved person.

The film would probably have been only half as successful without the soundtrack.

Psycho (1960)

The film itself is already cult – but the shower scene combined with the shrill staccato strings, masterfully arranged by Bernard Herrmann, is legendary and known to every film fan. The full horror of this scene is only fully palpable to the viewer through Herrmann’s musical Performeration of the stabbings. The almost electronic staccato sounds were achieved by placing the microphones very close to the instruments.

Hitchcock, by the way, originally wanted to show this scene without incidental music, which led to a dispute between director and composer. This resulted in a rift between the two, but Herrmann got his way, and the scene received the intended backing music that eventually went down in history.

The Bodyguard (1992)

Yes, the on-screen romance between Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner is obvious. And of course, even though it sometimes chokes on melodramatic schmaltz, it’s a nostalgic and fun movie to watch again and again. But the soundtrack is pure sugar.

The Bodyguard soundtrack, which features the vocal gymnastics of one of the greatest singers of all time, Whitney Houston (“I Will Always Love You,” “I Have Nothing,” “Run to You”) and several others (Joe Cocker’s “Trust in Me,” Lisa Stanfield’s “Someday (I’m Coming Back)”), is the main reason this 1992 romantic thriller is so successful.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

John Barry scored with his eleven companion pieces to the Bond classic “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” but the title theme is the real star on the album. He chose to record is purely instrumental, and the orchestra and band have outdone themselves.

An incomparable film hit that went down in Bond history.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Maurice Jarre achieved a real coup with the soundtrack to the biographical adventure film “Lawrence of Arabia,” winning his first Oscar together with director David Lean. Later he won more Academy Awards for “Doctor Zhivago” and “Journey to India.” The soundtrack is multi-layered and multi-faceted. Its range represents the vastness and loneliness of the desert, the relentless nature, the unalterable course of life, the utter strangeness of Arabia.

The soundtrack is a force of nature and a musical masterpiece at the same time and transports the viewer back to Arabia of that time.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Boogie Nights (1997)

La La Land (2016)

The Lion King (1994)

Ghostbusters – The Ghost Hunters (1984)

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Rest of the World (2010)

American Beauty (2000)

Shaft (1971)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Good Fellas – Drei Yearzehnte in der Mafia (1990)

Friday (1995)

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Shining (1980)

Donnie Darko (2001)

Confusion – Sommer der Ausgeflippten (1993)

Almost Famous – Fast berühmt (2000)

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Juno (2007)

Baby Driver (2017)

O Brother, Where Art Thou? – Eine Mississippi-Odyssee (2000)

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Crazy Rich (2018)

Above the Rim – Nahe dem Abgrund (1994)

Rocketman (2019)

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Die Eiskönigin – Völlig unverfroren (2013)

Vielleicht lieber morgen (2012)

Superfly (1972)

Repoman (1984)

About a Boy oder: Der Tag der toten Ente (2002)

American Graffiti (1973)

Spider-Man: A New Universe (2018)

The Harder They Come (1972)

Garden State (2004)

Dreamgirls (2006)

Die Reifeprüfung (1967)

Footloose (1984)

High Fidelity (2000)

Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol.1

Lost Highway (1997)

Crazy Heart (2009)

Sing Street (2016)

Das Empire Team (1995)

Selena (1997)

Rushmore (1998)

Die Schöne und das Biest (2017)

Hi-Hi-Hilfe! (1965)

2001: Odyssee im Weltraum (1968)

Into the Wild (2007)

The Crow – Die Krähe (1994)

Blue Velvet (1986)

Adventureland (2008)

Spring Breakers (2012)

Lost in Translation (2002)

Clueless – Was sonst! (1995)

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Heat (1995)

Karate Kid (1984)

Zodiac – Die Spur des Killers (2007)

Die Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Jackie Brown (1997)

Toy Story (1995)

Titanic (1997)

Which soundtrack is your favorite? Is it perhaps not on the list above? This list can indeed be continued at will, and the film titles mentioned above are only a sample of the best film songs ever written, without any claim to completeness.

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