We can all reel off our favourite film but many of us don’t spare a thought for the soundtrack that was produced alongside it. You might not realise just how important the soundtrack to your favourite movie is. A good movie soundtrack makes a movie more engaging. Some dramatic scenes in a movie just wouldn’t cut it without the accompanying music.
Oftentimes, a soundtrack, rather than the acting, is the thing in a movie that provokes our emotions. Imagine what your favourite movie would be like without its soundtrack. It would likely be a completely different viewing experience.
After a great deal of research (and copious listening hours spent), we’ve come up with a list of the best movie soundtracks of all time.
To get the full benefit of these tracks, it’s best to listen to them on a good quality pair of noise cancelling ear or headphones so that you can truly appreciate the sound.
20. The Truman Show by Burkhard Dallwitz/Philip Glass
19. Rain Man by Hans Zimmer
I bet you didn’t expect to see this on our list. The soundtrack to this epic Jim Carrey film is simply stunning. It captures everything needed for this movie including humour, loss, mystery, bravery and accomplishment. Although it wasn’t nominated for any awards, it still deserves to be on our list of the best movie soundtracks ever made.
We all know the 80s film Rain Man and will likely recognise its movie theme song, composed by Hans Zimmer. The film didn’t require a dramatic musical accompaniment and so Zimmer got to work with creating a modest, fitting and memorable soundtrack to this movie. Rain Man was a massive hit and was the highest grossing film in 1988. For its soundtrack, Hans Zimmer won a BMI film music award after being nominated for best music and best original score.
18. The Lion King by Hans Zimmer
Disney’s Lion King was full of scenes with a musical accompaniment. Such scenes needed to provoke a range of emotions including excitement, uplifting, drama and sadness. Zimmer really pulled out things off with this deeply satisfying and fulfilling soundtrack, winning him an Academy Award for best score.
17. The Last of the Samurai Hans Zimmer
Last of the Samurai, starring Tom Cruise and directed by Edward Zwick was a global success at the box office. The last of the Samurai is yet another movie where Hans Zimmer blew us away with his musical compositions. The soundtrack captures a Japanese essence and a great deal of raw emotion. The soundtrack was nominated for best original score at the Golden Globes and was also nominated for a various other awards.
16. Lord Of The Rings by Howard Shore
Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series was 9 hours of filming with each dramatic scene requiring a different piece of music. You’d think that to be quite a daunting task for any composer…especially for a film that has so much going on in it including war scenes, dramatic scenes, happy, sad and thrilling scenes. Not for Howard Shore. He managed to pull this off without any issue.
15. ET by John Williams
ET is a 1982 film directed by Steven Spielberg. We all know what the movie is when we hear this being played. It’s one of the most iconic and memorable movie theme soundtracks ever made. Williams won numerous awards for this including an Academy Award for best original score and a Grammy award for best score soundtrack. It also wins a place on our list of the best movie soundtracks.
14. Lady In The Water by James Newton Howard
2006 film, Lady In The Water, was directed by M. Night Shyamalan . A lot of people may not be familiar with this movie or it’s soundtrack. However, the soundtrack to this movie was second to none, evidenced by Howard’s IFMCA Award for best original score.
13. Dancing with Wolves by John Barry
This motion 1990 film, starring Kevin Costner, was an instant hit at the box office. This movie soundtrack, composed by John Barry, received an Academy Award for best original score and also a Grammy award for best instrumental compilation.
12. The Last Of The Mohicans by Trevor Jones
When we think of The Last of the Mohicans, most of us recall the soundtrack straight away. The tone of this soundtrack really is spot on. It manages to capture the essence of the time period exceptionally well. Director, Michael Mann’s, original idea for the movie soundtrack was an electronic accompaniment. However, later on, he had a complete change of heart believing instead that an orchestral score would be more fitting for the historical significance of this film.
11. Avatar by James Horner
Next on the list for the best movie soundtrack is Avatar. Not only is Avatar an amazing film (the highest grossing movie at the box office ever) but the soundtrack that was created for it is exceptional. Composed by James Horner in 2009, it won Saturn Awards and was nominated for various others including an Academy Award, British Academy and Film Award and Grammy Awards.
10. Inception by Hans Zimmer
Inception is a 2010 film directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Not only is Inception a great science fiction movie, it’s thrilling and gripping soundtrack really adds to its impact. Even though Inception was nominated for a number of categories at the Academy Awards, it sadly fell short of winning best score. Nevermind, it’s still one of our all time best movie soundtracks.
9. National Treasure by Trevor Rabin
This movie soundtrack was commissioned by Walt Disney records and made by Trevor Rabin. Even though this movie isn’t one of the greatest movie masterpieces, the exciting soundtrack was right on. Unfortunately, the soundtrack album didn’t receive any nominations or awards, however, it still makes our list of the greatest movie soundtracks ever made.
8. Transformers by Steve Jablonsky
Everyone had high expectations when it came to the release of this movie. Therefore it was important for this movie soundtrack to deliver. Steve Jablonsky went above and beyond to give us the perfect finish to this film. We imagine that it wouldn’t be the easiest task in the world for a composer to work on something sci-fi. However, Jablonsky delivered everything and more with his soundtrack, making this movie more gripping and exciting.
7. Jurassic Park by John Williams
Next on our soundtrack movie list is Jurassic Parks. This movie theme was composed by John Williams back in 1993. Surprisingly, it wasn’t nominated for any awards and peaked at a modest score of 28 on the US billboards. Still – it’s actually a stunning soundtrack. It’s done well with association too, what with it being one of the most recognisable movie tracks going. It’s a timeless piece that sounds amazing every time you hear it.
6. Interstellar by Hans Zimmer
Next on list of the best movie soundtracks is Interstellar. This soundtrack really does make this movie. We don’t know how he did it but Zimmer managed to create the feeling of space and thrill with this remarkable musical accompaniment. This soundtrack, with its dramatic edge, made the film easier to engage with, with some scenes leaving you on the edge of your seat (not possible without Zimmer’s contribution).
5. Pearl Harbor by Hans Zimmer
Pearl Harbour directed by Michael Bay was a box office success . The music that was produced for this movie was extraordinary. It was fitting in every way. Having quite an emotional storyline, Zimmer was sure to capture this on every dramatic scene going in the film. Zimmer was nominated at The Golden Globes for best original score.
4. Braveheart by James Horner
Braveheart was directed by Mel Gibson back in 1997. The music, composed by James Horner and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, is one of the best movie themes ever made. The soundtrack to Braveheart was a real success for this dramatic movie. There would be no way of this movie provoking such raw emotion without the accompanying soundtrack. Braveheart was nominated for multiple awards including the Academy Awards for best score and The Saturn, BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards.
3. Armageddon by Trevor Rabin
Armageddon was released in 1998 and would have been nothing without Trevor Rabin’s amazing movie soundtrack. This musical accompaniment makes the movie. The dramatic scenes just wouldn’t be the same without it. It was nominated for numerous film awards including the Blockbuster Entertainment and Saturn Awards.
2. The DaVinci Code by Hans Zimmer
Another one from the legend that is Hans Zimmer. The soundtrack to the Da Vinci Code enhances this film in more ways than one. The DaVinci Code, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, was released in 2006 and was nominated in 2007 for a Golden Globe. Well deserving of a place on our list of the best movie soundtracks ever made.
1. Gladiator by Hans Zimmer
Ranking number 1 on our list of the best movie soundtracks is Hans Zimmer’s masterpiece from Gladiator. Released in 2000, this soundtrack is considered by many to be one of Zimmer’s best soundtracks of all time (and, as you’ll go on to see, he’s done a fair few of those). The hype around this is understandable – it’s moving and timeless. It echos for an eternity. The Gladiator soundtrack won a Golden Globe award for best original score. It was also nominated for an Academy Award and BAFTA. We believe it to be the greatest soundtrack of all time.