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What makes a good movie? An exciting plotline with surprising twists? Sure. Well-written characters? Definitely. But there’s one thing that you can appreciate even if those two criteria aren’t met. It’s not what you see, but what you hear.
You may forget the events of your favorite movie, even the lead character’s name, but you never really forget the songs from your favorite movies. Like the opening of Star Wars — you can hear it playing in your head right now — or the magical songs of the Harry Potter films. These musical masterpieces will live forever.
In order to celebrate these musical gems (and the brilliant films they were written for) properly, we have compiled a list of the best movie soundtracks that you can listen to right now on Spotify. Because sometimes you just need to listen to the tunes from your favorite movie to remind yourself how much you enjoyed watching it.
1. The Godfather by Nino Rota
The beautiful sounds of trumpet intertwined with strings composed by Nino Rota paint the old world of The Godfather with some special charm and grace. The soundtrack consists of some truly melancholic compositions that will take you straight to Italy. It’s where waltz meets jazz and swing, all braided in together by some somewhat dark orchestral music.
2. Psycho by Bernard Hermann
Does the slow-building high pitched string wail from the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho still induce panic on you, no matter how many times you’ve watched the movie? That’s how powerful the piece of music composed by Bernard Hermann is. The composer’s techniques compliment the black and white classic, creating a constant air of suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat, making Psycho one of the best thrillers ever made.
3. Blade Runner by Vangelis
The musical treat of string combinations and synthesizer tones that is the soundtrack for Blade Runner instantly transport you to the dark dystopian world of this movie. Although each piece is quite unique and diverse, there’s a certain sense of mystery that winds its way through every song, creating a constant musical mist of a soundtrack.
4. American Graffiti by Various Artists
This soundtrack is pretty much George Lucas’ memories of growing up in early sixties California for one of the greatest coming-of-age films, American Graffiti. This rather large 41-song soundtrack consists of classic rock and roll, featuring easy-listening hits like Louie Louie, Surfin’ Safari, and Maybe Baby.
5. Pulp Fiction by Various Artists
It’s hard to imagine a better fit for the long, rich-in-words scenes of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction than the gritty surf rock and soul music that form the movie’s soundtrack. The director’s choices also influenced the then-fading popularity of the surf rock music genre in America, as well as all over the world.
6. Saturday Night Fever by Various Artists
Saturday Night Fever boasts probably the world’s most perfect disco soundtrack. Since the movie’s release in the mid-70s, this group of songs has received multiple awards. Besides, this compilation-based soundtrack is what made the disco scene in the United States so epic at the time.
7. O Brother, Where Art Thou? by Various Artists
This playful mix of Appalachian folk songs also ranks among the most successful compilation soundtracks of all time. Over the years it has been certified eights-times platinum. Driven by beautiful vocals, the songs are graceful interpretations of the all-time classics that feature various folk instruments like mandolin and banjo.
8. Goodfellas by Various Artists
The gangster classic by Martin Scorsese Goodfellas is known for its very precise soundtrack choices. Carefully handpicked jazz-driven tunes coincide with the emotions of both characters and the audience, as well as what’s happening in each scene of the film.
9. Almost Famous by Various Artists
Almost Famous is a movie that you could watch just for the soundtrack. Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and Yes are just a few of the names featured in this astonishing soundtrack. For those not convinced, Almost Famous is a tale of a promising band from the 70s, on their way to success. The collision of what you see on the screen and what you hear is almost impossibly perfect.
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10. Back to the Future by Alan Silvestri
The Back to the Future trilogy has plenty of twists in it, adding both fast-paced rhythm and intensity to the films. The tunes used in the movies, composed by Alan Silvestri, will stir it up for you even more. Expect harp for fun and romantic moments and deep horn cues for high-speed chases. However, if orchestral numbers don’t do it for you, Huey Lewis’ catchy 80s hits will most definitely win your heart.
11. The Dark Knight Trilogy by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Unlike many superhero movies, The Dark Knight Trilogy is dark and mysterious. The soundtrack, created by co-composers Howard and Zimmer, doesn’t copy any of the superhero film cliches, pushing it so far as keeping the main theme introduction until the very end of the first movie. Deep drum and brass cues create a Batman image more dramatic and primal than anything before it.
12. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by Howard Shore
Some of the most contrasting musical instruments like drums vs. strings, or brass vs. woodwinds join and meet in Howard Shore’s soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The musical diversity of sounds showcases an epic universe with a variety of creatures. The world of magic and power, with Celtic melodies that serve to spawn feelings of both tension and release, all come together throughout this fantastic three-part franchise.
13. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by John Williams
Speaking of magic, let us not forget one more of John Williams’ masterpieces: his soundtrack to the first Harry Potter movie. “Hedwig’s Theme,” which appears throughout the film, is one of the main components of the wizarding world created for the franchise. This keyboard piece is probably the first thing you hear play in your head whenever someone mentions Harry Potter in a conversation.
14. Star Wars by John Williams
Probably one of the most epic film soundtracks ever written, the Star Wars tunes by John Williams have become truly iconic. Instantly recognizable by anyone around the globe, this music is familiar even to those who have never seen the franchise. In order to create this unforgettable music, the composer took inspiration from space-themed classical compositions like Gustav Holst’s The Planets series. They perfectly capture the emotions of the space opera set a long time ago (not in the 1980s) in a galaxy far, far away.
15. Interstellar by Hans Zimmer
Remember that feeling of vast emptiness and dark infinity of space that you got while watching Interstellar? That is at least partly thanks to the brilliant job Hans Zimmer did with the soundtrack. Many of these musical pieces contain strings and organ. Both of which create an aural backdrop that allows you to sink in and remain deeply in thought for the entire duration of the film.
16. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Various Artists
A truly mysterious classic by Stanley Kubrick benefits greatly from a brilliant soundtrack. Classical works by Johann Strauss II and Aram Khachaturian help create the eerie backdrops and monumental scenes that compliment this sci-fi masterwork, together with revolutionary effects and camera work.
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17. Trainspotting by Various Artists
Trainspotting is another one of those films in which music plays a key role in creating the right atmosphere. The soundtrack that features songs by music icons like Iggy Pop, New Order, and Primal Scream helps paint the drug-filled U.K. underground scene, and the lifestyle of its inhabitants.
18. This Is Spinal Tap by Spinal Tap
Without a doubt, no film ever captured the absurdity of life as a rocker like this one. And in order to make This Is Spinal Tap convincing, they had to get the musical details right. But what’s more significant is that Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer turn the Tap into a real band, giving us the art of “Big Bottom” and the epic “Stonehenge”.
19. The Graduate by Simon and Garfunkel
What could better suit (and underline) the sticky conflicts of The Graduate than soft ballads sung by folk legends Simon and Garfunkel? This soundtrack will win you over with its complexity and musical symmetry. It helps drive the plot, as well as transport you to some unexpected and interesting places.
20. Garden State by Various Artists
The Garden State soundtrack compiled by Zach Braff has stirred the waters of the music world for more than one band. Being featured in this classic indie film helped acts like The Shins and Iron and Wine to reach new heights in their careers.
What Is Your Favorite Movie Soundtrack?
Although it’s true that tastes differ, some movies are cast-iron classics and hence will remain our favorites forever. And their soundtracks are an important part of the equation.
With that in mind, what is your most beloved movie soundtrack of all time? Please share your favorites with us in the comments below!