Best Movie Soundtracks in History: What Makes a Good Score

  • Our favourite films usually have the best musical themes
  • Our article collected the best movie soundtracks in history
  • Learn about what makes a good musical score
best movie soundtracks in history

Movie soundtracks are essential parts of any motion picture. Yet you can probably only name a few that is so distinctive anyone will recognise them. We dedicate this article to famous film composers and their work. This article discusses the best movie soundtracks in history, make sure to give them a listen!

Cinema is an audiovisual experinece. As a viewer, our senses and emotions are constantly stimulated when watching a great production. Preferences in films might vary, but the music that accompanies the motion picture is a strong element in our experience as a viewer. For this reason, arguably, the music that is made for films is a rightfully independent art form. When we think about it, the best movies that come to mind all have something beyond great direction, acting and story-telling: the music.

The best movie soundtracks in history come from composers who specifically took time, effort and talent to create a piece that comes perfectly hand in hand with the visual experience. There are countless awards dedicated to film composers, but of course, recognition usually comes from the most prestigious of all. That being, the Academy Awards and the Grammy’s. In this article, we take a look at the best musical scores and their place in cinematography.

What makes the best movie soundtracks in history?

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best movie soundtracks in history
Let’s listen!

Much like great classical music pieces, soundtracks take time to unfold. Although soundtracks can be just as successful when the director picks out already existing songs and scores, this time, our focus is on original scores. The composer and director work hand in hand to create themes. Melodies, that will not only sit in our ears for years but give dimension and soul to each character. It is a popular opinion, that the best movie soundtracks in history reflect every moment that happens during the film. Not only does it creates the perfect atmosphere but with returning themes, it manages to help the actor deliver subtle emotions right into our souls. Truly listing all the best movie soundtracks in history would be ambitious, therefore we aim to highlight a few that can’t be left without mentioning.

The king of western-themed soundtracks

Right at the first mention in our list, there is some trouble. In the case of Ennio Morricone, we could easily mention all the scores he ever made. Yet, what most of us will always remember him from, are the scores made for Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The latter is the single most recognizable musical motifs in film history. Just by listening to the score even without the film we immediately feel like we are in the wild wild West. The tension in this music is exceptional, and will always be at the top of every list. For this reason, it is only fair to start our selection with Morricone’s masterpiece in the list of best movie soundtracks in history.

Star Wars

By equally famous composer John Williams, the Star Wars saga become known for its original score. The themes and melodies in the Star Wars series are truly a great example of capturing the tones of different characters. This work had a major contribution to modern film music. Williams paired classical composition techniques and style with modern sounds, effects. The result: one of the best movie soundtracks in history. Who wouldn’t recognise and immediately feel the power of the Darth Vader theme? John Williams’ composition withstands the test of time.

Harry Potter themes

Another great work from John Williams. Of course, the Harry Potter series’ multiple films changed a lot in terms of the musical score, the original themes for Harry, Hedwig and countless characters and scenes were truly magical. The original score of the Harry Potter films is the music for multiple generations. It is impossible to imagine that any other soundtrack could give back  J.K. Rowling’s fascinating wizarding world. One of the most impressive things about the Harry Potter score is the reappearance of motifs. Apart from Joh Williams, multiple composers have worked on the score, such as Alexander Desplat.  In each film, new motifs appeared and added to the original theme.

best movie soundtracks in history
Harry Potter has some iconic music

He is a Pirate

Composed by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer for the 2003 Disney film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, this film score is instantly recognisable. Listen to the piece on a good speaker and you will be able to hear Badelt and Zimmer insert Irish sea shanties within the orchestral layers. It’s been reported that the composers purposefully repeated the musical phrase over and over to reflect the rocking motion of the ocean. While the movie belonged to Johnny Depp’s woozy rapscallion, Captain Jack Sparrow, this score is a pure gold treasure. Hans Zimmer is also one of the few modern film music composers whose work is outstanding for each project he works on.

Best movie soundtracks in history: honourable mentions

Having highlighted a few great scores, there is still much more to cover. In the list of honourable mention for the best movie soundtracks in history, the following scores deserve the same appreciation:

  • My Heart Will Go On, Titanic, 1997
  • The theme song from Mission: Impossible, 1996
  • Grand Budapest Hotel by Alexander Desplat, 2014
  • Amélie by Yann Tiersen, 2001
  • The Wizard of Oz by Herbert Stothart, 1939
  • Psycho by Bernard Hermann, 1959
  • Shaft by Isaac Hayes, 1971
  • Trainspotting by Danny Boyle, 1996
  • The Godfather by Nino Rota, 1972
  • West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, 1957

The list could go on forever, and we await more and more talented composers to show up. As the Academy Awards is approaching, online sportsbooks in the UK offer multiple betting options on the best original score in 2021. See offers on Unibet Sportsbook and decide for yourself which soundtrack is most likely to make history in the world of soundtracks.

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