Best Movie Soundtracks To Listen To Right Now

The best movie soundtracks are fun, different, and add important layers to the story, like these movie soundtracks do.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

the guardians of the galaxy holiday special

Movie soundtracks are a vital aspect of the movie art form, and they’re often ignored because the music layered in the background is only ever heard and never seen. Choosing the right song for a scene in a film can enhance the experience by conveying emotions without the need for dialogue; choosing the wrong song could completely ruin a scene by implying the wrong tone. Many soundtracks have become iconic, leaving Hollywood’s indelible mark on pop culture—here are the best movie soundtracks you can listen to right now.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The music for the first Guardians of the Galaxy had to become one of the best movie soundtracks because music is so crucial to the story and Peter Quill’s character. In the film, Quill (Chris Pratt) is kidnapped by aliens when he’s a kid and adopted into a group of space pirates. All he has left of the memory of his mother and his time on Earth is a mix tape with songs from the 70s and 80s, which heavily influences his character as he grows up.

The songs featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack are epic classic rock anthems high in energy and nostalgia that audiences of all ages can enjoy. The nostalgia older film watchers embrace echoes the nostalgia Quill feels as he lives his life lightyears away from his home planet. Meanwhile, the music also sets a much different tone for the high-energy space adventure film, than if Quill’s mixtape were filled with, say, sad country hits of the 70s and 80s instead.

La La Land (2016)

As a musical, the music in La La Land is also essential to the plot of the story. In a typical musical, music is used as a window into the minds and hearts of the characters, but in La La Land, a movie about artists who are risking it all to follow their dreams, the music is the heart of the character, not just a window for the audience. Therefore, it is essential that the film have one of the best movie soundtracks.

The music in La La Land is different than probably any other musical or movie as it combines inspiration from classic musicals, alludes to the Golden Age of Hollywood, and features homages to jazz music. It’s a different style, it’s catchy, and it’s fun to sing and dance to. It also won Best Original Score at the 2017 Academy Awards.

The Social Network (2010)

The Social Network is an example where having one of the best movie soundtracks totally makes the film. The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, tells the story of the creation of the world’s biggest online social network and how Zuckerberg was sued by twins who claimed they thought of the idea first. 

The soundtrack for the film, created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, became iconic as it perfectly encapsulated the tone of the movie, creating a dark underbelly to Zuckerberg’s character and adding to the mystique of a film based on the legal troubles of a foundational tech company. It’s because of the soundtrack that the film has made such a big impact on pop culture, in a way that may never have happened if Reznor and Ross were not involved.

Tron: Legacy (2010)

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For a movie that takes place in a digital science fiction world, it makes sense that the soundtrack reflects the digitalness of the feature. While Joseph Kosinski could have chosen rock or pop to accompany his film, he collaborated with the French electronic duo Daft Punk to compose the score instead, which is probably why Tron: Legacy ended up with one of the best movie soundtracks.

Tron: Legacy uses synthetic instruments and artificial intelligence to create a beautiful and exciting soundtrack for the sci-fi action adventure flick. The synthetic orchestra accompanying the film mirrors the synthetic world that Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) finds himself in.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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Blade Runner 2049 is now known for having one of the best movie soundtracks, but it was a journey for the film to get there. First, the rapper and producer El-P was contacted to work on a soundtrack for the film, but the director, Denis Villeneuve, didn’t like the creative direction the artist was going and decided to replace him with Johann Johannsson, whom he had worked with before on the film Prisoners (Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal). 

However, Villeneuve again changed creative direction halfway through and began working with composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, who finished the film with a new and different soundtrack based on Vangelis’s original work from the first Blade Runner. So, even though it took a while to get the right team together, it seems that Villeneuve’s vision paid off as the Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack works perfectly with the Ryan Gosling-led film. 

Interstellar (2014)

best movie soundtracks

There is a reason why Hans Zimmer is an award-winning composer as he’s had a hand in almost every best movie soundtrack ever made. In addition to working on Blade Runner 2049, Zimmer won an Oscar for his work on 1994’s The Lion King, and another one in 2022 for Dune. He also wrote the iconic theme for Interstellar.

Music is an art form that is able to create worlds, and Zimmer definitely uses his talent to bring spectacular worlds to life, adding new depth and layers to the director’s vision. While Zimmer didn’t win an Oscar for Interstellar’s soundtrack, he was nominated for a BAFTA, and the music remains some of the best ever heard in film.

The Dark Knight (2008)

best movie soundtracks

Now, we’re not trying to diss other fantastic film composers like Howard Shore or John Williams by continuously mentioning films with scores done by Hans Zimmer. Shore and Williams have created some of the best movie soundtracks in the industry, and their themes are nothing short of iconic. Apparently, we just have a penchant for Zimmer films because The Dark Knight soundtrack (created by Zimmer and James Newton Howard) is another great movie soundtrack to listen to right now.

Zimmer and Howard were chosen to create the music for The Dark Knight because they also worked on Batman Begins and Christopher Nolan wanted the two films to be connected to one another musically. It was a great choice because The Dark Knight ended up winning a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album.

Black Panther (2018)

best movie soundtracks

Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther: The Album started as a collection of songs but evolved into a monumental task just as heavily influential as the movie was to the film industry. As the most critically acclaimed rapper of his generation, Lamar’s soundtrack served as a stirring complement to the highly acclaimed film franchise. 

The album itself is exceptional, even though it deviates from the artist’s usual style. It recognizes the various ways a drum can communicate and portrays the boundless variations of African culture. Above all, it’s impossible to listen to the album without acknowledging the film’s limitless potential, which is exactly what the best movie soundtracks are meant to do.

Drive (2011)

best movie soundtracks

What’s in a name? For Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive, not much. In fact, the protagonist of the film doesn’t even have a name and is simply known as Driver, making it incredibly hard to flesh out a character. 

However, Gosling understood that the Driver was essentially a caricature of brooding antiheroes. He explained in a 2011 interview with Rotten Tomatoes that “This is a guy that’s seen too many movies, and he’s started to confuse his life for a film.” The philosophy extends to the soundtrack of Drive: a collection of Europop and synthwave tracks that would fit on a cool guy’s driving playlist. 

Despite this, the Drive soundtrack is hard to resist, from the ominous beat of Chromatics’ “Tick of the Clock” to the dreamy “Under Your Spell” by Desire. It’s through music that Gosling’s character is fleshed out, making this album one of the best movie soundtracks to come out of Hollywood.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

best movie soundtracks

Wes Anderson has never been one to follow standards, instead creating worlds in movies that feel more like they come from a parallel reality rather than from our own universe. So, it’s no surprise that Anderson employed composer Alexandre Desplat to create the film’s score, which was influenced by Russian folk music and includes both symphonic compositions and background drones, with the balalaika forming the core of the music. The result was a very different sound than what audiences were used to hearing, but it perfectly matched the vibe that Anderson was going for.

Additionally, Desplat created a different theme for each character, helping the audience keep the sprawling list of 17 stars (including Jude Law, Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, and so many others) in check. The film also won an Academy Award for Best Original Score, making The Grand Budapest Hotel go down in history as one of the best movie soundtracks.