Movie scores for every mood: a playlist for music and film lovers
From the epic to the romantic, here are 8 pieces of music that'll act as the perfect soundtrack for your day
A lot of elements go into the making of a successful film: acting, directing, editing, cinematography, art direction — the list goes on. Another important component is music. What would the famous Psycho scene look like without those killer strings? Would Jaws be as scary without the suspenseful soundtrack? Even non-Star Wars fans likely recognize that iconic theme.
Music can play an integral part to films, sometimes heightening the mood, other times acting as an atmospheric backdrop much like the actually setting of a film. While it's already a struggle to keep up with the onslaught of musical releases out there right now, film scores must not be forgotten. In fact, they can act as the perfect soundtrack for your day.
Don't know where to start? Below, we've made some recommendations of film scores — mostly focusing on releases from the past decade or so, to introduce you to some of today's most exciting film composers. There's a score for every type of film, so why not a score for every mood you're feeling?
Musical match: "House of Woodcock," Jonny Greenwood.
Film: Phantom Thread.
Jonny Greenwood's score for Paul Thomas Anderson's 2017 film, Phantom Thread, is one of the most opulent scores in recent history. Featuring a 60-piece orchestra, Greenwood spared no expenses making Anderson's tumultuous love story sound as luxurious as its '50s U.K. couture setting. While the music can tense up in parts of the overall soundtrack, highlighting the roller-coaster ups and downs of the film's main couple, "House of Woodcock" is a soaring piece that will surely make hearts flutter. Listening to Greenwood's work on this film, which was inspired by Glenn Gould's Bach recordings, is like waltzing on cloud nine in the most elegant ball gown ever.
Similar matches: "Agape," Nicholas Britell (If Beale Street Could Talk); "Maestro," Hans Zimmer (The Holiday).
Musical match: "Pas De Deux," Michael Abels.
There are a lot of iconic horror film scores, from John Carpenter's Halloween to John Williams' Jaws, but the past decade has given us some real goosebump-inducing ones that we can't stop listening to. There's Mica Levi's remarkable work on Under the Skin and Colin Stetson's terrifying Hereditary soundtrack, but our pick goes to the brilliant partnership between director Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) and composer Michael Abels. While the layered choral pieces Abels created for Get Out are indeed spooky, the thunderous orchestral flairs of his Us score — including his sinister spin on Luniz's "I Got 5 On It" — make Get Out sound tame by comparison. This Halloween, make sure to bust out this soundtrack if you want to give friends a real scare.
Similar matches: "Charlie," Colin Stetson (Hereditary); "Lipstick to Void," Mica Levi (Under the Skin).
Musical match: "Intro Song," Andy Hull and Robert McDowell.
Film: Swiss Army Man.
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's 2016 film, Swiss Army Man, is not exactly an adventure film but it does play with the mind and stretches of the imagination that'll surely inspire a feeling of epic proportions. Swiss Army Man follows a man (Paul Dano) who cuts his suicide attempt short when he discovers a dead body (played by Daniel Radcliffe) that has washed up onto the beach. From there, viewers enter a surrealist universe where the corpse is reanimated and becomes a companion for Dano's character. The score, by Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, uses this opportunity to play by its own rules, too: choirs and chants clash up against each other forming layers and textures that coalesce into something strangely beautiful and completely playful — the perfect anthem for a big adventure.
Similar matches: "Once There Was a Hushpuppy," Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild); "La Valse d'Amélie," Yann Tiersen (Amélie).
Musical match: "Inochi No Namae," Joe Hisaishi.
Film: Spirited Away.
Almost all Hayao Miyazaki films are accompanied by gorgeously composed scores, but Spirited Away's moving piano pieces perfectly capture a feeling of melancholy. Part of that feeling is, of course, tied to the story the film tells: a young girl is separated from her parents and enters a spiritual realm where she must fight for her and her family's freedom. Composed by longtime Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi, Spirited Away's music is simple but effective, illustrating a sense of longing that colours the entire film.
Similar matches: "Marguerite Gachet at the Piano," Clint Mansell (Loving Vincent); "Married Life," Michael Giacchino (Up).
Musical match: "Fiesta con de la Cruz," Michael Giacchino.
Disney films are a great place to look for joyous soundtracks, and there's nothing more festive than the bright, colourful score of 2017's Coco. Determined to make the film look and sound authentically Mexican, composer Michael Giacchino worked with some of Mexico's top musicians to craft something that marries tradition with Disney's signature fairytale-like grandeur. So, when you're not busy crying to the sweet melody of Oscar-winning number "Remember Me," you can dance along to instrumental standouts like "Fiesta con de la Cruz" and "The Newbie Skeleton Walk."
Similar matches: "Everything is Awesome," Tegan and Sara feat. the Lonely Island (The Lego Movie); "He Mele No Lilo," Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu with the Kamehameha Schools Children's Chorus (Lilo and Stitch).
Musical match: Interstellar Main Theme, Hans Zimmer.
Movies that take place in space are tasked with a unique musical challenge: how do you create a score that sounds vast and limitless? Will it be hopeful or haunting? Famed film composer Hans Zimmer strikes a great balance of both on his soundtrack for Christopher Nolan's 2014 space epic, Interstellar. Its main theme swells with sparkling energy that soars alongside the string arrangements but eventually gets entangled in something bigger — that's when the church organ really shines, lifting the listener up to new altitudes. The inclusion of a church organ helps breathe life into the music, as Nolan remarked: "You feel human presence in every sound."
Similar soundtracks: "The Landing," Justin Hurwitz (First Man); "Gravity (Theme Song)," Steven Price (Gravity).
Mood: going for a late-night drive.
Musical match: "Rubber Head," Cliff Martinez.
Perhaps a little on the nose, but Cliff Martinez's score for Nicolas Winding Refn's 2011 hit, Drive, is an ideal soundtrack for moody, late-night drives. A feeling of serenity washes over Martinez's music, which only feels unsettling when paired with the film's graphic violence. On its own, tracks like "Rubber Head" and "I Drive" are quite atmospheric and beautiful. But, if you're looking to recreate the neon-lit '80s vibe of Ryan Gosling cruising Los Angeles after dark, you can always turn to Drive's unofficial theme song, Kavinsky's "Nightcall," which kicks off the film's soundtrack.
Similar matches: "Leaving the Park," Oneohtrix Point Never (Good Time); "Sea Wall," Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch (Blade Runner 2049).
Musical match: "Lord Knows/Fighting Stronger," Meek Mill, Jhene Aiko, Ludwig Goransson.
One of the most motivating movie scenes ever has to be Sylvester Stallone racing up the steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the 1976 classic, Rocky. For a modern-day update, we recommend trying composer Ludwig Göransson's amped-up soundtrack for the 2015 offshoot, Creed. On "Lord Knows/Fighting Stronger," Göransson, who has also worked on stunning scores for director Ryan Coogler's other films, Black Panther and Fruitvale Station, found a way to make an even bigger-sounding score. Three minutes into the instrumental, Philly rapper Meek Mill jumps into the ring with a knock-out verse that pairs wonderfully to protagonist Creed's (Michael B. Jordan) own training journey in the film.
Similar matches: "A Dark Knight," Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight); "Portals," Alan Silvestri (Avengers: Endgame).