Behold the power of a great movie score: it takes a picture to new heights and lights up your living room in untold ways, especially when listened to on a quality audio system.
Here we explore 20 of the best movie scores of the last 20 years. If you haven’t yet enjoyed these epic films, what are you waiting for?
Based on the third volume of J.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, this blockbuster film features a compelling score by Howard Shore, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It won no fewer than 11 Academy Awards®, and deservedly so. Find out where to stream it here.
This 2003 fantasy stars Johnny Depp as the pirate Jack Sparrow and was the first in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The swashbuckling score was composed by Klaus Bedelt, with Hans Zimmer serving as music producer. Find out where to stream it here.
The gentle musical underpinning to this film set in the 1920s was composed by Alexandre Desplat and performed by Chinese pianist Lang Lang, earning Desplat a Golden Globe® Award for Best Original Score. The French composer went on to win another Golden Globe Award, plus an Oscar®, for The Shape of Water in 2018. Find out where to stream The Painted Veil here.
This movie is loosely based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! and stars Daniel Day-Lewis as an oil man driven by an endless quest for wealth. The unrelenting tension is heightened by a Grammy®-nominated score by Jonny Greenwood of the band Radiohead, recorded at the famed Abbey Road studios in London. Find out where to stream it here.
This romantic war drama is an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s bestselling novel of the same name. Italian composer Dario Marinanelli won an Oscar for Best Original Score and the film was nominated for six others. Find out where to stream it here.
This critically acclaimed superhero flick — the second installment of the Dark Knight Trilogy — stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and features a powerful, speaker-shaking score from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard that will test the merit of your subwoofer. An aural highlight: the nine-minute suite that introduces the Joker character, based around only two notes. Find out where to stream it here.
This British comedy-drama tells the story of an 18-year old who dreams of escaping the slums of Mumbai by winning a prize on a TV game show. The film won eight Academy Awards, including one for the soundtrack composed by A. R. Rahman. Find out where to stream it here.
Adapted by Aaron Sorkin from the bestseller The Accidental Billionaires, this film examines the beginnings of the social networking giant Facebook and the lawsuits that swirled around its creation. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (both of Nine Inch Nails fame) composed the soundtrack and won the 2011 Oscar and Golden Globe Best Original Score awards. Find out where to stream it here.
This film, the second in the conclusion to the Harry Potter series, is perhaps best known for its epic duel between Harry and his arch-nemesis Voldemort. The accompanying music by Alexandre Desplat was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. Find out where to stream it here.
This science fiction thriller stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as astronauts that are stranded in space. It received 10 Academy Award nominations and won seven of them, including Best Original Score for composer Steven Price. Included in the music are songs from Hank Williams Jr., Juaaka Lyberth, and Charles Scott with Chelsea Williams. Find out where to stream it here.
The score for this revisionist American western was written by the legendary Ennio Morricone, who composed over 400 films, including Clint Eastwood’s A Fistful Of Dollars and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Many regard Morricone as one of the greatest film composers of all time, and with good reason. Find out where to stream it here.
Set in 1823, this western survival drama stars Leonardo DiCaprio and follows a group of trackers through the wild, mountainous Dakotas. The moody, dark score, written by famed synthesist Ryuichi Sakamoto and German electronic composer Ala Noto (with additional music from Bryce Dessner) fits the emotional cinematography perfectly. Interestingly, the movie was ruled ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 because the Academy felt it was “assembled from the music of more than one composer.” Find out where to stream it here.
This joint American/Chinese production was directed by Yuen-Woo Ping and written by John Fusco. It’s the sequel to the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and features a score from composer Shigeru Umebayashi, who at one point was the bass player in a Japanese new wave rock band called EX. Find out where to stream it here.
This sequel to the original Blade Runner (released way back in 1982) stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks. Composer Benjamin Wallfisch collaborated with Hans Zimmer to handle the music score and the pair made great use of a vintage Yamaha CS-80 analog synthesizer to help evoke the emotions of the era. Find out where to stream it here.
This Marvel Comics superhero film stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther. Score composer Ludwig Goransson went to Africa to conduct research and worked with local musicians to ensure authenticity as he crafted the movie’s powerful musical foundation. There’s also a curated soundtrack produced by Kendrick Lamar. Find out where to stream it here.
A musical drama directed by John Favreau, The Lion King is a photorealistic computer animation remake of the 1994 film of the same name. Hans Zimmer, who scored the original, returned for this version as well, working in collaboration with Pharell Williams. The movie also features Elton John in a return engagement. Find out where to stream it here.
Based on the Marvel Comics Avengers superhero team, this explosive film features an A-list cast and an action-packed score from Alan Silvestri that he’s described as having “thunderous percussion and powerful brass.” Find out where to stream it here.
This psychological thriller based on DC Comics characters stars Joaquin Phoenix, who gives a tour de force performance as the Joker — a failed clown who creates a dark revolution in Gotham City. The score, composed by Icelandic cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir, snagged an Oscar and a Golden Globe award, and the movie’s soundtrack also includes classic songs such as Steven Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns” and “White Room,” performed by the legendary British rock trio Cream. Find out where to stream it here.
A computer-animated comedy-drama from Disney/Pixar, this engaging flick features the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey and Phylicia Rashad. It centers on a music teacher (Foxx) who is trying to reunite his soul with his body before getting his big break to become a jazz musician. The original music score was written by 2022 Grammy superstar Jon Batiste, with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails handling the ambient sound. Find out where to stream it here.
This critically acclaimed remake of the 1984 science fiction classic features an ensemble cast that includes Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Rebecca Ferguson. Shot in Hungary and Jordan, it was scored primarily by Hans Zimmer, who spent a week in the desert to help incorporate its ambiance into the atmospherics of the music. Find out where to stream it here.