Music really makes the world go round, and pair it with a nail-biting moment from a tv show or a movie and it gets even better.
That’s why musical scores are so meticulously planned and executed, a lot of times with full orchestra setups. Cinematic moments become even more profound when they’re accompanied by a score that raises goosebumps on your arms. Whether it’s Dany riding her dragon to Westeros or Harry fighting Voldemort, whether it’s Interstellar delving into a Black Hole or Inception dream weaving into reality, every cinematic moment has been made more special and memorable because of these scores created by geniuses like Hans Zimmer, Ramin Djawadi, A. R. Rahman and more.
So I decided to share my love for musical scores and make a list of all-time amazing pieces that every time I listen to remind me of a scene that made me a fan of these television shows and movies.
1. Queen’s Gambit by Carlos Rafael Rivera
Start listening to the score and you’ll feel like you’re in one of those chess tournaments witnessing Beth play her Sicilian Defense with the ease and grace of an eagle eyeing its price. It’s gripping and exciting, and you find yourself waiting for her to glance up and visualize the chess pieces on the ceiling to figure out her winning move.
2. Harry Potter – Hedwig’s Theme by John Williams
If you’ve followed Harry Potter’s movies at all, you’ll recognize this theme and will be transported back to the time you witnessed the flying candles in the Great Hall for the first time and felt at home. While the story and its connotations may have changed in today’s socio-political environment, this theme has a spot in my happy place and I’m sure, yours too.
3. The Hobbit – Legacy Theme
The Hobbit’s legacy trailer came out during the promotions of the trilogy’s third chapter, including snippets from the Lord of the Rings. I remember when this trailer came out I downloaded it and used to watch the first part of the video may be ten times a day. It felt that epic and the score was a crucial part of that. Watch the whole thing below, I’m sure if you’ve been a fan of the series you’d love it too.
4. Star Wars – Title Theme by John Williams
Imagine Luke Skywalker in his element, Princess Leia winning over the world, Han Solo flying the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca by his side. Everything’s good, right? That’s the specialty of this score, really.
5. The Imperial March from Star Wars by John Williams
Darth Vader was an ominous villain, and this theme made him seem more so. Kudos to John Williams, who brought Vader’s persona to life with the Imperial March. Honestly, if the main title wasn’t so good, this one would be the best of the franchise.
6. Interstellar by Hans Zimmer
A story of a father who wanted to save humanity for his daughter, Interstellar is a masterpiece in many forms, including its musical genius. Hans Zimmer’s work shines in this movie, with some calling the movie’s score his best work yet. The way he composed the theme with a Church Organ leading the instruments was challenging in his own words but that it was created, and that too so beautifully, is a testament to his work.
7. Lily’s Theme by Alexandre Desplat
Lily’s theme is hands down the saddest theme in Harry Potter’s soundtrack. When you listen to the music, it’s as if you’re watching the ruins of Lily and James’s house at Godric Hollow, Sirius disappearing behind the veil in the Ministry of Magic, watch Hedwig dying as Harry flees for his life, watching the Battle of Hogwarts take Fred’s life, or seeing Harry relive Snape’s memories, all at the same time. It’s haunting, nostalgic, and makes you feel things you never knew a song could make you feel.
8. James Bond by Monty Norman and John Barry
While I’m not the biggest fan of the James Bond movies, I will admit that the score is iconic. The music takes you right at the center of the action with James Bond trying to win over the enemy with his smartass moves. Plus, it’s a great tune for workouts, so a win-win.
9. Pirates of the Caribbean – He’s a Pirate by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer
The Pirates movies were a huge part of the 20s pop culture and the story wouldn’t have been complete without Badelt and Zimmer’s work on the score. The sheer excitement in this score is a reflection of Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth Swann, and Will Turner’s various adventures.
10. Doctor Who
Oh, the Doctor. The misplaced Time Lord with the misplaced TARDIS has been a huge, huge influence in the British culture and with the resurrection of the show in 2005, became so in the rest of the world too. Just the sound of the opening theme that’s unique to every new Doctor is exciting enough for fans.
11. The Crown by Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams
The Crown may have been in the news for all the wrong reasons, the main highlight of the show should really be its score. Whether it’s the main title by Zimmer or the Duck Shoot theme by Gregson-Williams, they’re made for royalty. And just listening to them takes you back to Claire Foy and Matt Smith’s time as the Queen and King – so plus points for nostalgia too.
12. The Dark Knight Trilogy Scores by Hans Zimmer
The Dark Knight trilogy was really the best version of Batman movies we could ever have, and the score. Oh my God guys, the score. It was haunting, frightening, dark, angry, and everything else you want to hear in a Batman movie. Hands down one of my favorite musical pieces of all time.
13. Avengers – Portals by Alan Silvestri
If you didn’t cheer with random strangers at the cinema while watching the Avengers assemble, are you even a fan? From Sam saying, “On your left” to all the portals leading the Avengers to the battleground, this theme is reminiscent of a time when COVID-19 hadn’t infected our lives, people were cheering for the heroes they’d lost a year back, and while yes we were all fearing the upcoming death in the movie, it was still a good time.
14. Thor: Ragnarok – Main Theme by Mark Mothersbaugh
Thor: Ragnarok was the best Thor movie in the franchise, and its music was no less. While Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant provided great drama to the movie, the actual theme by Mothersbaugh was pretty cool too.
15. Daredevil by John Paesano
Warning: This theme will make you bitter about the show’s cancellation all over again. But how cool was it? I haven’t skipped this intro once (maybe just once though?), if anything, I’ve always listened to it on repeat because the atmosphere of the whole theme just fits right in with the show and that’s what you need to get a good goosebump raising moment.
16. La La Land by Justin Hurwitz
If a musical wins most Oscars in every nomination, of course, the music is to be commended. And Hurwitz’s work for La La Land is definitely commendable. The Mia and Sebastian theme is perfect, but the rest of it isn’t bad at all either.
17. Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber
A more polished person may have plugged the original Phantom video here, but I heard this theme in its entirety for the first time in the Umbrella Academy and I will stay true to it. While the score was adopted for the show’s intro in the first season, it became its identity in a way. But even if it hadn’t been the case, the theme is haunting and beautiful and should be heard in full volume on super quality headphones, that’s the only fair thing to do.
18. Good Omens by David Arnold
An out of the ordinary story of the out of ordinary angel and demon duo needed an (sorry) out of the ordinary score, and this one’s just it. Sometimes weird, sometimes funny, and sometimes exciting and robust, the theme is just the right music for Aziraphale and Crowley’s weird, secret little world.
19. Requiem for a Dream by Clint Mansell
If you think the Requiem movie was depressing, try listening to the score on repeat. That’s it, that’s the beauty of the music and how well it fits the movie’s theme.
20. Stranger Things by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
Stranger Things’ title sequence does something to you. It makes you want to call up your friends and take up arms against the Demogorgons coming to attack you, even if they don’t exist in real life. It’s the perfect score for the perfect series and honestly, I think season four should really be here already.
Top Game of Thrones Scores (by Ramin Djawadi)
Dedicating a whole section to Game of Thrones made sense, and why not? The show was a pop culture masterpiece, and the music was a huge part of its beauty, thanks to Djawadi. So let’s get into some of the show’s best music and let ourselves delve into some seven kingdom nostalgia.
21. Game of Thrones
The GoT opening credits were probably the least skipped intro in all of television and that’s record breaking in itself. A tour of the seven kingdoms with an epic soundtrack at the back is definitely a making of an amazing show (nevermind the ending).
22. Targaryen Theme
The Targaryen theme represents the rise, the power, the struggle, and the fight of the house and is just fitting for Dany’s story.
23. Lannister theme
The Lannister theme is ruthless and cold, just like Tywin Lannister’s eyes, Cersei Lannister’s expressions, and the Red Wedding’s ending. It’ll leave you cold and frightened, just like the house wanted you to be, and I don’t think anyone could’ve done a better job at it than Djawadi.
24. Stark theme
No one suffered in the show as much as the Starks did. And the theme represents that suffering so well you just can’t help but imagine Sansa, Bran, Arya, and Jon Snow’s haunted faces as the music plays. So well done, Ned Stark would be proud.
25. Light of the Seven
Cersei blowing up the Sept of Baelor and coming out victorious against the ones who “shamed” her was an iconic moment in the show, and the music just added to the fantasticism of it all.
26. Winds of Winter
After ages and ages of planning and conquering, Daenerys finally sets off for Westeros and the music accompanying her adds just makes the moment more significant. While yes, this music is part of the Targaryen Theme, this moment still makes it more poignant, thus mentioned separately.
Djawadi’s Mhysa fit Dany’s position as the savior perfectly, and the moment they raise her in their outstretched hands is the moment you realize how her character has grown and developed into a queen (whom the writers will eventually be unfair with).
I can’t talk about music without mentioning Bollywood. The industry has produced some of the best music in the world and has some amazing composers including A. R. Rahman, Jatin-Lalit, Lata Mangeshkar, R. D. Burman, and more. Of course, the themes here differ because of the music that’s present in Bollywood movies as compared to Hollywood shows and movies. But that doesn’t make them any less stunning. So why not take a look at their contribution to music scores from some of the best movies in the industry?
Before I begin, though, I’d also like to point out a difference in both Hollywood and Bollywood styles of themes. Where the former focuses on the main theme that encompasses the whole story’s feel in it, the latter is more story-oriented with songs leading the music-scape and the theme being an amalgamation of them all, and oftentimes a lot of movies don’t even have that central theme. This difference adds more nuance to Bollywood’s music, making it all the more impactful when it’s integrated with the movie’s story. And while Hollywood’s music is led by names like Zimmer, Djawadi, and Williams, Bollywood’s influence comes a lot from A. R. Rahman’s work speaks for the composer’s talent for itself.
But differences aside, both industries focus on one objective: To entertain the viewer and entertain they do. So without further ado, here are a few Bollywood themes that have made their mark in the industry.
28. Devdas by Raghav Chatterjee, Supriya Adhikari, Rashmi Sharma
29. Veer Zaara by Late Madan Mohan and Sanjeev Kohli
30. Taal by A. R. Rahman
31. Rockstar by A. R. Rahman
32. Kal Ho Na Ho by Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy
33. Lagaan by A. R. Rahman
34. Black by Monty Sharma
35. Mughal e Azam by Naushad
36. Bombay by A. R. Rahman
37. Swades by A. R. Rahman
38. Jodha Akbar by A. R. Rahman
39. Sholay by R. D. Burman
40. Slumdog Millionaire by A. R. Rahman
41. Sherlock by David Arnold and Michael Price
We’re all Sherlock-ed, aren’t we?
42. Padmavat by Sanchit Balhara
Okay hear me out, the movie may not be at par but guys, the music in this trailer is the best!
43. The Patriot Act Theme by Ludwig Goransson
I mean, you have to agree this will always be the best theme for a comedy show where the host can’t control his hands and is obsessed with his shoes and hair, right?
44. Spiderman Into the Spiderverse by Daniel Pemberton
John Mulaney: 100%
Need I say more?
45. The Haunting of Hill House
My final mention is, and you have to agree, a haunted musical version of the show itself.
So that’s it guys, these are the scores that have kept me up at night thinking how crucial music is when it comes to storytelling and creativity. While yes, stories matter of course but if they’re paired with the right kind of aesthetic that you can see and listen to, the impact becomes all the more profound and keeps those tales alive long before you’re done watching them. And that’s what real storytelling is all about.
Which of these is your favorite? Tell us in the comments.