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Best Movie Soundtracks Composed by Famous Musical Artists

Musical artists are known for their singles, EPs, and their full-length albums. Some are also known for their film scores. While many artists have their songs featured in a film, it is not very common for famous artists to compose a film score. These artists refuse to stay in their niche, presenting the wide range of their musical talent on full display.

Any film that is not a silent film engages its viewers through visuals and recorded sound. Music is invaluable to the experience of watching a film, conveying emotion where words cannot, and creating or enhancing the atmosphere of its assigned scene. From Daft Punk to Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, these artists create incredible music outside of film and have also done so as part of a film score. Here is a list of the greatest film scores composed by famous musical artists.

Related: Best Film Scores of the ’80s

8 The Chemical Brothers – Hanna

Focus Features

Hanna is an action-packed, action thriller about a teenage girl born and raised to be the ultimate assassin. As such, it is no surprise that the film demands a bad ass soundtrack. The English electronic music duo, The Chemical Brothers, contributes the score for the film. Complete with very loud, deep bass, the score is effective and powerful. But perhaps the real highlight is in the electronic sounds conveying Hanna’s intensity but also joyful bliss in “Hanna’s Theme.”

7 Neil Young – Dead Man

Miramax Films

Canadian-American music legend Neil Young is well-known for his contributions to the history of folk and rock music, being inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, many are not aware of or overlook his score for the 1995 psychedelic Western film, Dead Man.

Young spent time alone in a recording studio, improvising music as he watched the film. You can hear the improvisation as he switches through multiple instruments; acoustic and electric guitar, piano, and the organ. This approach may not be ideal for scoring other films but an article from Far Out Magazine reports that director Jim Jarmusch encouraged Young’s improvisation. That improvisation is fitting for a film like Dead Man. A film that is more spontaneous in nature, with Jarmusch wanting the atmosphere of the film to feel unfamiliar and strange.

6 Air – The Virgin Suicides

Paramount Pictures

Sofia Coppola makes her directorial debut with The Virgin Suicides (1999), based on the best-selling novel with the same title published six years prior to the film. In The Virgin Suicides, five sisters are trapped in their homes by a pair of overprotective parents, who do not wish for their children to experience a normal teenage social life.

French duo, Air, composes the film’s score. The score is one that is more mellow and psychedelic, evoking melancholic feelings. It carries an understanding of the struggles, challenges, and the desires of a teenager. While Air’s music serves the film well, it also works as pleasant listening even when not watching the film.

5 Arcade Fire – Her

Warner Bros. Pictures

As previously reported by Collider, despite Her being released in 2013, the film’s original score did not see a public release until 2021. The score is from Arcade Fire, one of the most popular indie rock bands of the modern era. Her follows Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Theodore Twombly, a man in the middle of a divorce who develops romantic affections for an A.I. Arcade Fire’s score for the film presents a mood that is both melancholy and hopeful. It is peaceful but also strong, capturing the very human feelings of loneliness and longing for a fulfilling romantic relationship.

Related: Brokeback Mountain Almost Starred Josh Hartnett and Joaquin Phoenix

4 Karen O – Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are Photo #1
Warner Bros. Pictures

Where the Wild Things Are is a film that features a soundtrack composed by indie rocker Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Karen O takes up the task of writing melodies that simultaneously require simplicity and emotional depth and complexity.

The film is based on the classic children’s book of the same name, a beloved book from many people’s childhoods. It is also a film about childhood. Karen O succeeds in portraying a mixture of emotions, involving both sadness and joy throughout the film.

3 Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy

Walt Disney

The legendary French music duo Daft Punk was approached by director Joseph Kosinski and music supervisor Jason Bentley to compose the score for the second Tron film. If you are not all-too aware of Daft Punk, you may recognize them from their hits “Harder Better Faster”, “Get Lucky”, and “One More Time.”

Daft Punk’s electronic musical sound proves to be a perfect fit for the Tron sequel. Their music is as important to Tron as John Williams’ music is to Star Wars. Daft Punk even appear in Tron: Legacy as D.J.s at Castor’s End of Line Club during a major fight scene. Disney produces a film with a simplistic but unbelievably stylish visual aesthetic, and Tron: Legacy‘s score elevates the film’s atmosphere to a whole other level.

Related: Tron: Legacy Director Teases Extended Daft Punk Soundtrack with Unheard Music

2 Trent Reznor – The Social Network

The Social Network
Image via Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Releasing

David Fincher’s biopic drama, The Social Network, otherwise known as “the Facebook movie,” is a critically acclaimed film. Dedicated music and film fanatics are also well aware of the constant praise the film score receives. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails composes the score alongside Atticus Ross.

The score would go on to win nine awards including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Original Score. Reznor and Ross craft an intense musical score that flawlessly amplifies every single one of The Social Network‘s emotional beats. It is difficult to imagine a better score for the film. If you have not watched The Social Network in some time, do yourself a favor and press play on Reznor and Ross’ fantastic score during your free time.

1 Jonny Greenwood – Spencer

Via IMDb

Jonny Greenwood, the keyboardist and lead guitarist of Radiohead, composes film scores. His musical contributions in film include The Power of the Dog and Licorice Pizza. The latest historical drama to feature Princess Diana, Spencer, is already a great film on its own. Spencer presents an extraordinary performance from its lead in Kristen Stewart. However, Greenwood’s score provides the perfect accompaniment to Diana’s story, transforming scenes into truly spectacular moments of cinema.

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