The Best Movie Soundtracks of the Past Ten Years

Soundtracks are a crucial ingredient in every cinematic experience. A great soundtrack can elevate a film, taking it from everyday viewing to something truly memorable.

Photo by Namroud Gorguis on Unsplash

Read on to see our list of some of the best soundtracks of the past ten years.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1

Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the highest-grossing movies of 2014. The cool thing about the soundtrack is that it actually exists within the movie. Peter Quill’s mother gifts him “Awesome Mix Vol.1”, containing music reflecting her life and the future adventures of her son.

“Awesome Mix Vol. 1” actually did better on the Billboard charts as an album than the movie did on the grossing charts. Which is quite rare, and makes this soundtrack extremely special. These songs mean a lot to Peter Quill. They play a strong part in the story, as they are literally the soundtrack to his life.

It is packed with rock and soul music from the ’70s and ’80s. One of the most popular tracks is “Come and Get Your Love” by Native American rock group Redbone. It is a funk-rock song, featuring in the opening scene of the movie as Star Lord struts about looking for the Orb.

One of the most memorable tracks from Guardians of the Galaxy has to be “Hooked On A Feeling” by Swedish rock band Blue Swede. The track plays while Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Dax are arrested and taken to prison. This song is very much reflective of Star Lord’s comical and optimistic personality.

The soundtrack is seamlessly blended into the story of the movie not feeling force but flowing freely. A prime example is while the Guardians are in prison and one of the prison guards confiscates the mixtape. He starts listening to “Hooked on a Feeling”. Star Lord yells, “Hooked on A Feeling, Blue Swede, THAT Song BELONGS TO ME!” It results in Star Lord getting tasered.

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything is a biographical romantic drama depicting the life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. The film was praised for its cinematography, performances and musical score. Earning the 5 Academy Award nominations including one for Best Original Score.

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson scored the film. His signature blend of orchestral acoustic sounds and more modern electronic elements feature. The songs are generally very warm, romantic, melodic and happy. The first five songs are light, airy, playful, full of the exuberance of youth and the joy of falling in love. Movie Wave says, “it cleverly combines a feeling of the wonder of life with the wonder of science.”

The first track “Cambridge 1963” is solemnly sweet and is led with a piano melody that is accompanied by mirroring strings that bring it to life. As Renowned For Sound describes,

“Through its sweeping crescendo, it effectively conjures the sense of wonder of first love, taking listeners by the hand and snatching them away.”

Reflecting on the story, there are some moments of the mundane, some extraordinary and some the realities of devastation. “Collapsing Inwards” is slow and oppressive strings reflecting the pressure of Hawking’s deteriorating health. The electronic ending is cold, intense and shock. And act as the catalyst for a journey to the deep recesses of the mind.

After the coldness and sudden realisation of “Collapsing Inward”, the recovery and discovery of “The Voice Box” and the simpler pleasures of “A Game of Croquet”. The audience is taken by the hand and slowly awakened back to life with the pleasant and languid piece “The Origins of Time”.

Before being flooded with warmth again with “Forces of Attraction”. That features acoustic guitar that sounds so light and romantic. Along with an amazing piano melody, the two instruments work harmoniously to bring to life this breathtaking track.

How to Train Your Dragon

The How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack is full of warmth and adventure and flows between scenes. The music becomes a story of its own. The soundtrack was John Powell’s eleventh score for an animated film. It was definitely his finest work, earning him an Academy Award Nomination. 

YouTube Channel Sideways has highlighted the genius of how the music is used within the film. Particular focusing on the first five minutes of the film where all characters are introduced visually and musically as well. Setting the foundation for what’s to come. 

Powell mixed and matched many different sounds from Scottish bagpipes, Celtic sounds, strings and even some African drums. To really help you feel like you are flying through the wind with Hiccup and Toothless. Soundtrack Beat comments,

“With an arsenal of themes, an orchestra performing exceptionally and a choir that colours the music in the right places, the seventy-plus minute score of the film rolls magnificently!”

Into the Spider-Verse

There’s no doubt that Into the Spider-Verse is one of the most popular and commercially successful soundtracks ever. With its lead single “Sunflower” by Post Malone & Swae Lee serving 33 weeks on the Billboards Top 100. 

Article from UPROXX says, “the film understands its cultural relevance, the moment it speaks to, and the world it must represent, and does so, making it one of the best hip-hop-oriented film soundtracks ever created.” 

The album reflects Mile’s Puerto Rican heritage through “Familia” by Nicki Minaj & Anuel AA (Feat. Bantu). And reflects the context of its time. The soundtrack features Juice WRLD and Jaden Smith, two of the biggest rappers. So of course, Miles would be listening to them. 

The songs make the scenes more engaging. The soundtrack provides even more depth, meaning and emotion behind these key moments in the protagonist’s story.

As “What’s Up Danger” is blasted, we watch Miles face his fears and take that leap of faith. This is paired with the amazing animated visuals of Miles rising up to meet New York. It makes for an amazing cinematic experience. 

Black Panther 

Black Panther had two amazing albums featured in the film, one curated and largely featuring Kendrick Lamar. The other was created by Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson for which he earned an Academy Award.

Lamar’s album features talent from around the globe. From The Weeknd and 2 Chainz to South African artists Sjava and Yugen Blakrok. After reading Ryan Coogler’s script, Göransson flew to Africa to compose the sound of Wakanda. And was lucky enough to have Grammy-nominated Senegalese singer Baaba Maal as his guide.

Baaba Maal became the inspiration for the opening of the film. As his song tells the tale of a fallen elephant, an African symbol of a King. And the struggles of the need to replace him and the danger in doing it too quickly. This beautiful song is played as the audience first lays eyes on the nation of Wakanda.

Through his travels, Göransson grew fond of the West African talking drum. This drum resembles human speech by squeezing it to create various pitches. The drum is heavily used throughout the soundtrack mimicking the Black Panther’s name T’Challa.

It is clear that Göransson and Lamar understand the cultural significance of Black Panther. And they creatively incorporate elements of traditional African music as well as the more modern African American elements.

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