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What makes a good orchestral movie soundtrack? It’s got to be whimsical enough to sweep the audience off their feet and into the world of cinema; striking enough to keep them focused on the narrative, and unique enough to give the movie its own identity. Essentially, it must be on par with the likes of John Williams’s Star Wars, or Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

In assembling your soundtrack, it’s crucial to consider the soundworld you’re looking to create – which is naturally dictated by your story and its genre(s). Here at Audio Network, we’ve got orchestral playlists of all kinds, including orchestral adventureepic orchestraldramatic orchestral and more. 

Join us as we take a look at some of the best orchestral movie soundtracks of the last four decades – as well as the greatest recent releases. 

Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks

  • Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 80s
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
    • Ghostbusters (1984)
    • Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
  • Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 90s
    • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
    • Schindler's List (1993)
    • Forrest Gump (1994)
  • Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 00s
    • Shrek (2001)
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
    • Pirates of the Carbbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
  • Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 10s
    • Star Wards: The Force Awakens (2015)
    • Lady Bird (2017)
    • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 20s
    • Minari (2020)
    • Soul (2020)
    • Tenet (2020)
  • Some of Our Best Orchestral Soundtracks
    • Sitara: Let Girls Dream (2019)
    • The Mythos Collection (2019)
    • The Classical Collection (2019)

Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 80s

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark has everything you could possibly want in a blockbuster: action, adventure, romance, humour, awe-inspiring sets, impressive costumes and – last but definitely not least – a soul-stirring soundtrack from one of our musical heroes, John Williams. Never before has an orchestra sounded so swashbuckling.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters is one of the greatest blockbusters of all time, and its orchestral soundtrack is equally epic. Composed by Elmer Bernstein, it’s a cocktail of sounds inspired by horror, sci-fi, action and comedy. Sounds messy and we know it shouldn’t work, but it does.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Robert Zemeckis’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit (based on Gary K Wolf’s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?) combines animation and live-action to create a completely eccentric viewing experience. Composer Alan Silvestri was hired to produce a soundtrack that convinced audiences of this collision of worlds and aptly, the music is both gritty and cartoonish.

Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 90s

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

With Tim Burton and Danny Elfman on the case, you just knew Edward Scissorhands would be impressive. Elfman amplified the film’s surreal message by layering angelic vocals over charming strings – and a ridiculously endearing horn section. 

Schindler’s List (1993)

Steven Spielberg and John Williams proved thier multifaceted talents when they created the sombre WW2 drama Schindler’s List (quite a departure from their previous collabs like E.T. and Indiana Jones). Williams’s score is so emotional and thought-provoking it gives the listener goosebumps. A testament to the power of music.

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump is a favourite worldwide, and in the music industry, Alan Silvestri’s soundtrack is regarded as one of the best. It’s truly mesmerising – especially the main theme, a piano-led track that represents the sound of an old friend who returns to restores purpose to life – who, of course, is the eponymous anti hero. 

Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 00s

Shrek (2001)

Everyone is familiar with the Shrek franchise and the instantly recognisable soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell, but we’d like to take a moment to highlight our favourite song: ‘Fairytale.’ This immersive piece does exactly what it says on the tin: turns the story of a big green ogre into a beautiful fairytale.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

Contemporary orchestral movie soundtracks are often measured against John Williams magical score for Warner Bros’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – few others come close. What makes it so special? In short, every bewitching song – including the iconic ‘Hedwig’s There’ – intensifies the adventure and transports you to JK Rowling’s world of witches and wizards.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl blew us away when it was released back in 2003. That said, we weren’t surprised that German composers Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer knocked it out of the park with their collaboration. Each piece is as swashbuckling as the next – but our favourite has to be ‘Captain Jack.’

Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 10s

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

The original Star Wars was back with a bang in 2015 thanks to JJ Abrams – and John Williams, who created the music for all the films in the saga. This one is particularly hard to fault, as it’s a fittingly perfect balance of familiar and fresh. One of the most original tracks is ‘Rey’s Theme’, which encapsulates the heart and spirit of the lead character.

Lady Bird (2017)

Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is warm, real and sincere, and John Brion’s orchestral soundtrack intuitively reflects these themes. There are spirited woodwinds, gentle piano riffs, tender strings and heavy brass – essentially, it captures the teenage experience.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Avengers: Endgame is one of the most-watched films of all time, which means you’ve very likely heard Alan Silvestri’s breathtaking soundtrack. The film features space and time travel, no less than 36 superheroes, and we can’t even begin to work how many plot lines. Somehow, Silvestri’s soundtrack ties the whole thing together. Perhaps this makes him the ultimate superhero?

Best Orchestral Movie Soundtracks of the 20s

Minari (2020)

Indie entertainment company A24 is unstoppable and their latest flick, Minari, was nominated for six Academy Awards (and scooped one for Best Supporting Actress). It was also tipped for Best Original Score. Emile Mosseri’s soulful, sentimental soundtrack perfectly complements Lee Isaac Chung’s story about a Korean-American family creating a new life in rural Arkansas. 

Soul (2020)

Pixar director Pete Docter created some of our favourite animations ever, including UpInside Out and Monsters Inc. Fortunately for us, his latest, Soul, is just as impressive and emotional. Here, Docter enlisted the help of Tret Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste to produce a soundtrack that combines jazz with ethereal orchestral elements.

Tenet (2020)

Christopher Nolan teamed up with movie music’s man-of-the-moment, Ludwig Göransson, to ensure his latest action-packed flick sounds just as wondrous as it looks. Tenet’s orchestral soundtrack is thrilling, fast-paced and aptly filled with big moments. 

Some of Our Best Orchestral Soundtracks

Sitara: Let Girls Dream (2019)

Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy created Sitara: Let Girls Dream, a computer-animated short film, in 2019. Distributed on Netflix, the film highlights the issue of child marriage (especially in Pakistan) to a mainstream audience. The director steered away from dialogue and used music to tell the story, with the help of Grammy-winning composer Laura Karpman. 

Watch the video below to see how we helped bring Sitara: Let Girls Dream to life at Abbey Road Studios.

The Mythos Collection (2019)

In 2017, Stephen Fry celebrated the release of his book, Mythos, with a launch party. One of the guests was composer Debbie Wiseman OBE, who then pitched translating Fry’s retellings of Ancient Greek myths into a collection of songs. Soon, the two joined Audio Network to record a collection of Mythos songs with an 80-piece orchestra.

Discover our Mythos collection right here, right now:

Mythos: Chaos and Creativity

Mythos: Pastoral and Panoramic

Mythos: Dark and Dramatic

The Classical Collection (2019)

Our collection of classical, orchestral tracks are majestic and wouldn’t sound out of place in a golden age Hollywood flick or an opera. Tracks such as Romeo and JulietSwift AnimalsCarnival Finale and Moonlight Sonata tell a story, which is why they're commonly paired with scenes featuring little or no dialogue. Interested? Explore our classical collection.

Want to keep reading? Take a look at our edit and expertise pages. 


romantic classical collection
nostalgic classical collection
classical collection dark
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A great soundtrack is key to the immersive world of a video game. Here, we explore the best ones, from the colourful Animal Crossing to the Western-inspired Red Dead Redemption II


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