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The 30 best movie soundtracks you need in your life

The Social Network (2010)

The soundtrack: Ambient and moody, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ pulsating, shimmering score for The Social Network further established that David Fincher’s flick was more than just a zeitgeist cash-in Facebook movie. Combining Nine Inch Nails’ expertise with uneasy, distorted electronics with an often mellower, piano-led sound, it’s a soundscape as intricate as it is hypnotic. Confident, classy stuff. 

Best song: ‘In Motion’ is a pacy little number that we could easily jog to. If we jogged. 

Tron: Legacy (2010)

The soundtrack: Daft Punk take on Disney’s belated follow-up, hiring an 85-piece orchestra to help them weave the futuristic sci-fi’s pulsating, textured score. The result is an elegant, mesmerising, deceptively dense experience. 

Best track: Although lighter and more upbeat than the rest of the score, ‘Tron Legacy (End Titles)’ is a great encapsulation of the album's sound as a whole, all driving electronic beats shuddering under waves of string and synth (both soaring and squishy). But the assured, insistent swagger, clanging, glacial synth, and intricate glitch details of ‘End of Line’ are a particular stand-out too. 

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

The soundtrack: Trying to imagine Star Wars without John Williams is like trying to imagine Bert without Ernie. Sooty without Sweep. A weak cup of tea without seething outrage. It just isn't comprehensible. Williams’ lush orchestrations lend Star Wars a classiness and profundity that George Lucas could only have dreamed of before hiring him. 

Best track: Obviously the swelling violins and blaring trumpets of ‘Main Title’ signal one of most rousing and important pieces of movie music ever written. But no track has ever added as much emotional weight and delicate texture to Star Wars as ‘Force Theme’, otherwise known as ‘Binary Sunset’. 

Hanna (2011)

The soundtrack: Forged by Grammy-award-winning Brit electronic duo The Chemical Brothers, Hanna’s score is a stomping, at times daring experiment in the power of sound. 

Best track: ‘Hanna’s Theme’ is breathy and feather-light, with a sinewy backing track that mirrors the girl herself. 

Blade Runner (1982)

The soundtrack: Greek composer Vangelis followed-up his Oscar-winning score for Chariots of Fire by crafting delicate, brittle soundscapes for Ridley Scott’s effortlessly stylish sci-fi. It’s a match made in heaven. 

Best track: ‘Main Title’ booms then trembles, twinkling with fairytale wonder. But equally powerful in their own ways are the fragile, delicate tones of ‘Rachel's Song’ and swirling, plummeting bombast of ‘Blade Runner (End Titles)’.  

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 

The soundtrack: Tom 'Junkie XL' Holkenborg delivered the most perfectly Mad Max score with Fury Road, dropping a suite of music that - being similarly inspired by Brian May's MM 1 and 2 source, Bernard Hermann - brings all the same emotional strains of yearning, relentless, raging oppression, and sheer hugeness of Max's world, but escapes being anything like a retread. Vast, roaring, angry, booming stuff, but also deeply, delicately human at its core. 

Best track: ‘Storm is Coming’. Starts out all surging, insistent cacophony, drops down to a steady, tension-building drive of industrial and brass, and then hits its peak, exploding the noise away to the dust, to reveal the most soaring, emotionally clobbering string charge in the movie. 

John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness (1987) 

The soundtrack: See this one as being a proxy entry for all John Carpenter scores. Every one is a masterfully atmospheric, deathly dense work of multi-tentacled swirling synth, designed with the specific intent of infusing its attached film with the right flavour of that John Carpenter feeling. In the case of Prince of Darkness, it's a particularly nasty, insidious, creeping horror, but one that nonetheless sweeps along in Carpenter's trademark wash of smooth, electronic gloss. 

Best track: The whole thing's wonderful, but the cold, dripping menace of ‘The Underground Church’, slowly giving way to ambient (and intimidating) synth and choir-work is a gloriously elegant slice of Carpenter. 

It Follows (2014) 

The soundtrack: John Carpenter's influence has been felt strong as indie horror cinema has looped back to the '80s, but never has a derivative of his sound been as fresh, abrasive, emotionally resonate, or just as plain affecting as Disasterpiece's score for It Follows. As precise, unexpected, and insightfully, experimental as the film it entwines, it's at turns trance-inducingly mellow, sadly pulsating, and flat-out horrifying. 

Best track: There’s a huge spread of excellent music in It Follows, but the sweetly sad - but nonetheless hopeful - build ‘Detroit’ always stands out, as brief as it is. 

The Fountain (2006) 

The soundtrack: Some film/soundtrack combos are almost too powerful. Clint Mansell's auditory wing of Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain is one of those. As fundamental to the film (in truth as much of an audio-visual poem as a movie) as any other element, the yearning, driving, fragile and devastating strings evoke a ruinous - but intoxicating - emotional state if you've seen the film beforehand, but still deliver one of the most beautiful and profound film sores around even if you haven't. 

Best track: Opening track ‘The Last Man’ provides a tense, quiet preview of what’s to come, but honestly, everything in The Fountain will flatten you. 

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.