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Pressing play on a song can transport you back in time and rustle up memories from your favorite movies, or maybe even a personal experience. We might not always notice, but musical soundtracks are a major part in the evolution of cinema. Although soundtracks tend to differ from film scores in that they’re usually inspired by a film vs. written specifically for it, but sometimes the movie soundtrack is just as big (if not bigger) than the film itself.
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In celebration of the films released this year, we put together a beginner’s guide to seven of the best movie soundtracks of 2021 (so far). Find the list below, and for more music in movies check out these classic film scores that you can purchase on vinyl.
Nicholas Britell composed the original score for Disney’s “Cruella” starring Emma Stone. The soundtrack is led by the song, “Call Me Cruella” by Florence and the Machine, but there are also a lot of classics such as “Whisper, Whisper” by the Bee Gees, “Five to One” by The Doors, and Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” By the way, if you haven’t watched “Cruella” yet, it’s streaming on Disney+ at no additional charge.
The soundtrack to “Judas and the Black Messiah” paints a perfect sonic portrait to accompany the film. The score was composed by Mark Isham and Craig Harris and includes the Academy Award winning-song “Fight for You” performed by H.E.R. Besides the original soundtrack, you’ll want to take a listen to “Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album,” which features songs from Jay-Z, Nipsey Hussle, A$AP Rocky, Nas, G Herbo, BJ the Chicago Kid, Dom Kennedy, and more.
Say what you will about the films, but we can usually count on James Bond movies to deliver in the music department. Hans Zimmer composed the soundtrack for “No Time to Die,” the 25th installment in the James Bond film franchise. The soundtrack includes Billie Eilish’s electrifying title track, co-written with her brother and frequent collaborator, Finneas O’Connell. Johnny Marr joins Zimmer in scoring the soundtrack (he’s also the featured guitarist on the album) with additional music by Steve Mazzaro.
If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, “Spirit Untamed” is the kind of mood-changing movie soundtrack that the whole family can enjoy. Amie Doherty composed the music which features songs and instrumentals including “You Belong” by Beck G, “Fearless” and “Better With You” by Isabela Merced, and “Fireflies” by Doherty, Robin Pecknold, and Eiza González.
“Coming 2 America” earned mixed reviews but the movie soundtrack offers plenty of listenable tracks. Meghan Thee Stallion, Teyana Taylor (also featured in the film), Public Enemy, Gladys Knight, Tiwa Savage, YG, Big Sean, John Legend, Nile Rogers, and Burna Boy are some of the artists featured among the 12 tracks.
If you’re going to play a movie soundtrack while speeding through the fast lane, “F9: The Fast Saga” feels like an obvious choice. The soundtrack packs in enough high-octane tunes to get your adrenaline going. Pop Smoke, Jack Harlow, Lil Durk, Offset, Rico Nasty, and Sean Paul are among the featured artists.
For those who love epic instrumentals, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is certainly worth a listen (in surround sound –—which you can achieve with any one of the stereo speakers on our list). Tom Holkenborg was commissioned to compose the epic music for the film, including Godzilla’s “Pensacola, Florida” theme and Kong’s theme song “Skull Island.”