Screenwriting : Favorite soundtracks when screenwriting by Phil Parker

Phil Parker

Favorite soundtracks when screenwriting

Like many screenwriters I like listening to soundtracks, from film or TV, when I'm writing. I'm always eager to expand my playlist so I thought I'd ask you folks what some of your favorites are. 

Great soundtracks can sometimes belong to mediocre productions so this could be illuminating for all of us :)

I'll start off by listing 10 soundtracks I like. 

1. Last of The Mohicans

2. 1492

3. Blade Runner

4. Black Hawk Down

5. Game of Thrones

6. Oblivion

7. Alexander

8. Dark Knight Rises

9. Inception

10. Band of Brothers

Thematically, my list centers on pretty grand, adventurous music. I also need music that has no lyrics, or at least no lyrics in a language I can understand. What are some soundtracks you like?

Bill Costantini

My list would include, in no particular order after Ennio:

1. Ennio Morricone (fave scores include Cinema Paridiso, La Voglia Matta, The Hateful Eight, The Mission and the Sergio Leone films)

2. Nino Rota (fave scores include the Fellini films, and The Godfather trilogy)

3. Bernard Herrmann (fave scores include Citizen Kane, Psycho, Taxi Driver)

4. Vangelis (fave scores include Blade Runner, 1492, Missing)

5. Dimitri Tiomkin (fave scores include High Noon, the Frank Capra fiilms)

6. Clint Mansell (fave scores include Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Loving Vincent, Black Swan)

7. Max Steiner (fave scores include Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, King Kong)

8. Miklos Rozsa (fave scores include Spellbound, Madame Bovary, El Cid)

9. John Barry (fave scores include the James Bond films, Born Free, Dances with Wolves)

10. James Horner (fave scores include Titanic, Avatar, Aliens, Braveheart)

11. Danny Elfman (fave scores include the Tim Burton films)

12. Hans Zimmer (fave scores include The Lion King, Gladiator, the Dark Knight Trilogy)

13. Elmer Bernstein (fave scores include The Man with the Golden Arm, Walk on the Wild Side, The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal House, Ghostbusters, Airplane)

14. John Williams (fave scores include Jaws, ET, Star Wars, Schindler's List)

15 Howard Shore (fave scores include Gangs of New York, High Fidelity, Crash, Silence of the Lambs)

Those sure are/were some great composers, and my list doesn't include musicals or soundtracks that are collections of pop songs. Great topic, Phil!

Lee Bailes

I tend to prefer the darker kind of soundtracks - but also those with no lyrics. A list in no particular order (including one that is more a tribute to other soundtracks ):

1. Beyond the Black Rainbow - Sinoia Caves

2. Violent Professionals - The Giallos Flame

3. Cannibal Holocaust - Riz Ortolani (actually a beautiful haunting score)

4. Mulholland Drive

5. Les Revenants - Mogwai

6. Suspiria - Goblin

7. Chronicles of the wasteland (Turbo Kid) - Le Matos

8. Friday Night Lights - Explosions in the Sky

9. The Road - Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

10. The Hunger

Matthew Barker

Totally with you on this, Phil. It totally depends on what I’m writing. For example, while writing a horror recently, the soundtrack from A Quiet Place really helped me finish my third act.

For me, here’s my favourites (the scores I go to most often), but I won’t number them cause I’m too indecisive! Lol

The Fountain - Clint Mansell

Inception - Hans Zimmer

Hannibal - Hans Zimmer

The Lord of the Rings, Return of the King - Howard Shore

Gravity - Steven Price

The Hours - Philip Glass

Portrait of a Lady - Wojciech Kilar

The Village - James Newton Howard

W/E - Abel Korzeniowski

A Single Man - Abel Korzeniowski

I also have pieces from lots of movie soundtracks from various composers, and other musical artists, including those above, but also:

Craig Armstrong

Steve Jablonsky




Matthew Barker

Love me some musicals!

Bill Costantini

Interesting to note - I was watching Mean Streets on TCM last night, and when Martin Scorsese was talking about music, he referred to it as a "character in the film." I've also heard many of the composers I listed above say the same thing.

And kudos to TCM for playing films in their original and unedited versions! I think FX does the same, now, too. The times, they certainly are a 'changing!

James Drago

Your #1 is a great choice!

Phil Parker

Already lots of soundtracks I hadn't considered. Excellent!

Kevin Carothers

Youtube - White noise tracks or the Speakeasies Electro-Swing Band.

Or, Lavay smith - but the band is so good it's distracting.

Ryan Martinez

If you take video game and anime osts some of the ones I like listening to are Final Fantasy 10, Silent Hill 1 and 2, Lost Odyssey, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood,

A'isha Saleh

Okay, your list is epic. Definitely would add in Soundtracks from Gladiator, Brave heart, Children of Dune (The Mini series), and Master and Commander

Phil Parker

A'isha Saleh - I've worn out my copies of Braveheart, Gladiator and Master and Commander :) Some other good ones - Edge of Tomorrow, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Last Samurai, House of Flying Daggers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Planet of the Apes, 13 Hours

A'isha Saleh

Hahaha Fair enough. And dude, you're so right, Edge of Tomorrow does have a good soundtrack! I haven't thought of that movie in a while. Totally underrated. I'll have to check out the Letters to Iwo Jima soundtrack. Can't say I'm familiar. Also, this is probably a given if you've already worn out Gladiator and Braveheart, but literally every Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie comes with an epic soundtrack.

Phil Parker

Yep. LOTR is on my Spotify playlist, too ;-)

Matthew Barker

Ramin Djawadi is also someone I’m really taking to at the moment. Love his work on Westworld and Game of Thrones!

Steven Harris Anzelowitz
  1. John Williams 2. Elmer Bernstein 3.Jerry Goldsmith 4. James Horner 5. Hans Zimmer
Wal Friman

Ewan McGregor's singing in Moulin Rouge. I still don't get it how he could be so great.

Ramus Labiapari

I was just listening "The Mission" (Gabriel's Oboe), Back to the Future and Jurassic Park

Phil Parker

Steven Harris Anzelowitz - A fine collection of legends there!

Bill Albert

Personally classic rock from the 70's and 80's is playing for me. Right now the Eagles "Lyin' Eyes" and "Takin' it Easy" inspire me when I write.

Nikki Ackerman

Depends on what I'm writing. Most often it's my John Williams channel on Pandora, so movie scores! :)

James Paul Dow

Any of the Soundtrack work by Mark Knopfler..specifically Local Hero and The Princess Bride.

Kevin Carothers

Getting into the Interstellar soundtrack on youtube - it's amazing.

Phil Parker

Bill Albert - I admire your ability to write and listen to music with lyrics at the same time! The characters in my head get too angry with me when I do that ;-)

Matthew Barker

I really, really, really struggle writing while music with lyrics is playing. I even have a hard time reading with lyrics playing!

Carl Hippensteel

I have to have silence when I write; however my writing process does involve a soundtrack. For each script I am writing I create my own personal soundtrack of songs. I do not list them in the actual script, of course. When I am at home, walking, on the train or bus, I listen to my personal soundtrack to my script over and over and over. I do this the whole time I am writing the script, which means I am listening to the same songs for months. My best ideas and "how do I fix this?" moments come from listening to my personal soundtrack.

Matthew Barker

I’m really getting a kick out of the soundtrack to the incredible Haunting of Hill House tv series by The Newton Brothers!

Tony Ray

When I write, I don't really stick to any music in particular. Sometimes I need classical, other times I need heavy metal. For me, it depends on what I'm writing. I'm not going to use battle music for a conversation scene. Just a personal preference.

CJ Walley

Similar to how Carl Hippensteel describes, I find music a form of creative nitrous-oxide. I can't write with it in the background but I do find it powerful for inspiration.

Victor Ferreira

The Knick (TV), Far From The Madding Crowd ('15), The Fountain, Loving Vincent, The Theory of Everything, Chernobyl

Phil Clarke

I certainly struggle with listening to music that has lyrics (I'm liable to start singing along!) which is why when I do decide to fill my lugholes with sound I choose film scores. I have a number of playlists that are genre-focused.

Chris Cox

Do not think I could listen to film soundtrack and not have the film in my head. I always listen to mix of Rat Pack hits plus heavy injection of Tony Bennett.

Nadia Carmon

Ambient white noise or silence. Basically anything without lyrics or strong contrasts musically. It's like a blank canvas for me.

Jim Boston

Phil, when I'm writing, the music I listen to depends on the script I'm typing out.

I listen to a lot of albums (mostly non-soundtracks, though) when I'm working on screenplays, and I'm pretty much all over the map.

When I worked on "Jingle Belles," for instance, I listened mainly to hits from 1956-59, since the story was set in 1959. Working on "Pixie Dust" meant me listening to the 1979-96 Minneapolis Sound (Prince, The Time, Morris Day, Alexander O'Neal), what with the screenplay's Twin Cities setting. Even clicked on some rags when it came time to type out "Shorthose and Flaxbeard," set during the tail end of the ragtime era (1917).

And now that I'm knocking out "Bleeding Gums," it's jazz from the 1950s to the 2000s for me.

Matthew Barker

One soundtrack I just found was Nicholas Brittel’s score to The King. Very much my kind of stuff.

Nadia Carmon

Well, sometimes I do find myself listening to something like the Game of Thrones soundtrack for writing. But it's very rare. I actually love soundtracks. I especially love the work of Javier Navarrete (Byzantium) and Wojciech Kilar for Bram Stoker's Dracula & Ninth Gate (Gary Oldman version), among others. But again, it's just not my first choice for writing. Though I've used them for studying in the past when I was in college.

Nadia Carmon

Goblin is amazing. In addition to Suspiria, I love their score for Phenomena & Non Ho Sonno now that I think about it.

Hans Zimmer - Pirates of the Caribbean series

Christopher Young - Drag Me To Hell

Not all, but a lot of my favorite scores tend to be unsettling. So I've never thought of them as great background noise for writing. But most of the ones I mentioned would work.

Matthew Barker

Nadia Carmon, I love Wojciech Kilar's work. Bram Stoker's Dracula is sublime. I also LOVE his score for the Jane Campion film, The Portrait of a Lady - I would have spent more time listening to it over the years than even the Dracula score.

Rutger Oosterhoff

The sound of silence.

Jerry Robbins

I actually write wearing earplugs lol. No distractions.

Jessica Hoffman
Stefano Pavone

Anything from or influenced by progressive rock (Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, etc.) or soundtracks to videogames like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy.

Steven Michael

Silence. If needed, Mozart.

Justin Van Der Mark

I'm literally listening to Promontory from Last of the Mohicans as I type. lol I love the transformers soundtrack, black hawk down, gladiator, inception, and a few others. I mostly pick out the track I like and make a playlist. So there are a lot of movie soundtracks I listen too.

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