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To thoroughly enjoy an action movie, you have to believe in the (sometimes outrageous) narrative that’s playing out, and one of the best ways to get the audience onside is through music.
Music can trick viewers into believing a character’s stakes are their own; this way, they live the experience of every car chase, every boobytrap and every confrontation the protagonist faces.
Naturally, the type of music in action movies tends to be rip-roaring, gripping and high-octane.
We have thousands of music tracks suitable for action movies in our ever-expanding catalogue, no matter where or when your film is set – just look at our Action Playlist.
To inspire you to embrace music for your action project, we’ve created a list of the best action-movie soundtracks in film history – featuring the likes of The Mummy, Casino Royale and Mulan.
Best Action Movie Soundtracks
Best 1970s Action Movie Soundtracks
Enter the Dragon (1973)
The first action movie soundtrack to make it to our list comes from the early 70s kung-fu classic, Enter the Dragon.
The flick is led by martial arts legend Bruce Lee and Argentine-American composer Lalo Schifrin – a combination that proves to be a match made in heaven. We love how Schifrin adds oriental elements to the classic action soundtrack to create something fresh, yet familiar.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The James Bond franchise is filled with hits and misses – 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me is one of our best-loved hits and the soundtrack is one of our favourites to feature in an action movie.
The Roger Moore-led spy flick is jam-packed with impressive stunts, thrilling threats and a whole host of weapons – all of this is accompanied by a soundtrack with just as many twists and turns as the narrative.
The Warriors (1979)
The Warriors epitomises the late 70s action movie landscape: a gang-focused flick that’s built with an enticing story, memorable costumes and characters and a super-groovy yet intense soundtrack.
The music feels apt for the slightly out-there film that combines genres such as action, thriller and mystery in a 1979 New York setting.
Mad Max (1979)
The Mad Max franchise is set to expand once more with the release of Mad Max: Furiosa, expected to hit the silver screen circa 2023; of course, it all started with the OG Mad Max film released in the winter of 1979.
It features an archetypal action soundtrack that’s led by brooding brass and screeching strings. It’s clear that the music has inspired hundreds that have succeeded it.
Best 1980s Action Movie Soundtracks
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas’ Raiders of the Lost Ark is a flick that incorporates every single one of the elements you crave in an action film – including an unforgettable John Williams soundtrack.
The music that accompanies the Indiana Jones’ adventure is filled with so much character that the music is instantly recognizable – even to someone who hasn’t actually seen the film.
If that isn’t movie soundtrack gold, we don’t know what is…
Top Gun (1986)
Top Gun contains many memorable movie moments, many of which are soundtracked by a stellar selection of pieces by Harold Faltermeyer.
One of our favourite tracks plays near the end of the film, with the iconic line: ‘You can be my wingman anytime.’ The music that accompanies it sums up the mid-80s zeitgeist – it’s those hazy electric guitars…
Just like the film, the soundtrack to 1987’s Predator incorporates elements of science-fiction, horror and action.
The result? A selection of action movie songs that keeps audience members in a constant state of anticipation. Alan Silvestri, we salute you.
Die Hard (1988)
No, we’re not here to argue whether Die Hard is a Christmas film or not, we’re here to commemorate Michael Kamen’s super-impressive soundtrack.
The often grandiose music, with its harsh, accented sounds, keeps the viewer’s heart thumping.
Best 1990s Action Movie Soundtracks
Total Recall (1990)
Total Recall has got to be one of the most underrated 90s action films in existence – and it doesn't help that the Colin Farrell-led reboot was such a flop.
But if you know, you know, as this sci-fi action-adventure is bucketloads of fun. One of the prime reasons we have such an affinity for the film is because of its supercharged soundtrack.
Listen and learn, because that’s how you pull an audience into the action.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day is little short of flawless, thanks to James Cameron and Brad Fiedel.
Sure, the former takes most of the credit for spearheading the entire project, but what would the film be without Fiedel’s hair-raising soundtrack?
We mean, imagine that iconic truck chase scene without the chilling music that accompanies it.
There’s a clear winner when it comes to the best Bond film of the 90s and that’s GoldenEye.
Pre-loaded with a stellar soundtrack of shaken not stirred action movie songs, the movie sounds just as good (if not better) than it looks.
Who’s behind it? A humble French composer who goes by the name of Éric Serra.
The Mummy (1999)
The Mummy whisks its audience away to the mysterious land of Egypt, and it does so with a little help from American composer Jerry Goldsmith.
Just a few years before he passed, the luminary created an inspiring soundtrack that merges quintessential action sounds with occult elements that tie seamlessly into the supernatural themes of the film.
Best 2000s Action Movie Soundtracks
Casino Royale (2006)
Daniel Craig’s first outing as super spy 007 is magnificent; and one of the key reasons why Casino Royale proved so enjoyable is because of its elite-level soundtrack.
David Arnold’s selection of action movie songs introduces a new type of Bond – one that’s a little more rugged, a little less silly and embraces powerful females – which is reflected in compositions that are more unpredictable than ever before in the franchise.
Like most Zack Snyder films, 300 is extremely divisive – but one thing’s for sure, the 300 soundtrack is one of the best action soundtracks of the noughties.
The music that accompanies the tale of Leonidas’ (aka Gerald Butler) is just as heavy as the film’s visuals and narrative.
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man – the project that kicked off the superhero-focused Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – is, at heart (or should we say reactor), an action film.
To expand on our point, it features all the trappings of an action flick, including a striking soundtrack that continuously builds suspense.
As you can imagine, Ramin Djawadi was in high demand after his work on Iron Man – most notably, he went on to soundtrack all of Game of Thrones.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Everyone's favourite adventure explorer made a grand return in 2008 with the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; fortunately, Spielberg stuck with John Williams to create the soundtrack.
By blending classic rhythms from the 80s trilogy with contemporary cinematic sounds, Williams was able to live up to his name and create a collection of compositions that are just as powerful and indelible as the rest.
Best 2010s Action Movie Soundtracks
During the four year gap between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer teamed up to create Inception.
The German composer supported Nolan’s labyrinthine narrative by creating a soundtrack that constantly reminds the audience to pay close attention.
How? Masterful use of daunting strings and demanding percussion.
John Wick (2014)
John Wick is a contemporary cult classic – one that’s enhanced by a career-defining performance from Keanu Reeves and a rousing soundtrack that feels at home in the neon-lit New York setting.
Take the club scene, for example, a moment in the film in which the music switches with the narrative.
When Wick is in control of his surroundings, a well-paced, vocal-led track can be heard, but as things spiral out of control for the titular character, the music morphs into a chaotic, electronic pulse.
Baby Driver (2017)
Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver was one of the most exciting original action films of the 2010s, and its soundtrack was just as critically acclaimed as the film.
Created by Academy Award winner Steven Price, the soundtrack features a dramatic score alongside world-renowned songs such as Hocus Pocus by Focus and Easy by The Commodores that all come together to bring structure to the fictional fast-paced action story.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Endgame is the epic conclusion to the first ten years of the MCU; so Kevin Feige and co had to think meticulously about every aspect of the film, including the soundtrack.
Taking no risks, the Disney subsidiary hired industry legend Alan Silvestri to soundtrack the ambitious, action-filled flick – needless to say, he delivered.
Best 2020s Action Movie Soundtracks
Bad Boys For Life (2020)
Bad Boys For Life surprised cinema-goers and critics alike with its refreshing plot, developed characters and expertly crafted soundtrack.
Improving on the original films, the third film in the franchise embraces its Miami setting by adding some choice urban percussive ingredients to the mix.
The Gentlemen (2020)
Another film that embraces its city setting is Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen. The 2020 flick embodies modern London by layering classic melodies with music that would typically be heard in The Big Smoke – including hip hop and grime.
In our opinion, this musical fusion adds something unique to the action-comedy film.
Over the last decade, Disney has released a multitude of live-action remakes of their most popular animated films – some have been highly successful, while others have left audiences wondering why they bothered.
One of the films in the former category is Mulan – a Disney+ exclusive that embraces Chinese culture in a much more authentic way than the original.
Similarly, the action-packed soundtrack to the film integrates the sounds of 15th-century China, which makes for a totally unique set of action movie songs.
Christopher Nolan is king of Daedalian plots, and 2020’s Tenet is arguably his most complex – some may say, confusing – film yet.
To accompany the super perplexing storyline and jaw-dropping visuals, Nolan enlisted the help of film music’s man of the moment, Ludwig Göransson. (In case you’re wondering, Zimmer had already committed to another project).
Fortunately for film buffs, Göransson knocked it out of the park with his deep, dark and formidable score.
Music For Action Movies
Now that you’ve worked your way through our list of the best action movie soundtracks, you’re hopefully feeling a little more inspired to ensure music is a top priority when putting together your action film.
We have music for any kind of film, no matter the genre. Check out our roster of music suitable for a variety of film styles, from historical to horror to rom-com and vintage.
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