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25 soundtracks from the last 25 years we can't stop listening to

Contributed by
Sep 19, 2017

September 2017 is SYFY's 25th anniversary, so we’re using it as an excuse to look back and celebrate the last 25 years of ALL science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a time that has seen the genres we love conquer the world of pop culture. For us, that means lists! ALL THE LISTS! We’ll be doing two “25 greatest” lists per day all throughout September, looking back at the moments, people, and characters that shaped the last quarter century. So keep checking back.

Please note: Our lists are not ranked; all items have equal standing in our brains.

What items in our lists were your favorites? Did we miss something? We welcome respectful debate and discussion, so please let us know in the comments! 


A well-rounded score or soundtrack is an essential component of a successful film, TV series, or videogame. It's the connective tissue that serves to enhance and embellish the director's selected images and edits, balancing tone and emotion and providing transitions between crucial scenes. 

Hark, here is a selection of soundtracks from the last 25 years that should bring sweet music to your ears, composing a rousing roundup of aural delights from all corners of the galaxy. 

Waves Crashing on Distant Shores of Time

Black Mirror

The ambient melodies from the Netflix sci-fi fantasy anthology series are sparked by electronic tracks from such mesmerizing wizards of the craft as Clint Mansell, Jon Opstad, and Martin Phipps. Drift off into the dreamy music of Black Mirror and feel yourself sedated by its hypnotic embrace.

Close Your Eyes [Angel & Buffy Love Theme] by Christophe Beck (Buffy Score 2x13 Surprise)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

For a horror TV show, Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a surprising variety of quality music. From overtures and love themes by Christophe Beck and indie pop tunes by Blur, Splendid, Velvet Chain, and Garbage, it began a small screen trend of using modern rock songs sprinkled through the episodes. Whedon also composed several pieces himself, proving himself to be extremely multi-faceted within the cult series' seasons.

The Dark Knight Rises - Main Theme

The Dark Knight Rises

Hans Zimmer is the master of the movie score, second only perhaps to John Williams, with music for films like Rain Man, Black Hawk Down, Interstellar, and The Lion King on his resume. It's tough to choose between this music for the third entry in the Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy and the first two as they are all excellent and almost deserve to be acknowledged as a whole. Grim, soaring, and often introspective, Zimmer reigns in the realm of Batman.

Mad world Donnie Darko soundtrack

Donnie Darko

Anyone whose ever heard the Gary Jules' cover of the Tears for Fears song "Mad World" knows this amazing soundtrack, that starts out with the haunting '80s tune, "The Killing Moon," by Echo and the Bunnymen. Get it? BUNNYmen? Donnie Darko is also sprinkled with such retro gems as The Church's "Under The Milky Way" and Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart."

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Theme - Jon Brion

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman's quirky sci-fi romance is paired with an equally offbeat selection of songs by The Willowz, The Polyphonic Spree, Don Nelson, Beck, and a tune recently showcased in James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky." Jon Brion (Magnolia) provided the stirring original score.

The Fountain Movie Original Soundtrack

The Fountain

If there's one soundtrack on this list that will bring fans to an instant misty-eyed state, it's Clint Mansell's eloquent score to Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain. Transcendent and elevating on every level, it's the composer's finest accomplishment in a career that also includes scores to Duncan Jones' Moon and Aronofsky's Requiem For a Dream.

The Gone Jackals Mini Soundtrack "Full Throttle - Remastered" 2017

Full Throttle

This soundtrack to the cult classic LucasArts video game Full Throttle has a high-octane assortment of hard-rockin' tunes by the San Francisco garage rock band, The Gone Jackals. The biker-themed adventure gained notoriety for its innovative gameplay and Sons of Anarchy-like plot punctuated by motor-revving music, eventually selling over a million units.

Game of Thrones - The Rains Of Castamere | by The National

Game of Thrones

Ramin Djawadi's provocative instrumental music for HBO's Game of Thrones strikes an indelible chord of medieval mayhem in the hearts of fans, especially the cello-heavy opening title sequence and the haunting "The Rains of Castamere" theme that immortalized the Red Wedding in Season 3. The composer makes liberal use of thematic devices for particular characters while threading heroic ballads with operatic battle pieces for particular royal houses as well. His powerful score even spawned the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience touring the globe in 2017.

Guardians of Galaxy - Awesome Mix, Vol.1: 10.Escape (The Piña Colada Song)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volumes 1 & 2

Unequaled in modern compilation soundtracks, these two perfect playlists are 24 karat geek gold, rounding up some of the funkiest, coolest, wildest tunes of the '60s and '70s, from Blue Swede, The Runaways, and Rupert Holmes, to ELO, Looking Glass, Sweet, and Chicago rockers Cheap Trick. James Gunn flaunted his exceptional tastes in music by decorating his galactic superhero flicks with such joyously appropriate nuggets.

Lorde - Yellow Flicker Beat (From The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1) (Audio)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One

This is the diverse, Lorde-curated soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One. The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter from New Zealand selected 14 tracks and remixes arranged by herself and various international artists including The Chemical Brothers, Grace Jones, XOV, Chvrches, Bat For Lashes, and CharlieXCX.

Inception - The Soundtrack - Time

Inception

Another of Hans Zimmer's iconic, Academy Award-nominated scores for Christopher Nolan, this one much simpler and operating in the realm of hypnotic, dream-inducing passages and pounding, resonant extensions of the layered subconscious states inhabited by the characters. It's primarily electronic in composition and a mesmerizing work taken as a whole.

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Interstellar

Yep, it's still another Hans Zimmer masterpiece, using the grand instrument of a glorious pipe organ for the film's central theme. This is a sublime score, at times both sweeping and sentimental, and helps define the tragic essence of humanity's exploration of the Great Void. Somber and spiritual, this is Zimmer experimenting in an existential musical universe and the result is near-perfection.

Iron Man OST - Driving With The Top Down

Iron Man

Before Ramin Djawadi entered the dangerous territory of the Seven Kingdoms for HBO's Game of Thrones, he composed the awesome modernistic score for the film that essentially launched the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man. Certain musical cues were provided by the legendary Hans Zimmer and the rockin' riffs were recorded by Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello and guitarist Aaron Kaplan. This score definitely delivers a hardcore edge to blast audiences into the soaring Marvel action.

Jurassic Park - Main Theme

Jurassic Park

John Williams' thundering Jurassic Park score brings together a beautiful harmony of brass, strings, percussion, and woodwinds into a perfect blend of emotional fanfares, intense interludes, and tender transitions. One of Williams' best scores, it includes a main theme that is instantly familiar as soon as those five famous notes are heard. It dispenses a sense of sincere wonder in the shadow of the incredible cloned dinosaurs, yet remains very humanistic in its approach.

The Lord of the Rings - Soundtrack - Main theme

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Howard Shore's magical, Academy Award-winning score for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings is an inextricable emotional component of the fantasy epic and its multitude of themes and character motifs thread their way through The Two Towers and Return of the King, as well. Shore was honored with three Oscars, two Golden Globes, and three Grammys for his work, and the magnum opus was also voted the Greatest Soundtrack in Cinema history by England's Classic FM Hall of Fame in 2015.

Lost Highway Soundtrack - I Put a Spell on You

Lost Highway

The labyrinthine plot twists are all part of the delirious fun in David Lynch's neo-noir thriller, Lost Highway, and its soundtrack is a sweet selection of original music by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, Twin Peaks' Angelo Badalamenti, and composer Barry Adamson. Its song playlist is chic and eclectic, with everything from Marilyn Manson and David Bowie, to Lou Reed and German metal band Rammstein packed into the trunk. It's hard to go wrong with a serious '90s roster like that!

The Matrix ORIGINAL SCORE 01 - Main Title

The Matrix

Whether you swallowed the red pill or the blue, this excellent arrangement by composer Don Davis punctuates the tense reality our antiheroes find themselves enveloped in. At once nightmarish and operatic, classic and ultra modern, Davis injects this Matrix score with metallic menace and spooky electronic passages that surprise and shock. It's one of the most underrated scores in recent memory and a rewarding experience in which to indulge oneself with a pair of superior headphones.

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Quake

Truly one of the most riveting scores Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor ever composed was this atmospheric ambient music created for the Quakevideo game. Released in 1996, Quake was developed by Doom's id Software and was a 3D-rendered, first-person shooter set in a brutal world as you grappled with a formidable assortment of demons and monsters. Nine Inch Nails is releasing a deluxe vinyl pressing of this eerie soundtrack for the first time this summer, available at its official website.

Sex Bob-Omb - We Are Sex Bob-Omb

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

This Edgar Wright-directed comic book movie benefits from a wild assortment of kinetic, colorful tunes by The Rolling Stones, Static, The Bluetones, T-Rex, Beachwood Sparks, and Pixies frontman Frank Black, as well as original tunes specifically created to adrenalize the crazy action like "We Are Sex Bob-omb."

02 - Stranger Things (Soundtrack Vol. 1) - Kids

Stranger Things

Ah, the blessed state of nostalgia this soundtrack brings is a satisfying dose of '80s awesomeness, reminding us when life was simpler in the pre-Internet era. Instantly reminiscent of John Carpenter's electronic tracks for Halloween, The Fog, and Escape From New York, this ultra-moody, synthesized soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein is pure geeky joy tinged with menace and mystery.

twenty one pilots: Heathens (from Suicide Squad: The Album) [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Suicide Squad

David Ayer's chopped-up superhero flick contains an electrifying playlist of hard-hitting, evocative songs to jumpstart your day, especially the more modern cuts like Twenty One Pilots' "Heathen" and Skrillex and Rick Ross' "Purple Lamborghini," included with old-school classics like War's "Slippin' Into Darkness" and the Rick James immortal funk anthem, "Super Freak."

John Murphy - Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor)

Sunshine

Danny Boyle's Sunshine might be an homage to more notable sci-fi film like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it contains some stellar imagery and a memorable score by John Murphy and electronic band Underworld. This sweeping soundtrack serenely captures the loneliness and hostile environments of outer space and mankind's minor and major meddlings in the cosmos.

Full Super Smash Bros. OST

Super Smash Brothers

Nintendo's crossover fighting game crammed a gang of Nintendo characters like Mario, Link, Kirby, Donkey Kong, Samus Arun, Yoshi, Pikachu and Fox McCloud together. A boisterous soundtrack accompanied the mayhem, composed by Hirokazu Ando, Koji Kondo, Kazumi Totaka, Hirokazu Tanaka, Taro Bando, Junichi Masuda, Jun Ishikawa, and David Wise.

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TRON: Legacy

This deliriously addictive soundtrack by French electronica mixmasters Daft Punk has a permanent slot in our car's CD carousel. It's outstanding and innovative on every level and an incredible achievement that added a rapturous dimension to Joseph Kosinski's mediocre movie. Music supervisor Jason Bentley (The Matrix) worked with Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter for two years on the project and it's strikingly original upon the first listen.

CHROMATICS "SHADOW"

Twin Peaks

David Lynch's creative projects have always been jammed with an eclectic assortment of provocative musical adornments and this year's revival season of Twin Peaks on Showtime is no exception. Its soundtrack album extends the entertainment seen in the show's roadhouse club, The Bang Bang Bar, onto a smoky, seductive playlist that includes Angelo Badalamenti's ethereal Laura Palmer's Theme, and performances by Portland's Chromatics, The Veils, Au Revoir Simone, Rebekah Del Riol, The Cactus Blossoms, Nine Inch Nails, and even original Twin Peaks favorite Julee Cruise.

Those were OUR choices from the last 25 years. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which soundtracks written since 1992 you'd put on your list?

And check out the rest of our "25 Greatest" lists here!

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