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The 20 Best Movie Soundtracks and Musical Scores of 2023

It’s that time of year again. There are only a few weeks left until the new year, and cinephiles all over the world, as well as high-on-the-ladder film critics, are making their “Best Films of 2023” lists. To coincide with that list, we should also take a look at the heart and soul of the films we loved in 2023, the soundtracks. Either it is film scores, songs made exclusively for the movie, or a playlist only a band of galactic guardians would enjoy. There are always those standout soundtracks for movies, year in and year out.


Now, movie soundtracks are not like they once were (gosh, the 1990s were it, man). But this year has a solid batch of soundtracks worthy of appreciation blasting from your speakers on the highway with friends, or some that you need to play alone in your car, thinking nobody is watching. Here are the 20 best movie soundtracks and musical scores to cap off 2023.


20 Totally Killer

Totally Killer

Totally Killer

Release Date
October 6, 2023

Director
Nahnatchka Khan

Rating
R

Runtime
1hr 46min

Totally Killer blends the ’80s slasher aesthetic with a little bit of Back to the Future. Blumhouse partnered with Amazon for the making of this film, which is about a 17-year-old girl who comes face-to-face with an infamous masked killer who has returned to kill 35 years after his first slash-fest. In doing so, she ends up traveling back in time to the first night he struck back in 1988, and she ends up teaming with her teenage mom to stop him.

Totally Killer Features The Werewolves, Chris De Burgh, and Shannon

In a time when the movies that take place in the 1980s are starting to become something of the past, Totally Killer holds on for one last fun ride. The original music for the film was composed by Michael Andrews, and although the score keeps the tempo of the film moving along nicely, Its songs like “Let the Music Play” by Shannon and “The Lady in Red” by Chris De Burgh match that late ’80s feel to the movie. But since this is a film about a time jump, it’s cool to see contemporary bands like The Werewolves make songs that feel like the world of the late 1980s, like their contribution to the film with the song “The World is Ours.”

Stream on Prime Video

19 No Hard Feelings

No Hard Feelings, the summer comedy hit of the year, stars Jennifer Lawrence as a slacker who is on the brink of losing her childhood home. She agrees to date the awkward son of a wealthy couple. Hilarious moments ensue that you know are going to end in heartbreak as time runs out on her house, which is going into foreclosure soon.

No Hard Feelings Sports Nelly, and Hall and Oates on the Soundtrack

A summer hit deserves some fun musical moments to contribute to a soundtrack. Known pop hits like “Hot N’ Here” by Nelly appear in the film, but what really gets you into the music of it all is the cover of Hall and Oates classic song “Maneater.” It’s a song that clearly describes the plot and tone of the film and the disastrous end this fake relationship is headed towards. There is a slowed-down version on the piano of it performed by Andrew Barth Feldman, who plays Percy in the movie. It’s a moment where Percy’s talents are revealed, and it doesn’t make him look like a wimp of any sort.

Stream on Netflix

18 Carmen

2023 saw the release of an operatic tale about a quest for one woman’s hope to find freedom as she journeys across the border from Mexico to Los Angeles to escape the cartel. Carmen is a brand new re-imagining of the famous opera that is told through the lens of contemporary issues in the world today.

A Beautiful Score from Nicholas Britell

Of course, an operatic tale of survival matched with music and beautiful imagery would make this list. Although Carmen was slightly overlooked due to its limited release, it still shines brightly in the hearts of theater and opera fans all over. A film in both English and Spanish has songs performed by both of its leads, Melissa Barrera and Paul Mescal. The film’s composer is Nicholas Britell, who is most famously known for composing If Beale Could Street Could Talk and HBO’s hit show Succession. He does not let up here with his classical-sounding films that make contemporary audiences perk up when they hear the notes clash with the lovely imagery.

Rent on Prime Video

Related: Carmen Review: A Surreal Journey of Dance and Music

17 Asteroid City

Asteroid City

Asteroid City

Wes Anderson directs Asteroid City, a new European love story.

Release Date
June 23, 2023

Cast
Tom Hanks , Margot Robbie , Scarlett Johansson , Adrien Brody , Jeffrey Wright , Bryan Cranston , Bill Murray , Jeff Goldblum , Edward Norton , Liev Schreiber , Hope Davis , Jason Schwartzman , Steve Carell , Willem Dafoe , Hong Chau

Wes Anderson had another thrilling year in 2023. His newest film, Asteroid City, examines the happenings of a small, rural desert town in 1955, right when the entire world gets some news that changes their views on things. It’s Anderson’s deep, meaningful commentary on loneliness and existentialism.

An Old-Timey Score from Alexandre Desplat

If you want some good timey 1950s-era music to play on your Spotify playlist, the Asteroid City soundtrack has you covered. Frequent Anderson collaborator Alexandre Desplat contributes a score to the film that has ominous tones to it at times, but, like usual, feels very playful to go with Anderson’s vision. Artists like Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and Eddie Arnold all have some of their classic tracks appear in the movie. If you’re a fan of the Fallout video games, you may be a fan of the songs you hear in Asteroid City.

Stream on Prime Video

16 Once Within a Time

The indie art house film of 2023. Released by the art house label Oscilloscope Pictures, Once Within a Time is a mind-blowing film about the end of the world. But what happens is that the world eventually begins to rebuild itself into a new one. Through its non-mainstream vision, it has moments of comedy and shows new hope and innocence for a newer generation.

An Underrated Score from Phillip Glass

None other than iconic film composer Phillip Glass brought a score to this movie that elevates it even more. The surrealist avant-garde imagery takes hold of its audience with Glass’ use of haunting notes throughout the movie that oddly make for a thing of beauty. Something he has been known for in all his film scores. The 51-minute movie reunited Glass with writer-director Godfrey Reggio for the first time since 1982, when they made the indie film Koyaannisqatsi together.

Once With a Time Is not Streaming Anywhere

15 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

A new approach to TMNT was this past summer’s release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. The animated feature is about the young turtles, whom you all know and love, who get a little rebellious and sneak out of the sewers and encounter other mutant-like creatures in the streets of New York City. Their new friend, April O’Neil, helps them take on a crime syndicate in the city streets, but they seem to have bitten off more cheese pizza than they could chew.

The Soundtrack Features Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, DMX, and More

With someone like Seth Rogen at the helm of this project with both voice acting and producing duties, it’s no wonder why it was a hit. The movie utilizes its setting of New York City with its music choice. A lot of East Coast hip-hop artists have their music in the film, with some awesome needle-drop moments. Acts like Naughty By Nature, Busta Rhymes, M.O.P., A Tribe Called Quest, Lauryn Hill, and DMX all have their tracks appear on the film’s soundtrack. On top of a brilliant soundtrack, the film also sports an incredible musical score from Oscar-winning duo, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Stream on Paramount+

Related: TMNT Mutant Mayhem Reimagines the Turtles Through Legendary Music Album Covers

14 Elemental

 Elemental

Elemental

Release Date
June 16, 2023

Director
Peter Sohn

Runtime
1hr 33min

Disney’s 2023 summer release, Elemental, tackles the fictional world of a city that has beings that represent all the elements (earth, fire, and water). A fiery young woman named Ember must help fix some of her mistakes and rebuild the life her parents wanted for her. She meets a water being who’s highly emotional all the time, and they realize they may have more in common with one another than they think.

A Gorgeous Score from Thomas Newman

Elemental has a standout soundtrack compiled by Academy Award-nominated film composer Thomas Newman. He’s not a stranger to Disney and Pixar, as he’s scored the likes of Finding Nemo and Wall-E. The standout song that gets this on the list is called “Steal the Show.” It’s co-written by Newman and performed by pop singer Lauv. This summer, it got a lot of plays on the radio and other outlets. The upbeat, sentimental, and motivational pop hit meshes really well with the story of Elemental.

Stream on Disney+

13 Priscilla

Priscilla

Priscilla

Release Date
November 3, 2023

Rating
R

Runtime
1hr 53min

Sofia Coppola’s drama is about a young Priscilla Beaulieu who meets a young Elvis Presley, a man whose rockstar life is on the rise, and falls for him. The two share a connection that spans decades and even a marriage and a child together all the way up to Presley’s untimely death. Priscilla is an adaptation of Priscilla Presley’s book, Elvis and Me.

A List of Classics

With a film that takes place at the beginning of the era of American Rock n’ Roll, there is bound to be some recognizable music on the soundtrack. Priscilla includes tracks from the likes of Frankie Avalon, Alice Coltrain, and The Righteous Brothers. If you go down the list of musical acts whose songs are utilized in the movie, you’ll notice something about it: there are no Elvis songs used in Priscilla. Odd, but it never hurts the movie.

The film also has time-bending usages of songs; for example, early in the film, we meet a 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu in 1959, but the scene overlaps with the Ramones song that was released in 1980, Baby, I Love You. However, this kind of time-hopping in visuals with music not from the era is something Coppola has done for many years in her filmography.

Rent on Prime Video

12 The Zone of Interest

Jonathan Glazer has returned in the new A24 film, The Zone of Interest. The recently released World War II drama is about a high-ranking official Nazi who builds a life for himself and his family in a new dream home that resides not far from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

A Morbid Score from Mica Levi

Jonathan Glazer’s subtle film is about life outside a concentration camp for one of its commandants. Its score is haunting, morbid, and very faint, which is very in tune with Glazer’s aesthetic with how music is used in his films. Composed by Mica Levi, he gives a very simple score that isn’t scattered all over the film, and yet it leaves a lasting impression on the viewer with its haunting vocal effects that don’t sound like this world. Mixed in with some synthesizers that encapsulate what it is like to live next to literal hell.

This one may be slept on at the moment, but don’t be surprised if we talk more about Levi’s score as award season goes on.

The Zone of Interest is Not Currently Streaming

11 Dicks: The Musical

Dicks: The Musical pairs producers of The Greatest Showman and is directed by Larry Charles, who is most well known for films like Borat and the Bill Maher documentary Religulous. Dicks is A24’s first musical about two self-obsessed corporate businessmen who realize they’re twins and decide to get their divorced parents back together.

A Great, Original Soundtrack

With songs provided by the great Nathan Lane and Megan Thee Stallion, Dicks: The Musical is one of the funniest and most socially aware musicals of our time. A film that has 12 songs crafted by Marius de Vries and Karl Saint Lucy and the film’s stars (who also co-wrote for the original stage play), Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp. Some songs are just plain raunchy, and some are raunchy but have a heart, like the end song “All Love is Love.” There is something on the soundtrack for any musical lover with Dicks, if you can get past some of the over-the-top bathroom humor.

Rent on Prime Video

10 The Creator

The Creator

The Creator

Release Date
September 29, 2023

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
2hr 13min

Gareth Edwards directed this sci-fi thriller about a war in the future between humans and artificial intelligence. A former special forces agent is given the task of hunting down the entity responsible for creating these beings, known as The Creator. However, as he ventures further into enemy territory, he learns that the weapon used for the massive destruction of the human race is an AI life form that looks and acts like an innocent child.

Another Banger from Hans Zimmer

The Creator may go down as one of the more overlooked movies of 2023. So let’s not let its soundtrack get swept under the rug. None other than the great Hans Zimmer makes an appearance on this list, as his music adds to the epic scale of the world in the film. Edwards had revealed that Zimmer was number one on his list to score the movie. There are harrowing, inspirational tracks that Zimmer created for the film. Many of them echo a lot of the style and emotional sounds that he is known for in past epics.

Rent on Prime Video

9 The Killer

David Fincher continues his string of Netflix originals with this fall’s release of The Killer. Starring Michael Fassbender and adapted from the French graphic novel of the same name. It follows an assassin who misses a target but, in doing so, finds his personal life under attack. Now he must go on the offensive to find out who is after him.

The Smiths, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

A major attribute of Fassbender’s character in the movie is that he loves to listen to The Smiths while he is working. It’s a notable part of the film that viewers will never forget. The Smiths’ music was believed to be a post-production addition for the film, as they didn’t know what music to have Fassbender’s ‘Killer’ character listen to during shooting. What also keeps the atmosphere of the movie alive is Fincher’s collaboration yet again with composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The pair has contributed to many other Fincher-directed films, such as Gone Girl, Mank, The Social Network, and a few more. Their simple harmonies and progressive beats always sit well in the worlds that David Fincher creates.

Stream on Netflix

8 Beau Is Afraid

Ari Aster returns with his new film Beau is Afraid, a dark comedy with very unsettling imagery about an anxiety-ridden man who just lost his mother and now makes a journey into the deepest, darkest parts of his mind to learn how he is so overshadowed by the darkness that follows him.

An Ode to Bobby Krlic

Composer Bobby Krlic (aka The Haxan Cloak) takes over the film with his clashes of cellos and violas that create the maddening dark world of Beau. The film has a nearly three-hour runtime, which means that you are going to go on quite the journey with Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. Every note of Krlic’s score pulls you further down the wormhole to the climactic ending of the film. It feels like there is a song for every scene in the film that lines up perfectly with its tone. Bobby Krlic layers a lot of dread into the notes, making this more than just your run-of-the-mill, midlife crisis kind of movie. Be advised that when listening to his score on the soundtrack, “The Forrest” leaves you feeling like death has just latched onto you.

Rent on Prime Video

7 Bottoms

Bottoms

Bottoms

Release Date
August 25, 2023

Director
Emma Seligman

Cast
Ayo Edebiri , Dagmara Dominczyk , Nicholas Galitzine , Rachel Sennott , Kaia Gerber , Ruby Cruz

Rating
R

Runtime
1hr 32min

Bottoms was one of the biggest comedies of 2023 and received high critical praise. A film about two unpopular teens, Josie and PJ, who, after injuring the star quarterback, became quite popular amongst the halls of their high school. Josie and PJ decide to start a defense for a women’s class, where they both vie for intimacy with their crushes, Brittany and Isabel.

A Synth-Heavy Score

Bottoms hits on Gen-Z high school life perfectly. To add to that, a big name from this generation has contributed her talents to the soundtrack. Charli XCX, as well as composer, Leo Brienberg, bring to life this LGBTQ-centered film. Bottoms has a lot of aesthetics from the 1980s and 1990s. The synth feel to the score has a very house music feel to it at times that collides with the pacing of the film really well. And let’s not forget about some memorable needle-drop moments that come from Avril Lavine and Bonnie Tyler.

Rent on Prime Video

6 Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 was one of the biggest hits of the summer and a great send-off to the gang of galactic misfits. The unique entry into the franchise takes place after the loss of Gamora and leaves team leader Peter Quill taking his team on a mission that could have the remaining team members all killed if not successful.

Awesome Mix Vol. 3

Every installment in the franchise has always had a soundtrack to go with it. On Awesome Mix Vol. 3, which may be the best one yet, it features songs like “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen and “Creep” by Radiohead. From the first scene in GOTG Vol. 1, where Starlord dances to “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone to this installment where a needle drop of the Beastie Boys iconic song “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” is used. These standout installments in the MCU will definitely be missed.

Stream on Disney+

5 Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon is based on the novel of the same name, Martin Scorsese gave us his next long-awaited epic this year. The morality tale is about the murders of many Osage indigenous men and women that are linked to settlers’ greed for the oil discovered underneath their land.

Grief and Tragedy

Film composer Robbie Robertson died earlier this year after completing the score for the film. It was a special project to do since Robertson was part of the Mohawk Nation. The film’s soundtrack is divided into two parts. In true Scorsese fashion, he uses the music of the time. There are plenty of old remastered tracks of 1920s blues songs and traditional Indigenous songs that match the grief and tragedy of the film’s tone. There are a lot of heavy drums and flutes in songs like “Reign of Terror.” However, there is a sense of pride in a lot of these tracks. They’re there to not make the listener feel that the Osage is never beaten or scared. They’re a tribe full of pride who can weather any storm.

Rent on Prime Video

4 Barbie

Barbie

Barbie

Release Date
July 21, 2023

Barbie is Greta Gerwig’s socially conscious tale that takes place in the Mattel-created world. Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) escape what is known as Barbie Land and experience the real world. What they discover has a lot to say about our world in terms of capitalism and gender disparities.

Lizzo, Billie Eilish, and Ryan Gosling

Barbie’s soundtrack has some of the best pop acts around appearing on it. With Lizzo’s track “Pink” opening the film in BarbieLand and Dua Lipa’s up-tempo dance hit “Dance the Night” for the fun dance number, Barbie‘s soundtrack isn’t just a nice little add on to the film, it’s a fun thing you can add to your music collection. We don’t get many soundtracks like this anymore these days. And here’s hoping that if Ryan Gosling is Oscar-nominated, they’ll have him perform “I’m Just Ken” on the show that night.

Stream on Max

3 Maestro

Maestro

Maestro

Release Date
December 20, 2023

Rating
R

Runtime
2hr 9min

Maestro, Bradley Cooper’s second directorial effort, also stars him in the lead role as well as American music conductor Leonard Bernstein. The focus of the film is obviously on his career, but it specifically follows his marriage to actress Felicia Montealegre, who is played by Carey Mulligan in the film.

The Maestro’s Score

Leonard Bernstein is seen as one of the most brilliant composers of the 20th century. To set an example, if you know anything about him, he wrote a little Broadway show called West Side Story. So in a biopic about his life, of course, one would think a lot of his work would appear in the film. Bernstein’s music almost becomes a character in and of itself. Find out for yourself; by the time you read this list, the film will have dropped on Netflix.

Stream on Netflix Starting December 20th

2 Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Miles Morales returns as Spider-Man and travels across the Multiverse to join forces with Gwen Stacy and a new team to face off with their most powerful villain yet.

Release Date
June 2, 2023

Rating
PG

Runtime
TBA

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the sequel to the 2018 hit, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This time around, Miles Morales falls into the multiverse and encounters other Spider-Men, who begin to clash with one another over stopping a threat. Morales must now find purpose in what it means to be a hero and save those close to him.

Metro Boomin

To match up with the amazing visuals comes some high-energy, head-bopping sounds on the soundtrack to Across the Spider-Verse. The soundtrack to the film was executive produced by Leland ‘Metro Boomin’ Wayne. The artists that are brought onto the project are a long list of contemporary hip-hop stars like Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi Vert, Swae Lee, and Nas, to name a few. Across the Spider-Verse is not only a soundtrack, but just another album you can put your headphones on and chill out to. From songs like “Am I Dreaming” to instrumental tracks like “Miles Sketchbook”, these tracks range from gym workout routines to music to play when busy at the office.

Stream on Netflix

1 Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer

Release Date
July 21, 2023

Cast
Cillian Murphy , Matt Damon , Robert Downey Jr. , Emily Blunt , Florence Pugh , Gary Oldman , Josh Hartnett , Jack Quaid , Kenneth Branagh , Rami Malek , Alex Wolff , Matthew Modine

Christopher Nolan’s long-awaited opus, Oppenheimer, went toe-to-toe with Barbie back in July at the box office. It’s a biopic that follows physics professor J. Robert Oppenheimer from his earlier years as a teacher to an appointed leader of the Manhattan Project. The film also follows him in the years that followed the atomic bomb and the fallout that came from it.

A Cinematic Spectacle for the Ears

Barbie beat Oppenheimer at the box office. So let’s not take anything away from that film. Some would argue that Oppenheimer has more cinematic stimulation that comes from its three-hour runtime, though. A lot of this is complimentary to its soundtrack. Composed by Ludwig Göransson and loaded with 24 tracks of operatic beats that feel like they’re taking you down a wormhole of existential moments, all crafted by scientific formulas, or, ya know, something like that.

Tracks like “Fission” start out calm, but you sense something scary brewing in the distance of the song. Almost like the subject of the film, a man seems to want to do no harm, yet he is responsible for altering the world in a not-so-great way. There is so much atmosphere in the soundtrack that it makes you give in to the sounds, wander off into some psychological wormhole, and then snap out of it, leaving you pondering about your existence. In a year when cinema fought back against streaming, Oppenheimer and its soundtrack led the charge well.

Buy on Prime Video

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