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20 Action Movies with Great Soundtracks


Music plays an essential part in movies. It can set the tone, cue the audience when to laugh or cry, and set the pace for the plot. Action movies, in particular, need a specific type of music – one that’s fast-paced and interesting, but not overwhelming. A great action movie blends explosions, car chases, and hand-to-hand combat smoothly, all with a great score underneath to get the viewer stoked about what’s to come.


From sci-fi to Westerns to heist movies, action movies have enthralled audiences since their inception in the early 1900s. It wasn’t until the 1970s, however, that “action” was widely recognized as a genre on its own. In the decades since, action movies have used music effectively to turn the volume up and intensify their awesome special effects. These are some of the action movies that have great soundtracks.


20 Death Wish (1974)

As its title suggests, Death Wish is about a victim of crime turned vigilante. Charles Bronson stars as Paul Kersey, a man who is dealing with grief after his wife is murdered during a break-in. Paul is gifted a revolver from a colleague, and he uses it to patrol the streets, killing anyone suspicious he comes across.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Jazz legend Herbie Hancock wrote and performed the score for the 1974 version of Death Wish. Hancock’s score works well with the movie. He uses upbeat tempos to highlight the fast-paced scenes and pulls back with dark tones during the more intense parts.

Stream it on Prime Video

19 Natural Born Killers (1994)

Natural Born Killers

Release Date
August 25, 1994

Director
Oliver Stone

Cast
Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield, Everett Quinton, Jared Harris

Rating
R

Main Genre
Crime

Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers stars Woody Harrelson as Mickey Knox, a violent serial killer who travels around with his wife Mallory (Juliette Lewis). Mickey lives a life of crime and Mallory joins him in his pursuit. They both come from broken homes and take their fear, anger, and rejection out on other people.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

The soundtrack for Natural Born Killers was produced by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. He’s done several other soundtracks since then and always takes the time to find the perfect song for every scene. Natural Born Killers blends the rootsy folk of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan with the frantic energy of punk bands like L7 and Lard.

Rent it on Apple TV

Related: 12 Things You Didn’t Know About the Guardians of the Galaxy Cast

18 Live and Let Die (1973)

Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die

Release Date
July 5, 1973

Director
Guy Hamilton

Cast
Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Clifton James, Julius Harris, Geoffrey Holder

Rating
PG

Main Genre
Action

The 007 spy film Live and Let Die from 1974 stars Roger Moore as James Bond. Bond is tasked with stopping a drug dealer named Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto) from distributing free heroin on the streets to make his competitors go broke. The film also stars Jane Seymour as Solitare, who is considered to be one of the best James Bond movie casting choices.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Up until Live and Let Die, composer John Barry usually crafted the score for the James Bond movies. However, Barry was unavailable when the film was being made. Instead, the producers enlisted the help of Paul and Linda McCartney to write the theme song “Live and Let Die”. They performed it with their group Wings, and it was an instant hit. The tune is still a staple of rock radio today.

Stream it on Paramount+

17 Shaft (1971)

Shaft

Shaft

Release Date
June 25, 1971

Director
Gordon Parks

Cast
Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John, Gwenn Mitchell, Lawrence Pressman

Rating
R

Main Genre
Action

Shaft is an iconic 1971 action movie that stars Richard Rountree as the titular character. Shaft is a private investigator who is hired to find the daughter of an infamous mob boss. He finds himself up against competing gangsters but manages to infiltrate the mob that is holding the girl hostage. He takes a bullet but ends up saving the girl from harm.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

The legendary soul musician Isaac Hayes wrote the soundtrack, and it’s considered revolutionary in the world of funk and soul music. “Theme From Shaft” is an iconic piece that won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. Hayes’ unique blend of funky guitars, smooth vocals, and deep bass parts make Shaft an unforgettable soundtrack.

Stream it on DIRECTV

16 Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians of the galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Release Date
July 30, 2014

Director
James Gunn

Cast
​Chris Pratt2, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Adventure

2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy introduced MCU fans to a new cast of colorful characters. When Star-Lord aka Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) steals a mysterious orb, he finds himself in the crosshairs of a group of crazy bounty hunters. Quill enlists the help of a band of misfits to escape and provide him with protection.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Like so many great MCU movies, Guardians juxtaposes 1980s hits with action sequences perfectly. The first film in the series uses forgotten songs by Blue Swede, The Runaways, David Bowie, and The Jackson 5 to give Peter some flair and add a touch of humor to the Marvel canon.

Stream it on Disney+

15 Tron: Legacy (2010)

tron legacy

tron legacy

Release Date
December 14, 2010

Director
Joseph Kosinski

Cast
Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett

Rating
PG

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

2010’s Tron: Legacy is the sequel to the 1982 Disney cult classic Tron. The film follows Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), who is transported into “The Grid” after receiving a message from his missing father, Kevin (Jeff Bridges). Once there, Sam finds himself in the middle of a cyber world he doesn’t understand, but he must figure out the software to rescue his father and himself.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

The soundtrack to Tron: Legacy was created by French electronic duo Daft Punk. It features their signature style of electronic bleeps, deep beats, and interesting tempo changes. Their musical style and visual aesthetic match the film smoothly. Unfortunately for electronic fans, Daft Punk called it quits shortly after the movie was released in 2010.

Stream it on Disney+

Related: Best Movie Soundtracks Composed by Famous Musical Artists

14 Batman (1989)

batman

Batman (1989)

Release Date
June 23, 1989

Director
Tim Burton

Cast
Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams

Rating
PG-13

Genres
Action, Fantasy

Tim Burton’s original 1989 Batman movie stars Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader, dueling against the Joker (Jack Nicolson) for control of Gotham. When mobster Jack Napier falls into a vat of chemicals, he’s transformed into the Joker and is determined to seek revenge on those who caused his transfiguration. The Joker uses a lethal chemical called “Smylex” to poison the population’s food and drugs, and it causes victims to die laughing. The movie features some great Batman moments.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Back in 1989, Prince was one of the hottest artists around. He wrote the soundtrack for Batman, and it acted as his 11th studio album. The single “Batdance” became one of Prince’s biggest hits at the time, with the album itself staying at number one on the Billboard charts for six consecutive weeks. Prince did a great job of writing songs specifically for certain Batman characters, like “Electric Chair” and “Scandalous”.

Stream it on Prime Video

13 Ghostbusters (1984)

ghostbusters

ghostbusters

Release Date
July 14, 2016

Director
Paul Feig

Cast
Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Zach Woods, Ed Begley Jr.

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Comedy

The first installment of the Ghostbusters franchise was released in 1984. It features Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as university professors who spend their time looking into paranormal activities. The trio investigates a disturbance at a New York City apartment, and realizes the issue is bigger than what it seems.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Who can forget the Ghostbusters theme? It’s one of the most original, iconic, and catchy theme songs in the world. The tune was written by composer Elmer Bernstein, who worked with director Ivan Reitman to craft the perfect earworm. The soundtrack is rounded out with songs by other great 1980s pop acts, like Air Supply and Thompson Twins

Rent it on Apple TV

12 Pulp Fiction (1994)

pulp fiction

Pulp Fiction

Release Date
September 10, 1994

Director
Quentin Tarantino

Cast
John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Eric Stoltz, Bruce Willis

Rating
R

Main Genre
Crime

Quentin Tarantino always picks great songs for his movies, and 1994’s Pulp Fiction doesn’t disappoint. The movie follows two mob hitmen – played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson – as they carry out hits for their boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). That story is intertwined with another one about a boxer – played by Bruce Willis – who purposely throws a fight and then tries to run away.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Tarantino does an excellent job of mixing genres for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. From the 1970s funk of Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” to the stylistic twang of Urge Overkill’s take on Neil Diamond’s tune “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”, Tarantino is a master of matching music to his movies. He knows how to use songs to set the tone, whether it’s a dance scene in a nightclub or a chase scene featuring Willis’ character.

Stream it on Max

Related: 10 Songs That Were Made Iconic by Quentin Tarantino’s Films

11 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

guardians of the galaxy 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Release Date
April 19, 2017

Director
James Gunn

Cast
​Chris Pratt2, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Superhero

With the first Guardians movie becoming a huge hit, a sequel seemed, ahem, inevitable. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out just 3 years later in 2017. This time, it’s Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) who steals something valuable, causing the Sovereign to go after the Guardians. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) also learns more about his past, and he discovers he holds Celestial power.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Continuing with the 1980s theme, director James Gunn picks great songs that match the movies’ theme, like “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens, “Surrender” by Cheap Trick, and “Guardians Inferno” by The Sneepers featuring David Hasselhoff. Ironically, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2 was the best-selling cassette tape of 2017 with 19,000 units sold.

Stream it on Disney+

10 Blade Runner (1982)

blade runner

Blade Runner

Release Date
June 25, 1982

Director
Ridley Scott

Cast
Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah

Rating
R

Main Genre
Drama

Harrison Ford is Officer Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking 1982 sci-fi movie Blade Runner. Deckard is challenged with finding four escaped “replicants” – aliens who illegally came to Earth. In a futuristic world where robots are outlawed, Deckard must hunt the replicants, find them, and destroy them before they can do any damage to the human race. Blade Runner is a classic movie that was almost ruined by a focus group.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

A futuristic movie required a futuristic soundtrack, and Greek electronic musician Vangelis was up to the task. He created many of the sounds and subtleties in the score himself in his London studio. Vangelis also pioneered the use of drum machines and mixed in a variety of traditional instruments to give Blade Runner more sonic textures.

Rent it on Google Play

9 Baby Driver (2017)

Baby Driver

Baby Driver

Release Date
June 28, 2017

Director
Edgar Wright

Cast
Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, Micah Howard, Lily James

Rating
R

Main Genre
Action

2017’s Baby Driver revolves around a getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) who is always listening to music and remixing his own tracks. During a getaway, Baby accidentally crashes his car, which leads to a botched heist and Baby going on the run with his love interest Debra (Lily James). Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, and Kevin Spacey co-star in this high-speed, action-packed crime thriller.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Every song is curated to help the viewer get into Baby’s getaway pursuits. From the opening riffage of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosions’ “Bellbottoms” to the slick crooning in Barry White’s “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up”, the Baby Driver soundtrack has the perfect song for every scene. There’s even a Kid Koala track called “Was He Slow?” that mixes Spacey and Bernthal’s vocals into a sick beat.

Rent it on Apple TV

Related: Where the Cast of Baby Driver is Today

8 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

empire strikes back

empire strikes back

Director
Irvin Kershner

Cast
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse

Rating
PG

Runtime
124

Main Genre
Action

In The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia and the Rebel Alliance are hiding on the ice planet Hoth, but Darth Vader’s forces find her army. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker escapes and goes to Dagobah to train with Yoda on how to use The Force. He struggles to control his fear and anger and knows the Dark Side will be pulling on him to join them. Then, Luke senses that Leia and Han are in danger and leaves to help.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

It’s another Star Wars score composed by the great John Williams. Who can forget “The Imperial March” playing as Darth Vader enters the room? Williams has collaborated with great filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg many times, but the score for The Empire Strikes Back may be his most memorable work.

Stream it on Disney+

7 The Hateful Eight (2015)

hateful eight

The Hateful Eight

Release Date
December 25, 2015

Director
Quentin Tarantino

Cast
Demián Bichir, Michael Madsen, James Parks, Dana Michelle Gourrier, Lee Horsley, Gene Jones

Rating
R

Runtime
182

The Hateful Eight is, fittingly, Quentin Tarantino’s eighth feature-length film. Gritty bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is headed to Red Rock with a vile criminal named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) whom he intends to hand in for a hefty reward. The problem is that Domergue’s equally violent gang is hot on his tail, and cuts him off at at haberdashery. Seeking shelter from a winter storm, Ruth enters the store not realizing that the patrons inside are the gang members waiting for him with weapons ready to go.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who scored many Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s, wrote the music for The Hateful Eight. It features simple but effective orchestration and is a welcome diversion from his usual Western backing tracks. It wouldn’t be a Tarantino soundtrack without some great curated tracks thrown in, and the director hits the nail on the head by adding The White Stripes, Roy Orbison, and David Hess to the tracklist.

Stream it on Netflix

6 Black Panther (2018)

black panther

Black Panther

Release Date
February 13, 2018

Director
Ryan Coogler

Cast
Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
134

The late Chadwick Boseman stars as the title character in 2018’s MCU masterpiece Black Panther. When T’Challa’s (Boseman) dad dies, he takes over as the ruler of Wakanda. But a new threat emerges in the form of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a former mercenary who wants to overthrow Wakanda’s government and start over.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

The soundtrack to Black Panther is a hybrid of styles, with Ludwig Goransson composing the score and Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar curating and contributing tracks. It features a “who’s who” of fantastic rap and R&B artists, including Lamar, Schoolboy Q, The Weeknd, and Travis Scott.

Stream it on Disney+

5 Top Gun (1986)

top gun

top gun

Release Date
May 16, 1986

Director
Tony Scott

Cast
Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside

Rating
PG

Runtime
110

1986’s classic action movie Top Gun stars Tom Cruise as Maverick, a suave but cocky air force recruit who is training to become an elite fighter pilot. He’s constantly comparing himself to Iceman (Val Kilmer), the flight school’s most confident and skilled pilot. Maverick ends up losing his friend Goose (Anthony Edwards) in a training accident, but wins the love of flight instructor Charlotte (Kelly McGillis). A second Top Gun movie arrived in 2022, with a third possibly in the works.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Two songs make the Top Gun soundtrack memorable. First, Kenny Loggins’ hit “Danger Zone” is the epitome of cool. It’s hard not to picture fighter jets taking off whenever the song plays on the radio. Second, Berlin’s hit song “Take My Breath Away” is one of the most recognizable love ballads from any movie in history. The music in Top Gun evokes as much emotion as the visuals on screen.

Stream it on Paramount+

4 Mission: Impossible II (2000)

Mission: Impossible 2

Mission: Impossible 2

Release Date
May 24, 2000

Director
John Woo

Cast
Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandiwe Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Another great Tom Cruise action movie is 2000’s Mission: Impossible 2. Directed by John Woo, the movie follows special agent Ethan Hunt as he attempts to stop a German virus from spreading. However, Hunt encounters a rogue agent and his deadly team who are also going after the virus, forcing him to fight for his own survival.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

It’s full of upbeat rock songs from bands who were popular in the early 2000s, including Metallica, Godsmack, and Buckcherry, to name a few. Limp Bizkit wrote the hard-hitting song “Take A Look Around” which creatively takes the recognizable “Mission: Impossible” theme and turns it into a blistering, riff-heavy banger.

Stream it on Netflix

3 The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Release Date
July 14, 2008

Director
Christopher Nolan

Cast
Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

The Dark Knight is the second film in Christopher Nolan’s amazing Batman trilogy. With the help of the police, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has managed to control crime in Gotham City, until The Joker (Heath Ledger) shows up, that is. The Joker revels in creating chaos, causing destruction, and murdering mobsters, and he won’t stop encouraging the city to burn unless Batman reveals his identity to the public.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Legendary composers James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer teamed up to craft the score for The Dark Knight. Every note of orchestration captures the tension of the movie, especially the songs made for the Joker’s scenes. Zimmer even used razor blades on guitar strings to make the instrumentation sound more edgy and anxious.

Stream it on Max

Related: Here Are 8 Movie Sequels That Were Better Than The Original

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

Director
Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson

Cast
Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar Isaac, Jake Johnson

Rating
PG

Genres
Animation, Superhero, Action, Adventure

Read Our Review In 2023’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) is sucked into the multiverse where he comes across several different iterations of Spider-Man. After reuniting with his friend Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Miles is forced to stop The Spot (Jason Lee), a villain who can transport himself, who wants revenge on those who caused him to mutate after an incident with a collider.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

English musician Daniel Pemberton wrote the score, and he injected all of his musical influences into the movie without it sounding messy or too busy. The soundtrack to Across the Spider-Verse fuses styles so effortlessly, often within the same song, that you hardly even notice the tempo changes. One minute, it’s fusion jazz drums, the next it’s upbeat synths, and the next it’s fist-pumping punk.

Rent it on Apple TV

1 The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Release Date
December 14, 2011

Director
David Fincher

Cast
Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer, Joely Richardson

Rating
R

Main Genre
Crime

David Fincher’s 2011 thriller The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo is based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson. The story follows a girl named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a computer hacker who is recruited by a journalist to help catch a potential killer who may have murdered a woman 40 years ago.

Why It’s a Great Soundtrack

Let’s bring it full circle and talk about Nine Inch Nails bandleader Trent Reznor again. For The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, Reznor teamed up with English musician Atticus Ross. It features unique covers of songs like Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Song Enough?”, both of which are dark, gloomy, and powerful.

Stream it on Starz



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