The 15 most relaxing film scores

15 April 2024, 17:42 | Updated: 15 April 2024, 18:17

Most relaxing film scores: The Theory of Everything; The Shape of Water; Ad Astra
Most relaxing film scores: The Theory of Everything; The Shape of Water; Ad Astra. Picture: Alamy

By Siena Linton

Film scores contain some of the most relaxing music ever written. From Hans Zimmer to Justin Hurwitz, here are 15 of the most calm-inducing movie soundtracks of all time.

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When it comes to manipulating emotions through music, film composers are the undisputed masters. A good film score has the power to make you feel joy, fear, sadness, optimism, and a whole spectrum of emotions in between.

While you might be at their mercy when it comes to the big screen, listening to film music can be a powerful way to channel all the right emotions at just the right time.

So whether you’re searching for a soothing study soundtrack, or just looking for some musical zen, here are 15 of the most relaxing film score moments...

Read more: The 50 best film scores of all time

  1. Jóhann Jóhannsson: ‘A Model of the Universe’ from The Theory of Everything

    Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s entire score to the 2014 Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything, is one of the most peaceful film soundtracks ever written. A serene beauty lies in its simplicity, a stripped-back orchestration that leaves enough space to ponder the universe between each note.

    A Model of the Universe

  2. Hans Zimmer: ‘Honor Him’ from Gladiator

    One of Hans Zimmer’s most beloved film scores, ‘Honor Him’ is a musical cue from the ending of the 2000 film Gladiator. As Roman general-turned-gladiator Maximus Decimus Meridius dies a hero after a duel in the Colosseum, to rejoin his wife and son in the afterlife, this softly stirring, almost meditative track plays.

    Read more: The 10 best Hans Zimmer soundtracks

    Honor Him

  3. Yann Tiersen: ‘Comptine d’un autre été: L’après-midi’ from Amélie

    Much of Yann Tiersen’s score to the 2001 film Amélie is a cosmopolitan cacophony of accordion-playing street buskers and the ringing bells of Parisian cyclists. Hardly ripe for relaxation. But one of the most popular pieces on the soundtrack, ‘Comptine d’un autre été’, is the perfect piece for a quiet moment alone – a hypnotically uplifting piece for solo piano, performed by Tiersen himself.

    Comptine d'un autre été, l'après-midi

  4. Jonny Greenwood: ‘House of Woodcock’ from Phantom Thread

    Jonny Greenwood’s Oscar-nominated score to Phantom Thread combines shades of dark and light to perfectly match its companion film. Nestled in amongst some of Greenwood’s more unsettling cues, ‘House of Woodcock’ is a sublime moment for solo piano and strings, a musical marriage of the jazz influences in 1950s popular music and lush Romantic-era sentimentality.

    Phantom Thread - House of Woodcock (Official Audio)

  5. Max Richter: ‘To the Stars’ from Ad Astra

    Max Richter brought his signature suspenseful string style to the soundtrack for 2019 film Ad Astra. ‘To the Stars’ makes use of slow-moving chords, densely packed harmonies, deep bass rumbles and a meandering melody to evoke the vastness of outer space and create the perfect ambient music for ultimate relaxation.

    Read more: 9-year-old violin prodigy plays Max Richter’s thrilling take on Vivaldi ‘Summer’

    To the Stars (From "Ad Astra" Soundtrack)

  6. Rachel Portman: ‘Main Titles’ from The Cider House Rules

    The main titles from Rachel Portman’s delicate score to The Cider House Rules form a few perfect minutes of musical escapism. With a tender piano melody uplifted by sweeping strings, it’s a warming moment in an artful soundtrack that will make you feel comforted and calm.

    Read more: 15 great women film composers and their best soundtracks

    Main Titles

  7. Hans Zimmer: ‘Day One’ from Interstellar

    Far beyond its silver screen beginnings, Hans Zimmer’s epic score to Interstellar has swept the internet with viral success. With the musical forces at his fingertips including a gargantuan orchestra of 34 strings, 24 woodwinds, and four pianos, plus a 60-strong choir, his signature synthesiser sound, and a specifically-requested organ from London’s Temple Church, Zimmer’s score ranges from stripped-back intimate minimalism to Straussian symphonic proportions. Simply put, it’s music that places everything in perspective.

    Read more: Church organ playing Hans Zimmer’s epic ‘Interstellar’ theme makes our world feel tiny

    Interstellar Official Soundtrack | Day One (Interstellar Theme) – Hans Zimmer | WaterTower

  8. Thomas Newman: ‘Westerly Weather’ from Saving Mr. Banks

    A seamless blend of synthesisers, strings, and sparkling pitched percussion creates the perfect underscore to Thomas Newman’s most moving melody from Saving Mr. Banks. ‘Westerly Weather’ is the film’s most minimalist track, yet somehow speaks volumes, in just under two relaxing minutes.

    Westerly Weather

  9. John Debney: ‘A New Mia’ from The Princess Diaries

    The Princess Diaries is a film about the meeting of two worlds: the trials and tribulations of an awkward teenager in a San Francisco high school, and the glamorous world of the Genovian royal family. Its soundtrack mimics these two worlds perfectly, as John Debney’s original score meets the Backstreet Boys. Debney’s soundtrack is brilliant across the board, but one particularly beautiful moment arrives in ‘A New Mia’...

    A New Mia (Score)

  10. Kris Bowers: ‘Thank You For the Letters’ from Green Book

    Two years before the immense success of Bridgerton, Academy Award-winning composer Kris Bowers burst onto the screen music scene with his score to Green Book, which is inspired largely by the jazz music of Don Shirley, the pianist whose story the film is based on. One of the more filmic moments in the score, ‘Thank You For the Letters’ is a rich and warming musical cue.

    Read more: The music of Bridgerton on Netflix – how Taylor Swift became a Regency symphony

    Green Book Soundtrack - "Thank You For the Letters" - Kris Bowers

  11. Alexandre Desplat: ‘Laurie and Jo on the Hill’ from Little Women

    Tasked by director Greta Gerwig to write something that sounded like “Mozart meeting [David] Bowie,” Alexandre Desplat’s score to Little Women was nominated for a BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Oscar in 2020. One highlight from his score is a serene moment between Laurie and Jo, as they scale a hill together. It all goes somewhat downhill seconds later, but with the score alone we can pretend the afternoon continued on in pastoral bliss!

    Laurie and Jo on the Hill

  12. Carter Burwell: ‘My Dear Anne’ from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Carter Burwell’s Oscar-nominated score for the 2017 crime drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an intimately recorded guitar-focused soundtrack filled with Americana and folk influences. ‘My Dear Anne’ begins with a sparsely strummed solo guitar, as an orchestral accompaniment is gradually introduced. The melody becomes shared between the guitar, solo clarinet, and piano, in a touchingly peaceful moment of music.

    My Dear Anne

  13. Alexandre Desplat: ‘Underwater Kiss’ from The Shape of Water

    Alexandre Desplat’s aquatic score to The Shape of Water won him his second Oscar, as well as a BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Original Score. Float away on the lusciously romantic ‘Underwater Kiss’ cue, with its gently rippling bed of harp, piano, solo violin and accordion...

    Underwater Kiss

  14. Hans Zimmer: ‘A Small Measure of Peace’ from The Last Samurai

    The Last Samurai is one of Hans Zimmer’s finest scores. His work for the 2003 film was Zimmer’s 100th soundtrack to date, and stands the test of time to this day. Aptly titled ‘A Small Measure of Peace’, this cue delivers eight minutes of reflective music, taking you on a journey from calm, to epic adventure, and delivers you back down to serenity.

    Read more: Inside Hans Zimmer’s greatest film scores, family, and awards so far

    A Small Measure of Peace

  15. Justin Hurwitz: ‘Mia and Sebastian’s Theme’ from La La Land

    One of the most beloved musical moments from the 2016 film La La Land, Justin Hurwitz struck gold when he wrote ‘Mia and Sebastian’s Theme’. Deliciously romantic and embellished with more than a healthy sprinkling of jazz notes, the theme is a defining moment of the pair’s relationship, and the film as a whole.

    Read more: Does Ryan Gosling really sing and play piano?

    Mia & Sebastian’s Theme

In need of a relaxing study soundtrack? Listen to Classic FM Revision, our non-stop live playlist on Global player.