Scoring Romance: The Best Romantic Movie Soundtracks

Still celebrating Valentine's Day?

Cinema Siren is a big fan of love. There's nothing more wonderful than being around those in love. It brings everyone around them up, even if the experience can be a bit of a sap-fest. 

Anytime I can play Cupid with a well-recommended romantic comedy, I'm right there for it. Sadly, Valentine's Day is only once a year. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be prepared to do the aural equivalent of tossing rose petals at our significant others, or put ourselves in a loving and romantic mood.  

I've put together a collection of scores very specifically chosen for romantic interludes. For that time you've spirited away to a bed and breakfast or have unplugged your phones and turned in early together…

I didn't include scores you couldn't get in their entirety, nor those that you'd find distracting. Some scores have very famous or particularly gorgeous pieces sprinkled within bombast and cacophony. Some, no matter how great they might be, are still too recognizable not to feel cliched or create an inappropriate tape loop in your head. But I found a way to reduce the list to my choices of the very best.

Here are complete scores with only the occasional departure, if any, from the gorgeous or meditative.

No. 10 "Whale Rider" (Lisa Gerrard) Written by one of the founding members of Dead Can Dance, Gerrard allows undulating synths and guitars to construct the score's moody, atmospheric soundscape. Her gorgeous voice can be heard just enough to add her trademark ethereal quality.  

No. 9 "The Last Emperor" (Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Byrne) This Oscar-winning score is a great example of Western and Asian musical influences blended seamlessly by two pop critic darlings. A beautiful heartbreaking theme gives way to Chinese folk music injecting a sparse instrumentation, which makes for a fascinating and mesmerizing balance. 

No. 8 "The Hours" (composed by Phillip Glass) Famed 20th-century classical composer Glass utilizes his minimalism, using orchestra, string quartet and piano to build sonic layers with repetitive themes that build and deconstruct over and over. Very powerful. 

No. 7 "Pride and Prejudice" (Dario Marianelli and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet) Though not as strong a score as "The Brothers Grimm," this one is far more calm and quite lovely on the whole, making a lovely accompaniment for a shared sunset or snowy evening. Thibaudet adds his expert and emotional piano-playing to the collection of new pieces all meant to evoke the composers of Beethoven's era.

No 6 "Revolutionary Road" (Thomas Newman) It was very difficult to pick one Newman piece to include, but this one is arguably the most emotional of his works, and has his trademark signature sounds of lushness from unusual instrumentation. There are a few discordant moments, but none of it is bombastic. Also, several romantic 1950s songs are included. The theme that repeats is beautiful.

No. 5 "The Fountain" (Cliff Mansel) Anytime you get a composer, the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai together, it's bound to get interesting. Many of the fans of this soundtrack will tell you it numbers among the best ever. It swings from ambient synths and bleeps to swelling strings and everywhere in between, while maintaining consistent and haunting, melancholy intensity.   

No. 4 "Crash" (Mark Isham) Lots of gorgeous ethnic vocalizations add to a deeply intense and richly emotional work by one of the best contemporary composers for film. Gorgeous from beginning to end.  

No. 3 "Out of Africa" (John Barry) One of the two most traditionally romantic scores on the list, this orchestral score is very melodic and sweeping. I remember during the premiere of this movie many years ago, more than half the audience left the film red-eyed and weepy. This music is so beautiful it could certainly bring on some tears.

No. 2 "Solaris" (Cliff Martinez) So atmospheric it feels like you are being drawn into another world. It has the unique quality of mixing a delicacy with an intensity that gets under your skin and stays there. Very meditative, this score is definitely either for active listening or to be completely in the background. According to one reviewer, "This music will fill a need you didn't know you had."

No. 1 "Passion: Music for the Last Temptation of Christ" (Peter Gabriel) This Grammy winner was quite ahead of its time when released in 1989, although it is yet another example of Martin Scorsese's love of music of all sorts and his belief of it as essential in his films. Based in the rhythms and sounds from a wide variety of countries as diverse as Turkey, India, Morocco and Senegal, it fully lives up to its title. Gabriel shows just how much intensity and emotion can be conveyed through rhythm, and brings together the best musical influences from around the world to do so.

Honorable mention goes to "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," because no list of best scores is complete without one by the incomparable Bernard Herrmann. This is his most romantic and draws upon his influences of Debussy and Rachmaninoff, with a wonderful recurring theme that is as romantic as you'll ever hear. Highly recommended.


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