The Best Classical Music from Movies

From heart-wrenching drama to triumphant sports scenes, these are the best pieces of classical music used in movies.

The Shawshank Redemption

One of the most popular and well-reviewed films of all time, The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of hope, friendship, and redemption set against the backdrop of a brutal and unforgiving prison. The music in the film is just as powerful as the story, with classical pieces punctuating key scenes throughout. Here are some of the best classical pieces used in The Shawshank Redemption:

-Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor: Ode to Joy
-Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major: Prelude
-Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major: Andante
-Verdi’s Requiem: Dies Irae

Forrest Gump

Classic FM’s Hall of Fame is based on the votes of listeners, and Forrest Gump was extremely popular in the late 1990s. The film has a number of classical pieces that were used to great effect, including Brahms’ Lullaby, Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2, and Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra.

The Pianist

The Pianist is a 2002 historical drama film co-produced and directed by Roman Polanski, starring Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox,

The film is an adaptation of the autobiography of Władysław Szpilman, a Jewish-Polish pianist who was active from the early 1920s until the outbreak of World War II. He managed to survive the destruction of Warsaw and the Holocaust by living in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto with some help from a Polish Catholic friend and Polish sewage workers.

The Godfather

The Godfather, a 1972 American crime drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy from a screenplay by Mario Puzo and Coppola, stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of the eponymous New York crime family. The story, spanning 1945 to 1955, chronicles the family under the patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando), focusing on the transformation of Michael Corleone (Pacino) from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.

One of the most celebrated scores in film history, Nino Rota’s music for The Godfather has been hailed as “the greatest film score ever written” by many critics. The main theme, known as “Speak Softly Love”, has become an internationally recognized pop standard.

The Godfather, Part II

Considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made, The Godfather, Part II features an evocative and stirring score by Nino Rota. Used to great effect throughout the film, classical music plays a significant role in creating the mood and atmosphere of The Godfather, Part II. From the opening scenes set in 1901 New York, to the heart-wrenching finale set in 1958 Cuba, Rota’s score perfectly encapsulates the operatic nature of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece.


Amadeus is a 1984 American period drama film directed by Miloš Forman, adapted by Peter Shaffer from his stage play of the same name. It was adapted for the screen by Peter Shaffer and stars F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri, Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Elizabeth Berridge as Mozart’s wife Constanze, Roy Dotrice as Emperor Joseph II, and Simon Callow as Christoph Willibald Gluck.

The story is set in Vienna, Austria during the latter half of the 18th century, and is a fictionalized account of the lives of composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. The film chronicles this portion of their lives and careers, focusing mainly on their interactions with each other.

The movie’s classical music soundtrack includes some of Mozart’s most well-known pieces such as “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”, “The Marriage of Figaro”, “Requiem Mass in D Minor”, “Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major”, and excerpts from “Don Giovanni”.

A Clockwork Orange

The soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange was composed and conducted by Wendy Carlos, and released in 1972. The film’s score is primarily based on Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3”, as well as other music by Bach, Beethoven, and Purcell. The score also features an original song, “Timesteps”, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

The Untouchables

“The Untouchables” is one of the most iconic gangster movies of all time, and its score by Ennio Morricone is just as legendary. The music perfectly captures the time period and the feeling of unease and danger that runs throughout the film.

The Silence of the Lambs

One of the most psychological movies ever made, “The Silence of the Lambs” features an incredible score by Howard Shore. The music is dark and foreboding, perfectly complimenting the mood of the film.


Mozart’s “Requiem” originally appeared in the film Philadelphia, with Tom Hanks starring as a gay lawyer with AIDS who is fired from his job and must prove his innocence in a court case. The music is used to great effect in the film, particularly in the scenes where Hanks’ character is on his deathbed.

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