The Best Jazz Music in Movies

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking for the best jazz music in movies? Look no further than our list of the top 10 jazz tracks in film. From Miles Davis to John Coltrane, these songs will have you grooving in your seat.

The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont, based on theStephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. It tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murders of his wife and her secret lover, despite his claims of innocence. Over the following two decades, he befriends a fellow inmate, Red Redding. The film features an ensemble cast, including Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, and Gil Bellows.

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards:Best Picture, Best Actor (Robbins), Best Supporting Actor (Freeman), Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay Fans of the movie will recognize this tune as it plays during one of the most pivotal scenes in the film. When Morgan Freeman’s character Red is being released from prison after serving 40 years, he’s handed a box of possessions that he was told to keep safe for him. One item in particular catches his attention — a harmonica that belonged to his friend Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins). He gives it a few blown notes before pausing to look up at the sky with a smile on his face.

The Godfather

The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy, based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel of the same name. It stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional 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.

While The Godfather’s jazz music score was composed by Nino Rota, the movie features two songs performed by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. The first, “Beggar’s Holiday”, is played during the opening credits while Vito Corleone is being rowed ashore in Naples in 1901. The second song, “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo”, is heard over the montage sequence near the end of the film that shows Michael consolidating his power in the years following World War II.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is a classic film that features some of the best jazz music in movies. The soundtrack includes classics such as “Ain’t That a Shame” by Fats Domino, “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown, and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Glenn Miller.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is a 2008 superhero film directed by Christopher Nolan, based on the DC Comics character Batman. The film’s score was composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, and features several jazz tracks. “Why So Serious?” is the main theme of the film, played by a full big band with a poker-faced solo trumpet. “I’m Not a Hero” is an anthemic track with heavy brass, inspired by Superman’s theme. “Harvey Two-Face” is a dark, brooding track that features a tense piano melody.

The Social Network

The Social Network is one of the most popular movies of all time, and it features some great jazz music. The soundtrack was composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and it features some of their best work. The tracks “On My Own” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King” are both excellent examples of jazz music in movies, and they’re both essential listening for any fan of the genre.

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