Recommendations for non-vocal, non scifi soundtracks sought
May 17, 2011 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend your favorite non-vocal, non-scifi soundtracks (tv or movies). I'm asking for suggestions that you love and have listened to repeatedly because it's so damn good.

I like listening to soundtracks while working, but prefer they be non-vocal at times.
That way they can be played low or function as background noise without me straining to listen to the words. So as awesome as the soundtrack to a Tarantino film might be, it's not what I'm looking for here.

Previous non-vocal, non-scifi soundtracks I've really liked:
The Piano
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Last of the Mohicans

Anything else you'd recommend? Dramatic is fine, softly quiet is fine, a soundtrack mixing hte two is great. It doesn't have totally non-vocal, just mostly.

I already have a lot of scifi soundtracks (BSG, Sunshine, Aliens, Empire, Fifth Element etc) ooking for to expand outside of that genre
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Media & Arts (95 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Anything by Clint Mansell.... Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Moon, Black Swan (though some might qualify as SF)
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:02 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I always thought the soundtrack for The Way of the Gun was really well done.
posted by Jinkeez at 8:02 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mansell's Fountain score is very good indeed! I also like David Julyan's minimal, heart wrenching score for The Descent.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 8:04 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: The soundtrack to Amilie is excellent, in my opinion. Lots of French according goodness.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:05 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

It wasn't a that great of a film, but I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack to Polanski's 'The Ninth Gate': it's orchestral with some wordless vocals on a few tracks. If you don't mind a bit of Philip Glass, some of his soundtracks are worth a listen: The Secret Agent soundtrack is one I enjoy; others will vouch for the soundtrack from Koyaanisqatsi & its sequels.
posted by misteraitch at 8:05 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

*Sigh* accordion.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:06 AM on May 17, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, how'd I forget Amélie?! GREAT suggestion!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:14 AM on May 17, 2011

Seeing that you've got the Piano down, why not give some of Nyman’s other stuff a go? I absolutely love the Draughtsman's Contract score; and the collaboration with Damon Albarn on Ravenous was really quite effective...

Peter Gabriel’s music to Rabbit Proof Fence was nice, as was the much earlier Last Temptation of Christ soundtrack.
posted by monkey closet at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2011

It's a bit dated now, but I used to love Ennio Morricone's soundtrack for The Mission.

And Michael Nyman's A Zed and Two Noughts soundtrack is amazing, though as background music it might inspire a panic attack.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:17 AM on May 17, 2011

The Brothers Bloom Soundtrack is amazing.
posted by VeritableSaintOfBrevity at 8:18 AM on May 17, 2011

The Diva soundtrack is worth it for Sentimental Walk alone.
posted by googly at 8:19 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oops, that's Diva as in Diva.
posted by googly at 8:19 AM on May 17, 2011

"Witness," "Dead Poet Society" or anything by Peter Weir.
posted by Melismata at 8:20 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There is so much. David Arnold, Basil Poledouris, Eric Serra, James Horner, Howard Shore, Brad Fiedel, Hans Zimmer, Lisa Gerrard, John Carpenter, Klaus Doldinger, Lalo Schifrin, Maurice Jarre, Thoman Newman -- good places to start.

My absolute favourite soundtrack continues to be Clear and Present Danger, by Horner. I get chills just thinking about it now.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anything by Nino Rota, who composed a lot of scores for Fellini's movies.

Susumu Hirasawa, the author of soundtracks for Satoshi Kon's movies (Paprika, Paranoia Agent)

Samurai Champloo soundtracks, lots of rhythmic, non-vocal, subtly changing over time musical themes.

Music from video game Neverhood.

Last, but not the least: after listening to this collection for over ten years, I firmly believe that Cowboy Bebop soundtracks are among the best in this genre.
posted by ringu0 at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you enjoy Pirates of the Caribbean and Inception, you'll probably like most soundtracks by Hans Zimmer. Gladiator's soundtrack is very similar to Pirates.
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

An outstanding collection of modern soundtrack reviews can be found at Filmtracks.

For swashbuckling pirate action, you'll be hard pressed to top John Debney's score for Cutthroat Island.
posted by Trurl at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to "The Mission"
John Barry's soundtrack to "Dances with Wolves"
posted by Seamus at 8:23 AM on May 17, 2011

Possibly-uncool-but-I-don't-care-filter: John Barry's Dances with Wolves soundtrack and W.G. Snuffy Walden 's soundtrack for Thirtysomething.
posted by humph at 8:24 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hans Zimmer's score from True Romance is great.

Also, not a soundtrack but found via a movie: Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Music for a Found Harmonium plays at the end of Napoleon Dynamite. All of their stuff makes for really delightful background music.
posted by phunniemee at 8:24 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: The soundtrack to Dead Man is basically just Neil Young playing electric guitar. If you like Neil Young playing Electric Guitar, then this seems like a good bet.

I also really like Javier Navarrete's soundtrack to Pan's Labyrinth. As far as I can remember, there's some humming on the lullaby but no actual lyrics.
posted by smcg at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Peter Gabriel's (and Daniel Lanois') Birdy is a personal favourite.
posted by bonehead at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2011

Another Ennio Morricone recommendation: Cinema Paradiso.
posted by jonnyploy at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: Braveheart is good for a listen. Lot of different things going on there to make you want to swing your dirt encrusted peasant honey.
posted by Straw Cab at 8:28 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: Eric Clapton's soundtrack for Rush is a beautiful, haunting, mellow album. The songs flow together well and would fit the bill as background music.
posted by slmorri at 8:29 AM on May 17, 2011

As for soundtracks on my iPhone at this very minute:

Jerry Goldsmith - Chinatown and Magic

John Barry - Boom! [demented carnival music] and From Russia With Love

John Williams - Images [very atypical avant-garde work from the Maestro here]

Johnny Mandel - Point Blank [spooky 12-tone crime music]

Maurice Jarre - Lawrence of Arabia [the complete score conducted by Nic Raine is far preferable to either of the recordings by composer Maurice Jarre]
posted by Trurl at 8:29 AM on May 17, 2011

I listen to a lot of stuff from John Williams and Danny Elfman. Much of their stuff comes from what could be called Science Fiction but it's all great. They've both been working in film for decades so there's quite a bit out there. It's fairly mainstream stuff for the most part, so if you're looking for something more obscure it's not for you.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 8:32 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: The English Patient. Some of it has vocals.
Not that you want to listen to this at work because it's so depressing, but the soundtrack to Schindler's List is very good, too.
posted by desjardins at 8:34 AM on May 17, 2011

I love the Ocean's 12 and 13 soundtracks. There are maybe one or two tracks in both that have vocals. Ocean's 11 is okay; I just prefer 12 and 13.
posted by cooker girl at 8:35 AM on May 17, 2011

It's not a great movie but I love Michael Kamen's soundtrack for "What Dreams May Come." Also the music Jon Brion wrote for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."
posted by Simpsolover at 8:36 AM on May 17, 2011

City of God soundtrack. (The movie is also amazing.)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:37 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: Oops, missed that you were looking for non-vocal, sorry about that!
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:37 AM on May 17, 2011

Joe Hisaishi wrote the music for at least most of the Studio Ghibli movies (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, etc). He is fantastic.
posted by Vibrissa at 8:37 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, Rota, Rota, Rota! I think I like his work for Visconti even better than the stuff he did for Fellini. Rocco e i suoi fratelli and Il Gattopardo may be my favorite film scores of all time.

(I love this quote from his wikipedia entry: "I'd do everything I could to give everyone a moment of happiness. That's what's at the heart of my music.")
posted by trip and a half at 8:38 AM on May 17, 2011

Romancing the Stone, Rambo.
posted by cashman at 8:43 AM on May 17, 2011

Soooooo moody and feverish: Heat
posted by sestaaak at 8:46 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Soundtrack from Twin Peaks - the first one, when the series first came out - is a nice spooky jazz.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:46 AM on May 17, 2011

I would nominate Howard Shore's work on The Lord of the Rings as the greatest soundtrack work of the new century to date.

Watch the introduction of Shadowfax and the lighting of the beacons and imagine what they looked like in dailies before the soundtrack was added to get a sense of how huge was Shore's contribution to these films.
posted by Trurl at 8:47 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Soooooo moody and feverish: Heat

It's terrific. But the unforgettable music that ends the film - Moby's "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters" - is not well represented on the commercial release of the soundtrack. A more faithful version is heard on Moby's own compilation of his film work, I Like To Score.
posted by Trurl at 8:51 AM on May 17, 2011

Anything by Nino Rota, who composed a lot of scores for Fellini's movies.

Also the Godfather movies, of course.

Ennio Morricone is great; the soundtrack to "Once Upon a Time in the West" is a personal favorite.

other favorite soundtracks:
"Lost in Translation" (several non-vocal tracks)
"A Clockwork Orange"
"Barry Lyndon"

Goblin did awesome soundtacks for Dario Argento.

I'll try to think of some more.
posted by Koko at 9:00 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I listen to Philip Glass's soundtrack for "Dracula" when I'm working.
posted by hermitosis at 9:03 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The film score for The Truman Show (while technically sci-fi) is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. It consists of beautiful, minimalist, non-vocal music that ranges from calm and peaceful to haunting, suspenseful, and dramatic.
posted by datarose at 9:04 AM on May 17, 2011

Hana Bi, Western, Le temps des Gitans. I could listen to that setlist for hours. Of course, also Lift to the scaffold / elevator to the gallows.
posted by nicolin at 9:12 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: Seven Years in Tibet, composed by John Williams with solos by Yo-Yo Ma.

The Village may have been a disappointing film, but the score (with Hilary Hahn on violin) is lovely.

The Assassination of Jesse James has some quietly beautiful music.

Road to Perdition (I like Thomas Newman a lot)
posted by castlebravo at 9:13 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I came here to suggest Amelie, but my second-favourite soundtrack is to The Hours. It's by Philip Glass and it's very beautiful.
posted by raspberry-ripple at 9:22 AM on May 17, 2011

Peter Gabriel's Passion, from The Last Temptation of Christ.

(the only vocals are voice-as-instrument, not sung words)
posted by mkultra at 9:24 AM on May 17, 2011

Oh, and if you like Yann Tiersen's work on Amelie (especially the more melancholy songs), check out his other soundtrack for Goodbye Lenin!
posted by castlebravo at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anime? Have you ever listened to the soundtrack from Azumanga Daioh? (I love that tuba player!) It's one of the few I've ever purchased.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:32 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: Mulholland Drive.

Some of the tracks have vocals, but many of them do not and they can be as creepy as hell.

The Triplets of Beleville is a favorite of mine as well.
posted by elder18 at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2011

Man, how could I miss "Dead Man" by Neil Young.
Find a dark highway in the desert or mountains and lay on the hood of your car listening to this. Love it.
posted by Seamus at 9:44 AM on May 17, 2011

I just ordered the soundtrack for The Elephant Man by John Morris. I can't speak for the whole soundtrack because I haven't received it yet but the The Elephant Man Theme is great!

I'll also third or fourth the recommendations for Rota.
posted by ericthegardener at 9:52 AM on May 17, 2011

I love the music Brian McBride did for Vanishing of the Bees (later released as the album The Effective Disconnect).
posted by box at 9:54 AM on May 17, 2011

I also love Miles Davis' score for the French crime movie L'Ascenseur pour L'echefeaud.
posted by box at 9:55 AM on May 17, 2011

The second half (the part composed by Trevor Jones) of the Dark City soundtrack is non-vocal, amazing and non-scifish. Heavy orchestration, good use of strings, etc. Someone put up a < a href="">youtube channel for it.
posted by Hactar at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2011

I can't believe I messed up the link.

Here it is again
posted by Hactar at 10:05 AM on May 17, 2011

The Right Stuff's soundtrack successfully stole from Mancini, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D and Holst's The Planets, so getting that or the originals should be great. This is an excerpt of original Conti from the soundtrack.
posted by maudlin at 10:06 AM on May 17, 2011

Blade Runner.

Traffic (the U.S. version).
posted by chicxulub at 10:11 AM on May 17, 2011

You've already listed The Piano and Last of the Mohicans, which are 2 of my all time favorites, so some others I like:

Out of Africa - just gorgeous. By John Barry but not SF, and if you listen closely you'll hear echoes of Octopussy and a few other James Bond scores
Braveheart - lovely
Superman - I know you said no SF, but you may want to make an exception for this one

I seem to remember that the soundtracks to Chocolat and Elizabeth were great too.
posted by widdershins at 10:13 AM on May 17, 2011

All great suggestios above!

Lately I've enjoyed John Dunn's music for "Downton Abbey". Worth checking out, but may not hold up to much repeated listening. It is extremely pleasant.
posted by TangoCharlie at 10:25 AM on May 17, 2011

I've always liked the soundtrack to "Conan the Barbarian" (the first Arnie one) by Basil Poledouris. Mr. Poledouris composed loads of soundtracks to films both admirable and profane. "Conan" stands out because of the relative lack of dialog distracting one from the music.
posted by elendil71 at 10:25 AM on May 17, 2011

Since I mentioned one crime movie with a jazz soundtrack, I might as well add Duke Ellington's soundtrack to Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder.
posted by box at 10:25 AM on May 17, 2011

I'm kind of a soundtrack geek, so I pulled out my iPhone to see what's on there right now. Here are the ones no one's mentioned yet:

Babel (a "various artists" effort)
Country (Charles Gross, featuring various Windham Hill luminaries)
E.T. (John Williams - despite your "no scifi" rule, it's a classic)
Grand Canyon (James Newton Howard)
National Treasure (Trevor Rabin)
Star Trek (Michael Giacchino - I know, I know, no scifi, but I LOVE this one...)
Wind (Basil Poledouris)
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:48 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really love Carter Burwell's soundtrack to "Being John Malkovich" - it is almost vocal-free, and if you like the movie, the vocal tracks are a kick.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 10:50 AM on May 17, 2011

- Toto's score to the David Lynch Dune movie
- The score to Inception
- Thr Vangelis score to bladerunner is pretty atmospheric
- the score (not the soundtrack) of the first Crow movie. I love this but your milage may vary and if i recall correctly it does incorporate some small snippets of dialogue.
and finally its not sci fi but it could easily be a sci fi soundscape - the Trent Reznor score to The Social Network
posted by Faintdreams at 10:54 AM on May 17, 2011

Loved the soundtrack to The Illusionist, Philip Glass.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:55 AM on May 17, 2011

While Wes Anderson soundtracks generally feature songs with lyrics, I really enjoy the instrumental tracks on just about every movie he's made, particularly the Mark Mothersbaugh (of Rugrats fame, strangely enough) tracks on Rushmore. I also enjoy the Indian samplings offered on The Darjeeling Limited soundtrack, as well as the sea songs on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 11:00 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: Also, the soundtrack to Band of Brothers is phenomenal, particularly the main theme. I also enjoy the string quartet number, which is featured in the episode where Easy Company discovers the concentration camp.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: I didn't mention Blade Runner since you said "no s.f."

But if you do check it out - and you should - insist on the fan-produced "Esper Edition". All the many commercial releases are inadequate to one degree or another.
posted by Trurl at 11:12 AM on May 17, 2011

Round Midnight.
Seconding Lawrence of Arabia.
posted by pentagoet at 11:16 AM on May 17, 2011

Alexander Desplat makes amazing soundtracks for movies I'm not actually that keen on: Birth and Largo Winch are what I play when I'm doing something important and want to make it feel like I'm doing something really important. They have these incredible peaks and troughs, and he's got to be my favourite soundtrack artist. I'm really looking forward to his collaboration with Terrence Mallick on The Tree of Life.

Also, listen to the Bourne trilogy soundtracks when you want to feel like you're hacking into the Pentagon - even if you're just working on a Word Document.
posted by hnnrs at 11:19 AM on May 17, 2011

Oh man oh man, Finding Nemo has a most excellent soundtrack. In fact, it's the best "put it on, sit down, and finally get a particular thing done" music I have. Gorgeous, big, slow, ocean-documentary-esque stuff with only smaller, perfectly-chosen pieces of the orchestra at a time. Promise me you'll get this.
posted by jinjo at 11:36 AM on May 17, 2011

Anything by J. G. Thirlwell in general, but particularly his work for The Venture Brothers (I am particularly fond of the track entitled Assclamp)
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 11:36 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most definitely, the "Assassination of Jesse James" by Nick Cave/Warren Ellis.

"Amelie", by Yann Tiersen (also want to throw out "La Plage" by him, although not a soundtrack!)

"Memoirs of a Geisha" - beautiful. Helped me through late-night grad school writing a few years ago. Well, that and a glass of wine here and there!
posted by foxhat10 at 11:38 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: Some soundtracks I have been into at one point or another:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (excerpt: "Farewell")
Hero (excerpt: "For the World")
Minecraft (excerpt: "Door")
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (a hot mess, just like the movie) (excerpt: "I Don't Think Now Is the Best Time")
Star Trek (excerpt: "Enterprising Young Men")

Plus: I've always had a particular love for animated movie soundtracks, which generally feature strong melodies and interesting character/action cues. The new breed of animated movies especially are pretty much nonvocal, so I can recommend most of these without compunction:

An American Tail (excerpt: "Flying Away and End Credits")
Balto (excerpt: "Heritage of the Wolf")
Joe Hisaishi (any) (excerpt: Spirited Away — "Dragon Boy")
Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 (hur hur)
Finding Nemo (excerpt: "Field Trip")
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (excerpt: medley)
How to Train Your Dragon (excerpt: "See You Tomorrow")
Kung Fu Panda (excerpt: "Oogway Ascends")
Ratatouille (excerpt: "Souped Up")
Up (excerpt: "Up With End Credits")
WALL-E (excerpt: "Define Dancing")
We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (excerpt: "Flying Forward in Time")
posted by iguessgabby at 11:45 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fight Club.
posted by A dead Quaker at 11:45 AM on May 17, 2011

Lots of agreement... I can't think of a Philip Glass soundtrack that isn't great. I'm also a huge fan of David Holmes, and if you like his soundtracks, check out his albums. And speaking of John Barry*, there are lots of compilation CDs of just his theme songs that are cheap and good. Same for Henry Mancini.

Some anime series that have multi-edition, multi-CD soundtracks of excellent music: Neon Genesis Evangelion, GaoGaiGar, Samurai Champloo.

Other faves not yet mentioned:
Fight Club (The Dust Brothers)
Fantastic Planet/La Planete Sauvage (Alain Goraguer)
Taxi Driver (Bernard Herrmann)
Donnie Darko (Michael Andrews)
The Usual Suspects (John Ottman)
Romeo is Bleeding (Mark Isham)
Amadeus (guess)
War (Brian Tyler)
Exotica (Mychael Danna)
8mm (Mychael Danna)
The Insider (Graeme Ravell with people from Dead Can Dance)
Unleashed/Danny the Dog (Massive Attack)
Legend (Tangerine Dream)
Narc (Cliff Martinez)

Not really soundtracks but might as well be:
Barry Adamson has done songs for several soundtracks and his albums also sound distinctly soundtrack-like. There are vocals on some of them, but they might be right up your alley right now. I recommend his first five full-length albums without reservation and his later stuff not so much.

* Midnight Cowboy is a short album, and has vocals on about half the tracks, but boy howdy, the Barry stuff is fantastic.
posted by heatvision at 11:47 AM on May 17, 2011

Have you listened to the Friday Night Lights soundtrack? It was made by Explosions in the Sky. (which are also mellow instrumental and really nice to listen to while working) obligatory youtube link to a song here
posted by kerning at 11:56 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: Anything by Shigeru Umebayashi - Especially his theme to In the Mood for Love.

His score to A Single Man is also very good.

Random single track. Baroque from Chungking Express. For some reason it gets my neurons firing when I need to do something complex at work.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 12:31 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by candyland at 12:45 PM on May 17, 2011

While not specifically a soundtrack, Philip Glass' Violin Concerto was featured in the french film La Moustache. I started obsessively listening to it when I had to study. Now, when I hear it, my first instinct is to get back to studying.
posted by ghostpony at 1:20 PM on May 17, 2011

Anything by Bernard Herrman, especially his work with Alfred Hitchcock.
Anything by Lalo Shiffren -- "Cool Hand Luke" is a favorite.

Seconding the soundtracks to Amelie, Twin Peaks, the Truman Show and Grand Canyon.

And if you want more, listen to Robert Emmett's saturday show at .
posted by Rash at 1:37 PM on May 17, 2011

Tom Waits' soundtrack to Night on Earth is consistently great. Kind of a running exploration of a theme. It does have three vocal tracks--each a different version of the same song, but the rest are instrumental.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:07 PM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: I'm linking primarily to Amazon instead of YouTube, so you can click "Listen to all" and get the best impression of a complete soundtrack.

Departures, scored by Joe Hisaishi. No excerpts, blast. Ah, one track on YT, Memory. Completely lovely cello and piano. Perfection.

Tout le matins du monde, scored by Jordi Savall. Simply the world's greatest Medieval/Renaissance musician. Bar none. That is all. (some vocal, but in French)

The Joy Luck Club
, scored by Rachel Portman. Amazing and successful score inspired by and reflecting traditional Chinese music.

The Affair of the Necklace, scored by David Newman. Give all of the excerpts a listen - very varied, beautiful score.

Le Grande Bleu, scored by Eric Serra. Yes yes, bit dated (synths), bit New Agey avant la lettre. But give it a listen anyway. It's magical, particularly if you've seen the movie.

Obligatory rulebreaking scifi recommendation: Solaris, scored by Cliff Martinez. Total heaven. Great for concentrating; I put this on loop for whole days sometimes.
posted by likeso at 5:08 PM on May 17, 2011

I've always loved the soundtrack from Immortal Beloved, which is obviously Beethoven.

Also, I can't remember if there are songs with vocals on it, but I specifically bought the soundtrack for Legends of the Fall for the instrumentals.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:20 PM on May 17, 2011

Seconding Desplat. Birth and Syriana, especially. He's the best in the biz right now.

Also check out the Half Nelson soundtrack by Broken Social Scene.
posted by vecchio at 8:17 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I liked the Munich soundtrack by John Williams.
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 9:34 PM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: Two more: Waking Life and Mad Men (especially the David Carbonara songs).
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 9:41 PM on May 17, 2011

It's old, but I love the music from Dr. Zhivago.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:00 AM on May 18, 2011

The soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's Limits of Control (2009) is excellent.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:58 AM on May 18, 2011

edit button: Tous les matins du monde. Sheesh.
posted by likeso at 2:29 AM on May 18, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks ya'll, lots of great stuff suggested. Here's a list of what I'm gonna start buying, in a rough order of preference:

Dead Man
Blade Runner Esper Edition
The Triplets of Beleville
Last of the Mohicans
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Twin Peaks
Requiem for a Dream
Black Swan
Clear and Present Danger
The English Patient
Hana Bi
The Village
The Assassination of Jesse James
The Hours
Mulholland Drive
The Triplets of Beleville
Being John Malkovich
Band of Brothers
Bourne movies
Fight Club
Snow Falling on Cedar
In the Mood for Love
Legends of the Fall
Waking Life
Immortal Beloved
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:07 AM on May 18, 2011

Hamlet score (the Kenneth Branagh version)
Jurassic Park score
28 Days Later score
Pride & Prejudice score (Keira Knightley version)
posted by anotherkate at 1:22 PM on May 18, 2011

Best answer: Most of these soundtracks do have some songs with vocal tracks intermingled, but you could easily download just the original composition tracks from iTunes or Amazon:

Punch Drunk Love (Jon Brion).
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jon Brion).
Rushmore (Mark Mothersbaugh, credited on Amazon as "OST" for "Original SoundTrack").
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Alexandre Desplat).
Levity (Mark Oliver Everett -- a.k.a. "E", the frontman for Eels.)
posted by D.Billy at 2:21 PM on May 18, 2011

Yo La Tengo's chilled-out, super-introspective score for Old Joy.
posted by rahulrg at 8:42 PM on May 18, 2011

Finding Forrester: underrated movie, gorgeous jazz soundtrack.

The anime Samurai Champloo has vocal tracks but is mostly instrumental, mellow hip-hop that's oddly soothing. And coverable! 3 Japanese albums compiled into 1 U.S.-release, but the import albums are cheap and readily available. I throw all the instrumental tracks, minus the crazy drum song, on random and use it for writing background music.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:01 AM on May 21, 2011

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