The earbud is a pretty important piece of workout equipment, right up there with protein supplement and those sleeveless shirts that are open all the way to the waist (seriously though, why bother at that point?). For me, a great playlist is the difference between slogging my way through an obligatory bout of exercise, or kicking ass and taking names. And as a film junkie, movie scores are my weapon of choice. With the right intense action queue, I can lift more, row farther, climb higher, and run faster. Here are five to get you started.*
- Elysium – Ryan Amon
I can’t tell if this movie wasn’t that good, or if it was just a let down coming on the heels of Neil Blomkamp’s District 9. It’s definitely one or two drafts away from being great, but the action scenes feature a mech-suited, biologically immortal, katana-wielding psychopath, so the music is appropriately intense. In fact, every Blomkamp film has had a terrific score, particularly Hans Zimmer’s brutal techno-lullaby work on Chappie.
- John Carter – Michael Giacchino
You probably didn’t see this movie, and that’s entirely because the marketing was awful. The guys who cut the trailer would probably advertise a Ferrari by showing its door handles. Here’s all you need to know: This is literally THE original science fiction novel, from the writer of Tarzan, from the Oscar-winning director of Wall-E, in which a Civil War veteran is transported to Mars, gains gravity-based superpowers, and beats the hell out of a bunch of aliens. Michael Giacchino’s score is sweeping and epic, with some pretty excellent action queues.
- Battlestar Galactica – Bear McCreary
Television has come a long way from the 1970s, and there is no better example of this than the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. The series was probably one of the best science fiction shows of all time, and dug deep into issues like religious warfare, terrorism, occupancies, and torture. It’s only appropriate that a series this ambitious and complex has one of the best soundtracks of any TV show ever. From heartbreaking (“Gaeta’s Lament”) to jaw-dropping (“All Along the Watchtower”), Bear McCreary’s work stands as one of my favorite things to listen to, of any genre. But especially the battle music. Good lord.
- The Dark Knight Rises – Hans Zimmer
All of Hans Zimmer’s work on the DCU (all three Dark Knight movies, plus Man of Steel) has been insane and epic. However, this heavily contested (but also really frakking great) sequel has the best action score of the bunch. Also, it’s no secret that Tom Hardy is one of my favorite actors and man crushes. This big, brassy piece hits all the right notes, no pun intended, and when Bane’s theme kicks in, you’ll want to kick just as much ass as Batman.
- Mad Max: Fury Road – Tom Holkenberg AKA Junkie XL
Oh weird, Tom Hardy again. There’s not much more I can say about Mad Max: Fury Road that the 98% Rotten Tomatoes score doesn’t tell you. It’s one of the best damn action movies ever made. Period. And just like the movie, the soundtrack is relentlessly intense. I put this on while running and broke a PR mile almost immediately.
What would you add? What did I miss?
*Some notes: Most of these are pretty recent movies, partially because I tend to be pretty fickle with my soundtracks, but also because action scores, in particular, have improved dramatically in the last few decades. I’ve also stuck with one score per composer, because otherwise this list would be only Hans Zimmer.