Need some music to tune out a noisy roommate? Research shows that relatively calm music, without lyrics, is your best bet for studying. So why not give these movie soundtracks a try?
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1. The Lord of the Rings
From lighthearted hobbit-like interludes to epic and booming Orc-ish battle songs, The Lord of the Rings soundtracks provide more than 5 hours of lyric-free listening pleasure. The changes in tempo will keep you awake, and the more adventurous melodies might just help motivate you through that paper you’re writing. If Frodo can do it, so can you. Just try not to get too distracted by imagining what’s happening.
2. Chariots of Fire
Even if you’ve never seen this movie about track stars from the 1920s, you’ve surely heard composer Vangelis’s famous theme—it comes up every four years during the Olympics. The music is meant to inspire, and the entire soundtrack is quietly repetitive and includes atmospheric ocean sounds, which makes it great background music for diving deep into an assignment or paper that requires your full concentration.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
For those who want a little tough-love motivation for their study sessions, Mad Max: Fury Road brings all the intensity expected of a film that’s basically a 2-hour long chase scene—albeit an awesome one. While there are a number of quiet moments throughout, they all tend to lead into epic guitar solos and/or loud crashing symphonic noises. These might be distracting for some, but the meat and potatoes of the soundtrack—and it’s unique auditory surprises—might be invigorating for certain study styles.
4. Henry V
When you need a full dose of classic inspiration to push through a difficult task, turn to Patrick Doyle’s masterpiece of strings and trumpets to set the pace. The music is the soaring background for Shakespeare’s moving St. Crispin’s Day speech. Be warned that there is a bit of vocal music, but the lyrics are soothing and chant-like, so it shouldn’t be too distracting overall.
5. Jurassic Park
Master movie composer John Williams really knows how to write for an orchestra. Though Star Wars and Indiana Jones might be too iconic to study to, Jurassic Park’s gentle horn theme works well. It also hits the sweet spot for tempo: not too fast, and not too slow. Hook is another good John Williams alternative.
This 1993 movie may be long forgotten, but Randy Edelman’s evocative soundtrack is the perfect music to study to. Though at times sweeping, there are gentle, folksy interludes that keep the soundtrack from becoming overwhelming—a good alternative to the aforementioned intensity of Mad Max. There’s also a lot of repetition, so it sits well in the background while you concentrate on your work.
This Hans Zimmer masterpiece has its ups and downs in terms of intensity, but it can be a great way to really immerse yourself in an epic playlist while you’re powering through a study session. Because most of the songs build in intensity—versus abrupt auditory surprises—you might actually find that you gradually increase your productivity as well! Luckily, you likely won’t imagine anything chronologically during this soundtrack, since the timeline is so jumbled up throughout the film.
8. Dances With Wolves
Like John Williams, composer James Horner is a master of his craft, though his work may actually be better for studying since the themes aren’t as instantly evocative of a famous movie scene. Dances With Wolves was an epic western film, and the soundtrack is nice and long, with interwoven themes that make you feel like you, too, have a wide open world in front of you. Glory and Out of Africa are also excellent choices.
9. Batman vs. Superman
Say what you want about the film itself, the soundtrack was next-level fantastic. Lex Luthor’s theme is jarringly dramatic and piano heavy, while Wonder Woman’s electric guitar-laced theme is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and will make you feel like you can conquer anything. These fast-paced pieces and dark heavy interludes will no-doubt keep your mind active as you work through study guides.
10. Edward Scissorhands
Another slower soundtrack, for those who prefer less intensity in their study playlist. As with all Danny Elfman soundtracks, Edward Scissorhands is whimsical as well as eerie. This one has a few ups and downs in terms of tempo, which will help keep your wits about you as you’re working. While there are some voices, it’s very ethereal, and there are no words. Only negative? The emotional implications for those of us who know and love—and cry throughout—this movie.