The most beautiful film music to play on the piano
Re-discover 10 cinematic masterpieces, as well as the soundtracks which contributed to their success. For each piece, we have included a link to the Tomplay sheet music. Each piece of piano sheet music contains an audio recording of the work and/or a play-along recording of the orchestra to accompany you.
There's no great film without music! Since the very first silent films, music has accompanied and illustrated the storyline. The direction and soundtracks are closely tied to give birth to the film's atmosphere and thus create an emotional link between the work and those watching.
Pianists, through this article re-discover ten cinematic masterpieces, as well as the soundtracks which contributed to their success and immerse yourselves in the story of their composition. For each piece, we have included a link to the Tomplay sheet music for the piano, which contains an audio recording of the work and/or a play-along recording of the orchestra to accompany you. Don't miss either our Collections of the most beautiful film scores to play on the piano!
Let's head off for a journey between music and cinematic art…
1. Amélie Poulain : Comptine d'un autre été - Yann Tiersen
The soul of Amélie Poulain, the young waitress in Montmartre played by Audrey Tautou, came to life from the fingers of the pianist Yann Tiersen. A clever mix of mystery and nonchalance, the soundtrack of Amélie, for which he won many accolades at the French César and Victoires de la Musique Awards, has had a great influence on the Breton musician's reputation. However, if the opportunity came up again, he would not welcome it. Let's look back at a mixed experience...
Yann Tiersen didn't only compose the soundtrack of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's film. Some of his older compositions, particularly for the accordion, were chosen to accompany scenes in the film in the street, the café or at the grocery shop.
The Celtic sound of these titles, very personal to the composer, used for typically French scenes, created an unpleasant dissonance for him. He has even said that he couldn't play the accordion for a long time after having seen the film, the feeling of disgust having set in so much...
He also says that, as composition is an instinctive, organic thing for him, he had a lot of difficulty conforming to the director's requests. They both spoke a different language and didn't manage to understand each other. Jean-Pierre Jeunet apparently also wished to re-name some of Tiersen's compositions, in vain.
It's for this reason that Yann Tiersen decided that if the opportunity came up again, he wouldn't take it... On the other hand, wouldn't some of the freshness of young Amélie be missing without Tiersen's fabulous music?
Explore the Tomplay sheet music of the "Comptine d'un autre été: l'après-midi" by Yann Tiersen at easy/intermediate level: just like the original version, it is accessible to all. Play it on solo piano and use the fingering and the on-screen piano to help you if you're a beginner!
2. Schindler's List - John Williams
Fortunately, Yann Tiersen's experience with French cinema is not legion. Just like the idyll of the image and music inseparable on-screen, sometimes directors and composers come together and foster a lifetime working relationship...
Regarding the composer John Williams, Steven Spielberg said “Whenever I write a picture and John writes the score, it turns out we always see the same film. We have the same emotional image.”
For the release for the film Schindler’s List in 1993, directed by his friend Steven Spielberg, John Williams wrote one of his most beautiful pieces. Having seen the film for the first time after his work, John Williams said this to Spielberg: "This is truly a great film! You need a better composer than me." Spielberg responded: "I know! But they're all dead!"
It was therefore a real challenge, as it was necessary to balance emotion and simplicity, without creating an excess of either, in order to musically illustrate the film's tragic story where the action takes place during the Second World War.
John Williams therefore composed a theme in a classical style, which he then gave to violinist Itzhak Perlman to play. This piece won him the Oscar for best film music.
Explore our sheet music of the exquisite theme from Schindler's List for the piano, synchronised with a play-along recording of the orchestra to accompany you: start the backing track, which will make your sheet music scroll, and modify the tempo to suit you thanks to the Tomplay technology.
3. The Piano: "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" - Michael Nyman
Although there are directors and composers who complement each other and others who tear each other apart, sometimes disagreement for one is the breeding ground for good collaboration from others... That's what happened for Michael Nyman and Jane Campion.
In 1991, after the release of Prospero's Books, the fifth feature-length collaboration between director Peter Greenaway and composer Michael Nyman, their joint co-operation broke down, although it was more than ten years old and one of the best in the history of cinema: without consulting the composer, Greenaway had added some electronic music to his score…
His career could have petered out if he hadn't been contacted by the New Zealand director Jane Campion, asking him to write the music for her next feature-length film.
It was thus that Michael Nyman put down the first notes of what was to become the soundtrack of The Piano, one of the most passionate film scores in modern cinema, marvellously overlaying the both dramatic and moving story of young Ada, a brilliant mute pianist whose instrument is her dearest means of expressing herself.
The jewel of the soundtrack is certainly the piece "The Heart Asks Pleasure First", inspired by an old Scottish folk music melody. It has become a vital piece during Michael Nyman's concerts.
Explore the piano sheet music of "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" in the Tomplay Shop and use the hands together feature to help you practise one hand with the professional recording of the other hand, at the tempo which best suits you. This will be very useful when combining the long sequences of sixteenth notes played by both hands and for working on your endurance!
4. Howl's Moving Castle: “The Merry-Go-Round of Life” - Joe Hisaishi
Let's take a look at another legendary collaboration between two influential men in their field: Joe Hisaishi and Hayao Miyazaki.
The composer, conductor and pianist Joe Hisaishi has composed most of the music for Miyazaki's cinematic productions - an unmissable reference in popular Japanese culture - and its reputation is just as excellent as that of the films.
They include Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, The Castle in the Sky and Kiki's Delivery Service, through which essential themes such as humanity, ecology, technology and pacifism in a raw, brutal world are discussed.
They became friends after meeting, thus revealing the talent of Joe Hisaishi who before that had not sealed the foundations of his own musical style. In harmony with Miyazaki, he has created a characteristic, unclassifiable universe. This iconic duo have changed the opinion regarding Japanese animation of a whole generation.
We wanted to invited you to explore here the sheet music of "The Merry-Go-Round of Life", the main theme from Howl's Moving Castle. The sheet music is classified at advanced level in the Tomplay app, but you will doubtless be able to use the fingering, the separate hands feature and the professional recording of the work included in the sheet music to help you in order to work on this piece under the best conditions.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean - Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer's name is one of the first to come to mind when thinking about film music. With nearly one hundred and fifty productions to his name over more than thirty years, this German composer is a master in this field.
Although we instantly associate Hans Zimmer with Christopher Nolan, we're not going to be interested here in the music of one of this director's feature-length films. Although their collaboration is well-known, Zimmer has created a true soundtrack factory and works on a multitude of other projects.
Zimmer and his team composed the music for the first part of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga alongside Klaus Badelt. However, it was Alan Silvestri who had first been considered for this role.
Badelt had very little time to write the music, just a few weeks, and Zimmer's team had to call on no less than eight composers and nine orchestrators to write the additional music for the film, ie nearly half of it.
Use the Tomplay features to help you learn the music of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme in the best way: adjust the tempo of the metronome to fit your piano part over the professional orchestral backing track and work on tricky passages in a loop.
6. Titanic: Theme - James Horner
The film music composer James Horner (who has several successful Hollywood films to his name) needs no further introduction and was particularly well known for regularly using instruments of Celtic origin in his compositions.
His career took off with the music for the James Cameron film Aliens, but his score for Titanic (by the same director) remains the most widely-sold film score in the world. It won him many awards, just like the music for Braveheart.
Originally, Cameron didn’t want a song to accompany the credits at the end of his film, but he hadn’t reckoned on Horner, who secretly composed the melody and gave it to Will Jenning to write the lyrics. And so “My Heart Will Go On” was born.
For Titanic, they needed a soundtrack to match the heart-breaking love story of Jack and Rose. They needed a song which increased in power and a full-bodied voice. Céline Dion was felt to be the candidate capable of changing the director’s mind, but she wasn’t sure about it when she first heard the song and her husband, René Angelil, had to convince her to record a demo.
The singer admits that she was unwell on the day of the recording: she drank some black coffee, which had the effect of accelerating her vibrato (not her original aim!). After having got to know the story of the film, she went into the recording booth. Just one take was enough and the director was won over.
Another legendary film score in the History of cinema. More than 15 million copies of “My Heart Will Go On” have been sold. It was the highest-selling record in 1998 and propelled Céline Dion into the pantheon of the most widely-heard voices in the world.
Explore our sheet music of "My Heart Will Go On" for the piano at intermediate level with an orchestral accompaniment.
7. Twilight: "River Flows in You" - Yiruma
Let's explore now the work of Yiruma, a South Korean pianist and composer. A New Age artist known the world over, he emerged like a revelation in 2001.
His most famous compositions are "Kiss the Rain" and "River Flows in You", a piece included in the soundtrack of the film Twilight. Light and airy, it is perfectly at home within our selection of the most beautiful film music.
"River Flows in You" is often confused with "Bella's Lullaby", another well-known piano piece for the soundtrack of Twilight written by the composer Carter Burwell. However, both pieces do feature on the album.
The gentle, tender dreaminess towards which "River Flows in You" takes us is a lovely successful metaphor of the love story between Bella and Edward. Sometimes peaceful, sometimes tumultuous, but always passionate!
The main theme of "River Flows in You" is repeated and develops throughout the piece, like other pieces by the same composer. Although it is based on several chords, it is a very expressive and accessible piece which does not require a great deal of experience at the piano, but a certain sensitivity.
Explore the Tomplay sheet music of "River Flows in You" by Yiruma and take advantage of the separate hands function, fingering and the professional recording of the piece synchronised with the sheet music.
8. Pride and Prejudice: "Dawn" - Dario Marianelli
Having been revealed to the wider public by Terry Gilliam's film The Brothers Grimm, the Italian composer Dario Marianelli made a big comeback for the soundtrack of Pride and Prejudice by Joe Wright.
On this occasion, he confirmed that he is one of the most promising film music composers of his time by writing a romantic score, taking the form of a big piano Concerto.
It was director Paul Webster who set-up the meeting between his counterpart Joe Wright and the Italian composer Dario Marianelli. They both had the same vision of the music which would bring out the beauty of the film Pride and Prejudice: it would be inspired by great Beethoven sonatas.
Some pieces composed for this occasion are directly inspired from the film's era, starting from the principle that they would have been heard at this time. They needed a soundtrack full of romance to die for!
On the piano, we find the French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet playing many pieces - particularly "Dawn" which we wanted to introduce you to here - playing the piano solos with grace and dexterity.
Thibaudet and Marianelli have been able to sum up the passion and romance of Elizabeth and Darcy through a magnificently crafted score and performance on the piano and a brilliant orchestral accompaniment, signalling the first of four collaborations between Marianelli and Wright.
Play the Tomplay sheet music of "Dawn" on solo piano and use the app's features, such as the fingering, the separate hands feature and even the professional recording of the work included in the sheet music to help you.
9. The Pianist: Nocturne No. 20 - Frederic Chopin
Directed by Roman Polanski and released in 2002, the film The Pianist is inspired by the autobiography The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw.
It is the shattering story of the Polish Jewish radio pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman - performed on-screen by the American actor Adrien Brody - who undertakes a difficult journey through the Warsaw ghetto, after having lost contact with his family during the Second World War.
To illustrate the sombre themes of Polanski's film, they needed a soundtrack which was both tender and melancholy. Szpilman was a lover of Chopin's music, the same as the Polish classical pianist Janusz Olejniczak, who on this occasion performed a multitude of the composer's masterpieces for the album of the soundtrack.
Having finished sixteenth in the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1970, he was the ideal person to bring to life the musical talent of the brilliant pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman.
We hear exquisite pieces throughout the soundtrack, such as the Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor - released posthumously - which we are inviting you to play here, the great Polonaise brillante in E flat major and the Waltz No. 3 in A minor, Opus 34 No. 2. Other than the works by Chopin, the sheet music for the soundtrack of The Pianist was written by the Polish composer Wojciech Kilar, including the piece "Moving to the Ghetto", which won him a César for the best film music in 2003.
Polanski also made Adrien Brody practise playing the piano for four hours a day, until he was able to correctly perform passages from some of the most beautiful works by Chopin.
Play Chopin's exquisite Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor and take advantage of the professional performance of the work synchronised with the Tomplay sheet music, to listen to simply for pleasure or for inspiration!
10. Forrest Gump: Theme - Alan Silvestri
In order to end our journey on a tender, positive note, let's talk about Forrest Gump, the multi-award winning film directed by Robert Zemeckis, released in the United States in 1994 with Tom Hanks in the main role. Forrest, the hero from Alabama, a little slow of mind but with a big heart, unwillingly influences several decisive historical events in the United States of the 20th century.
Based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom, the Forrest Gump soundtrack was composed by Alan Silvestri and won an Oscar. If this name is familiar to you, it's because he is also the author of the music from the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and, more recently, the Avengers blockbusters.
As well as Silvestri's score, the film's soundtrack also contains around thirty pop-rock songs by artists from the 1950s, 60s and 70s - matching the period which the film depicts - including Elvis Presley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel.
While the pop music gives lift to the film's universe and locates it in time, Silvestri's music reflects the characters and gives them greater personality.
We can hear the Forrest Gump theme (or the feather theme) composed by Silvestri from the beginning. It is a gentle, melodic line on the piano, a pretty reflection of the kindness, purity and innocence of the main character.
The violins under the piano line add a heroic dimension to the music. There, the composer wanted us to understand that simple Forrest's life would not be like that! Furthermore, his life is quite outstanding, although he is hardly aware of it...
As far as the title of the feather theme is concerned, it was chosen because Forrest enjoys comparing the journeys of each person's life with a feather floating around in the wind: "I don't know if we each have a destiny", he says, "or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”
Play the exquisite sheet music of the Forrest Gump theme (the feather theme) on the piano and take advantage of the professional orchestral recording to accompany you. Would you like to play some other film music? Browse our Collections of the most beautiful film music for the piano available at Tomplay.