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Raise the Stakes in Your Action Scenes with a Pulse-Pumping Soundtrack

Throwing your actor out of helicopter is just the beginning. Add more “oomph” to your stunt sequences and action scenes in post with intense royalty-free music.

Whether you’re capturing a choreographed fist fight, a high-speed car chase, or a fast-paced gun battle, planning and shooting stunt sequences and action scenes is an exciting endeavor. Of course, while an afternoon spent filming a brawl on a moving speedboat is sure to be a highlight of your production schedule, a lot of the real thrills are created in post. Obviously an airtight edit and some bone-crushing foley work are vital to a mind-blowing stunt sequence, but don’t sleep on the intensity and momentum offered by a killer soundtrack.

Let’s take a look at two examples of how music (like the songs on the playlist below) can add energy, atmosphere, and intensity to action-packed stunt scenes.

Atmospheric Action Soundtracks

The stunt-dense opening scene of Christopher Nolan’s revered The Dark Knight wouldn’t be nearly as, well, cool without Hans Zimmer’s score. The tension-rich composition creates undertones of dread that accentuate the moment-by-moment risks of the heist unfolding on screen.

The score uses steady clock-like rhythms to speak to the precision required to pull off a bank robbery, but the music suggests more than a stopwatch. The song serves as an ominously ticking bomb timer that’s counting down to the Joker’s arrival as an explosively unstable new threat. This is the sound of time running out for Gotham City.

With its urgent staccato pulse and discordant swells, Zimmer’s music builds drama in a familiar cinematic scenario — a bank robbery — while playing up the uncertainty that’s inherent when menaced by faceless gun-toting chaos-goons. It’s purposeful and motivated, but it’s still atmospheric.

Lorne Balfe’s score for Mission: Impossible – Fallout’s rooftop chase, on the other hand, is present to the point of practically participating in the scene. The score is wound tightly around the Tom Cruise action on screen, matching it move for move.

This music is about can-do characters and the million-dollar faces who play them. Accordingly, the human element is upfront from the very first measures of the score in the form of isolated, furiously pounded hand drums; the percussionists are working just as hard as the heroes.

The music moves with the edit, bouncing between moods as the situation evolves and jumping between different themes that work together like the specialists on Ethan Hunt’s team. Each new seemingly impossible challenge Cruise’s crew encounters is accompanied by an appropriately intense stakes-raising shift in dynamics.

Just like the scene In The Dark Knight — and like every good thriller, really — a ticking clock is in play in Fallout’s rooftop set piece. But unlike The Dark Knight’s “audio symbolism,” this is an actual race against time.

Mission: Possible – Go Big with Action Assets

Now that you’ve checked out two blockbuster approaches to using music in action scenes and stunt sequences, make your next video project’s action-packed moments even more intense. Our pals at Shutterstock hired their very own Chuck-Norris-Adjacent professional stuntman to help them shoot a fight scene. Give it a watch above to pick up a few pointers, and then give a listen to the playlist below. The mix is packed with royalty-free tracks that were hand-picked to complement your most jaw-dropping action footage, and each is available in perpetuity with a simple $49 Standard License.

Cover image via Mooshny.
Header image via FrameStockFootages.
Playlist header image via Stas Ponomarencko.

Your search for the best royalty-free music ends here. Check out these additional playlists.

Action-Packed Tracks
Action-Packed Tracks
Make your stunt footage more explosive with intense royalty-free music
  • Uranium Glow
  • Heavy and determined, featuring driving strings, brass, percussion, 808 bass, sound design, and beats creating a bold, triumphant mood.
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  • Fight
  • Driving and hard-hitting, featuring strings, brass, choir, synthesizers and powerful drums that create an intense, epic mood.
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  • Intruders
  • Heavy and edgy, with dubstep elements, gritty electronic elements and heavy beats create a powerful mood.
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  • Cyberpunk
  • Aggressive and bold, featuring glitchy synthesizers, distorted bass, and industrial percussion creating a powerful, hostile mood.
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  • Spirit of War
  • Dark and urgent, featuring driving gritty brass, strings, sound design, and boomy percussion creating a powerful, determined mood.
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  • Anomaly
  • Heavy and driving, featuring Dubstep elements, gritty synth textures and driving synth drums that create a daring mood.
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  • Relentless Pursuit
  • Driving and urgent, with production / film scores action elements featuring pounding bras, percussion, and strings to create a frantic and captivating mood.
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