The best workout playlist demands these soundtracks and scores

The best workout playlist demands these soundtracks and scores
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Composite of a woman working out, surrounded by movie and tv show characters.

Whether it’s an expertly curated soundtrack or a meticulously composed score, music for film and television plays a huge part in how we experience what we watch. But enjoying the work of music supervisors and composers doesn’t have to end when the credits roll. It can also double as a pulse-pounding playlist for a workout. If you love mixing up the music that fuels your fitness, songs from these movies and TV shows will give you more options for the next time you’re ready to sweat. 

Ranging from hip-hop to hard rock, electronica to orchestral arrangements, there’s something for everyone and every type of workout on this list. But remember: Movies — and their music — don’t maintain their energy level at 11 for their entirety for reasons like pacing and budget. Not every song on these albums may be what you need at a particular point in your workout, so feel free to skip them. 

Here are the best soundtracks and scores to add to your workout playlist, plus the type of exercise they might match best with. 

1. Challengers

Ideal for: HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or… tennis, I suppose?

Best tracks: “I Know” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Yeah x10” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “The Signal” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Challengers: Match Point” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Compress / Repress” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, 

Are we on a tennis court, or in a club? Challengers‘ techno score from Nine Inch Nails’ Reznor and Ross has pounding beats that beckon you to move, making it feel more like the latter, and I’m not mad about it. Whether you’re swinging a racket, your ass, or a kettlebell, these thumping songs make it difficult to sit still. 

There’s plenty of athletic — and amorous — action in Challengers, with its story about a trio (Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist) who play with each other on and off the tennis court for more than a decade. Reznor and Ross’ music underscores the intensity, urgency, and physicality of their connection and competition, making the audience’s hearts race as much as the athletes. So, why not lean into that feeling and use Challengers‘ score for an intense workout like HIIT? “Yeah x10” and especially “Challengers: Match Point” will amp up your energy, so you can push extra hard for short bursts of time. Meanwhile, the stops and starts in tracks like “Challengers” and “Stopper” can feel a little jarring when you’re really in the zone, but just think of them as a chance to take a little break before getting back into the action. If you can’t get enough of Reznor and Ross’ compositions (or you just want more songs for an endurance session), you can also listen to the Boys Noize remix of the score. 

Whatever you’re doing, make sure you protect your knees, so you don’t fall victim to Tashi’s fate

How to listen: Challengers (Original Score) is now streaming on Amazon Music.

2. Peacemaker

John Cena is The Peacemaker.

Credit: HBO Max

Ideal for: Pumping iron or learning the dance sequence from the unskippable opening credits

Best tracks: “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” by Wig Wam, “Come On Come On” by Nashville Pussy, “Love Bomb Baby” by Tigertailz, “Push Push (Lady Lightning)” by Bang Camaro

Like the Max TV show’s titular DC antihero and the actor who plays him, these songs are all muscle. Peacemaker stars John Cena as the swole supe from James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, a boundary-blurring not-quite-baddie who questions whether the ends justify the means. Gunn himself curated the soundtrack, which is heavy with songs from the ’80s sleaze rock genre — dripping with ego, radiating sexual energy, and smelling strongly of hairspray. 

If you choose this playlist from Peacemaker as your workout music, be sure to warm up your neck for all the head-banging you’re about to do. These songs are perfect for lifting heavy and getting out your anger about the long wait for the second season of the critically acclaimed TV series to arrive. A few slower songs pepper the playlist, like “House of Pain” by Faster Pussycat and “Home Sweet Home” played by Cena himself on the piano; they’re perfect for resting between sets or contemplating the morality of your actions. The playlist has lots of bangers, but I wouldn’t blame you if you just set the theme song, “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” by Wig Wam, on repeat for the entirety of your strength session. (I may or may not have done this.)

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How to listen: Music from Peacemaker is now streaming on Amazon Music.

3. 8 Mile

Brittany Murphy and Eminem in "'8 Mile."

Credit: Eli Reed / Imagine / Universal / Kobal /

Ideal for: Boxing or any workout that needs a little extra motivation

Best tracks: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, “8 Mile” by Eminem, “Wanksta” by 50 Cent, “R.A.K.I.M.” by Rakim, and “Rabbit Run” by Eminem

When you want to square up against someone — whether it’s in a rap battle or just against a heavy bag — the songs from 8 Mile will get you in fighting form. Eminem stars in the music-driven drama as Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith, an aspiring rapper whose journey often bears a resemblance to the hip-hop star’s own early years just outside Detroit. The album features songs included in Curtis Hanson’s film as well as tracks inspired by it, so in addition to a lot of Eminem, you will also get to sweat to 50 Cent, Nas, Rakim, Gang Starr, and Jay-Z. 

The pacing of a lot of these songs lends itself well to the rhythm of throwing punches in a boxing workout, whether you’re shadowboxing, doing mitt work, or hitting a bag. They’re full of angry energy, promising to fuel you even when you’re starting to flag at the end of a round. Eminem’s Oscar- and Grammy-winning anthem “Lose Yourself” is the first track, and there’s no shame in playing it again when you’re really struggling and need a little push. The stakes in your workout are likely a little lower than in the movie’s rap battle, but you can still “lose yourself in the music.”

How to listen: 8 Mile is now streaming on Amazon Music.

4. The Last of the Mohicans

Daniel Day-Lewis stars in "The Last Of The Mohicans."

Credit: 20th Century Fox / Morgan Creek / Kobal /

Ideal for: A long run, which feels as unending as the love between Hawkeye and Cora

Best tracks: “Elk Hunt” by Trevor Jones, “The Kiss” by Trevor Jones, “Fort Battle” by Trevor Jones, “Promontory” by Trevor Jones

Based on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel, The Last of the Mohicans is a sweeping romantic adventure set during the French and Indian War. This 1992 adaptation stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye, a white man adopted by the Mohicans, while Madeleine Stowe plays Cora, the woman he falls in love with and swears to protect. Michael Mann directed this critically acclaimed story of courage and sacrifice, which is also noteworthy for its ample supply of shots of Day-Lewis running through the frontier set to Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman’s gorgeous orchestral score. 

Appropriate for the 18th-century setting, the music is Celtic-influenced, with some Indigenous drums and flute, as well as military marches, incorporating all of the elements of The Last of the Mohicans‘s plot. Composers Jones and Edelman’s work is vibrant and thrilling, perfect for an endurance run when you shouldn’t be going all out, speed-wise. You get bonus points for verisimilitude if you are actually trail running through the woods with your hair flowing loose behind you, à la Day-Lewis’ Hawkeye. 

How to listen: The Last of the Mohicans (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is now streaming on Amazon Music.

5. Birds of Prey

The Birds of Prey, plus Harley Quinn and Cassandra Cain.

Credit: Claudette Barius / Warner Bros.

Ideal for: Running fast and hard (like you’re being chased by Rosie Perez across Gotham City)

Best tracks: “Boss Bitch” by Doja Cat, “Diamonds” by Megan Thee Stallion and Normani, “Smile” by Maisie Peters, “Bad Memory” by K.Flay

If you need to work out a little stress after a bad breakup (or anything that’s got you down), consider Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey soundtrack your partners in crime. Margot Robbie’s Harley has been there, thanks to being dumped by the Joker. No longer under his protection, she’s now all alone in Gotham City, until she joins forces with an equally strong group of women. 

Filled with female voices and bad-girl energy, these songs from the DC Universe’s Birds of Prey are perfect for a short, fast run where you’re moving for speed. The tracks race between hip-hop, R&B, and multiple flavors of pop, offering options as wonderfully unpredictable as our heroine. Fair warning: The soundtrack kicks off at a sprint with the bold “Boss Bitch” by Doja Cat, so maybe start with an active warm-up to one of the comparably mellow covers later on the album, like “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” sung by Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary or ADONA’s take on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”

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How to listen: Birds of Prey: The Album is now streaming on Amazon Music.

6. Godfather of Harlem

Forest Whitaker and Vincent D’Onofrio in "Godfather of Harlem."

Credit: MGM+

Ideal for: Climbing stairs (and regaining the top rung on the ladder)

Best tracks: “Been to War” by Swizz Beatz, DMX, & French Montana; “Hustle, Repeat” by Swizz Beatz and Jadakiss; “Murda” by Busta Rhymes and Bilal 

In bringing the real-life story of Bumpy Johnson to the small screen, Godfather of Harlem recruited Forest Whitaker to play the legendary crime boss who tried to regain his position at the top of New York’s underworld in the 1960s after a stint in prison. Then the show stacked its soundtrack with hip-hop’s finest, from Swizz Beatz to DMX, Jadakiss to Busta Rhymes, as well as Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg, French Montana, and more.

The songs on the soundtracks for Godfather of Harlem‘s seasons generally aren’t set to super fast beats, so they’re better suited for more moderately paced (but no less difficult) workouts like climbing stairs, either using a machine or going up actual flights of stairs. “Been to War” by Swizz Beatz, DMX, & French Montana is a banger, full of intensity and reminding you that there are worse things than trudging up the steps, while “Hustle, Repeat” by Swizz Beatz and Jadakiss drills in the repetition of what you’re doing.

Finally, “If I Should Die Tonight” by Swizz Beatz and Ronald Isley will feel especially appropriate if you struggle with the StairMaster as much as I do. 

How to listen: Godfather of Harlem: Season 2 (Original Series Soundtrack) and Godfather of Harlem: Season 3 (Original Series Soundtrack) are now streaming on Amazon Music.

7. Love Lies Bleeding 

Katy O'Brian flexes her muscles in 'Love Lies Bleeding.'

Credit: A24

Ideal for: Lifting heavy and posing pretty

Best tracks: “Turn Up the Heat” by Clint Mansell, “Pain Is Weakness” by Clint Mansell, and “I Fucking Love You, You Idiot” by Clint Mansell

Set in the ’80s, this thrilling neon-noir stars Kristen Stewart and actress/real-life bodybuilder Katy O’Brian as lovers inadvertently drawn into the dark side of their scuzzy Southwestern small town. Stewart’s Lou works at a local gym, where she meets O’Brian’s new girl in town Jackie, who is training for an upcoming female bodybuilding competition. Love Lies Bleeding is moody, unnerving, and utterly compelling, with credit due to Clint Mansell’s killer synth score that pulses underneath the action. “Pain Is Weakness” and “I Fucking Love You, You Idiot” even feature the sound of clanging plates for extra atmosphere.

These songs aren’t for people who need loud beats and catchy lyrics to distract them from what they’re doing. Instead, the Love Lies Bleeding score is perfect for being fully dialed into your movements and maintaining perfect form during weight lifting. It’s also good for posing and admiring all your hard work in the mirror, just like Jackie does in the movie.

For those paying attention at home, I have indeed included two music options on this list for strength training because many people, especially women (and especially those in perimenopause), could benefit from regular strength training to maintain muscle and get stronger. That might change once they’ve seen Love Lies Bleeding and get a peek at O’Brian’s absolutely insane traps and delts. But even if you don’t covet her muscles, don’t let that stop you from lifting: It’s very difficult for women to get that big, requiring a ton of work, intention, and protein. So much protein. Where can I get more protein?

How to listen: Love Lies Bleeding (Original Score) is now streaming on Amazon Music.

8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 

Miles Morales is Spider-Man in "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."

Credit: Columbia / Sony

Ideal for: Indoor cycling or any workout that makes you feel like a kid again

Best tracks: “Sunflower” by Post Malone & Swae Lee, “Way Up” by Jaden, “Start a Riot” by Duckwrth and Shaboozey, “Elevate” by DJ Khalil

Few of us are lucky enough to be able to wear a super suit, so the fastest way for most people to feel “Invincible” is to get a good workout in, especially one set to a solid playlist. The hip-hop-heavy soundtrack for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse could be your route to feeling a little stronger. The 2018 animated film is the origin story for Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a Black and Puerto Rican teen who takes on the mantle of Spider-Man after Peter Parker dies. 

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The effervescent “Sunflower” by Post Malone & Swae Lee is perfect for a warm-up; slower-paced songs like “Hide” by Juice WRLD and Seezyn or “Home” by Vince Staples and Richie Kohan would be good for uphill intervals with increased resistance. “Start a Riot” by Duckwrth and Shaboozey and “Elevate” by DJ Khalil would be perfect fits for bursts of speed. Indoor cycling is decidedly less gravity-intensive than what Miles Morales is doing as he swings across New York City with his newfound powers, but unless you’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider too, this is a great form of exercise. 

How to listen: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Soundtrack From & Inspired by the Motion Picture) is now streaming on Amazon Music.

9. 300

Gerard Butler stars in "300."

Credit: Moviestore /

Ideal for: CrossFit-inspired workouts or anything that requires both strength and stamina not to die

Best tracks: “To Victory” by Tyler Bates, “Returns a King” by Tyler Bates, “Fever Dream” by Tyler Bates, “A God King Bleeds,” by Tyler Bates

If you take your fitness a little too seriously, then have I got the album for you and your workouts. (It is also an album for me, so no judgment.) Like your fitness routine and Zack Snyder’s 2006 movie, Tyler Bates’ score for 300 is intense. The hulking hit brings the ancient Battle of Thermopylae to life, pitting King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his band of Spartan warriors against the much-larger Persian army. Bates’ compositions use Middle Eastern elements, powerful vocals, big drums, themes by classical composer Elliot Goldenthal, and a bit of electronic music, blending the mythic and the modern into one epic score. 

For most non-professional athletes, exercise shouldn’t feel like life or death, but some people thrive on that level of adrenaline, which the 300 score will help fuel. If your motivation is either looking like a Spartan or being with someone who does, this album will definitely get your blood pumping while you’re doing burpees, muscle-ups, and wall balls. Quieter songs like “Tree of the Dead” and “Goodbye My Love” are likely better suited for your cooldown, but do you even believe in doing that? (You should!

How to listen: 300 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is now streaming on Amazon Music.

10. Guardians of the Galaxy

Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, Rocket Raccoon, Dave Bautista, Groot in "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Credit: Moviestore /

Ideal for: Walking, or dancing like Star-Lord, if you prefer

Best tracks: “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

Can I hire James Gunn to create workout playlists? He’s probably busy as the CEO of DC Studios, but between Peacemaker and Guardians of the Galaxy, the man knows how to assemble an energetic assortment of songs. His 2014 Marvel movie has one of the greatest character intros ever, when adult Star-Lord aka Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) dances to the funky beats of Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” on the surface of a post-apocalyptic planet. “So he’s an idiot?” says Rhodey (Don Cheadle) when he witnesses this while time-traveling in Avengers: Endgame. Yes, but he also has great taste in music, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

Peter’s taste comes from a relic from his childhood on Earth: a mixtape of his mom’s favorite songs, accurately called “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” (which is also its title on cassette). These classics serve as a source of joy to him, and it isn’t just nostalgia. The assembled mix spans multiple genres, including Motown, pop, and rock, but the common thread is how much delight they bring. They’re perfect for a walk on a sunny day or to push away the clouds. 

Note: There’s no official soundtrack for the first Guardians of the Galaxy film streaming, but this playlist includes songs from the entire franchise. Go for an extra-long walk, and grin along with bonus songs like “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + the Machine, “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra, and “In the Meantime” by Spacehog. 

How to listen: Music from Guardians of the Galaxy is now streaming on Amazon Music.


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