Dune: 10 awe-inspiring moments from Hans Zimmer's soundtrack

How many times have you watched Dune in Cineworld? Whether it's once, twice or half a dozen times, you can't fail to have noticed the impact of Hans Zimmer's score on the movie.

The esteemed, Oscar-winning composer works hand in hand with director Denis Villeneuve to imbue the embattled planet of Arrakis with grandeur, terror and beauty. Somewhat unusually, Zimmer has created three albums for the movie: the official soundtrack release, a Sketchbook album of initial conceptual ideas and a third album for the accompanying 'making of' book.

We've rounded up several of our favourite tracks from two of the three listed albums to remind you of the brilliance of Zimmer's work on the movie.



1. Dream of Arrakis

The scene Paul's dream of Chani

Zimmer uses three female vocalists on the score to indicate that the women characters, primarily the Bene Gesserit, are the driving force behind the narrative. The vocalists are Loire Cotler, Lisa Gerrard, and Edie Lehmann Boddicker, and their voices strike a diverse range of registers, from elegaic to stridently defiant. More often than not, the vocal effects are as wispy and ephemeral as the spice glittering over the sands of Arrakis, as this track demonstrates.

2. Gom Jabbar

The scene The Reverend Mother tests Paul

Lisa Gerrard, with whom Zimmer collaborated on Gladiator (2000), provides a strident blast of energy in this pivotal moment. The eruption of Gerrard's voice from the hazy wash of electronics and specialty instruments (no orchestra is used in the Dune score) gives inner voice to Paul Atreides (Timotheée Chalamet), and anticipates his transformation into the Bene Gesserit's prophesised messiah, the 'kwisatz haderach'. The revelation comes as a shock to the fearsome Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling).


3. Arrakeen

The scene House Atreides arrives on Arrakis

Who would have expected bagpipes to be used in a sci-fi movie set several thousand years in the future? And yet, the national instrument of Scotland fits in perfectly with Zimmer's tapestry of unorthodox sounds. It somehow speaks of colonial expansion and baronial pomp, making it the ideal instrument to reflect House Atreides' arrival on Arrakis. House Atreides promises to make an accord with the indigenous Arrakis population known as the Fremen, but they are poised to become the latest in a long line of colonial exploiters.


4. Ripples in the Sand

The scene The spice harvester is devoured by Shai-Hulud

One of Dune's most awe-inspiring scenes gets a Zimmer accompaniment to match. Zimmer brilliantly plays against our expectations as Shai-Hulud is revealed, paring back the bombast and instead placing emphasis on the haunting vocal incantation, all the better to capture the awe-inspiring power of nature and the reverential status in which the Arrakis sandworms are held. The combination of Zimmer's music and Denis Villeneuve's imagery makes for one of 2021's most astonishing sequences.

5. My Road Leads Into the Desert

The scene Paul and Lady Jessica are accepted by the Fremen

Zimmer's use of pan-Arabic tones, primarily the Armenian duduk, to capture the nature of Arrakis and its people, is brilliantly effective. These ethnic textures fuse with the clattering percussion, electronics and vocals to bring both score and film to a rousing close, as Paul realises his 'Mahdi' destiny with the Fremen. The mixture of discordance and heroism wrought by Zimmer is a brilliant way of cueing us up for Dune: Part Two, in which Paul's sense of valour is revealed to be a double-edged sword that portends violence across the universe.




6. Song of the Sisters

ZImmer's initial conceptual ideas for the Bene Gesserit collective strike a much harsher, more uncomfortable note than those heard in the finished film. A variety of whispering, shrieking and guttural effects speak of their hold over the Imperium and the Emperor, and Zimmer conjures a tone that is laced with intimidating darkness.


7. I See You In My Dreams

However, it's not all bleak atonality on the Sketchbook album. In fact, this album showcases some gorgeous, extended passages of music that were unfortunately dialled back in the final sound mix (presumably so as not to guide the audience's emotions too explicitly). The undulating vocal effects and Vangelis-style synths are more clearly rendered on the Sketchbook, whereas presumably Villeneuve and Zimmer aimed for more ambiguity in the finished film.


8. House Atreides

One thing that's interesting about the Sketchbook album is its mixing of the bagpipes during the Arrakeen arrival. It's much more prominent here than it is on the final score album and film mix, which again suggests that Villeneuve wanted Zimmer to favour a hazy wash of sounds with instruments ranging in and out. The 'House Atreides' track is also decidedly more defiant and ostentatious than the cue we ultimately got – maybe director and composer were wary of glibly establishing House Atreides as liberators of the Fremen?


9. The Shortening of the Way

Zimmer is superb at taking repetitious cells of music (not so much themes, but little motifs and impressions), and steadily building them into anthems of empowerment. The breathtaking 'The Shortening of the Way' hits a variety of emotions but mostly it's infused with a sense of awestruck wonder, anticipating the messianic future of Paul Atreides and its eventual impact on the entire galaxy.


10. Grains of Sand

Zimmer's background in anthemic rock music and electronic production comes to the forefront during the final Sketchbook track. There's a pulsating sense of movement beneath the vocal effects (again akin to the Oscar-nominated Gladiator) that evokes a very different feel from the final reel of the official soundtrack album. It's fascinating to compare the two Zimmer projects and note both the similarities and differences, although one thing is for sure: Zimmer has done a magisterial job burrowing beneath the sand of Arrakis and giving it a singular, powerful voice.


Has listening to the score made you want to watch the movie again? Click here to book your tickets for Dune and tweet us @Cineworld with your favourite moments from Hans Zimmer's score. Don't forget that Dune: Part Two is scheduled for release on 20th October 2023.