Sometimes, a work forgoes a soundtrack, usually for added realism.
Early sound films tended to have no music tracks unless there was an on-scene source (a radio or a stage orchestra). This was partially due to the limitations of early film sound recording technology, as well as a desire for greater realism (and a belief that audiences would be asking where the music was coming from). In the early years of sound cinema, there was a debate over whether film sound should be naturalistic, corresponding only with the on-screen action; or serve as an artistic counterpoint to the images, with music and sound effects providing a kind of commentary on the action. Eventually the solution was to Take a Third Option and strike a happy medium, with dialogue recorded on set complemented with a music score and augmented sound effects.
Almost ubiquitous in fly-on-the-wall and Mockumentary-style works.
- For the most part, the real life sequences in Net-Juu No Susume have no background music aside from joke scenes. This is in comparison with the lively MMO sequences and is used to show how lonely the protagonist's life is.
- Besides the opening sequence, Dog Day Afternoon does not have any music.
- The Panic In Needle Park, a 1971 film about heroin addicts done in cinema verite style, shot on location, has no soundtrack and no incidental music.
- In keeping with the genre of Found Footage Films, Cloverfield has no music other than diegetic (until the end credits, which have epic symphonic battle music called "Roar!")
- The Israeli drama film The Exchange uses absolutely no music, except on one occasion when relevant in-universe, and when the credits roll. Since it takes place in a quiet neighbourhood, the silence can be almost eerie.
- The Birds uses natural and electronic bird noises in place of a musical score.
- About Schmidt has no musical soundtrack. In one scene, Schmitt's daughter has the radio on, but it is the only music you'll hear in the movie.
- The Marx Brothers first film The Cocoanuts is a perfect example of that. The brothers figured that the audience wouldn't care where the music came from, but the executives insisted that film audiences wouldn't suspend their disbelief, so they hired an orchestra to sit on the set in order to justify the musical numbers (even though they were using prerecorded music) — but the director forgot to shoot them and almost all the musical numbers were cut anyway, so the studio wasted that money.
- The Peter Bogdanovich thriller Targets has no music soundtrack, except for a diegetic tune heard on a car radio. The opening credits are played over music-free footage from one of star Boris Karloff's previous films.
- Jan vankmajer's Alice lacks any background music, aside from a piece of music played over the end credits. If anything, the sound effects (such as Alice sucking her finger or scraping knives) are exaggerated and sound quite loud.
- One of Our Aircraft Is Missing contains no musical score. Director Michael Powell strove for "naturalism" and only used diegetic sounds.
- Fail Safe was intended to contain a score, but this was left out. This just adds to the ominous nature of the film.
- The Florida Project is, with the exception of its final scene, entirely scoreless.
- Forbidden Planet doesn't have a conventional music score, instead using electronic sounds to give an outer worldly atmosphere. At one point a recording of similar sounds is played by the characters and theorized to be music from the extinct race of aliens that once populated the planet.
- The infamous 25 minute rape scene in I Spit on Your Grave is without any musical score.
The Cinema Snob: The director definitely shows the scene in about the most realistic fashion as he can. There's no soundtrack playing, other than the character in the movie playing the harmonica which kinda adds to the atmosphere. Almost nothing about it feels like you're watching a movie. It was one of the most raw sequences put on film at the time.
- The movie The Lunchbox, which presents a bittersweet picture of the depressing nature of modern-day life in India, has no background music, and only once or twice any music playing due to onscreen sources. This is particularly notable in contrast to the most common kind of Indian movie the West sees, the Bollywood musical, which naturally uses music a great deal.
- The Pianist has no music unless the main character is playing a piano or hearing someone else play an instrument.
- Cast Away has no musical score whatsoever when Chuck Noland is stranded on the island, which really drives home how desert islands are both quieter and louder than a city.
- A trademark of Michael Haneke. None of his movies feature a score. All music is performed or replayed in-universe.
- Underground turns this on its head by having the two main characters followed almost everywhere by a live brass band who provide a jaunty tune for their various adventures.
- The Tribe has no background music, and no diegetic music, to underscore the silence of life in a school for the deaf.
- Desert Hearts, a film set in 1959, has no background music, although period hits by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash (among others) are heard on radios.
- Save for the credits, Sully has no soundtrack, which only enhances the Nothing Is Scarier atmosphere after the engines fail.
- No Country for Old Men, except in the credits and one scene in the movie, uses no background music, which adds to the tension felt throughout the film.
- M*A*S*H started out using musical scores throughout each episode, like most sitcoms of the era, but starting in the second season on it was gradually phased out, reserved for lengthy comedic sequences and before and after commercial breaks. By season eight, the background music was gone entirely. According to Burt Metcalf, it was removed to be "just like the actual Korean War". Likewise, the Canned Laughter forced by the network was scaled back as the series wore on, ultimately being absent in the finale.
- The Wire is, perhaps, the definitive example of a TV series which doesn't use background music (except in the End Of Season montages).
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 5 episode "The Body" has absolutely no music, apart from the theme tune during the opening and closing credits. However, the rest of the series has music like normal, making this episode really stand out.
- The Sopranos generally avoids non-diegetic music. When it does appear, it's always very noticeable, and the most dramatic scenes tend to be music-free.
- The Thick of It is a totally straight example. It doesn't even have title music.
- Getting On (a similar show to The Thick Of It, set in a hospital rather than Westminster) has no background music, but it does have title music.
- The Office (UK) and The Office (US) have no soundtrack beyond title and closing themes and occasional transitional music, owing to their mockumentary nature.
- Likewise, spin-off Parks and Recreation lacks a non-diegetic soundtrack.
- The Kraft Suspense Theatre episode "Their Own Executioners" lacks a musical score, unlike the rest of the series.
- The Outer Limits (1995): Given its premise, the Found Footage episode "Manifest Destiny" features no music (discounting the opening and closing credits).
- Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, arguably the darkest but certainly the most realistic Harvest Moon title, lacks background music with a few exceptions, notably the record player in your house and occasional guitar music at the local bar. You can also sometimes hear music if you visit Lumina's house while she's playing the piano.
- The Grand Theft Auto series is rather famous for its lack of background music - up until Grand Theft Auto V, there are very few times throughout the series where there is non-digetic music playing. As mentioned, this stopped with V, which contains a fully-featured background score in addition to licensed radio music.
- Despite having several orchestral scores listed in its soundtrack, Brothers in Arms does not have any background music. All of these themes instead play during either the main menu or during title sequences, but never in the levels themselves.
- The individual segments of Rocky and Bullwinkle have no background music outside of their opening and closing sequences. This appears to be more due to low budgets than to artistic reasons, although with its rapid-fire dialogue, a music score seems redundant. The exception is Dudley Do-Right, which has a piano score as part of its spoofing of (ironically) silent film conventions.
- At least a couple of Aesop & Son shorts, like "The Dog and His Shadow" and "The Sick Lion", did have original scores.