The below film scores should require no introduction.
Some are oft mentioned and referred to as inspiration when current film-makers wish to create rousing themes to reach the hearts of the audience, and others remain under-appreciated despite their unquestionable importance.
Then, there’s The Wicker Man.
Immediately you will notice a significant lack of John Williams, whose work I, like every other film fan worldwide admire, but I’ve endeavored to mention some that are more personal, and that I revisit time and time again. Be sure to check back in next week for Eddie’s list also, and whether you’ve heard the below themes and songs before or not, take a minute and enjoy some fine examples of one of the most important components of film making.
10. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Music by Ennio Morricone. Film directed by Sergio Leonie
Great music has the ability to evoke strong emotions through its perfect composition,and in doing so binds a moment to your heart and mind indefinitely. The pan flutes that dictate Morricone’s score for Leonie’s swansong Once Upon a Time in America return me to the streets of Brooklyn and the tragedy that occurred there.
This is a beautiful theme that is impossible to forget.
9. Candyman (1992)
Music by Philip Glass. Film directed by Bernard Rose
Candyman is a haunting film. It is also a terrifically mature one, with a strong, adult heroine facing a supernatural villain scarred by a terrible past. Philip Glass’ piano score with vocal backing translates this mood wonderfully, escaping any blunt horror movie music trappings.
8. Cool Hand luke (1967)
Music by Lalo Schifrin. Film directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Paul Newman’s Luke being teary eyed, softly singing and strumming his guitar on his bunk after hearing of the death of his mother may be the standout music moment from Stuart Rosenberg’s non-conformist masterpiece for many, but for mine Lalo Schifrin’s Academy Award nominated score is just as lovely.
7. Taxi Driver (1976)
Music by Bernard Herrmann. Film directed by Martin Scorsese
I originally had Bernard Herrmann’s gritty, earthy jazz inspired main theme atop this list, so don’t let the fact that its slipped to 7th put you off. The sleazy, darkened streets of New York City as viewed by Travis Bickle come alive in a composition essential to the film’s longstanding power.
6. The Wicker Man (1973)
Music by Paul Giovanni. Film directed by Robin Hardy
The Wicker Man is an unclassifiable, strange experience; being part horror, thriller and folk musical. Each song has its own unique feel and meaning, with Corn Rigs and Gently Johnny being the most recognizable. The best though? Willows Song.
5. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 – 2003)
Music by Howard Shore. Films directed by Peter Jackson
There wouldn’t be a fantasy fan alive who doesn’t feel inspired when listening to Howard Shore’s rousing music for the great trilogy, as essential to Middle Earth as Hobbits, Orcs and a certain ring. In my opinion this even tops John Williams’ work on Star Wars and his Spielberg collaborations.
4. The Thin Red Line (1998)
Music by Hans Zimmer and the Choir of All Saints. Film directed by Terence Malick
The effortlessly mesmerizing sound of the Melanesian Choir singing Jisas Yu Holem Hand Blong Mi backed by image of the picturesque Guadalcanal could be Terence Malick’s most astute moment as visionary director. The Thin Red Line is a study of the inherently violent nature of man and how it conflicts with the Earth’s natural majesty, and both these choirs and the score by Hans Zimmer do well to show to futility of war and hate.
Many time I have laid down and listened to both musical styles and marveled at the marriage between them.
3. Halloween (1978)
Music by John Carpenter. Film directed by John Carpenter
I’m hesitant to picture a world without John Carpenter synthesizer scores. It’s just too horrible to imagine. In 1978 he changed the face of the American slasher film with Halloween, and displayed in it not only his enviable tension building skills through taut directing, but also his ability to further a scene with a simple, relentless tune. This component of his work would wind up being his most influential, and he again produced excellent scores for The Fog and Escape from New York.
2. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Music by Ennio Morricone. Film directed by Sergio Leonie
It may surprise some that Sergio Leonie does not boast an extensive catalog, but the reason his name is still slipped into endless conversations is because his movies looked and sounded so extraordinary, and as a result are now synonymous with the mere mention of cinema itself. Before Once Upon a Time in America, he worked with Morricone on The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, and every single audio cue that makes its way through the speaker guarantees each of their legacies.
This main theme is mystical, adventurous and utterly unique.
1. Suspiria (1977)
Music by Goblin
Film directed by Dario Argento
Suspiria is renowned as being one of the most frightening and viscerally lavish film experiences of all time, and in order cultivate a paranoia among the cast that would seep through in their performances and add to the surreal aura, director Dario Argento would play the music of progressive rock group Goblin on set.
The theme to Suspiria ranks as Goblin’s biggest hit, and for good reason, the escalating bells and off-putting twangs combined with a voice that floats in and out of focus is enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand erect, and remarkably its only one of many classic pieces they composed; their genius can be further explored in their other collaborations with Argento, most notably Profondo Rosso, Tenebre and Zombi (Dawn of the Dead).