10 Classic Film Scores – Eddie’s Take

Hope - John

John Williams and his merry band create some Star Wars magic

List compiled by Eddie on 10/07/2015

With the ability to make or break a movie or even enhance a film to a whole different level, the importance of the use of a music score to accompany a film can’t be understated.

From films early beginnings, musical scores have played one of the most important roles in creating the films we know and love today. Can you imagine Indiana Jones making an entrance without his musical cue? The wondrous moment we first glimpse the dinosaur filled world of Jurassic Park without John Williams theme accompanying it? Or even the shrieking filled terror when Janet Leigh meets her untimely demise during showing time staying at the Bates Motel without Bernard Herrmann’s classical composing? Take away the music and what we are left with is a shell of what we know and love.

There have been so many fine examples of music and movies becoming one, fine pieces of art in their own respects, that combine to create something truly marvelous so a Top 10 could never even try to include all the worthy picks that could be chosen. In saying so, this list is merely a taste of what is out there, perhaps inspiration to ponder next time you sit down to watch a film and listen ever more intently to what accompanies the film or remember times that music has helped make a film one that you love and cherish for months and years to come.

For Jordan’s list click here

Disclaimer – as a huge fan of synth music, this list has it’s fair share of synth styled compositions.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - collaborators on the Jesse James score

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – collaborators on the Jesse James score

10. Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Composers – Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

An affecting and unique musical collaboration between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, the score that plays out through Andrew Dominik’s under-seen and underrated western classic is one of the most fully formed of recent cinematic history that when combined with legendary D.O.P Roger Deakin’s imagery, create an almost hypnotic film that you can’t turn away from.

Favourite piece –

9. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Composer – Jonny Greenwood

Sadly never recognised by the Academy Awards,  Radiohead member Jonny Greenwood’s first fully fledged movie score was one for the ages. Capturing both menace, wonder and enlightenment in a variety of wide ranging tones, Daniel Planview’s oil covered journey benefited greatly from this unique piece of work.

Favourite piece –

8. Blade Runner (1982)

Composer – Vangelis

This classic Ridley Scott Sci-Fi was made that little bit more futuristic with the work of famed 1980’s composer Vangelis who outdoes even his Chariots of Fire work with this synth heavy musical accompaniment. This soundtrack is truly one for the ages.

Favourite piece –

7. Clockwork Orange (1971)

Composers – Wendy Carlos and Erika Eigen

While A Clockwork Orange features much of Kubrick’s beloved classical music, Wendy Carlos and Erika Eigen contributed to this beloved cult film with some haunting and often daring work with their film score. For ominous brooding, you won’t get much better than this.

Favourite piece –

6. Southland Tales (2006)

Composer – Moby

A hugely atmospheric score from famed musician Moby, his score here perfectly captures the dream like tone of Richard Kelly’s unfortunately derided odyssey.

Favourite piece –

5. Scarface (1983)

Composer – Giorgio Moroder

Tinged in the vibes of the 1980’s and the sun swept beaches of Miami, Giorgio Moroder’s indulgent score is one that you’d imagine Tony Montana himself listening to as he rides his soft top through the bikini clad streets of the city of high rollers.

Favourite piece –

4. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Composer – Clint Mansell

The score that Clint Mansell crafted for Darren Aronofsky’s breakthrough film has seeped into many different unrelated products, films and TV shows since its inception and would be a score many know without even knowing its origins.

Favourite piece –

3. Interstellar (2014)

Composer – Hans Zimmer

Whilst it may still be mere months old, Hans Zimmer’s bombastic but rightfully so organ led accompaniment to Christopher Nolan’s epic space journey is a score for the ages. Not often does music go so perfectly hand in hand with the images that one is seeing on the big screen.

Favourite piece –

2. The Godfather (1972)

Composer – Nino Rota

A score that somehow encapsulates the Italian culture that’s associated with the life of a Mafioso, Nino Rota’s classic work on Coppola’s quintessential gangster film is a big reason as to why the 1972 classic is the perfectly rounded film that it is.

Favourite piece –

1. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

Composer – John Williams

While it would be nice to have something different at number 1, how can you when John Williams created one of the most beloved and well recognised theme tunes of all time? One of the most fully formed and downright perfect film scores ever made, Star Wars was made that little bit more epic thanks to Williams unforgettable work.

Favourite piece –

Personal Favourites

Burning Man (2011)

Composer – Lisa Gerrard

In this underrated Australian movie, musician Lisa Gerrard created some world class violin led pieces.

Favourite piece –

Harry Potter: The Philosophers Stone (2001)

Composer – John Williams

Couldn’t miss the chance to include this musical piece that played a large part in my child/teen hood.

Favourite piece –

TRON: Legacy (2010)

Composers – Daft Punk

As fans of the first cult classic, Daft Punk delivered the goods for this long gestating sequel that was far better than even the most ardent of fans could’ve hoped for.

Favourite piece –

Drive (2011)

Composer – Cliff Martinez

Drive is a seriously cool film that was elevated to all new hipster levels thanks to Cliff Martinez’s great score.

Favourite piece –

The Grey (2011)

Composer – Marc Streitenfeld

A moving piece of music that can often be heard in the background of TV programs now, like the film itself, Marc Streitenfeld’s score doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

Favourite piece –

Days of Heaven (1978)

Composer – Ennio Morricone

In Terrence Malik’s most beloved and important film, famed composer Ennio Morricone delivered some of his best work in this classic tale of forbidden love.

Favourite piece –

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Composer – Thomas Newman

While any number of Thomas Newman’s movie scores could be used his work in this classic can’t be denied.

Favourite piece –

Badlands (1973)

Composer – George Tipton

Not sure if it officially counts but it certainly is great stuff!

Not really Tipton’s piece but how can one ever forget this perfectly used piece of music in this 1970’s classic.

Favourite piece –

Honourable mentions The Fountain, Into the Wild, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Thing, Inception, The Dark Knight, Psycho, Once Upon a Time in America, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, The Wizard of Oz, Gladiator, The Last Samurai.

What are some of your all time favourite film scores? We’d love to hear about any film old or new that made an impression on you music wise, so comment below!

26 responses to “10 Classic Film Scores – Eddie’s Take

  1. One of my favourites, aside from ones you have already mentioned, is Seven Years in Tibet by John Williams, which features some fantastic cello playing by the famous Yo-Yo Ma. I also have an album of Film scores by Erich Korngold who did, among other things, the soundtrack to The Sea Hawk which is one of my all time favourite movies, and I also believe John Williams may have been influenced by his work.

    • Some great recommendations there! I am actually unsure if I’ve ever seen Tibet but it’s one I’ve always been interested in checking out as a fan of both the director and Pitt. Can’t wait to hear William’s new work on the Force Awakens.

  2. Oh, and on the Star Wars theme, there’s this very true meme featuring Vader which says “You can be cool, but you’ll never be epic song starts playing every time you enter the room cool”

  3. great list! I know it’s not a composed score, but as a lover of folk music, one of my personal favourite soundtracks is the one for O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Inside Llewyn Davis is great as well; Oscar Isaac sounds great. in more classic film score category, I also really enjoyed the music in The Social Network (lots of synths there too!)

  4. Great Great Choices. There Will be Blood was robbed of an nomination for Best Score. So good. I love Tron Legacy score more then the movie itself. other favorite Synth scores were It Follows, and Hanna

  5. No Goldsmith! 😉 Jokes.

    Great article. I love that you highlight a couple of Terrence Mallick scores…. my fav is Zimmer on Thin Red Line. My fav score you mention is Requiem for a Dream.

    You say you like synth, what about strange atmospheric score of the recent UNDER THE SKIN?

  6. I second Vangelis, and especially Cliff Martinez’ ‘Drive’ S/T. Killer 80s synth vibe, and if it was the original Tron S/T by Wendy Carlos I’d second that, too. Great list, man. If you like synth stuff, I highly recommend the Beyond The Black Rainbow S/T by Sinoia Caves. One of my favorite albums from last year. And the movie isn’t too bad, either.

    • Oh sweet man! I have heard a little abit about that flick supposed to be a real mind melter. Always in the mood for a good flick like that and synth. Saw you did the It Follows vinyl review the other day, that was a rad soundtrack!

      • It was..and is! It’s great as a standalone listen. I just watched the movie last Sunday and I think the music was just as important in making that movie what it was. Dug the movie, but the score was tops!

        I bought the Black Rainbow S/T directly through the record label and it came with a dvd copy of the movie. Bonus. Very atmospheric stuff. Totally captured those early 80s vibes. Loved it.

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