Nothing makes a great film better than an amazing score or title theme. To honour the music and the talents involved, below you will find a selection of ten notable film scores. Please note that this list is not exhaustive nor is it definitive, it is merely a salute to some of the most memorable scores in cinema history.
The Lord of the Rings-Howard Shore
Peter Jackson and his writing team were drawn to Shore because he displayed considerable skill in adapting literary works. These included, ‘The Fly’, ‘Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Naked Lunch’ and ‘Looking for Richard’. Shore’s score for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is vast, operatic and filled with leitmotifs that relate to Middle Earth cultures and characters, a tour de force that equalled Jackson’s grand vision.
Star Wars-John Williams
Amongst all of Williams’ great works his score for ‘Star Wars’ is his most famous and a contender for the greatest score ever. Before ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’, there was a dearth of classical, orchestral film music. Movies from the 1950s onwards utilised mainly, pop, rock and jazz. After Williams’ work on ‘Jaws’, Steven Spielberg recommended the composer to George Lucas for work on ‘Star Wars’. For the film, Williams wrote a romantic orchestral work that celebrated music from the golden age of Hollywood. The success of ‘Star Wars’ helped revive classical music in film and cemented Williams’ status as a great film composer.
The Battle of Algiers: Ennio Morricone
In the history of cinema, Morricone is a titan. Some of his credits include, ‘A Fist Full of Dollars’, ‘The Good the Bad and the Ugly’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’. ‘The Battle of Algiers’ is not one of his more commonly known or celebrated works but the score is excellent nonetheless. The low piano passages and militant percussion encapsulate the revolutionary spirit of the film.
Harry Potter: John Williams
John Williams scored the first three ‘Harry Potter’ films. Consequently, their scores are the best in the series. While Williams does not reinvent himself he still managed to create a memorable and magical soundtrack.
Predator: Alan Silvestri
Silvestri’s score is primal and rhythmically complex, perfect for those jungle scenes. The trumpets, piano and percussion are militaristic but what most captivates and unsettles you are the wild dissonances of the strings, ethereal and fantastical. Ambient electronic sounds are perfectly used within the acoustic orchestral compositions as well.
The Matrix: Don Davis
Fantastic contributions by Marilyn Manson, Rage Against the Machine, Juno Reactor and ‘The Crystal Method’ did not overshadow Don Davis’ jarring yet fresh and interesting avant-garde score. Davis’ dissonant brass heavy tones and dissonant strings give the impression all is not as it seems.
Batman: Danny Elfman
Before ‘Batman’, Danny Elfman and Tim Burton collaborated on the cult hit, ‘Beetlejuice’, it too has a memorable soundtrack. Yet it was Elfman’s work on the ‘Batman’ that cemented his status as a notable composer.
Conan the Barbarian: Basil Poledouris
Poledouris’ score veers between brutal and tender. To capture the brutality and energy of the ancient setting primal fifths and huge orchestras are utilised to marvellous effect. Tender moments are found in minor-keyed melodies and Poledouris’ keen awareness of ancient folk music and chant.
Back the Future: Alan Silvestri
Songs by Huey Lewis and the News were at the forefront of the film’s soundtrack but it in hindsight it was Silvestri’s score that was the true standout. The main theme from ‘Back to the Future’ is boisterous, heroic and memorable enough to instantly identify it with the films.
Ben Hur: Miklos Rozsa
Before pop, rock and jazz became the main musical idioms in Hollywood during the 60s and 70s, Rozsa’s music for Ben Hur was arguably the last representation of the golden age of Hollywood film music. Rozsa effectively exploits leitmotifs and thematic transformation to show the development and change in characters, pulling on your heart strings one moment then raising your spirits the next.