20 Greatest Film Scores

20 greatest film scores

I am huge film music fan and I’ve appreciated the music so much that approximately one third of my record collection consists on film soundtracks. In fact the first CD I ever bought was the soundtrack of Aliens (yeah, I was one of those weird kids), and over twenty years later I still have it. Let’s take a look of the best film scores I know. I’m gonna use YouTube links for examples here, but if you can find these albums lying around anywhere, be sure to take a listen, or possibly even buying them. This incredible music should be appreciated more and supporting these amazing composers is money well spent.

Oh, and one more thing. The list is not necessary in order, since they are all excellent. I cannot say which of them I love more.

Ok, here we go!

 

20.

SHIGERU UMEBAYASHI: HOUSE OF THE FLYING DRAGONS

This score represents the very pinnacle of the combination of asian and traditional film music styles. It’s grand, it’s sweeping and immensely emotional. The score for Tan Dun’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has gained more attention, but its themes are not as strong as Shigeru Umebayashi’s work here. An absolut winner.

Declare your undying love to the woman in your life while blasting this from the speakers. She’ll make sandwiches for you the entire week.

 

19.

ALAN SILVESTRI: BACK TO THE FUTURE

I have mad love for Robert Zemeckis’ Back To The Future and a huge part of that love goes to this amazing score Alan Silvestri did for the film. Silvestri used an insanely large orchestra to gain that million dollar sound, and even today few films can top the sheer epicness. The main theme is one of the most recognizable cues ever made and the rest of the score is stunning in it’s impeccable sense of action, adventure and thrills. After almost 30 years, it still gives me huge rush to listen this soundtrack. If you can find the 2009 Intrada 2-disc soundtrack album (which would be a small miracle since there’s only 10 000 copies printed) pay whatever they ask and enjoy.

When you’re late from somewhere, listen to this on your headphones while rushing to your destination. It almost makes it worthwhile to be late.

 

18.

LALO SCHIFRIN: DIRTY HARRY

I only have one thing to say about this score: that bass fucking rocks.

A must listen if youre driving a seventies cop car in San Francisco.

 

17.

THE DUST BROTHERS: FIGHT CLUB

One of the smartest things David Fincher did with Fight Club was to hire Californian music producer duo The Dust Brothers to write (I’m not sure if that word actually applies here) the score for the film. And they knocked it far out of the park with this bat-shit insane electronic score. It’s moody, it’s dark and it’s also goddamn hilarious. It’s a bold smack in the face of the film music fans who want their film scores to be generic Hollywood orchestra overload (Media Ventures, anyone?). Sometimes the left-field approach is the right way. It sure as hell worked for Fight Club.

These are the same guys who produced Hanson’s MMMBop, by the way.

 

16.

THOMAS NEWMAN: ROAD TO PERDITION

We all know that Thomas Newman is one of the best, right? I was really struggling to find what is his strongest effort from his incredible collection of great soundtracks. I almost put American Beauty on this list. Then I almost put The Shawshank Redemption on this list. Hell, I even concidered putting the score of How To Make An American Quilt on this list. But ultimately Road To Perdition is my favourite of his scores. It makes me all mushy inside. The film was good, but the score is outstanding.

A good listen when you’re moving to a new city.

 

15.

JERRY GOLDSMITH: THE ’BURBS

And here we have another composer who’s body of work is so vast and so awesome that it was crushingly difficult to choose one. His scores like Powder, Under Fire, Star Trek: The Motion Picture were seriously almost going to the list (especially the gorgeous Star Trek score, but the Main Theme is kind of underwhelming compared to that stunning Ilia’s Theme) but then I thought on that one score that has every element of Jerry Goldsmith’s body of work in one amazing score. It’s almost like a greatest hits album, but only with original material. The ’Burbs, a film by Joe Dante has a great comedy score from Goldsmith who infuses the music with awesome genre leaping. There’s horror, suspense, western, romance and even references to Goldsmith’s own Patton score. The score is undeservedly lesser known and should be appreciated by many.

A great listen if you suspect your neighbor might be a serial killer and you might have to stop his evil ways.

 

14.

MICHAEL KAMEN: LETHAL WEAPON

Michael Kamen was really good when he did music for action films in the 80’s. In fact he was so good that the music in action films were pretty much molded after his seminal work with the genre (or in some cases, his work was ripped off shamelessly). His scores in Die Hard, Last Action Hero and Licence to Kill are all strong action scores, but there’s one reason  I picked up Lethal Weapon. I really like that Kamen gave the to lead character signature instruments on the score. Riggs (Mel Gibson) gets electric guitar played by Eric Clapton and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) gets the saxophone played by David Sanborn. These musical identities do wonders in the film and Kamen should be applauded for his ingeníous use of instruments. He later went even further in the sequels, giving Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) a trumpet and a harmonica for Lee Butters (Chris Rock) as musical identities. Also, the score just kicks ass when it goes into high gear. A great great action score.

Anybody who lives in a trailer by the beach with a dog should give this a listen.

 

13.

JAMES HORNER: BRAVEHEART

When Braveheart came to existence in 1995, I was totally unprepared for the score James Horner did with this film. When I heard it the first time, I fell in love with that powerful theme. There’s actually very little I can say about this score. It’s just one of a kind. I’m listening to it as I’m writing this, and I shit you not, I’m still getting goosebumps.

Give it a listen when you marry the one you love.

 

12.

ERIC SERRA: THE FIFTH ELEMENT

When french film maker Luc Besson directed his gorgeous Sci-Fi adventure, he turned to his long time collaborator Eric Serra to do the score and I think they did something marvelous. The score is eclectic, unique and all over the place, in a good way. That heartbreaking  theme is frail and beautiful, just like Leeloo, the heroine in the film herself. Absolutely stunning score.

Those French sure know how to do a movie score. Speaking of which…

 

11.

YANN TIERSEN: LE FABULEUX DESTIN d’AMELIE POULAIN (AKA AMELIE)

No score can make in a better mood than this adorable little frech soundtrack. This should be in your record collection. I don’t care who you are, or what type of music you listen to. This should be in your record collection. And no, Spotify is not the proper venue for this.

This should be listened when riding a bike on a warm summer day while holding a strawberry ice cream.

 

10.

ENNIO MORRICONE: FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE / THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY / FISTFUL OF DOLLARS

In this case it was simply impossible to pick one, so I have to give credit to all of these excellent spaghetti-western scores. They are all really great and represent the best that Morricone did (you should also check out his brilliant non-western soundtracks to Frantic, The Untouchables and Casualties of War). You know these already.

You can listen them when preparing for a duel, or when Metallica is about to start their concert.

 

9.

DAFT PUNK: TRON: LEGACY

I never did care for the score for the original Tron (in fact I think Wendy Carlos’ score was seriously hindering the film), but when Daft Punk took over they made one the best electronic ear-orgasm of a soundtrack. The sound quality is incredible (go find the best speakers money can buy and crank this sucker up) and the main theme is excellent. Tron: Legacy looks great, but sounds even better, thanks to the French electro duo.

After that, my ears went for a cigarette and opened the refridgerator.

 

8.

HANS ZIMMER: THE LAST SAMURAI

Hans Zimmer’s catalogue is filled with absolutely anything: comedy, drama, kids’ animated films, horror, action and adventure. My pick of the bunch is The Last Samurai, because that score truly elevated the film to soaring heights. That honor theme is spectacular and heartbreaking. Zimmer really outdid himself, and he did so without any bells and whistles this time. Bravo.

Fuck, I wanna go full ninja now!

 

7.

MICHAEL GIACCHINO: THE INCREDIBLES

Michael Giacchino is the best thing that video games ever gave us. After doing awesome music for games, he went to do TV stuff, and after that it didn’t take long for the guy to get into motion picture scoring and every last one of his scores are great. Every. One. Of. Them. The Incredibles is a fun animated action adventure film, and Giacchino’s 60’s-styled jazz score is phenomenal. It’s ridiculously fun and energetic. Everything in it just works.

I should do a hundred mile dash while listening this.

 

6.

RACHEL PORTMAN: ONLY YOU

I’m as surprised as you are. What the hell is this doing here? A light romantic score for a light romantic comedy made in the nineties. What’s so special about that? Well here, take a listen:

I can almost see the little old streets and the sea by the beach.

 

5.

DANNY ELFMAN: EDWARD SCISSORHANDS

I don’t know how somebody could compose something so perfect than what Danny Elfman did here. It’s a thing of beauty. Out of this world.

Aww.

 

4.

VANGELIS: BLADE RUNNER

Vangelis outdid himself when he scored Ridley Scott’s 1982 master piece Blade Runner, and I think he never reached that same greatness that is displayed here. The score is from another world. It’s totally one of a kind. It’s futuristic in it’s dated synth sounds, but in a really, really good way. No vision of the future looked or sounded so believable than it does here, not before or since. This score influenced many awesome scores (including one of the best soundtracks for a game ever made) and is deservedly regarded a pioneer soundtrack. Great stuff.

Thought that I’d put the end credits song, huh? Nope.

 

3.

JAMES HORNER: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN

A truly rousing score that evokes that sense of awe and discovery of space. And it kicks all sorts of ass when it goes for battle stations. It has a very dear place in my heart, a very well crafted space adventure music. Let’s see if you can get the ultra-rare 2CD expanded soundtrack

KHAAAAAAAANNNN!!!!!

 

2.

JOHN WILLIAMS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Can you honestly say you didn’t see this coming?

Listen it all. Listen!

 

1.

BASIL POLEDOURIS: CONAN THE BARBARIAN

Holy shit, this soundtrack is awesome. Where the name of Crom did Poledouris came up with this amazing score? The sheer epicness and the blunt nature that the score just feeds the listener memorable themes after the next is just awe-aspiring. Try to imagine the film without this score and might get the sense how much this score did for the film. And when a score can elevate the material this well, it needs to be held up a worshipped like it should. Go buy it, or hear the lamentation of your women.

And if you don’t listen to this, then to hell with you!

 

Here was my list. What’s your favourite film score?

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