FYI, I think 10 is a ridiculously arbitrary number and of course I love way more than 10 film scores. Besides, I’m cheating because I wrote a post last year about how much I love Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano. It took me a long time to winnow down this list and after I publish this I’ll probably smack my forehead, remembering another I wish I had included.
So, yeah, I’m not a big fan of lists, but I chose this topic for the blogathon because I love film music and listen to scores all the time.
Wuthering Heights – Alfred Newman:
My parents took me to see a British version when I was in my early teens and I had loved it. When the Hollywood 1939 version played on television, my dad insisted I watch it because, he claimed, it was so much better.
Of course, he was right, and not only did I love the film more, the music totally captivated me. Newman’s theme became one of the first that really stuck in my mind long after the movie ended. Now that I’m older, I can appreciate the nuances of the Cathy’s Theme—lost innocence, longing, the wind sweeping through the heather on the moors. It still moves me every time I hear it.
The Magnificent Seven – Elmer Bernstein
There are some movies that you can’t imagine without the music. Bernstein’s theme for The Magnificent Seven does more than set a mood. This is a fairly low-key Western that has more suspense than big action. The theme not only celebrates the heroism of the main characters, it pumps up the expectations of the audience during scenes that might come off as slightly dull otherwise.
The Shawshank Redemption – Thomas Newman
If you ever want to know if I’m listening to The Shawshank Redemption soundtrack, you can tell by the fact that I’m wearing headphones and weeping. Few soundtracks elicit the same emotions I feel while watching the movie just by listening to the music. From the hopelessness of The Stoic Theme to the hopefulness of And So Was Red, it hits all the emotions of the film.
Wonder Woman – Rupert Gregson-Williams
Whenever something at work pisses me off, I crank up Gregson-Williams’ score for Wonder Woman, and if I’m really mad, I skip straight over to the No Man’s Land theme. I get the same thrill I felt the first time I saw the scene in the movie theater. Gregson-Williams took Hans Zimmer’s original blood-thumping Wonder Woman theme from Batman vs. Superman and composed something far more complex and nuanced.
Attack of the Clones – John Williams
John Williams has composed so many great film scores that it’s hard to pick just one. Attack of the Clones is possibly one of the worst films he ever scored. But the love theme he composed for Anakin and Padme (one of the worst romantic film couples of all time) is stupendous. Thankfully, Disney uses the theme as background music for their new Star Wars audiobooks, so to me it’s now the theme for some amazing romantic pairings across the entire Star Wars universe and I can mostly forget its origin.
Lawrence of Arabia – Maurice Jarre
There are certain themes that automatically scream “EPIC” and the main theme of Lawrence of Arabia is the most epic-y of the epic themes. Another piece of film music I fell in love with as a kid (my mom took me to see the 1969 re-release in theaters) it still stirs the imagination every time I hear it.
Inception – Hans Zimmer
I’m probably going to be pelted with rotten tomatoes for saying this, but Christopher Nolan is not one of my favorite directors. I just don’t care for his movies, including Inception. Like Attack of the Clones, to me the score is vastly superior to the actual movie. I never tire of hearing “Time,” a simple but haunting theme.
Vertigo – Bernard Herrmann
I can’t leave out Bernard Herrmann, can I? He is still one of the most influential film composers. Sure, people might point to the more iconic Psycho as his best score, but Vertigo captures the state of main character Scottie’s mind even more perfectly, in my opinion.
Super 8 – Michael Giacchino
Giacchino is my favorite of the current crop of Hollywood film and television composers. (His score for Rogue One shows that once John Williams finally retires or passes away, the Star Wars franchise should be handed over to him.) I listen to tracks from over the six seasons of the TV series Lost all the time. Super 8 is a very underrated film. I adore the theme “Letting Go.”
Moonlight – Nicholas Britell
Not only was Moonlight robbed of its moment of glory when La La Land was erroneously announced as the winner of Best Picture, it was flat-out robbed of the award for best film score. Britell captures main character Chiron’s isolation and loneliness beautifully through the music.