My 10 Favorite Film Scores

This post is part of The Free for All Blogathon, hosted by Theresa of CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch. Read the rest of the posts in this event HERE!

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.

12 thoughts on “My 10 Favorite Film Scores

  1. A very interesting list. The ones I can definitely agree with you on are the scores to The Magnificent Seven and Inception. I have not previously paid much attention to the Vertigo theme, but I really like it. My all time favourite film composers also include Gabriel Yared, Alexandre Desplat, James Horner and Dario Marianelli.

  2. Hi Debbie🌷
    Great music and interesting concept💕You have inspired me to write a blog on my favorite movie music… If I finish it, I will be sure to add your link to my blog 😊
    PS Bernard Herrmann 🎶👍🏼

      1. Thanks Debbie 😊 I will be sure to tag you. I am presently working on three separate posts. Probably will not publish until next week. I was sure to mention you and your link in my post. Have a great day xx

  3. You’ll be wearing headphones and sobbing – I think we all can relate, if not to that score, to another.

    Personally, I love making lists and giving myself the test of keeping it to ten. I don’t think I’ve done favourite film scores. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Great to see others inspired to think about their favorite film music. I had a professor in college who specialized in the subject and he made me think about how the music helps to tell the story.

  4. Debbie, your post has been a real treat. I was listening to each clip as I was reading blogathon entries, and it made for a wonderful evening. Thank you for that.

    Also, I was thrilled you included “The Magnificent Seven”. That score never fails to inspire me.

  5. All great choices from all sorts of different artists! Sometimes I’ll just listen to film scores just for fun- as I’m sure we all do!! I love the Charade score!!

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