Remember seeing that film with the fantastic musical score, and thinking “Hot damn, that’s a good tune!”? No? Well, these films are for you. My primary source of music these days is films. A musical score can make or break a film… so I thought I would compose a list of the “makes”.
Note that musicals have been omitted, because, well, that’s cheating.
So without further ado, in ascending order of greatness (according to yours truly),
35. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The second installment in a series of great scores, but by a long stretch the best, The Chamber of Secrets boasts a chamber orchestral number that suggests secrets through-and-through.
34. Man with a Movie Camera
Not only was the score to Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera way ahead of its time, the experimental feature-film length of this score still remains unchallenged in awe-inspiring scope. The silent film features nearly 70 minutes of this non-stop music. Take that, Mozart.
33. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
It would be remiss to neglect this from this list. A bold theme for a bold film. Can I hear you say “Cannibalism”?
32. The Social Network
Anyone familiar with Grieg’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King” will appreciate this one. The score to the 2010 film The Social Network features many a suspenseful song. Give this one a listen and see for yourself.
31. Pulp Fiction
Ah, the famous Pulp Fiction score: Dick Dale’s Miserlou. If you haven’t heard this, you’ve been living under a rock. A very, very large rock.
30. American Graffiti
Pick a song, any song. The American Graffiti soundtrack features a maddening variety of instant vinyl classics. This, for example:
29. Rosemary’s Baby
A chilling soundtrack to a chilling film, Rosemary’s Baby‘s score sends shivers down the spine. Did I just hear children’s laughter?
28. The Godfather
Alas, no film score list would be complete without the classic Godfather theme.
27. The Truman Show
Philip Glass works his magic in The Truman Show. A delicate soundtrack perfectly juxtaposed with a none-too-delicate issue.
There’s nothing quite like Shirley Bassey bellowing out the theme to Goldfinger. Brilliant.
Inception‘s incidental track is suspense-city. Try waking up to this in the morning. You’ll feel like a god.
24. Star Wars Episode IV
Well, duh. Of course Star Wars is on the list. It’s John Williams for Pete’s sake.
23. Once Upon a Time in the West
Ennio Morricone strikes again, and his Once Upon a Time theme is among his best, too.
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! An instant Classic that will be stuck in your head all day.
21. The Graduate
Coo coo ca choo, Mrs Robinson. Any film scored by Simon and Garfunkle has to be good, and The Graduate is no exception.
This is one of the lesser known films on the list, cast with the ex-Friends star Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing). Its soundtrack, composed by Ryan Shore, was, in fact, so unknown that I couldn’t find it on YouTube. Instead I’ve embedded a song by The Dandy Warhols that is featured in the film. The rest of Numb‘s soundtrack (including real gems such as “Hospital Testing” and “Sara”) can be found on iTunes. Check it out.
19. Dr. No
The name’s Bond, James Bond, and damn, this is good music. Dr No? More like Dr Yes!
18. The Pink Panther (1968)
Remember that rock you’re living under if you haven’t heard the Pulp Fiction theme? Well this rock is even bigger. Henry Mancini’s The Pink Panther theme is truly unforgettable.
17. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Did someone say epic? Oh, no, it’s just the theme of Kubrick’s 2001.
16. The Italian Job (1969)
This is the self preservation society, and this is bloody brilliant. How could the original Italian Job not be on this list?
15. The Living Daylights
A-Ha’s scoring of The Living Daylights gets yet another Bond film onto the list. Good job, A-Ha.
Can you guess who wrote the soundtrack to Duncan Jones’ sci-fi flick Moon? Yep, the immortal Clint Mansell. I really needn’t explain further.
13. The Piano
Close your eyes. Listen. The Piano‘s soundtrack is simple beauty.
12. The Godfather Part II
Even better than the original, The Godfather Part II‘s score is another on the list of unforgettables.
11. The Fog of War
It’s not often one can say a documentary comes within the top 15 of any movie list, but the excellent scoring of Philip Glass for Errol Morris’ 2003 film The Fog of War wins it such a privilege.
10. Kill Bill Vol. 1
Good ol’ Quentin Tarantino has great taste in music. His second film on this list, none other than Kill Bill, features some great songs such as Santa Esmeralda’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”, Bernard Herrmann’s “Twisted Nerve” and Meiko Kaji’s “Shura no Hana”. Don’t miss them.
9. Harold and Maude
The cult classic Harold and Maude‘s musical score is composed entirely by Cat Stevens. Need I say more?
8. Casino Royale
Behold, the fourth James Bond film on this list! Essentially a modernised version of the theme in Dr. No, Casino Royale‘s incidental piece is really the icing on the cake of espionage thrillers. And damn, is that icing good.
7. All About My Mother
Listen. Just listen. Hear that? That’s the sound of Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother, and that’s the sound of near perfection.
Martin Scorsese’s fantastic 2011 film Hugo features an appropriately French soundtrack of beauty and excellence. Take a listen.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Any teenager will recognise this as the tune of Pirates. Why? Because it’s damn good. That’s why.
4. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
There is no bad or ugly in this film‘s musical score. Sergio Leone? Ennio Morricone? ‘Nuff said.
3. Murder on the Orient Express
Philip Martin’s excellent TV-movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express is enhanced five-fold by a single suspenseful (and might I add, amazing) track. The power of music, eh?
2. Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream‘s epic soundtrack will never, ever be forgotten. Clint Mansell, you genius.
If you have not heard Yann Tiersen before, you’re in for a treat. I can’t explain in words the power of Tiersen’s work (which, sadly, degraded in quality after Amélie). Each and every song on the soundtrack is perfect for the film. It is, without a doubt, brilliance at work.
So? What’s your favourite film score? Am I completely and utterly wrong? Please do leave a comment below.