Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Music to My Ears: 50 Likeable Film Soundtracks

Until I met my friend Craig, I didn't give film soundtracks much consideration. Obviously, I had grown up enjoying film scores; appreciating how they enhanced the stories told by motion pictures; making that discovery which (I believe) every young person does that "gee, those John Williams movies sure sound a lot alike." I also grew up in a musical family and would watch many musicals; to this day, my family members will occasionally burst into a number from Camelot or Oliver!. But whether the film scores contained lyrics or not, some scores were etched into my permanent memory at a young age because I truly loved the films in which they were heard. That, to me, was the epitome of a great film score: an excellent movie which also has excellent music.

Then I befriended Craig and discovered he was a film score enthusiast. Craig certainly enjoys a good movie all the more if the score is up to snuff, but he is quite capable of separating the two experiences. Ergo, to Craig it didn't matter if Wing Commander stank, what mattered was the film score sounded terrific. Craig, I learned, would collect film scores based on their composers. He might purchase a film score to a movie he outright disliked; he might purchase film scores to pictures he hadn't seen, nor had any intent of ever seeing. Craig has helped me to judge film scores on their own merits and on the careers of the composers. I still prefer listening to scores of films I've seen - and liked! - but a good score is a good score.

To that end, here is a list of 50 film scores which I rather like, starting from my favourite. Much of my criteria is based on how well the score supports the picture, but some scores are so much better than their accompanying films that they truly stand apart.

  1. The Dark Knight by Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard
  2. Tron: Legacy by Daft Punk
  3. Avatar by James Horner
  4. Glory by James Horner
  5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by James Horner
  6. The Third Man by Anton Karas
  7. The Adventures of Robin Hood by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
  8. Vertigo by Bernard Herrmann
  9. Psycho by Bernard Herrmann
  10. How to Train Your Dragon by John Powell
  11. The Sea Hawk by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
  12. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country by Cliff Eidelman
  13. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings by Howard Shore
  14. The Empire Strikes Back by John Williams
  15. Star Wars by John Williams
  16. Rocky by Bill Conti
  17. Star Trek: First Contact by Jerry Goldsmith
  18. North by Northwest by Bernard Herrmann
  19. Mad Max: Fury Road by Junkie XL
  20. X2: X-Men United by John Ottman
  21. Raiders of the Lost Ark by John Williams
  22. Return of the Jedi by John Williams
  23. Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Jerry Goldsmith
  24. Serenity by David Herman
  25. Dark City by Trevor Jones
  26. The Great Dictator by Charles Chaplin
  27. The Thin Blue Line by Philip Glass
  28. The Mission by Ennio Morricone
  29. Aliens by James Horner
  30. Planet of the Apes by Jerry Goldsmith
  31. Hellboy by Marco Beltrami
  32. The Avengers by Alan Silvestri
  33. Die Hard by Michael Kamen
  34. Superman by John Williams
  35. The Great Escape by Elmer Bernstein
  36. The Thing by Ennio Morricone
  37. Skyfall by Thomas Newman
  38. Captain Blood by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
  39. Casablanca by Max Steiner
  40. Tombstone by Bruce Broughton
  41. Conan the Barbarian by Basil Poledouris
  42. Being There by Johnny Mandel
  43. Pete Kelly's Blues by David Buttolph & Ray Heindorf
  44. Godzilla: King of the Monsters by Akira Ifukube
  45. Terminator 2: Judgement Day by Brad Fiedel
  46. Bullitt by Lalo Schifrin
  47. The Untouchables by Ennio Morricone
  48. Casino Royale by David Arnold
  49. Patriot Games by James Horner
  50. The Matrix Reloaded by Don Davis


Craig Dylke said...

Very good list overall

A new guy for you to look up, if you're game is Andrew Lockington. He did/is doing the scores for the "Journey" series, and despite the films being blah the music is OUTSTANDING!|

Also I can't help but notice minimal James Newton Howard representation on this list... for shame :P

Michael Hoskin said...

I'll keep Lockington in mind, but looking at his resume thus far I see a whole lot of movies I wouldn't choose to watch. That's still a factor with me. :)

To be fair, I did give Howard the top spot (though I suspect Zimmer made the contributions I really liked on that score). I do like his Grand Canyon and Shyamalan scores a fair bit, they're just not in my top 50.