Might as well keep things focused on getting to know us better. I just happen to be a pretty big fan of the art of film scoring. Haven’t taken a crack at it myself and I certainly don’t have an “art house” level of a taste, but that’s why I’m picking my favorite scores instead of acting like I know what is actually the best (which would always be subjective anyway). In other words, don’t get all snippy with me if I’m not giving your favorite a shout-out. Let’s get to it then, click-bait top ten style!
I’m cheating on this one out of the gate and I honestly do not care. I’m not sure if Imagine Music has anything to do with the actual film, but they are the reason I’ll be seeing it in theatres (composer Bear McCreary will be great, I’m sure). Debussy’s Clair de Lune is one of the most emotionally provocative pieces ever written and seeing a dramatic arrangement set to colorful scenes of Kaiju from my youth is a recipe for getting my attention. Back in 2014, the Godzillafilm we got was about as dark and brooding as your typical DC flick. Unfortunately the movie wasn’t for me, but I enjoyed the choral piece in the score that sounded as though Godzilla had opened a doorway straight to the depths of hell (which was used for that film’s trailer). As fun as a creepy composition is, I can’t help but fall for the splendorous grandeur for this upcoming blockbuster. Besides, who doesn’t want to see Eleven from Stranger Things use her psychic powers against King Ghidora?
Space… a musical frontier… Star Trek’s best music is in the television shows and I’m not going to cheat twice… Seriously though, Interstellar’s music made the film for me. Say what you want about it, the visuals are breathtaking and Hans Zimmer hit it out of the park on this one. You could throw all sorts of adjectives at this one, but I think the most appropriate would be cosmic. I can’t think about this movie without hearing a massive organ serenading the stars.
Here’s one I’d bet you wouldn’t expect and if you don’t like it then too bad I love this movie and it’s my list. A nostalgia trip for sure, since I can’t honestly say the music is perfect by a composer’s standard, but it’s perfect for this movie and no one should have it any other way. There’s something genuine, pure, and peaceful about the original songs written for this film and there are some incredible covers out there of the title track. Considering this is an animated film about a unicorn and a bumbling wizard named Schmendrick, of all things, that’s just the kind of tone this movie should have to be an instant classic for me.
From a time when a horror film would be given a legitimate score instead of slowly rising violins with the occasional blasts of junk noise to make something stupid on the screen give you a jump. I don’t personally find Alien to be all that spooky, I’m too busy being fascinated by the atmosphere designs and the pacing of the film is relaxing to me. Of course, if a Xenomorph were loose and after my caboose I’d lose my mind, but H.R. Giger’s creature design is so interesting and flawless that I’m drawn into to find every detail watching the film. Goldsmith’s score is undoubtedly a perfect fit for the film and you can tell he knew exactly what in the film needed to be musically represented. The strings uses gentle scratches to simulate a parasitic chittering surrounding you with haunting winds emphasizing the dreadful loneliness and helplessness of the characters. Instead of acting as a simple ambience, the score is atmospheric while remaining musical and memorable.
This one might be a contender for a guilty pleasure, but it’s still a favorite of mine and how couldn’t it with the fantastic muppeteering of the great Jim Henson? Only a couple of human actors star in this film, yet the puppets seem so believably alive you don’t really notice. You’re probably thinking the music I love is the odd bits from David Bowie in his MC Escher rip-off castle or those terrifying creatures obsessed with dismemberment. Those are lovely, but I do actually mean the score by Trevor Jones. Take a bit of a medieval bard, toss in some fantastical 80’s synth, keep the tone of Bowie’s glam style and *poof* a perfect soundtrack for saving a baby from the goblin king. Side note: I’m still convinced Robin from How I Met Your Mother is a clone of Jennifer Connelly.
How do you support a gorgeous, brutally violent post-apocalypse? Perhaps with one of the most relentlessly primal soundtracks I’ve ever heard. To me, this is what happens if Hans Zimmer’s score for the Dark Knight loses its mind, hops into a mosh pit, and lights itself on fire. The score utilizes tones that call on the roars of an engine, beats of tribal drums (incredibly appropriate, given the plot), and obviously lots and lots of gun shots on top of all the bullets flying on screen already. I am not into action films at all, there are so many “manly” flicks that I can’t make it through because they’re nothing but dull schlock to me (I won’t be cruel and name any names); but this one is absolutely an exception.
A spooky movie where the monster/demon/shapeshifter thing pursues you at a walking pace until you’re dumb enough to let it catch you unless you pass it on to someone else in a rather…. intimate fashion. Pretty stupid if you think about it, enter Disasterpeace to come in for the assist and give you one of the greatest horror films I’ve ever seen. I recommended that you guys should look up Disasterpeace on the podcast a few weeks back and this flick is responsible for my fascination with his work. I tend to call this style “Pixelated minimalism”, but call it what you may It Follows gets a unique depth in tone just from pairing a simple, creepy premise with this synth wave maestro. I don’t see why any composer would ignore this idea, but the way the soundtrack’s beat seems to quietly match the monster’s walking pace fuels the tension ten-fold and immerses you in the feeling that someone, or something, could be following you (mwahaha).
This film is wonderful, Queen Amidala vs The Soap Bubble guest starring Poe Dameron and Steve Irwin’s favorite nightmare, enough said. I feel like this one went underappreciated, but in time it might become a beloved sci-fi horror alongside the classics like Alien. A Lovecraftian, mysterious dread immerses the viewer through the indescribable threat of the Shimmer while also offering a thought-provoking theme of self-destruction. Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s score is a patient beast, showing its might in full fruition at the climax of the film giving me chills I’ll never forget. There’s something inspiring while equally terrifying in the depths of the breathy tones used on a calmly distorted melody.
My runner-up for a favorite score is probably my favorite as far as overall film-making is concerned. Vangelis’ composing for the 80’s cult classic Blade Runner is an ingenious marvel for capturing the visual tone while supporting the film’s contemplative philosophy. Once again, synth wave is the culprit of my fancy, but you can clearly identify the sounds of a Jazz ballad that is so typical of a classic film noir juxtaposed within a cyberpunk narrative. Naturally, I also loved the modernized approach to this score used in Blade Runner 2049 by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch; so I’ll shoehorn that film alongside this one in the list.
I’m starting to think I may just be a sucker for Harrison Ford films. Although there’s probably some truth to that, we should all be able to agree that there is only one contender for the greatest film score of all time (not to mention the greatest composer of film). If there is any musician in our lifetime that deserves to be immortalized in the history books next to the likes of Bach, Beethoven, etc; that man would be John Williams. If the stories I’ve heard are true, then Williams was hired by George Lucas after the original composer for the film was fired and there was only a week or so for Williams to deliver. The week’s worth of work is presented to Lucas, but at the classic opening titles orchestral blast we all hold so dear Lucas simply left the room completely satisfied that the score was perfect. I imagine Lucas just wanted to slip out so he could work on adding a CGI desert lizard somewhere, but if that story is true then any music that leaves the Lucas-artist of stubborn indecision content is to be honored. The Star Wars franchise is without a doubt my most blindly biased muse to the point there isn’t a single piece of Star Wars film, television, or video game that I’m not going to gleefully adore (shut up Christmas Special, go back in your hole with Jar-Jar). Yes, that means I love those awful prequels with the abhorrent film-making and meme-able moments every other second simply because Mr. Williams cared enough to make sure he didn’t phone-in his role. The Wagnerian approach in this score employs leitmotifs that communicate emotional themes, characterization, and plot messages all the while setting a triumphant, imaginative tone to this space opera. I could go into depth with countless examples throughout all of the films, but let’s save that for another discussion. Instead, I’ll just repeat that this series is completely captivating to me even at its “worst moments” because of the score drawing me in and solidifying my love for this galaxy far, far away.