My 5 Favorite Film Scores

In addition to being a professed film lover (see my 30×30 goal #16 about watching AFI’s top 100 movies), I have a deep affection for film scores. Just like watching a movie with stunning visual effects can sometimes help me not care about a ludicrous plot or stale acting, a wonderful score can add tremendously to my overall enjoyment of a film. A great film score can tug at my emotions, uplift me, motivate and inspire me, or make my heart swell. Pandora’s Film Score Radio is a frequent go-to music source while I’m working on an editing or writing project, the Themes genre in my iTunes library is one of my most-played, and my Legends of the Fall CD permanently resides in my car for those times I need to escape an aggravating freeway-turned-parking-lot. Simply put, I am passionate about, and sometimes maybe obsessed with, film scores. What follows is a list, albeit one that was incredibly challenging to create, of my five favorite film scores.

1) Legends of the Fall 

James Horner’s magnificent score perfectly captures the splendor and greatness of the sweeping epic, the expansive landscape the film depicts, and the devastation and heartbreak the lead characters experience. It instills in me a sense of peace and calm, while simultaneously fiercely grabbing hold of my heart and tugging on it. Listening to it repeatedly only makes me fall more in love with it.

2) The Last of the Mohicans

Composed by Randy Edelman and Trevor Jones, this powerful score encompasses driving action, romance with a Celtic touch, and the relentless pursuit of triumph and heroism. In addition, it elicits my cherished memories of, as often as I could get away with, including it in the mix of music played throughout the quaint jewelry store in which I worked during most of my teenage summers. I delighted in seeing the reaction of unsuspecting tourists at one moment shopping peacefully to the crooning of Frank Sinatra or the twanging of Alan Jackson, only to quickly be jolted from tranquility to a heightened state of alertness (maybe in a hasty preparation to defend themselves from flying Tomahawks?) with the onset of the passionate and intense Mohicans music.

3) Jurassic Park 

John Williams is a creature from another planet. What else would explain the fact that the man, still churning out award-winning music in his eighties, has composed so many masterpieces that he has earned forty-eight Oscar nominations, five of which resulted in wins? While his Jurassic Park score did not earn him a nomination (seemingly one of his few projects to go unrewarded by the Academy), it definitely makes my short list. Listening to it always transports me to the imaginative world of cagey Velociraptors, a hungry T-Rex on the hunt, and massive, ground-shaking Brachiasaurus, originally created by Michael Crichton and brought to cinematic life by Steven Spielberg. Chills tingle my spine and endorphins flood my brain when I hear the music that superbly fits the world of dinosaurs, and the realization of such a world.

4) Forrest Gump 

I am most likely partial to placing Alan Silvestri’s Oscar-nominated score on my list because of my general love for all things Forrest Gump: the character, Tom Hanks’ genius portrayal of the character (which earned him his second Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and subsequently more brownie points in my book for his heartfelt, genuine acceptance speech), and the film as a whole. The theme is endearing, charming and uplifting, much like Forrest Gump himself, and just as the character does, it evokes in me happiness, yet also honesty and truth, and the realization that life is comprised of bullies, achievements, loss, pain, love, luck, coincidence, shrimp, and everything in between.

5) Schindler’s List: The violin has never sounded more tragic or more macabre than it does in the easily-recognizable theme song from Williams’ evocative score that garnered him his fifth Oscar for Best Music, Original Score. While credit must be given to violinist Itzhak Perlman for his solo that arguably adds the most drama and emotion, Williams’ subtle orchestral magic perfectly underscores and highlights the hauntingly beautiful solo.

*Inception (Honorable Mention): I’m not entirely sure I fully comprehend Christopher Nolan’s brain-twisting, inventive and disorienting film, but I am sure about composer Hans Zimmer’s brilliance, which is evident in his ability to create an entire score that is, in his own words, “subdivisions and multiplications of the tempo of the [1960] Edith Piaf track [‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein’].” The manipulation of time is a key element of the film, and Zimmer’s extreme dedication to adhering to that element is impressive. Warning: The following video clip shows the end of the film.


2 thoughts on “My 5 Favorite Film Scores

  1. All worthy choices! I have to go with the score from “Never on Sunday” by Manos Hadjidakis. Connects me firmly to my Greek heritage, drops me immediately back into my adolescence, and conjures up a vision of replicating the scene where the prostitutes are walking arm in arm with noble purpose, with my best friend, her sister and mother on the sidewalks of downtown Portland! Thanks for sharing your healthy addiction! Yo’ mamma

    • I’ve never seen “Never on Sunday” nor have I heard the score, but you’ve inspired me to at least check out the latter! By the way, are you saying you and your best friend, her sister and mother wanted to be like the prostitutes in the film?? 🙂

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