over at Wired shows, John Williams’s Star Wars music from Star Wars: A New Hope is consistently ranked at or near the top of every movie score survey (and rightfully so). Williams perfectly captures the sense of wonder, adventure, and whimsy that was so strong in Star Wars, particularly given the immense impact the movie had at that time. Dozens of sci-fi/fantasy/space opera movies have been churned out since 1977, but it was Star Wars that paved the way for this type of film, and the music was an important part of the reason.
I’ve read this elsewhere, but I agree: music compositions written for film seem to get the short shrift in terms of artistic credit. Why this is, I don’t know, but it’s rare that a film score composer is ever mentioned as a great composer, period; it’s always qualified. Seems ridiculous to me, since I really enjoy listening to the scores of many movies on my iPod, and many movies are far more memorable than they otherwise would have been if the music didn’t contribute so mightily to the overall experience.
In no particular order, here are a few movies besides Star Wars (off the top of my head) where I think the music score (not soundtracks!) played a significant role in the cementing of the movies’ reputation as a classic, or at least perfectly fit the theme and feel of the film:
3) Raiders of the Lost Ark
4) The Last of the Mohicans
5) The Bad News Bears
6) Blade Runner
7) Conan the Barbarian
Not surprisingly, I have most of these on my iPod. I also have other scores to movies such as Braveheart, King Kong (the Peter Jackson version), Gettysburg (extremely under-rated), The Dark Knight, Casino Royale, and Hoosiers, Wanted, and 300. There’s a few others I’d like to get my hands on at some point, including Rudy, The Witness,
Incidentally, you can look at the AFI list of the 250 movies nominated for best score of all time, as well as the 25 winners, here. The list is quite interesting, especially because it dates my movie-watching experience as post-1975. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of pre-1975 films, and would rank many in my all-time favorites list. But when it comes to a more specialized list such as this, my thinking skews towards films I’ve seen in theaters, on awards shows, etc. The only quibbles I have with the list is that several movies are listed that would seem to be far more memorable for their soundtrack than their score: these ought to be different lists. The other problem is that Halloween is not on the list, while The English patient is this list, let alone on any list at all that doesn’t include the word “Crappiest” in the title.
In the meantime, I may write up something on my favorite soundtracks at a later date. Brief preview: Swingers, Once, and Purple Rain will be in the mix! And if anyone has a film score they think I've overlooked or might be interested in checking out, feel free to leave a comment.