Movie soundtracks are meant to enhance and amplify. They’re successful when they’re so much in sync with the film that the viewer internalizes them as part of the experience. Not all scores work, while some may work too well: the modern soundtrack for The Revenant was more likeable than the movie–to me, but not to the Grand Pooh-Bahs of the Golden Globes and BAFTA !
Without doubt the composer’s contribution “has become an essential part of the medium’s power,” said Matt Patches and Kristopher Tapley for HitFix, and can be as identifiable as any visual image. In just a couple of notes, people will nail the theme from Star Wars, The Godfather (good ring-tone choice there), or Chariots of Fire. I’ve linked a few movie titles below to soundtracks or excerpts that show good melding of sight and sound.
The Academy Awards are coming up February 28, and we’ll be re-hearing five of the best scores from 2015. First, a look back:
- Ten great soundtracks from film adaptations of books, by Kate Scott at Book Riot includes Brokeback Mountain (with tracks by various folk and bluegrass artists, including Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Earle, as well as the work of composer Gustavo Santaolalla); one of my all-time favorite scores, The Last of the Mohicans (music by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman), which I skated to!; and the bittersweet score to The Painted Veil (music by Alexandre Desplat, who’s received eight AA nominations and won for The Grand Budapest Hotel).
- A previous Kate Scott story featured the scores from Pride & Prejudice (with music by Dario Marianelli and featuring Jean-Yves Thibaudet on solo piano) and A Series of Unfortunate Events (music by Thomas Newman), which Scott says are her “two favorite soundtracks of all time.”
- Patches and Tapley looked back at Oscar winners of the past 80 years and picked the best of the best. Their top three: 3) Schindler’s List (John Williams, AA 1993), which “aches with palpable melancholy; 2) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Howard Shore, AA 2001), “moving, thrilling and chilling”; and #1) Lawrence of Arabia (Maurice Jarre, AA 1962) “an epic musical journey.” And, unforgettable.
- The American Film Institute list of 25 greatest film scores gives Lawrence of Arabia the third spot, with Gone with the Wind (Max Steiner) second, and Star Wars (John Williams) at the pinnacle. A little lower on the AFI list is a pair of my favorites, The Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein) in eighth place and Chinatown (Jerry Goldsmith) in ninth.
- None of these retrospective lists include another in my personal luvvit list—1982’s Blade Runner, with music by Vangelis.
- This year’s AA nominees for best original score are: Bridge of Spies (Thomas Newman); Carol (Carter Burwell); The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone); Sicario (Jóhann Jóhannsson); and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams). In only 20 days, we’ll see who wins!
Do you have a favorite movie score, from days past or present?