Well, folks, we’re back with a list that goes up to 11. Now, I’m going to go into this list like I go into all of my lists. These are some of my favorite film scores. This list is by no means fully comprehensive. They’re just the ones I came up with today that have really stayed with me over time. They have been arbitrarily ranked in an order that makes sense to me. I am not a music scholar and I realize that most of these scores are from films from the past 20 years. What can I say? The stuff that’s freshest comes up first. Anyway! If you think I’ve missed something or have a film score you absolutely love, feel free to say so in the comments! I love hearing from you people and getting feedback. Are we ready for this? I think we are!
11. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End by Hans Zimmer
Say what you will about the movies, I love the music from them. The score for the third installment, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, is a particular favorite of mine due to its use of sweeping choral arrangements. It features the iconic Pirates theme composed by Klaus Badelt from the first film. Furthermore, this film features the melancholy pirate anthem sung as the lot of them are being escorted to the gallows. Just sitting down with this soundtrack is enough to take me back to the high seas. Hans Zimmer is a fantastic composer and while he’d done some marvelous work, this is definitely one of my most favorite scores of his.
10. Troy by James Horner
Troy is another that was not so awesome. It’s pretty eye candy based on events from legends. Sure, I had some issues with what they did to the mythological aspect (like removing the influence of the gods and everything), but James Horner‘s score is top notch. One of my favorite bits in the movie is the epic fight between Hector (Eric Bana) and Achilles (Brad Pitt). In the theatrical release of the film, it’s accompanied by these drums and it just ratchets up the tension for an unforgettable fight. Like Hans Zimmer, James Horner has done phenomenal music for a crap ton of films. He’s one of the greats.
9. Epic by Danny Elfman
Danny Elfman is an awesome composer and musician. That being said, he’s got a very specific sound and almost all of his scores somehow end up sounding the same. You know what I’m talking about. Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Men in Black, Spider-Man, Batman. . . You just listen to the music and that’s so Danny Elfman. Epic‘s score? It surprised me in theaters when I saw his name in the credits. Aside from a couple of familiar moments with the choir, the score was just so unlike what I’d come to expect from the composer and for that alone it makes the list. It also helps that the score certainly fits the title of the film.
8. How to Train Your Dragon by John Powell
When I close my eyes, John Powell‘s score for How to Train Your Dragon makes me feel like I’m soaring through the skies on the back of a dragon. It’s got some great Celtic elements to it and just makes me grin. I can’t help it. It’s a happy score and the score for its sequel is equally awesome. Bouncy and sometimes intense, Powell’s music is amazing. Simply, wonderfully amazing.
7. Tron Legacy by Daft Punk
After the first moments of surprise at the announcement that the ground-breaking electronica duo Daft Punk would be providing the score for the sequel to the computer-themed classic Tron, it just made perfect sense. I can’t think of anyone else who would have composed a more fitting score for Tron Legacy. Not only is it fitting with the film and its setting, but it’s just so much fun to listen to in the car, writing, doing work. . .whatever. It’s a great score with some great tracks that so many of my friends love.
6. Pacific Rim by Ramin Djawadi
I am a huge Ramin Djawadi fan. I’ve loved his work on “Game of Thrones” and his music for the Clash of the Titans remake is probably the best thing about that movie. He’s got such an extraordinary talent for variety and truly understanding the themes and emotions of the works he’s scoring. The Pacific Rim soundtrack makes this list because it’s awesome and because it’s my go-to workout music. When I hit the gym and get on the treadmill, I pop in my headphones and just start rocking out. It’s great for motivating me to up my game. Who knows when a Kaiju might emerge from the sea and head for DC?
5. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by Howard Shore
I had to pick just one of the scores from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I went with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Why that one in particular? I’m going to go with the triumphant return of the Rohan theme as Théoden is leading his horsemen across the Pelennor Fields. It’s so good. The scores for all of the Peter Jackson Middle Earth films have been remarkable. Howard Shore is an extraordinary talent. The man does great work, what can I say?
4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Alan Menken
Love it or hate it, you have to admit that Alan Menken‘s score for Disney’s take on Victor Hugo‘s classic novel is spectacular. The Hunchback of Notre Dame‘s score was darker and far more mature than its predecessors. Filled with sweeping choral bits and all kinds of orchestral amazingness, this score is definitely my most favorite Disney score to date. I should mention that I own a fair few of them on CD and MP3. This one just gets me every time. I just watched the movie again for the first time in a long while last night and as much as it totally doesn’t follow the book, the music is still what hooks me every time.
3. The Last of the Mohicans by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman
Just looking at the movie’s title gets the theme stuck in my head. That’s how iconic the score for The Last of the Mohicans is. Add to that the adaptation of the equally-iconic “The Gael” by Dougie MacLean and you’ve got yourself a score for the ages. Worked on by two separate composers, Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman, it managed to make itself into a cohesive aural unit. The music was as breathtaking as the beautiful landscapes they filmed the movie in. To this day, I still randomly put on the score when the mood strikes. It’s fun to just sit back and listen to all on its own.
2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope by John Williams
You can’t really make a list of movie scores without at least one John Williams score. All of his scores are great though, like Danny Elfman, he also has the tendency to just have this signature sound that he doesn’t stray from. John Williams scores sound like John Williams scores. They’re bombastic and fantastic. One of my most favorites is, of course, the score for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. It brought us a few major themes that are, I hate to reuse this word again, iconic. Seriously. Have a crappy boss or feeling like a total badass? “The Imperial March.” Need motivation to get yourself going? The theme song. Need a song to accompany you after you’ve said your vows at your wedding? The medal ceremony. Need I go on? So, yeah, John Williams is a national goddamn treasure responsible for the soundtrack of much of my geeky life.
1. Conan the Barbarian by Basil Poledouris
The number one spot on this list inevitably belongs to the just plain freakin’ amazing score for Conan the Barbarian by the late, great Basil Poledouris. I can’t stress that enough. It’s just so damn great and perfect. “Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom?” Incredible. It set a high bar for scores that so many just wish they could leap over. The man was taken from us too soon. I’d have liked to have heard his body of work as time went on and he just continued to grow musically. At least we’ll always have this fantastic score to remember him by.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier by Henry Jackman
I’m watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier as I type this. I got the score yesterday because it was on sale on Amazon. Holy crap. I’d forgotten how much I loved how it fit so wonderfully with the movie and how it captured the tension and action. Also, I loved the Winter Soldier’s theme “scream.” Oh man. So damn good. Henry Jackman is a composer to watch.
The Last Temptation of Christ by Peter Gabriel
Micah wanted me to make sure that this score ended up somewhere on the list. Admittedly, I’ve only heard one song from it and that one song is so good. One of these days, I plan to watch The Last Temptation of Christ and listen to Peter Gabriel‘s full score. In any event, here it is, Micah. You can stop threatening me now.