Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Music Month: 10 favourite movie scores

As a bit of break from reviewing movies I thought I'd lay down some of my favourite movie scores. I'm a complete sucker for buying the soundtracks to movies I've just watched. It kind of prolongs my enjoyment of the film. I can put it the score on in the background while I work and (assuming it's a great score) it instantly takes me back to those feelings I had when I first watched the film.

The Wind and the Lion (1975) - Jerry Goldsmith
I know Jerry Goldsmith has done a ton of stuff that is way more famous than this but I absolutely love this score. It's so rich and sweeping. The definition of a bombastic score. Okay, it owes a bit of debt to Maurice Jarre's Lawrence of Arabia but it's just so damn catchy. I think I've probably only seen the film once but I must have listened to this collection of tunes hundreds of times.

Tron Legacy (2010) - Daft Punk
I think everyone can agree that Daft Punk were an obvious choice for the Tron sequel. Their back catalogue of electronic dance tunes made them seem perfectly suited but I certainly didn't expect them to mix it with a proper orchestral score. There's a definite 50/50 split in terms of the tracks but them meld so well. No disrespect to Wendy Carlos but I far prefer this to her abstract, experimental score for the original.

Dune (1984) - Toto
I love how in the 1980s a lot of filmmakers experimented with using bands rather than composers. Toto seem a odd choice for a sci-fi epic given that their most famous hit was the cheesy yacht rock hit 'Africa' but they really pulled it out the bag with this one. Though the actual film may have a lot of structural problems the laid back, progressive, synth-heavy score really pulls it together as a whole.

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) - John Carpenter
I couldn't go without including one score my favourite director/composer. I'd love to put his whole back catalogue on this list but if I had to pick one this is my favourite. Sure there's a lot of repetition - a lot of ambient effects - but I love the little hooks he comes up with. They're so simple but so effective, capturing the horror and suspense of the film. Also, he's the only people on this list who can't read music! (Hats off).

Conan the Barbarian (1982) - Basil Poledouris
Much like the title character Poledouris' score pounds you over the head repeatedly (but in a good way). I love this score for the same reasons as Goldsmith's Wind and the Lion. It's so damn epic and evocative. I've read a few of Robert E Howard's short stories since buying this and I can't help but have this music running in the background while I read. It so perfectly fits alongside his words.

Legend (1985) - Tangerine Dream
I know a lot of people complain that this score ruins Ridley Scott's otherwise timeless film but for me it gives it an otherworldly feel. Famously, Jerry Goldsmith wrote a full orchestral score but Scott had it chucked out because he felt it needed something more commercial. I feel bad for Goldsmith but this is a better score and I love the two accompanying songs by Brian Ferry and Jon Anderson.

Trancers (1985) - Mark Ryder and Phil Davies
As I've said many times I absolutely love this silly little b-movie from Charles Band. Tim Thomerson's performance is half of what makes it so good and the score is the other half. Like Carpenter's work, it's all synth-based, full of simple hooks and utterly 80s sounding but, hey, there's nothing wrong with that! It's never been officially released so here's a link. You're welcome.

Blade Runner (1982) - Vangelis
Such a wonderful score. I've now played it so many times I need to take long breaks in between listens in order for it to retain its power. I love how the score fits the complex world Scott created. The electronic background hum, for instance, becomes the opening of the track 'Blade Runner Blues'. If you can, skip buying the official version and try and track down the more complete Esper Edition bootleg.

Judge Dredd (1995) - Alan Silvestri
Always feel its a shame Silvestri never got a full score album and had to share the soundtrack with some forgettable rock songs. Still, those seven released tracks are awesome. Again, another heavy bombastic score, this time with a recurring military marching motif. If you're a fans of Silvestri's Predator score will most likely also enjoy this as well.

Princess Mononoke (1997) - Joe Hisaishi
I wanted to pick at least one Studio Ghibli score for this list and this one is probably my favourite. Joe Hisaishi's somber and moving compositions perfectly compliment the ethereal tone of the film. Heavy on the violins and other stringed instruments. There's also a definite mix of western and eastern influences. I'm no classical music buff or anything but there's some definite hints of Debussy and Chopin.


  1. Interesting choices. I'm familiar with the work of Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri, and John Carpenter and while I love these composers, I actually haven't seen these specific films yet.

    I love Toto but am shocked that they did the score for Dune. I gotta see/hear that now!

    I've only seen the theatrical cut of Legend and thought that Tangerine Dream's score was fine. I'll have to check out the director's cut with Goldsmith's score sometime though just for comparison's sake.

    I love Daft Punk, liked Tron Legacy and thought they did a fine job with the soundtrack but was just expecting better from them. Have you seen Interstella 5555? If not I think you'd love it, its basically the Daft Punk movie.

    And Vangelis' Blade Runner score is also one of my favorites!

  2. Hey Chris, yeah Dune is a one of a kind soundtrack. At first it seems horribly inappropriate but later you realise it actually adds a lot to the weird atmosphere of the film.

    I think the Legend Ultimate Edition DVD has both cuts of the film (the Goldsmith one has more footage) if you want to check them out. Personally I think its a really underrated Scott film.

    Yeah, really want to track down a copy of Interstella 5555. It's basically a 60 minute music video for their Discovery album right?

  3. I quite liked Legend and actually wrote about it on my blog awhile back. I don't know if the director's cut is considered to be better but I am curious about it.

    Yeah, Interstella 5555 is basically a long animated music video and even has no dialogue. It's awesome and if you like Daft Punk you gotta see it!

  4. I think a lot of people do prefer the director's cut but I love the Tangerine Dream score too much. Also I felt the added footage doesn't add anything special or interesting. If anything it seems to make the movie drag on too long (like a lot of 80s fantasy movies).

  5. That Conan soundtrack is awesome workout music. :) Seriously.

    I LOVE Sylvestri's Judge Dredd score. It's better than it deserves to be and I'm surprised most people don't pick up on that. That score is thundering! I love it!

    And I dig anything Carpenter does, really. I love his They Live and Prince of Darkness scores also. He's so good at giving you that extra bit of "mood" through his unique style of music. Nobody does it as good as he does the way he does it.

    Great selection I must say!

  6. Cheers Jason, yeah, I need to get the expanded score for Conan. I listen to a lot of this stuff at work, makes equally good music to knuckle down and get work done.

    The Judge Dredd soundtrack is nearly my favourite score of all time. I think it's one thing the new film won't be able to top.

    Shame Carpenter has stopped making music though I think his son Cody has started doing a couple of scores. They've got a similar sound.

  7. You have three of my favorites on there...Vangelis from Blade Runner, I just listen to that one whenever I want to just chill...Conan the Barbarian by by Basil Paleodoris, so adventureous, still one of my favorite scores EVER! And Tangerine Dream with score for Legend freaking sweeeeet, I love that song "Legend"

    I would also add the score for Robocop also by Basil Poledouris as a matter of fact! It's always been a favorite of mine, as a matter of fact I was talking with some friends of mine about the Robocop remake last night and we were saying how we were going to miss that classical score for me it's synonimous with Robocop.

  8. Yeah, that Robocop theme is amazing. I'm guessing they'll be chucking that out with new remake. Unless they use a maybe a little bit of it in the background. I remember watching Robocop 2 and being horrified that some new composer had done a new theme.

    Poledouris also did a pretty great military score for Starship Troopers but I haven't had a chance to pick up that score yet.