The 10 Best Film Scores



Editor’s Note: This list was originally published in 2013. With the release of Jurassic World, we thought we would re-visit some of our favorite film scores of all-time.

So it’s another awards week with the Oscars this Sunday, and while it doesn’t directly pertain to music, there is always some sort of connection. Last year, we gave you our ten favorite movie soundtracks, and now it’s for our favorite theatrical film scores.

What’s the difference you ask? Well it’s not always totally clear, but in general a soundtrack is more of a compilation that is put together consisting of more pop oriented songs, and film scores are put together by one or two composers and are generally but not always based in classical music. Think your big epics (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars) or your tense dramas (A Beautiful Mind, There Will Be Blood).  Between the three of us, we had an assortment of favorites but were able to land on ten film scores we feel very happy with. So without further ado, the winners are…

10. Punch Drunk Love – Jon Brion

Punch Drunk Love Film Score
This isn’t the last you will hear of Paul Thomas Anderson directed movies, and for good reason. Anderson employed Jon Brion, one of the sharpest piano-driven music producers of the past couple decades (Fiona Apple, Kanye West), and the mix of anxiety-riddled electronics and romantic overtures makes for an interestingly conflicted score.
9. Psycho – Bernard Herrmann

Pyscho Film Score

The only horror film on our list but extremely iconic and deserving regardless. Psycho is no doubt influential and iconic on its own, but the dissonant and frantic music is what really amplifies the terror, and this set a tone for horror films to come for decades.

8. 2001 A Space Odyssey – Johan and Richard Strauss

2001 Space Odyssey film score

When you wait almost 45 minutes into a movie for your first bit of dialogue, you better have an unbelievably good score to keep people captivated, and I think it’s safe to say Kubrick no doubt does that with the classical and ballet pieces that were chosen for the film.

7. Indiana Jones – John Williams

Indiana Jones Film Score

To this day, I think the “Raiders March” can inspire me to explore the world, discover priceless treasures, and run away from giant boulders. Really be anything I want to be, which really just boils down to wanting to be Indiana Jones. John Williams had a run almost like no other in terms of great film scores with Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, The Dark Knight, Inception) being the only near equal.

6. There Will Be Blood – Jonny Greenwood

There Will Be Blood film score

Did you think we would get out of a list without mentioning Radiohead or at least a member of the band? I didn’t think so. Without Jonny Greenwood’s menacing arrhythmic attack on your earbuds, I truly think There Will Be Blood would have come off as a different movie entirely. That’s a mark of a truly impactful score.

5. Last of the Mohicans – Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman

Last of the Mohicans film score

Speaking of huge epic scores, Last of the Mohicans fits the bill as one of our favorites. It’s grand in scope, extremely urgent yet moving in its melodies, and tastefully uses Celtic and prairie-style arrangements to its advantage.

4. Jurassic Park – John Williams

Jurassic Park film score

Oh look! John Williams again…big surprise. Not really. I think maybe better than anyone else, John Williams’ scores have the ability to teleport you to another world and experience it with awe and wonder, and that is no doubt the case in Jurassic Park.

3. Social Network – Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor

The Social Network best film score

I call this the double-take. Trent Reznor was known for his electronic industrial rock outfit Nine Inch Nails in the 90’s and early 2000s which was mostly considered moody and angst-ridden by the majority of people. Then Reznor composes an all-time great soundtrack on The Social Network and made people look again at his music and realize that he has been composing brilliantly for over 20 years. Reznor is the king of suspense and terror that somehow comes out sorta tragically beautiful, and that’s the Social Network score to me.

2. Requiem for a Dream – Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet

Requiem for a Dream best film score

Kronos Quartet are king minimalists when it comes to stringed music, and when combined with Clint Mansell on the Requiem for a Dream score, it’s a real treat. Though a bit less frantic, the score shares a lot of characteristic overlap with Social Network but where it just beats it out is with a few more timeless pieces.

1. Star Wars – John Williams

Star Wars greatest film score

John Williams…AGAIN?! We had too. J-Will created in our opinion the greatest score of all time with his score for the original Star Wars trilogy. The compilation of the three Star Wars scores was my first CD ever purchased, and I still whistle the Mos Eisley “Cantina Song” at work till this day.

Just Missed

Wes: Amelie – Yann Tiersen

Amelie best film score

I prefer my freedom fries over my French fries (just kidding), but the French definitely do it right when it comes to music. Yann Tiersen created a soundtrack that perfectly captures every facet of the life of a French waitress trying to find her way in life.

Todd: ET – John Williams

ET film score

This is getting ridiculous. 3 of the top 10 including the top spot for John Williams wasn’t enough for Todd, and he grabbed ET as his miss. Truthfully, I don’t blame him as ET is yet another movie musically that transports us off into a different world; one where an alien would foolishly pick a bike as their main mode of transportation with all the other options out there.

Austin: Hoosiers – Jerry Goldsmith

Hoosiers film score

This one just slid off our list, and I am a bit jealous of Austin for getting this as his miss. This one probably sounds more dated than any other on our list, but it’s sort of that ironically awesome dated. It’s the sound of someone playing around with all the settings on their new Casio keyboard for the first time, but its ridiculousness only adds to the greatness of the best sports movie of all time.

So there is the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, or got right, but still feel free to just rip on us in general …

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Author: Wes

Hoosier. Writer. Music Buff. Media Man. Tourist. Polar Bear.

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