Westerns are films set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West. Some of the most beautiful music scores had been inspired by these movies.

 

“Will, I think you’d better go while there’s still time. It’s better for you, and it’s better for us” (High Noon, 1952)

A town Marshall is personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, while his own town refuses to help him. Dimiti Tiomkin can probably be considered the father of western film score. His memorable score for this magnificent western adds to the suspense that builds up as Will Kane awaits Frank Miller, who is arriving on the noon train.

 

“We deal in lead, friend”  (The Magnificent Seven, 1960)

Based on the Japanese legendary film The Seven Samurai, it tells the story of Mexican peasant villagers oppressed by bandits that decide to hire a group of seven gunfighters to defend them. The epic score composed by Elmer Bernstein gives me a sense of euphoric excitement, followed by a relaxing sense of inner peace. It is like riding a horse at full speed in a wide-open prairie, then going across a turbulent blue-white river, and finally reaching a nice green meadow.

 

“Every gun makes its own tune” (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, 1966)

Ennio Morricone composed the score for the ultimate Spaghetti Western film. Three gunmen set out to find a hidden fortune during the American Civil War. The inimitable music is very thrilling, and the background of hallucinatory chanting voices is exhilarating. It makes me feel like an outlaw galloping in a western desert with dusty winds and rolling tumbleweeds, while being chased by vicious bounty hunters. The “man with no name” also rode to the tune of magnificent scores in the first two films of the Sergio Leone’s trilogy.

 

“I had never really known who John Dunbar was. Perhaps because the name itself had no meaning. But as I heard my Sioux name being called over and over, I knew for the first time who I really was” (Dances with Wolves, 1990)

The maestro John Barry wrote a melancholic, romantic, and incredibly beautiful score for the exiled military man who befriends wolves and Indians. The majestic and melodic “John Dunbar Theme” is an essential element in this transcendent, endearing, and breathtaking film.

 

“Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and that his skin is dark?” (The Last of the Mohicans, 1992)

Three trappers in the midst of the French and Indian War protect a British Colonel’s daughters. Trevor Jones composed a passionate orchestral composition that turned out to be one of the most popular and acclaimed scores of the nineties. Due to minor music cue contributions by Randy Edelman, the score was unfortunately not eligible for Oscar consideration.

 

From Stagecoach (1939) to True Grit (2010), we has been blessed with numerous western score masterpieces. I just have scratched the surface of this treasure trove. Get your shovels ready and dig deeper. You will not be disappointed.

 

Western Good-Bad-Ugly

Notable Western Scores

 

Stagecoach (1939) – Richard Hageman, Frank Harling, John Leipold, Leo Shuken, Louis Gruenberg, and Gerard Carbonara

The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) – Max Steiner

Fort Apache (1948)- Richard Hageman

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) – Richard Hageman

Lone Ranger  (TV Series 1949) – “William Tell Overture” by Gioachino Rossini

Rio Grande (1950) – Victor Young

High Noon (1952) – Dimitri Tiomkin “The Ballad of High Noon”

Shane (1953) – Victor Young

The Man from Laramie (1955) – George Duning

Friendly Persuation (1956) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Searchers (1956) – Danny Knight

3:10 to Yuma (1957) – George Duning

Cowboy (1958) – George Duning

The Big Country (1958)– Jerome Moross

Rifleman (TV Series 1958) – Herschel Burke Gilbert

Rawhide (TV Series 1959) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Bonanza (TV Series 1959) – David Rose

Rio Bravo (1959) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Horse Soldiers (1959) – David Buttolph

The Alamo (1960) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Magnificent Seven (1960) – Elmer Bernstein

How the West Was Won (1962) – Alfred Newman

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – Ennio Morricone

For a Few Dollars More (1965) – Ennio Morricone

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) – Ennio Morricone

Return of the Seven (1966) – Elmer Bernstein

Once Upon a Time in the West  (1968) – Ennio Morricone

Hang ‘Em High (1968) – Dominic Frontiere

The Wild Bunch (1969) – Jerry Fielding

Two Mules for Sister Sarah (1970) – Ennio Morricone, Stanley Wilson

Duck You Sucker (1971) – Ennio Morricone

The Cowboys (1972) – John Williams

My Name is Nobody (1973) – Ennio Morricone

High Plains Drifter (1973) – Dee Barton

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) – Jerry Fielding

Silverado (1985) – Bruce Broughton

Glory (1989) – James Horner

Lonesome Dove (TV Miniseries1989) – Basil Poledouris

Dances with Wolves (1990) – John Barry

The Last of the Mohicans (1992) – Trevor Jones

Unforgiven (1992) – Lennie Niehaus, Clint Eastwood

Gettysburg (1993) – Randy Edelman

Maverick (1994) – Randy Newman

Wyatt Earp (1994) – James Newton Howard

Legends of the Fall (1995) – James Horner

Deadwood (TV Series 2004) – David Schwartz

The Proposition (2005) – Nick Cave. Warren Ellis

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) – Nick Cave. Warren Ellis

3:10 to Yuma (2007) – Marco Beltrami

True Grit (2010) – Carter Burwell

 

 

Star-crossed lovers must overcome pride, feuding families, societal classes and conventions, prior marriages or engagements, racial prejudice, cultural barriers, physical and mental illness, temporal and physical distance, wars, revolutions, and even death itself. Montague and Capulet supporters alike would agree that some of the most beautiful film music has been inspired by the very powerful force that is romantic love.

“I didn’t want to be born. You didn’t want me to be born. It’s been a calamity on both sides.” (Now, Voyager, 1942)

Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) defies her overbearing mother and goes on to discover love, heartbreak and eventual fulfillment. The fantastic and genial Max Steiner, the father of film composers, created one of his most lavishing masterpieces for this romantic psychological drama.

“I love you. I’ve loved you since the first moment I saw you. I guess maybe I’ve even loved you before I saw you.” (A Place In The Sun, 1951)

One of the best love stories ever-rendered into glorious black and white film. Young, ambitious George Eastman (who is now in love with rich, gorgeous, and sophisticated society girl Angela Vickers) sees his promising future; dreams and fantasies crash due to the unexpected pregnancy of his former flame factory worker Alice Tripp. Some decisions have tragic consequences. Franz Waxman composed an exquisitely romantic score with sinister undertones, the perfect match for this tragic love story.

“You call yourself a free spirit, a wild thing, and you’re terrified somebody’s going to stick you in a cage. Well, baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself… It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.” (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961)

I love Audrey Hepburn’s soothing voice singing the breathtaking song “Moon River”.  It is hard to contain your emotions in the presence of a melody of such grace and beauty. Let the uplifting and transcendent score of the dream maker and heartbreaker Henry Mancini flow through us and inspire our spirits. Like a vessel adrift in a powerful musical river, “wherever you’re going I’m going your way.“

“I know everything I need to know about you. I love you. I know you’re good, and kind. I know you’re colored and I… And I think you’re beautiful!” (A Patch of Blue, 1965)

By judging one another based on the content of their characters, and placing the needs of the other before their own, selfless love transcends racism and prejudice in this touching, bittersweet, and heartbreaking inter-racial romance in the 1960s. It tells the love story of an uneducated abused blind white girl, and a kind well-educated black businessman.  Jerry Goldsmith beaded a gorgeous musical necklace for this wonderful and heart warming film.

“I shouldn’t admire it now. I should find it absurdly personal. Don’t you agree? Feelings, insights, affections … it’s suddenly trivial now. You don’t agree; you’re wrong. The personal life is dead in Russia. History has killed it.” (Doctor Zhivago, 1965)

Maurice Jarre crafted exquisite musical poetry that mends our souls. Verses of love and passion will always find admirers despite the poisonous doctrines and the incredible hardships imposed by oppressive regimes. The human spirit continues to endure and triumph, while the Bolshevik Revolution shrinks to a dark footnote in history.

“Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me… it brought me to you. And I’m thankful for that, Rose. I’m thankful. You must do me this honor. You must promise me that you’ll survive, that you won’t give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise.” (Titanic, 1997)

James Horner glorious score is without doubt his crowning achievement. Celine Dion’s performance of “My Heart Goes On” still gives me goose bumps. The brief but enduring romance between a poor artist boy and a rich aristocrat girl aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic is certainly an inspirational story. James Cameron was truly “the king of the world” in 1997.

Love Titanic

Notable Romantic Film Tunes

City Lights (1931) – Charles Chaplin (previously featured in Comedy Tunes)

The Gay Divorcee (1934) – Max Steiner

Anthony Adverse (1936) – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Gone with the Wind (1939) – Max Steiner (previously featured in Epic Film Tunes)

Wuthering Heights (1939) – Alfred Newman

Dark Victory (1939) – Max Steiner

The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Franz Waxman

Now, Voyager (1942) – Max Steiner

Casablanca (1942) – Max Steiner

Kings Row (1942) – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Jane Eyre (1944) – Bernard Herrmann

Beauty and the Beast (1946) – Georges Auric

Forever Amber (1947) – David Raksin

The Adventures of Don Juan (1948) – Max Steiner

A Place in the Sun (1951) – Franz Waxman

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) – David Raksin

Moulin Rouge (1952) – Georges Auric, William Engvick

Roman Holiday (1953) – Georges Auric

Sabrina (1954) – Frederick Hollander

Summertime (1955) – Alessandro Cicognini

East of Eden (1955) – Leonard Rosenman

Picnic (1955) – George Duning

Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing (1955) – Alfred Newman

Peyton Place (1957) – Franz Waxman

An Affair To Remember (1957) – Hugo Friedhofer

A Summer Place (1959) – Max Steiner

The Apartment (1960) – Adolph Deutsch, “Theme from The Apartment” (originally “Jealous Lover”, 1949) by British composer Charles Williams

Summer and Smoke (1961) – Elmer Bernstein

Splendor in the Grass (1961) – David Amram

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – Henry Mancini

Walk On The Wild Side (1962) – Elmer Bernstein

Charade (1963) – Henry Mancini

Cleopatra (1963)- Alex North

Doctor Zhivago (1965) – Maurice Jarre

A Patch of Blue (1965) – Jerry Goldsmith

Far From The Madding Crowd (1967) – Richard Rodney Bennett

Romeo and Juliet (1968) – Nino Rota

Love Story (1970) – Francis Lai

Wuthering Heights (1970) – Michel Legrand

Summer of 42′ (1971) – Michel Legrand

The Way We Were (1973) – Marvin Hamlisch

Somewhere In Time (1980) – John Barry

Romancing the Stone (1984) – Alan Silvestri

A Room with a View (1985) – Richard Robbins

Out of Africa (1985) – John Barry (previously featured in Epic Film Tunes)

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) – David Foster

Dangerous Liaisons (1988) – George Fenton

Ghost (1990) “Unchained Melody” (originally from the film Unchained, 1955) by Alex North)

Howards End (1992) – Richard Robbins

Remains of the Day (1993) – Richard Robbins

The Piano (1993) – Michael Nyman

Much Ado About Nothing (1993) – Patrick Doyle

Age of Innocence (1993) – Elmer Bernstein

Forrest Gump (1994) – Alan Silvestri

Il Postino (1994) – Luis Enríquez Bacalov

The American President (1995) – Marc Shaiman

Sense And Sensibility (1995) – Patrick Doyle

The English Patient (1996) – Gabriel Yared

Emma (1996) – Rachel Portman

Titanic (1997)- James Horner

As Good as it Gets (1997) – Hans Zimmer

Life is Beautiful (1998)- Nicola Piovani

Shakespeare in Love (1998) – Stephen Warbeck

The Red Violin (1999) – John Corigliano

The Cider House Rules (1999) – Rachel Portman

Chocolat (2000) – Rachel Portman

Amelie (2001) – Yann Tiersen

Pearl Harbor (2001) – Hans Zimmer

Girl With A Pearl Earring (2003) – Alexandre Desplat

Pride & Prejudice (2005) – Dario Marianelli

Jane Eyre (2011) – Dario Marianelli

The Artist (2011) – Ludovic Bource (previously feature in Comedy Tunes)

Anna Karenina (2012) – Dario Marianelli

Romeo and Juliet (2013) – Abel Korzeniowski

There is an incredibly rich tradition of sport inspired and related music deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. Let’s eat “some peanuts and Cracker Jack” (Take Me Out to the Ball Game by Jack Norworth, 1908) while we celebrate magnificent tunes from outstanding sport related films.

 

“You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder!” (Rocky, 1976)

The greatest underdog sports movie triumphs at multiple levels. A true hero fighting for love and honor emerges with glory from a valiant defeat to inspire a nation. Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” is an extraordinarily powerful anthem and one of the most recognizable film themes ever. Like Rocky Balboa, the inspirational and very moving score is a bona fide champion and a genuine winner.

 

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” (Chariots of Fire, 1981)

The genial synthesizer composer Vangelis crafted one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time for this heroic and transcendent racing drama. The composition is passionate, riveting, stimulating and extraordinarily moving. His music for this film bested steep competition (On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and won the Academy Award for best original score.

 

“Well you’re better than any player I ever had. And you’re the best God damn hitter I ever saw. Suit up.” (The Natural, 1984)

The movie tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a man with incredible raw talent who is struck down in his prime, but gets a second chance to fulfill his dream of athletic glory through determination and integrity. The music by Randy Newman is sweetly nostalgic, and truly inspirational. It transports us to simpler and better time. Aaron Copeland would have considered it a Grand Slam.

 

“If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” (Hoosiers, 1986)

Considered by many the greatest sports film of all time, it is the story of Coach Norman Dale and his underdog basketball team rising to the challenge, and beating the odds. It highlights finding redemption, second chance at success, love for basketball, innocence of youth, and majestic rural Americana. The heartfelt and stirring score by Jerry Goldsmith has a beautiful and sublime melody. Prepared to be inspired, uplifted, touched and enlightened, while you try in vain to hold back your tears.

 

“If you build it, he will come.” (Field of Dreams, 1989)

A struggling Iowa farmer transforms a cornfield into a baseball diamond and a spiritual portal. Nostalgia for baseball’s Golden Age drives multitude of fans to visit the field where Shoeless Joe Jackson’s ghost comes to play the greatest game ever invented. James Horner’s subtle but mesmerizing music lift our hearts and spirits. It is the perfect companion for this beautiful, enchanting and heartbreakingly charming baseball fantasy.

 

“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.” (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, 1993)

The film is a celebration of the live and myth of the kung fu film star, an inspired man who through great effort and self-confidence would become martial-arts most enduring legend.  The moving score by Randy Edelman is powerful and captivating, an emotional tour de force and an instant classic.

 

As eloquently stated by master composer John Williams, sport tunes are intended to musically represent “the spirit of cooperation, of heroic achievement, all the striving and preparation that go before the events and all the applause that comes after them.” (In reference to his composition Olympic Fanfare and Theme, 1984)

 

Sport Hoosiers

Notable Sport Film Tunes

Brian’s Song (1971 TV Movie) – Michel Legrand “The Hands of Time”

Rocky (1976) – Bill Conty “Gonna Fly Now”

Ice Castles (1978)-Marvin Hamlisch

The Champ (1979) – Dave Grusin

Victory (1981)- Bill Conti

Chariots of Fire (1981) – Vangelis

The Natural (1984) – Randy Newman

Hoosiers (1986) – Jerry Goldsmith

Lucas (1986) – Dave Grusin

Field of Dreams (1989) – James Horner

A League of Their Own (1992) – Hans Zimmer

Dragon : The Bruce Lee Story  (1993) – Randy Edelman “The Dragon’s Heartbeat”

Rudy (1993)– Jerry Goldsmith

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) – James Horner

Cobb (1995) – Elliot Goldenthal

Space Jam (1996) – James Newton Howard

Finding Forrester (2000) – Israel Kamakwiwo’ole “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World”

61* (2001 TV Movie) – Marc Shaiman

The Rookie (2002) – Carter Burwell

Seabiscuit (2003)- Randy Newman

Miracle (2004) – Mark Isham

Million Dollar Baby (2005) – Clint Eastwood

Speed Racer (2008) –  Michael Giacchino

Moneyball (2011) – Michael Danna

Soul Surfer (2011) – Marco Beltrami

Warrior (2011) – Mark Isham

 

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way” (George S. Patton Jr.)

“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

War films range from patriotic and heroic fighting stories designed to celebrate unity and self-sacrifice for love of country, to anti-war films that depict war crimes, the disillusion of the public towards the horrors of warfare, and the negative effects war injuries and psychological stress on soldiers and returning veterans.

“We can teach these barbarians a lesson in Western methods and efficiency that will put them to shame. We’ll show them what the British soldier is capable of doing…It’s going to be a proper bridge” (The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957)

While in a prisoner of war camp, British Col. Nicholson co-operates to oversee his men’s construction of a railway bridge for their Japanese captors. Sir Malcolm Arnold incorporated in his score for the film the march Colonel Bogey, originally written in 1914 by Kenneth J. Alford (The British March King). British prisoners whistled unaccompanied the theme several times as they marched into the prison camp. Colonel Bogey inspired Arnold’s original “River Kwai March.” He won an Academy Award for the film’s score.

“I assure you I had no intention of being either harsh or cruel in my treatment of the soldier in question. My sole purpose was to try and to restore him some appreciation of his obligation as a man, and as a soldier” (Patton, 1970)

The film narrates the actions of controversial war hero General Patton during World War II. Jerry Goldsmith composed a memorable, gripping and emotional score full of high-flying marches and reverberating trumpets.

“Well, that might not be living, but it sure as hell ain’t dying. And dying’s what these white boys been doin’ for going on three years now, dying by the thousands! Dying for you, fool! I know, ‘cuz I dug the graves” (Glory, 1989)

The tragic Civil War epic inspires a stunning and very moving score from James Horner. The music is full of honor, courage, tension, and mournful melancholia. As the film, the music is very emotionally charged and uplifting.

“What are you doing? These are mine. These are my workers. They should be on my train” (Schindler’s List, 1993)

German entrepreneur Oskar Schindler saves the lives of over one thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust. Itzhak Perlman‘s violin solos are one of the best examples of how much beauty can be contained in profoundly sad music.  This score is without doubt one of John Williams’ finest and most inspiring masterpieces.

“Captain Ramsey, under operating procedures governing the release of nuclear weapons we cannot launch our missiles unless both you, and I agree” (Crimson Tide, 1995)

A film about a young Navy Executive Officer who thinks and acts in preventing his submarine captain from launching nuclear missiles before confirming his uncertain orders to do so. “Roll Tide” is a wonderful march full of bravura and defiance. The gifted composer Hans Zimmer confidently used a large orchestra and an all male choir to gradually builds a victorious climax full of tension and thunder.

We may all have different feelings about war and its aftermath, but it is quite clear that in one way or another armed conflict will be with us forever. As the Greek philosopher Plato said, “only the dead have seen the end of war.”

War Bridge River Kwai

Notable War Film Tunes

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) – Hugo Friedhofer

Twelve O’Clock High (1949) – Alfred Newman

Halls of Montezuma (1950) – “The Marine Hymn” (1919) by L. Z. Philips – based on the Gendarmes’ Duet from Jacques Offenbach’s opera Genevieve de Brabant

Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) is a biographical film about late composer John Philip Sousa (The American March King). He crafted some of the most famous military marches including “The Washington Post”, “The Liberty Bell” (later used as theme for Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series) “The Thunderer”, “El Capitan”, “Semper Fidelis” (Official March of the United States Marine Corps), and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (National March of the United States of America).

Victory at Sea (TV Documentary originally broadcast in 1952–1953, it was condensed into a film in 1954) – Richard Rodgers & Robert Russell Bennett, includes “Guadalcanal March” by Robert Russell Bennet

The Dambusters (1955) – Leighton Lucas (based on the “Dambusters March”

by Eric Coates)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) – Malcolm Arnold

Paths of Glory (1957) “La Marseillaise” (1792) by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle

The Guns of Navarone (1961) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Combat! (1962 TV Series) – Leonard Rosenman

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) “The Voice of the Guns” (1917) by Kenneth J. Alford

The Great Escape (1963) – Elmer Bernstein

633 Squadron (1964) – Ron Goodwin

Operation Crossbow (1965) – Ron Goodwin

Hogan’s Heroes (1965 TV Series) – Jerry Fielding

The Sand Pebbles (1966) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Rat Patrol (1966 TV Series)

Where Eagles Dare (1968) – Ron Goodwin

Devil’s Brigade (1968) – Alex North

Battle of Britain (1969) – Ron Goodwin & William Walton “Aces High March” “The Battle in the Air” (Walton’s music was composed with considerable help from Malcolm Arnold, who was responsible for producing the orchestrations)

Patton (1970) – Jerry Goldsmith

M*A*S*H (1970) – Johnny Mandel

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) – Jerry Goldsmith

Kelly’s Heroes (1970) – Lalo Schifrin

The Longest Day (1972) – Maurice Jarre

The Deer Hunter (1978) – Stanley Myers “Cavatina”

1941 (1979) – John Williams

Apocalypse Now (1979) – “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner

A-Team (1983 TV Series) – Mike Post

Platoon (1986) – “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

Empire of the Sun (1987) – John Williams

Full Metal Jacket (1987) – “The Marines Hymn” by Jacques Offenbach from “Geneviève de Brabant”

Glory (1989) – James Horner

The Hunt For Red October (1990) – Basil Poledouris

Schindler’s List (1993) – John Williams

Crimson Tide (1995) – Hans Zimmer

Saving Private Ryan (1998) – John Williams

The Thin Red Line (1999) – Hans Zimmer

Medal of Honor (1999 Video Game) – Michael Giacchino

Gettysburg (2000) – Randy Edelman

The Patriot (2000) – John Williams

Pearl Harbor (2001) – Hans Zimmer

Band of Brothers (2002 TV Series) – Michael Kamen

Defiance (2008) – James Newton Howard

The Pacific (2010 TV Series) – Hans Zimmer, Blake Neely, Geoff Zanelli

War Horse (2011) – John Williams

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962)

Harper Lee’s uplifting and magnificent story, including the damaged (but pure-hearted) Arthur “Boo” Radley saving the children from Bob Ewel, and Atticus’ moral imperative to defend the vulnerable are all priceless gifts that give humanity some hope.  The utterly moving music created by the inspired maestro Elmer Bernstein catapults the film to heartbreakingly beautiful heights.

“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (Godfather, 1972)

The great film composer Nino Rota’s score is truly an offer no one can refuse. Prepare to be captivated by Italian folk themes, amazing instrumentation, and emotionally charged melodies that capture the amazingly complex moods of one of the best films of all time. Without doubt, it stands as one of the most beautiful and inspired instrumental scores ever written.

“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” (Chinatown, 1974)

Roman Polanski’s neo-noir is a stylish depiction of evil, greed, and corruption connected to land dealings and water rights’ disputes in California. The mysteriously haunting score composed by Jerry Goldsmith in only ten days is a perfect match for the film. Considered by many as one best scores of all time in great part due to the memorable mournful trumpet solos.

“You talkin’ to me?” (Taxi Driver, 1976)

Bernard Herrmann’s last film score was for Martin Scorsese’s brilliant portrait of urban alienation and decadence. The unforgettable jazzy and orchestral music is dark and ominous, strange and ethereal, subliminal and dissonant. It is the perfect companion for Travis Bickle descent into a nightmarish world of madness, delusion and violence.

“I tell you those voices soared, higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free (The Shawshank Redemption, 1994)

‘Red’ (Morgan Freeman) and the other residents of Shawshank were unchained by the ‘Italian ladies’ singing “Canzonetta sull’ aria” (Mozart, “Le Nozze di Figaro”). Prepared to also fall in love with the haunting, dark and dramatic original piano music composed by Thomas Newman. The score is truly inspirational and a central element of this brilliant and miraculous story.

“The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay!” (Radio Show The Shadow, 1930). James Cagney would reply “that’s for yaps and small-timers on shoestrings” (Angels with Dirty Faces, 1938). As far as musical inspiration for great film composers go, the weed of crime does pay indeed.

Crime

Notable Crime Tunes

On the Waterfront (1954) – Leonard Bernstein

Perry Mason (1957 TV Series) – Fred Steiner

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) – Elmer Bernstein

Dr. No (1962) “James Bond Theme” – Monty Norman, arranged by John Barry

The Pink Panther (1963) – Henry Mancini

Mission: Impossible (1966 TV series) – Lalo Schifrin

Wait Until Dark (1967) – Elmer Bernstein

Cool Hand Luke (1967) – Lalo Schifrin

Ironside (1967 TV series) – Quincy Jones

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) – Michel Legrand

The French Connection (1971) – Don Ellis

Dirty Harry (1971) – Lalo Schifrin

Klute (1971) – Michael Small

The Godfather (1972) – Nino Rota

Papillon (1973) – Jerry Goldsmith

Serpico (1973) – Mikis Theodorakis

The Sting (1973) – Marvin Hamlisch and Scott Joplin

Chinatown (1974) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Godfather: Part II (1974) – Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – David Shire

Night Moves – (1975) – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Midnight Express (1978) – Giorgio Moroder, “Chase”

Dressed to Kill, 1980 – Pino Donaggio

Body Heat (1981) – John Barrry

Blade Runner (1982) – Vangelis

Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – Ennio Morricone

Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – Harold Faltermeyer, “Axel F.”

Blue Velvet (1986) – Angelo Bedalamenti

Miller’s Crossing (1990) – Carter Burwell

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Howard Shore

Basic Instinct (1992) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – Thomas Newman

Se7en – (1995) – Howard Shore

The Usual Suspects (1995) – John Ottman

Fargo (1996)  – Carter Burwell

Hamlet (1996) – Patrick Doyle

L.A. Confidential (1997) – Jerry Goldsmith

Dark City (1998) – Trevor Jones

Mulholland Drive (2001) – Angelo Badalamenti

Road to Perdition (2002) – Thomas Newman

Mystic River (2003) – Clint Eastwood

Sin City (2005) – Robert Rodriguez, assisted by John Debney & Graeme Revell

Zodiac (2007) – David Shire

Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Hans Zimmer, “Discombobulate”

The Town (2010) – Harry Gregson-Williams, David Buckley

Sherlock (2010 TV Series) – David Arnold

Drive (2011) – Cliff Martinez

Slapsticks, parodies, spoofs, screwballs and romantic comedy films have been brightening up our lives with laughter, humor and amusement for generations.

 

“Yes, I can see now”

In my opinion, City Lights (1931) stands at the pinnacle of both silent and romantic comedy film. The music takes us through a wide range of emotional responses as the Tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl, and develops a friendship with a millionaire. Charlie Chaplin composed a true symphony of laughs, tears, and love. Holding my hand to my heart, I rejoice with hope as I witness the triumph of the human spirit over poverty, infirmity, sorrow, and despair.

 

“I, Lord Kelvin, hereby vow to surrender my position as minister of science to Phileas Fogg if he can circumnavigate the globe… in no more than 80 days” (Around The World In 80 Days, 1956)

The unforgettable score for this adventure comedy film allow us to musically circumnavigate the globe, sampling vibrant exotic tunes as English gentleman Phileas Fogg (David Niven) and his valet Passepartout (my beloved comedian Cantinflas) progress in their 80 days journey. Victor Young was a master of melody and one of the finest film composers of his generation. Prepare to be captivated as you embark in this acoustic voyage. Like leaving Paris in a hot air balloon, it is truly an unforgettable emotional tour de force.

 

“It’s buried under a big W, I tell you. A big W” (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, 1963)

The W stands for Wonderful. The sunny, sweet and pleasant music score by Ernest Gold sets the mood for the incredible adventures of Spencer Tracy and a very talented cast. They will endure about three hours of furiously paced tribulations, as they drive, fly, drill, dynamite, and double-cross their way to $350,000 in stolen cash. This epic comedy film and its irresistible score will stay with you forever.

 

“If you look deep into the stone, you will perceive the tiniest discoloration. It resembles an animal” (The Pink Panther, 1963)

The Pink Panther is a fictional diamond with a distinctive flaw, which resembles a leaping panther. The great Henry Mancini composed a mysterious, highly sophisticated, and utterly original theme for the Blake Edwards’ comedy masterpiece.  This beautiful, seductive, and jazzy instrumental diamond has no flaw.

 

“No, it’s pronounced Fronkensteen” (Young Frankenstein, 1974)

We may never know why the horses rear up and neigh madly in fright every time they hear the name of Fra Blucher, but we all know this Mel Brooks’ film is one of the funniest movies of all time. The black-and-white comedy features a descendant of the infamous mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), and his re-animated creature (Peter Boyle). They dance with top hats and tails to the song “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (originally written by Irving Berlin in 1929), which parodies Fred Astaire’s Blue Skies (1946) version. The film also features a beautiful violin score “Transylvanian Lullaby” by Brooks’ longtime composer John Morris.

 

“There’s no reason to be alarmed and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?“

Airplane! (1980) is a genial spoof of airport and other disaster movies. Elmer Bernstein took his job of scoring this ridiculous parody seriously. I love the segments when he makes fun of John Williams’ Jaws. The music film auteur also wrote very well crafted compositions for the comedies Trading Places (1983), and Ghostbusters (1984).

 

Let’s close as we started with a silent romantic comedy film score, the amazing music written by Ludovic Bource for The Artist (2011). It is lighthearted, uplifting, and very emotionally touching. “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh.” (Audrey Hepburn)

 

Comedy Chaplin

Notable Comedy Tunes

 

City Lights (1931) – Charles Chaplin

Modern Times (1936) – Charles Chaplin

The Three Stooges short subjects (1939 through 1959) – jazzy “Three Blind Mice”

The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Franz Waxman

The Ladykillers (1955) – Tristram Cary

Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) – Victor Young

Some Like It Hot (1959) – Adolph Deutsch

The Apartment (1960) – “Theme from The Apartment” , originally “Jealous Lover” (1949) by Charles Williams)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – Henry Mancini

The Pink Panther (1963) – Henry Mancini

Charade (1963) – Henry Mancini

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) – Ernest Gold

Casino Royale (1967) – Burt Bacharach

The Producers (1968) – John Morris

Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969) – Burt Bacharach

Reivers (1969) – John Williams

MASH (1970) – Johnny Mandel

Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob (1973) – Vladimir Cosma

The Sting (1973) – “The Entertainer”, “Solace” (Written by Scott Joplin/Conducted and Adapted by Marvin Hamlisch)

Young Frankenstein (1974) – John Morris

Blazing Saddles (1974) – John Morris

1941 (1979) – “The March From 1941” (John Williams)

Airplane! (1980) – Elmer Bernstein

Tootsie (1982) – Dave Grusin

Trading Places (1983) – Elmer Bernstein

Ghostbusters (1984) – Elmer Bernstein

Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer

Romancing the Stone (1984) – Alan Silvestri

Back to the Future (1985) – Alan Silvestri

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) – Danny Elfman

Princess Bride (1987) – Mark Knopler

Spaceballs (1987) – John Morris

Beetlejuice (1988) – Danny Elfman

Scrooged (1988) – Danny Elfman

Big (1988) – Howard Shore

The Burbs (1989) – Jerry Goldsmith

City Slickers (1991) – Marc Shaiman

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) – Howard Shore

Much Ado About Nothing (1993) – Patrick Doyle

Groundhog Day (1993) – George Fenton

Ed Wood (1994) – Howard Shore

Il Postino (1994) – Luis Bacalov

Emma (1996) – Rachel Portman

Life is Beautiful (1997) – Nicola Piovani

Austin Powers (1997) – “Soul Bossa Nova” (1962) by Quincy Jones

As Good As It Gets (1997) – Hans Zimmer

Chocolat (2000) – Rachel Portman

Amélie (2001) – Yann Tiersen

Sideways (2004) – Rolfe Kent

The Artist (2011) – Ludovic Bource

 

 

Epic films are larger than life. They project into the movie screens with an aura of greatness what the human spirit is able to aspire to, and what it can ultimately is able to endure.

“As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” (Gone with the Wind, 1939)

Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler turbulent love affair during the Civil War and Reconstruction is the most successful film in box-office history. Max Steiner’s haunting and spectacular “Tara’s Theme” is a true musical treasure, and one of the most famous melodies in film history. The score for which “the father of film music” is possibly best known, led to the conversion of many skeptics. The film producer David O. Selznick, who has previously been opposed to original film scores, turned into a true believer, as revealed by his well-known comment “really fine musicians are recognizing that scoring is a new form of musical art.”

“May God grant me vengeance, I pray that you live till I return” (Ben-Hur, 1959)

Miklos Rozsa blessed the ultimate Biblical epic with a powerful, magnificent, and glorious score. “Circus Parade (Parade Of The Charioteers)” during the chariot race is not only the climax of this blockbuster film, but also possibly the pinnacle of all epic film music. Watching this movie in the big screen is one of my childhood’s treasured cinematic memories.

“He was a poet, a scholar and a mighty warrior…He was also the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum & Bailey” (Lawrence Of Arabia, 1962)

Maurice Jarre’s evocative, majestic and breathtaking score is a film and musical composition masterpiece. The sweeping, romantic, and exotic overture is epic on a grand scale. The melodic music mesmerizes you like the incredible power and vastness of the Arabian Desert.

“Now take back the soul of Denys George Finch Hatton, whom You have shared with us. He brought us joy…we loved him well. He was not ours. He was not mine.” (Out Of Africa, 1985)

The inspiring, lavish, and all-encompassing music for this epic romantic drama film is one of the most memorable scores ever written. “Main Title (I Had A Farm In Africa)” is stunningly beautiful with gloomy undertones that are somehow emotionally over-whelming. Only a very skillful master like John Barry could conjure in melody the fundamental nature of Denys and Karen’s relationship. The composer of Somewhere in Time (1980) and Born Free (1966) had an incredible gift to transport us to other times, and to melodically depict the astounding African scenery “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”

“So, your Holiness, now your priests are dead, and I am left alive. But in truth it is I who am dead, and they who live. For as always, your Holiness, the spirit of the dead will survive in the memory of the living.” (The Mission, 1986)

The film portrays the moral and spiritual conflicts faced by Jesuit priests converting natives of South America into Christianity, as they are confronted with the need to conform to Portuguese and Spanish politics of colonization and slavery. The natural beauties of the Iguazu pierced by a crucified priest flowing down the falls.  The ugliness of human sin and suffering transformed through religious penance into the beauty of liberation. A slave trader reading about charity and pure love in Corinthians Chapter 13, right before choosing to take up priesthood. Robert Bolt (a former Marxist) deciding to write the script of a stirring religious movie. An inspired Ennio Morricone producing exquisite acoustic splendor through violin and oboe. As Cardinal Altamirano, one has to see the hand of God in all these labors of love.

Although some may argued that the golden era of epic films has passed, I believed that as long as humans can hope, dream and love new epic masterpieces will continue to be forged. Don’t despair; new epic musical works of genius will continue to reach our ears and our hearts for years to come.Image

Notable Epic Film Scores

Captain Blood (1935) – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Alexander Nevsky (1938) – Sergei Prokofiev

Gone with the Wind (1939) – Max Steiner

Henry V (1944) – William Walton

Ivan the Terrible (1944) – Sergei Prokofiev

Captain from Castile (1947) – Alfred Newman

Samson and Delilah (1949) – Victor Young

Quo Vadis (1951) – Miklós Rózsa

Ivanhoe (1952) – Miklós Rózsa

The Robe (1953) – Alfred Newman

Prince Valiant (1954) – Franz Waxman

The Ten Commandments (1956) – Elmer Bernstein

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) – Malcolm Arnold

Ben-Hur (1959) – Miklós Rózsa

Spartacus (1960) – Alex North

King of Kings (1961) – Miklós Rózsa

El Cid (1961) – Miklós Rózsa

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – Maurice Jarre

Taras Bulba (1962) – Franz Waxman

Cleopatra (1963) – Alex North

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Becket (1964 film) – Laurence Rosenthal

Lord Jim (1965) – Bronislau Kaper

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) – Alfred Newman

Doctor Zhivago (1965) – Maurice Jarre

A Man For All Seasons (1966) – Georges de la Rue

War and Peace (1966) – Nino Rota

The Lion in the Winter (1968) – John Barry

Ryan’s Daughter (1970) – Maurice Jarre

Papillon (1973) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Wind and the Lion (1973) – Jerry Goldsmith

Barry Lyndon (1975) – “Sarabande” from Suite in D minor (HWV 437) by George Frideric Handel

Gandhi (1982) – George Fenton, Ravi Shankar

A Passage To India (1984) – Maurice Jarre

Out of Africa (1985) – John Barry

Henry V (1989) – Patrick Doyle

1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) – Vangelis

Braveheart (1995) – James Horner

The English Patient (1996) – Gabriel Yared

Titanic (1997) – James Horner

Joan of Arc (1999) – Éric Serra

The 13th Warrior (1999) – Jerry Goldsmith “”Valhalla”

Gladiator (2000) – Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard

The Passion of The Christ (2004) – John Debney

Troy (2004) – James Horner (replacement score) / Gabriel Jarred (rejected score)

Alexander (2004) – Vangelis

Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – Harry Gregson-Williams

The Painted Veil (2006) – Alexandre Desplat

Tristan & Isolde (2006) – Anne Dudley

Atonement (2008) – Dario Marianelli

Australia (2008) – David Hirschfelder

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