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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

 

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Films with fantastic themes often have an element of magic, myth, and wonder. They allow us to escape to imaginary lands, whimsical worlds, and extraordinary alternate realities.

 

“And the secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan, you must learn its discipline, for no one, no one in this world can you trust, not men, not women, not beasts… This you can trust” (Conan the Barbarian, 1982)

Basil Poleudoris musically painted a richly colored mythical landscape full of magic and power, hope and sorrow, beauty and danger, metal and fire. This great musical triumph was accomplished with haunting chorals, thunderous percussion, lavish melodies, and great orchestral sound. He created in the process one of the greatest music masterpieces in fantasy-adventure film history.

 

“Eddie. The guys and I were talking, we’d like want to invite you to our card game on Friday night. Would you like that? Only thing is, you can’t cut!” (Edward Scissorhands, 1990)

A young, innocent, shy, eccentric and weird-looking man named Edward (Johnny Depp), whose hands are made of scissors, is adopted by the kind hearted Peg Boggs. Danny Elfman’s music, like Edward’s scissor-handy works (garden sculptures, hairstyles), is highly imaginative, truly beautiful, and breathtaking. A haunting and inspiring musical journey that is melancholic but fun, tragic but hopeful, wintery but heart-warming, and dark but not evil. Tim Burton’s tender, dreamy, heartbreaking, and inspiring movie has, as it deserves, one of the best fantasy film scores ever written.

 

“Long ago, when man was young and the dragon already old, the wisest of our race took pity on man. He gathered together all the dragons, making them vow to watch over man, always” (Dragonheart, 1996)

The majestic and uplifting Randy Edelman’s score really breathe fire into my heart. “To The Stars” theme is magical, awe inspiring, commanding, stunning, and truly unforgettable. This majestic score is able to transcend tears, sadness, and sorrow. It lifts our spirits to a triumphant state of remembrance, commemoration, and glory.

 

“Once upon a time there was a boy named Peter Pan, who decided not to grow up”

(Peter Pan, 2003)

Inspiring, exciting and delightful, this score is one of James Newton Howard finest accomplishments. The sweet and poignant composition “Flying” is an amazing and uplifting magical adventure. Sweet harps, graceful bells, lovely choral works and soaring melody fill our imagination with mystery, hope and tender feelings. He is able to capture for our enjoyment the wonderful dreamy world of Neverland.

 

“You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006)

It was hard not to fall in love with Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film masterpiece. The beautiful but tenebrous universe blends a haunted fairy tale with the ugliness of reality. Javier Navarrete’s fantastic lullaby magically captures the mystery of the movie. The score can be at times relaxing and soothing, but the composer’s sweeping imagination combined with violin, brass and strings can conjure dark, majestic and sweeping melodies. The music induces a feeling of incantation, placing us under a comforting spell that helps us go through fear inducing imagery that would otherwise lead to a heightened state of dread and anxiety. It is without doubt one of the best film scores composed in the past decade.

 

I did not dare to overlook the epic fantasy films based on the works of J. R. R Tolkien and J.K. Rolling. I plan to review their beautiful music in a future blog about great fantasy film sagas.

 

Heart of Summer

Notable Fantasy Film Scores

 

The Wizard of Oz (1933) – Herbert Stothart

Beauty and the Beast (1946) – Georges Auric

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) – Bernard Herrmann

Alice in Wonderland (1951) – Oliver G. Wallace

A Christmas Carol (1951) – Richard Addinsell

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) – Bernard Herrmann

Scrooge (1970) – Leslie Bricusse

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – John Williams

Excalibur (1981) – Trevor Jones (featuring mainly music by Richard Wagner and Carl Orff)

Dragonslayer (1981) – Alex North

Legend (1985) – Jerry Goldsmith (European release) / Tangerine Dream (American release)

Clash of the Titans (1981) – Laurence Rosenthal

Time Bandits (1981) – Trevor Jones

Conan the Barbarian (1982) – Basil Poleudoris

The Dark Crystal (1982) – Trevor Jones

Krull (1983) – James Horner

Fire and Ice (1983) – William Kraft

Brazil (1985) – Michael Kamen

Lady Hawke (1985) – Andrew Powell and Alan Parsons

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1986) – Michel Kamen

The Pricess Bride (1987) – Mark Knopfler

Willow (1988) – James Horner

Scrooged (1988) – Danny Elfman

Highlander (1986) – Michael Kamen and Queen

Labyrinth (1986) – Trevor Jones and David Bowie

Edward Scissorhands (1990) – Danny Elfman

The Green Mile (1999) – Thomas Newman

Groundhog Day (1993) – Thomas Newman

Hook (1991) – John Williams

Dragonheart (1996) – Randy Edelman

Meet Joe Black (1998) – Thomas Newman

Peter Pan (2003) – James Newton Howard

Big Fish (2003) – Danny Elfman

Corpse Bride (2005) – Danny Elfman

Brothers Grimm (2005) – Dario Marianelli

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) –Javier Navarrete

Lady in the Water (2006) – James Newton Howard

Eragon (2006) – Patrick Doyle

The Golden Compass (2007) – Alexandre Desplat

Bridge to Terabithia (2007) – Aaron Zigman

Stardust (2007) – Ilan Eshkeri

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – Alexandre Desplat

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) – James Horner

Avatar (2009) – James Horner

Alice in Wonderland (2010) – Danny Elfman

Clash of the Titans (2010) – Ramin Djawadi

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010) – Harry Gregson-Williams

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010) – Trevor Rabin

Hugo (2011) – Howard Shore

Conan the Barbarian (2011) – Tyler Bates

Your Highness (2011) – Steve Jablonsky

Wrath of the Titans (2012) – Javier Navarrete

John Carter (2012) – Michael Giacchino

Dark Shadows (2012) – Danny Elfman

Life of Pi (2012) – Michael Danna

Snowman and the Huntsman (2012) – James Newton Howard