Scores That Make The Movie

I believe a movie score not only enhances a film, it can make the movie. There are songs in a film that define a moment like the whistling march in Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) or Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” in Say Anything (1989). Remember John Cusack holding up the boom box to declare his love? Then there are the sweeping title scores that define a film and heighten the excitement. I’m going to list a few of my favorite ones. I sure would be interested in knowing yours.

mag seven

This 1960 remake of the Japanese classic, The Seven Samarai (1954), stars Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner competing for screen time, and the plot is not original at all. I love The Magnificent Seven. Why? The score by Elmer Bernstein, of course.


Just about anything John Williams composes is gold, right? With 41 Oscar nominations, if he wrote the score, the movie is bound to be better. He sure knows how to pull at the heart strings.

I was a very young teenager and fell hopelessly in love with the power of the movies because of the original Star Wars. It was the musical score that made this very un-original plot come to life with magic and excitement and fear. I remember saving my babysitting money and purchasing the soundtrack record and listening to it over and over in 1976.  

How about the theme for the 1963, Harry Mancini score for The Pink Panther?


Do you remember the plot? Nope, I don’t either. It was the movie that made it a classic.


I highly recommend you read the memoir by Danish author Isak Dinesen(1937) about her time spent in Africa managing a coffee plantation. The film version in 1985 starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford won seven Academy awards. This Sydney Pollack film is a beautiful, sweeping saga which no movie buff should miss. John Barry’s score is as breathtaking as the cinematography.

How about anything Leonard Bernstein does? West Side Story or one of my top 5 favorite films of all time, On the Waterfront (1954)?


A major reason I love the film Last of the Mohicans(1992) is because of the score.


I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this classic. You know it just by the score.


The score always makes the film better, do you agree? What are your favorite scores? The Godfather? Psycho? A Fist Full of Dollars? 

29 thoughts on “Scores That Make The Movie

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  1. Great list Cindy. I like a few recent soundtracks like the Inception and The Dark Knight by Hans Zimmer. Also for an example of an awful film with a great soundtrack then Tron Legacy fits the bill with its amazing Daft Punk soundtrack. My favourite composer though has always been Ennio Morricone


  2. Excellent choices and critiques, Cindy!

    I’ve always been kind of fond of the score for another south of the border western, ‘The Professionals’. With Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode. Another “Guy Flick” that sweats Testosterone.

    And there will never be another Henry Mancini! Even his work in television with ‘Peter Gunn’ is exceptional.


  3. magnificent coincidence. i was just watching Magnificent 7 on tv last night and thinking how great that theme was.
    i often listen to Promontory from The Last of the Mohican. Very inspiring.


  4. I like everyone’s choices and it’s no coincidence that the same names keep cropping up.
    There are so many memorable scores to choose from but off the top of my head I’ll offer Hans Zimmer’s score for The Thin Red Line, Morricone’s work on Days of Heaven, Henry Mancini (Hatari and Touch of Evil) and an obscure but very personal favourite of mine which is Thomas Newman’s haunting score from Flesh and Bone.


    1. Yes, Zimmer is soooo talented. Gladiator will always be my favorite Zimmer score, but who doesn’t love The Lion King? Interesting to mention Flesh and Bone. What a creepy film and haunting score!


  5. Great post Cindy! I LOVE soundtracks, and often times I’ve listened to their scores before I saw the films. I actually haven’t seen Out of Africa yet but I LOVE the score. Another film which score I love more than the film itself is Somewhere In Time.


  6. The first one that springs to mind in Ennio Morricone’s Once Upon a Time in America soundtrack. Absolutely outstanding and perfectly fitting to the movie. I listen to it on a regular basis as well.


      1. Another two great soundtracks Cindy. I’d also throw in James Horner’s soundtrack to “Braveheart” into your list and Yann Tiersen’s “Amelie” soundtrack.


  7. While perhaps they didn’t garner popular attention, I though Gabriel Yared’s soundtrack for The English Patient and Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for Cinema Paradiso were fantastic in their quiet ways.


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