A Few More Favorite Film Scores (In No Particular Order)

My last post on film scores was quite enjoyable, and the responses were very interesting.  Some people sure feel passionate about their movie music (including me)!

I have such a love for film scores that I’ve decided to make it an ongoing series, with favorites discussed and presented.  All the scores I’ll present here will be ones you may or may not have heard before–but none of them will be rated as better than another.  Just enjoy what you hear, and share what you like, too.  The more the merrier!

On to the music:

Glory by James Horner

One of my favorite film scores by a composer who frequently steals from himself.  This is Horner at his best, inspired by a moving and powerful historical account of the first black regiment to serve in the Civil War, and their preparations for war, leading to their sad deaths at Fort Wagner.  It’s not a happy film, and it rightly earned Denzel Washington his first Oscar.  But Horner’s score was truly my favorite work in 1989.  As much as I love Alan Menken, I was quite disappointed when his score for The Little Mermaid beat Horner’s far superior music.

Here’s Preparations for Battle.  This nicely summarizes all the main themes of this powerful score.

Amélie by Yann Tierrsen

Using toy pianos, music boxes, and other unusual instruments, composer Tierrsen brings the magical fantasy of this French film to life in a delightful way.  Sounding both French (lots of hand accordian) and playful, each piece in the score is delightful, much like the title character, played by the wonderful Audrey Tatou.  If you haven’t seen the film, you should.  (One minor nude scene–it’s a French foreign film, after all–but you can skip it and enjoy the beauty and wonder of this Oscar-winning film).  The movie itself was one of my top films of the 2000’s.

This is the “Valse D’Amélie” in its orchestral version.

Backdraft by Hans Zimmer

It’s all here. Long bass passages, pounding rhythmic drums, choral voices, strong themes.  This “early” score by the increasingly-influential Zimmer is easily one of his best.  Written for the Ron Howard firefighter film, Zimmer’s score is a great combination of character pieces (“The Arsonist’s Waltz), family themes (“Brothers”), and a soaring, inspiring “main” theme.  Everything he would use in later scores for Jerry Bruckheimer films is here, and it’s easy to see why his studio has been the go-to source for summer blockbusters.

Here’s the final theme, heard over the last scene of the film and the end credits.

Much Ado About Nothing by Patrick Doyle

Like Spielberg and Williams, the Kenneth Branagh-Patrick Doyle partnership has created many memorable film scores, including this year’s Thor.  My favorite scores by Doyle are the ones created for Branagh’s Shakespeare adaptations, and my favorite of them all is the sunny and beautiful Much Ado.  Even with the miscasting of Keanu Reeves, the film shines in the Tuscan sun.  And the many themes and songs created by Doyle only help to heighten the romance and tension of this wonderful film.  I love the songs written for the film, adapted beautifully from Shakespeare’s original text: “Pardon, Goddess of the Night,” sung at Hero’s funeral service, and “Sigh No More, Ladies,” which serves as counterpoint to the burgeoning romance between Benedick and Beatrice.

Here’s “Pardon, Goddess of the Night.”  The final singer is Doyle himself.

Peter Pan by James Newton Howard

One of the most underrated of contemporary film composers, Howard is also one of the most versatile.  His music has been used in everything from horror to drama to comedy and fantasy.  His score for the equally-underrated live action adaptation of Peter Pan, featuring the wonderful James Isaacs as Captain Hook (Harry Potter fans would recognize him as Lucius Malfoy), is top-notch, and almost as good as John Williams’ score for the inferior Hook. (Love the music, but the movie is a tad bloated and overacted.)

Here’s the amazing piece “I Do Believe in Fairies,” which comes at a pivotal point in the story.  The piece is so good that Disney co-opted it for their 50th Anniversary of Disneyland commercials.  It’s that rare piece of music that continues to give me goosebumps.

So there you go.  Five more amazing scores for you to check out.  More on the way.  After all, I have 466 different albums of film music to share.  See you next time.

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