There are many different, important elements that make a film stand out — but there is nothing like a film score that evokes all the feels and fully immerses viewers in the experience. Music helps set the right tone for a film, accompanying on-screen action and sending its messages across more effectively.
To celebrate some of the best scores on the big screen, Letterboxd‘s The Perfect Score showdown has made it easy to compile a to which several movie enthusiasts contributed. From Raiders of the Lost Ark‘s score to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly‘s, here are some of the most memorable pieces of work from different talented composers.
10 ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981)
The first installment of the Indiana Jones franchise introduces audiences to Harrison Ford‘s legendary title character, following archeologist and professor Jones on a quest to find a gold artifact named the Ark in 1936. However, Jones must get there before the Nazis, who plan to obtain its dangerous powers.
There is no doubt that Raiders of the Lost Ark‘s soundtrack is unforgettable. Composed by John Williams, the 1981 movie’s fun but slightly mysterious score is one of the best-known pieces by the famous composer and perfectly captures the franchise’s essence.
9 ‘Psycho’ (1960)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who impulsively embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client and decides to start leave town and start a new life. However, when she finds herself caught in a storm, Marion gets off the highway and pulls into Bates Motel, which is managed by a young man (Anthony Perkins) under the domination of his mother.
Bernard Herrmann‘s terrifying score to Psycho endures one of the most iconic achievements in film history; it manages to capture the film’s tension with bursts of sudden violence featuring repeating motifs and rhythms. It also lacks harmony and focuses on dissonant sounds instead, which is why it ultimately excels at making viewers feel uneasy.
8 ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993)
The first movie of an iconic franchise, Steven Spielberg‘s Jurassic Park, is set on the fictional island of Isla Nublar, Central America’s Pacific Coast. The soon-to-be-legendary dinosaur disaster movie centers around a selected group chosen to tour a theme park that serves as a habitat for many dinosaurs. When everything is seemingly going according to plan, the predators suddenly break free and go on the hunt for the visitors.
Yet another incredible work by the gifted John Williams, Jurassic Park‘s score endures a thrilling, classic soundtrack that many people still listen to on the daily. It is rich in storytelling and adds so much to the movie experience, making it extremely memorable and nostalgic.
7 ‘Interstellar’ (2014)
Directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar is one of the best movies of the sci-fi genre (if not actually the best). Starring Matthew McConaughey as the lead, the film depicts an almost completely uninhabitable Earth that faces extinction and threatens mankind. An ex-NASA pilot goes on an intergalactic trip where he pilots a ship of scientists through a wormhole to find a habitable planet.
One way or another, Hans Zimmer obviously had to take a spot on any discussion about the best movie scores, and when it comes to magical Hans Zimmer scores, there is no doubt that Interstellar‘s stands out the most. It’s a breathtaking, critically acclaimed soundtrack for a highly praised movie, which perfectly captures the vastness and unknown of the universe.
6 ‘The Godfather’ (1972)
Narrating the Corleone family story under the patriarch of an organized crime dynasty during the postwar, The Godfather franchise is made of three of the most popular crime dramas ever. The first installment follows Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) as he attempts to transfer control of his empire to his reluctant youngest son and family outsider, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino).
The Godfather soundtrack is assuredly a special one to listen to even after one has seen the film because it gives viewers the chance to briefly go back in time and experience the scenes in which they played for the first time again. No wonder Nino Rota deservingly received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
5 ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980)
Set three years after the events of the first movie, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back centers around the attack by the Imperial forces on the ice planet Hoth. Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) team up again to defeat evil.
Much like the first film’s score, The Empire Strikes Back was also composed by legend John Williams. With perfectly matched pitches and sounds, the beloved soundtrack encapsulates the otherworldly fun spirit of the franchise.
4 ‘Blade Runner’ (1982)
The original Blade Runner movie by Ridley Scott introduced viewers to yet another remarkable franchise led by Harrison Ford. This time, the actor plays a burnt-out cop who reluctantly agrees to hunt a group of advanced replicants led by the intimidating yet logically correct antagonist Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer).
Leaving a solid mark in the history of electronic music, there is no doubt that Greek composer Vangelis created a deeply profound and influential — as well as acclaimed — piece of work for Blade Runner, which helped build its world and make it three-dimensional.
3 ‘Star Wars’ (1977)
The first Star Wars picture enchanted viewers and had an undeniably huge cultural impact. With an unusual narrative and aesthetics for the time it was released, the George Lucas movie is set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and follows Luke Skywalker as he joins forces with a space team to save the galaxy and rescue Princess Leia.
Very few things beat Star Wars‘ iconic opening theme (which, unless they live under a rock, everyone has heard at least once their lives). Although John Williams’ scores were already well-known (he also did Jaws), the Star Wars franchise undoubtedly elevated his popularity even further.
2 ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001)
Big franchises seem to have one thing in common, and that is unforgettable scores. The Lord of the Rings enters the discussion with The Fellowship of the Ring directed by Peter Jackson. The movie is set in the mesmerizing Middle-earth and tells the story of nine characters who set out on a journey to destroy the One Ring.
With wonderful composing by Canadian composer Howard Shore, the storytelling for the first installment of the treasured saga manages to stand out among the rest. Featuring heartwarming melodies and string build-ups, the emotion-packed, strong scores are undoubtedly fan favorites.
1 ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ (1966)
Starring Clint Eastwood in one of his earliest roles, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Italian director Sergio Leone centers around three different men who get involved in a long battle in order to find a fortune in buried gold coins. Each one of them has a key portion of the map that leads to the location of the gold.
Released in 1966, Ennio Morricone‘s iconic score stands the test of time as one of the most referenced 57 years later. The soundtrack is surely an integral part of the film, as it perfectly highlights important scenes that are still engraved in viewers’ memories today.
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