Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Top 14: Film Scores

I love film scores. I love the way the music makes me feel while watching a film, and then later, when I'm merely listening to the music on its own, how it can transport me back to that theater. I love how it can stir my emotions. Movie music really is a glorious thing. 

So it is with great pleasure (and a little apprehension) that I present my own personal list of my Top 14 film scores. Why the apprehension? I'm afraid I've forgotten some. I'm worried you all won't love them as much as I do. But then, I guess it's all a matter of taste. These are my favorites. So let's begin.

P.S. Be sure to click on the links after each movie. (Links last verified on 8/12/13). They'll send you to samples of the music itself, and I've selected my favorite pieces from the soundtracks, so I'd definitely recommend a listen.

Okay, here we go.

My Top 14: Film Scores

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Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

music by Rachel Portman

This film's music is delightful and beautiful. The only problem? The movie isn't! Yeah, it's Dickens, so it's dark, it's sad, and it's a bit depressing. So what's with the cheerful music that suggests the endless frolicking of woodland nymphs? I'm not exactly sure -- but I still like to listen to it! (Portman did something similar with her score to 1996's Emma, so the number below may sound a bit familiar to fans of that film.)

Main Titles
End Titles

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Flight of the Navigator (1986)

music by Alan Silvestri

On its own, I guess Flight of the Navigator's music isn't anything to write home about. It's synth-heavy and pretty much the exact opposite of what you'd expect from a sweeping film score. (I like to think Mr. Silvestri, better known for his score from Forrest Gump, had a really fun time making this one.) That said, when paired with the film -- a great, sci-fi family movie that packs an emotional punch -- the music is spot-on. It makes me delightfully happy and nostalgic.

Robot Romp
Have To Help A Friend

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My Girl (1991) and My Girl 2 (1994)

music by James Newton Howard (1) and Cliff Eidelman (2)

These two themes -- by different composers -- share a similar sweetness. The films -- made two and half years apart -- are quite different from one another. But in the end, they're both about a young girl searching for answers. I love both pieces because they're melodious and gentle, with a little essence-of-childhood-fun thrown in. I do wish the scores for these films had been made available in their entirety, but I'll take the themes if nothing else. All in all, two of my favorite little numbers from two of my favorite movies as a teen.

My Girl: Vada's Theme 
Theme From My Girl 2

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Tuck Everlasting (2002)

music by William Ross

Beautiful music graces this film, music that features whistling, upbeat Irish melodies, and the sounds of a tiny music box. And I know I'm not the only fan of this score -- barely two years after the movie came out, the soundtrack went out of print and the price shot up to nearly $100 per (used) CD! Fortunately, if you've got the DVD, the music plays over many of the title screens, which means you can listen to it to your heart's content.

The Wheel/Treegap

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Beauty and the Beast (1991)

music by Alan Menken

Sure, everyone knows about "Be Our Guest," "Gaston," and the title number, but the unheralded stars of the film are its instrumental pieces. The official soundtrack has five of them: To The Fair, West Wing, The Beast Lets Belle Go, Battle On The Tower, and Transformation. The latter is my favorite: what a range of emotions that one covers! Which is to say it makes me cry. Yeah.

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Dear Frankie (2005)

music by Alex Heffes

If I was merely putting together a list of beautiful soundtracks, this would likely take the #1 spot. I really, really love it. A gorgeous score for a sweet film.

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Rudy (1993)

music by Jerry Goldsmith

Rudy's a fine film, a feel-good type of underdog-beating-the-odds story. Its main title is pretty and delicate, and makes a great piano piece. The track Spring Training, on the other hand, will make you stand up and cheer. Jerry, we miss you, we really do.

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Hook (1991)

music by John Williams

So one thing about John Williams is that he sometimes just rehashes his own work, which means the soundtracks to two different movies he's done will sound eerily similar. But when he's on his A-game, he brings it home. And Hook has a stellar soundtrack. Maybe the movie itself hasn't held up that well. (Yeah, I own it, it's corny.) But the music has. Who cares if John W. "borrowed" from it when he composed the scores for Home Alone 2 and Harry Potter? Not I! (Okay, maybe a little.) His themes from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, and E.T. may be more iconic, but Hook is the one that gets my heart racing. Laugh if you must.

Remembering Childhood

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Peter Pan (2003)

music by James Newton Howard

I saw this film in the theater on opening day, and the music lodged itself into my brain and stayed for months. I ended up going back to the theater three more times just to get my fix (well, I loved the film, too). I may have over-listened to the soundtrack back in '04, because it doesn't give me quite the same thrill these days, but it is really fantastic. Flying, Fairy Dance, and I Do Believe In Fairies are favorites. Annnd now I want to go watch the film again.

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To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

music by Elmer Bernstein

I've noticed that a lot of older movies (pre-1970) have this sort of old-timey quality to their music, with violins playing loudly but slowly, blended with the sounds of a choir, people in white robes with cropped hair and/or pompadours who you figure are probably all dead now. To Kill A Mockingbird manages to avoid this, with music that sounds rather modern (or has just held up remarkably well). It's beautiful and fits the story, a story of childhood, (in)justice, and innocence lost. And even though the music and the film are fifty years old, they're every bit as wonderful today as they ever were. (As is the book, which you should go read immediately.)

Main Title
Roll The Tire

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The Goonies (1985)

music by Dave Grusin

This is one of those films that you probably only enjoy if you first saw it (and liked it) as a kid. Well, I did. And whenever I hear most any piece of music from the film -- whether it's the scene with the wishing well or the reunion on the beach or whatever -- I get immensely nostalgic. But it's more than that. Like I said, I get nostalgic over Flight of the Navigator's music, too, and that one's lower on the list. The Goonies is just a really, really good soundtrack, full of exciting, great music that lends itself to a fun film.

End Theme
Fratelli Chase (and others)

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Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)

music by Michael Kamen

There's a reason people keep borrowing the Robin Hood overture to use for their trailers, commercials and montages: it's epic. And yet, who ever really remembers what movie it's from, the way you might if you heard the Star Wars theme? Trust, it's from this movie, and this movie is just plain fun. Swordfights, romance, badass archery-doings, and a whole lot of Alan Rickman being campy and evil. Gotta love it.


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Back to the Future (1985)

music by Alan Silvestri

I've seen BTTF roughly a hundred times, and I never get sick of the music. Alan Silvestri did something with this movie that I do not believe he's done since (except maybe with BTTF III). We all know he's great at making sweet melodies and feel-good orchestral numbers, but BTTF's music is feel-good with a shot of kick-ass and a gallonful of hell yeah. If this music doesn't get your blood pumping rapidly, then... I'm sorry, but you're probably dead.

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The Man In The Iron Mask (1998)

music by Nick Glennie-Smith

I'll admit it: I was one of those girls who went and saw this movie in 1998 after falling for Leonardo Dicaprio in Titanic. I mean, why else would I care about the Three Musketeers-as-middle-aged dudes? I couldn't even tell Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich apart! But I went and saw it, and I found myself getting into the whole swashbuckling saga. I also remember how much I loved the music. Some years later, I got the soundtrack, and it's one I can listen to repeatedly. Nick Glennie-Smith did an amazing job on this one.

All For One (be sure to listen all the way to the end!) is my favorite and Training To Be King is another good one. Which brings up an interesting question: why do so many of my favorite tracks have the word "training" in the title?

Eh, forget it.

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So that's my list. I know I've probably forgotten one and may have to revise this later, but for now....

Honorable Mentions: Dances With Wolves, Batman Begins, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Princess Bride, Harry Potter 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8, Ever After, Anne Of Green Gables, Forrest Gump, Now & Then, E.T., Back to the Future III, Contact, Superman, Superman Returns, Mary Poppins, The Secret Garden (1993), Attila, The Natural, The Game Of Their Lives, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Pirates of the Caribbean, A Little Princess (1995), The Lion King, Little Women (1994)

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