Posted by: distributorcap | September 15, 2009

Score One for the Cinema Team

One of the qualifications for ‘classic movie’ has to be when those first few notes of the score are played – you know exactly what movie you are watching. And you are immediately taken into the whole mood. You can argue many points of movie making, but nothing is as important to the the tone and style of a movie as its scoring.

The right music will complement the entire experience – both visual and dialogue. The score is ‘instrumental’ in bringing in all the emotion and excitement. Sometimes movie music is familiar — pop, jazz, or classical melodies. The best movies have music composed specifically for the film.

I have limited my picks to scores – not songs – and no words. (I will cover soundtracks in another post)

In everyone of these movies, as soon as you hear the music – you know exactly what movie you are watching. And full disclosure – almost every favorite score is a favorite movie – it is that important to the product.

Here are my 10 favorite movie scores (it was impossible to pick 10)

12. Psycho
11. The Godfather
10. Midnight Express
9. Anatomy of a Murder
8. The Great Escape
7. Terms of Endearment
6. The Natural
5. Edward Scissorhands
4. Requiem for a Dream
3. Legends of the Fall
2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
1. Star Wars

The 10 just outside my Top 10.

Exodus, Jurassic Park, Ordinary People, The Magnificent Seven, Rocky, Karate Kid, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, East of Eden, Raiders of the Lost Ark

Others worthy of mention

ET, Jaws, Schindler’s List, Peggy Sue Got Married, Forrest Gump, Gone With The Wind, Braveheart, The Hours, Sophie’s Choice, On Golden Pond, Planet of the Apes, The Guns of Navarone, The Thomas Crown Affair, Laura, Glory, Lord of the Rings

The most famous composers:
Alfred Newman, Alex North, Danny Elfman, Bernard Hermann, Ernest Gold, Elmer Bernstein, David Raksin, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Leonard Rosenman, Maurice Jarre, Nino Rota, James Horner, Dave Grusin, Alan Silvestri, Michel Legrand, Henry Mancini, Randy Newman, Leonard Bernstein – and even Charlie Chaplin.

OK – what I have I left out?

From one of my favorite movies of all time



  1. Jaws might have to be higher on the list. That music was frightening. Or maybe I remember it as being frightening because my mother, for some damned reason, thought we should see it when we were on vacation in Florida. You know, going to the beach and frolicking in the waves. Well, we frolicked in the waves before we saw Jaws.

  2. Anything by Lalo Schifrin and Ennio Morricone.;>)

  3. I know you aren't in love with foreign cinema, but Nino Rota's stuff for Fellini outshines his work on The Godfather.And I'll give a second vote for Ennio Morricone.Two Orson Welles films get votes for me for their scores: Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil.Carmine Copolla's work on The Black Stallion gets a nod from me.And since it's nothing but score and cinematography: Philip Glass for Koyaanisqatsi.wv: locagoisCrazy non-Jewish people?

  4. #s 1, 2, 5 and 6 are amazing musical scores.Though that could be the dork in me talking 😀

  5. "Amadeus" because I love Mozart's Piano Concerto in D Minor and the Requiem.

  6. That Thing You Do.Because sometimes corny soundtracks work.And…Saturday Night Fever..Because the opening scene of John Travolta strutting down 86th Street in Bensonhurst eating two slice of pizza stacked together is classic.

  7. Halloween. Duh. 😉

  8. Anything by Bernard Hermann.Jim and I knew his brother, who was a dentist in New York City.It's a long, circuitous story about how we met him but he had very entertaining stories about his very famous brother.

  9. When you do lyric scores, please be sure to include "The Graduate."And "The Big Chill."Both were movies wrapped around the music.Thank you.

  10. The five notes from "Close Encounters".

  11. //OK – what I have I left out?//OK. "Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Town"Music by Milton Schwarzwald.1) Ma and Pa Kettle always, sorta, kinda reminded me of Ron & Nancy Reagan.2) Milton Schwarzwarld!!!! Whatz not to love??? (and with a name like that he could very well be Jewish…..or at least from Milwaukee.)

  12. That's weird, I thought I commented on this before…Anyway, it is an excellent list D-Cap, and I have one to add. The Colonel Boogey march from Bridge over the River Kwai.

  13. I'd add two more composers. Miklós Rósza (Ben Hur, El Cid) wrote some of the most lush scores I've ever heard. Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Lost, Star Trek(2009)) is relatively new, but will become much harder to miss in the next few years.I'll also Bernard Hermann's Vertigo a shout-out. I can't think of an opening title whose visuals matched the music so perfectly.

  14. The Mission has one of the most incredible soundtracks ever(kudos to Morricone).Philadelphia certainly demands attention. Whether you're a fan of the Boss or not, it is haunting.

  15. superman and breakfast at tiffany's. oh, and i love the music at the beginning of to kill a mockingbird.

  16. oops, how could i forget bridge over the river kwai?

  17. you guys have come up with some more good choices……how could I forget Morricone???thanks

  18. The Great Escape was one of my favorites too.. or is.. I should say. but then so is anything with Steve McQueen.. He was always my hero.

  19. That's a good list, DCap. But me, I think Henry Mancini's work needs to be near the top, if not the top for classic movie scores.From Moon River, the Pink Panther, Experiment in Terror, The Days of Wine and Roses, you can go on and on, and they are all Mancini. Even the Blue's Brothers featured Mancini's work. I just don't think that there has ever been a better scorer — but especially for classic movies.Regards,Tengrain

  20. were we separated at birth?identical top 20

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