Chris’s Top Five Movie Scores… of All Time

from Chris Armstrong
producer/composer/sound desinger on 
The Property

But first… A Quick Post-Production Update

Our eyes are bleeding out.

So that might be a slight exaggeration. But only slight. Chris and I have spent the last 14 hours in front of computer screens working on the soundscape for The Property, after 14 hours the day before doing the same. We’ve been powering through the aural end of post for the last few weeks, but now we’re finally in the home stretch. Next week is the mix, and then we actually start shipping the thing around to, like, people. Now, on to the fun stuff…            SCOTT HUDSON, writer/director/producer
……………………………………………….


People love lists, right?  Here are my five favorite movie scores of all time.  Mind you, I don’t mean individual themes or moments.  I mean the whole burrito.  The score of a movie needs to underline every moment, emotion and theme.  Without good music (music that knows when to swell into heroics and when to sit down and shut up) all of our most precious cinematic experiences would be flat and dull.  Movies would be boring.  So here are my top five!

Disclaimer:  This list changes all the time.  It may in fact be outdated by the time I publish this post.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, 2007

We have had a serious lack of quality westerns in the past, I don’t know bajillion years, with a few notable exceptions.  Such an exception is The Ass Ass of JJ by the CRF (as I affectionately call it).  The movie is great but the score excels. It packs a superbly haunting and thoughtful tone that is the right fit for the internal nature of the two principal characters.  There is strange instrumentation featured throughout that provides a timelessness that normal period music could never achieve.  I’ll be playing this one before bed for years to come.

The Land Before Time
James Horner, 1988

Ignoring the fact that the themes from this movie are burned right into my brain by excessive viewings as a child, this score is mesmerizing.  It captures the full range with a wistful yet classy sentimentality.  The majesty and danger of the dinosaurs booms and soars while the grief plays with kindness and warmth.  It’s as if the music is giving you a hug to make the loss of Little Foots mother easier to bear… but I always end up crying anyway.

Starship Troopers
Basil Poledouris, 1997

This score kicks ass.  It’s big, loud and often very funny.  No one really got the joke when this movie came out and for the life of me I can’t figure out why.  The first time  the Federal Network march plays, bouncing around with all of it’s fascistic glee, I can’t help but laugh and laugh and laugh.  And yet the laughs don’t take a single drop of tension away from the expertly realized action beats. Deep rich tones and chilling scares fill out this perfectly matched (matched to the movie, that is) score.

Ratatouille
Michael Giacchino, 2007

I could drone on for hours about how wonderful this music is.  It’s technically flawless and has a surprising sense of place, which is something scores for family movies rarely have these days.  The accordions alone bring you right onto the streets of Paris, but not the dirty and rude Paris of reality.  No, no.  This Paris is Magic.  The range exhibited by the relatively young but prolific Michael Giacchino is astounding and to be perfectly honest, I’m jealous of the mans abilities.

Superman: The Movie
John Williams, 1978

What more can be said about this guy?  He has written the most recognizable and beloved movie scores of all time.  Superman, however, is in my opinion his best.  The music is tied straight to the mythology of the character.  It’s more iconic than the movie is.  That aside, the deft handling of romance and adventure is enough to make your head spin. “Can you read my mind?” has got to be the best love theme he ever wrote, and it rides in some mighty company (The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark).  In a career filled, and I mean filled to the brim with greatness, choosing this movie over the others was particularly difficult.

Here are a few honorable mentions and runners up!

The Magnificent Seven
The Social Network
Edward Scissorhands
Chinatown
Master and Commander the Far Side of the World
There Will be Blood
Jaws
Minority Report
The Matrix
The Way of the Gun
The Lord of the Rings (all of them)
The Fountain
Moon

and let’s not forget… Battlestar Galactica… more on that later.

What do you guys think?  What are your favorite scores?  Hit up the comments section!

3 Comments

Filed under Movie Score

3 responses to “Chris’s Top Five Movie Scores… of All Time

  1. Chris, thanks for this post, it’s very interesting. I’m a big believer that the score can make or break a film. I like that your list is very original (and I can’t say I even remember the scores of the first four you named but I look forward to listening to them again.) ‘Superman’ is indeed one of my favorites, as is the soundtrack to BSG. And I love that you mentioned ‘Moon’ as well. Some personal favorites off the top of my head are ‘Midnight Run’, ‘True Romance’, ‘127 Hours’, and ‘Garden State’. Last year I thought ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ was robbed of the Oscar. Have any stood out for you in 2013?

  2. Hey Brian, thanks for the read. I do have some standouts from 2013, which would include Pacific Rim (bonkers), Upstream Color and Man of Steel (better than the movie by an order of magnitude). Come to think of it I really haven’t seen many movies this year, but there is always a good score lurking around somewhere.

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