The next five film scores on my Top 50 countdown were all in a three-year period, except one from the 1980s. Ranging from depressing to inspiring, these beautiful scores complement their respective movies and are equally enjoyable as easy listening. Again, these are background scores composed for each film, not collected soundtracks of individual songs. That’s another list and shall be told another time. Enjoy!
#40: Backdraft (1991), no nomination – Hans Zimmer
To accompany Ron Howard’s action film about heroic firemen, Hans Zimmer delivered a score that just screams heroism. With military-ish background drums and an occasional soothing choir, the music for Backdraft might have been equally at home in a war movie. Here it was another early step on Zimmer’s rise to film music stardom. Even the cooking competition Iron Chef recognized the score’s noble presence and appropriated its theme for the Japanese show.
#39: Schindler’s List (1993), Oscar winner – John Williams
I’ll be honest here: I haven’t yet been able to bring myself to watch Schindler’s List. My VC saw the first part of it and couldn’t continue because she found it too disturbing, which is exactly what the Holocaust was. John Williams’ score, though, has a heartrending power whether you’ve seen it or not. Itzhak Perlman’s violin is as stark as a raw nerve, drawing praising adjectives like “haunting,” “sublime,” and above all profoundly “sad.” Even without the film’s images, that violin makes me want to cry.
Warning for some violence and disturbing images (not the worst of it, though):
#38: The Terminator (1984), no nomination – Brad Fiedel
Foreboding yet subtly action-oriented, Brad Fiedel’s synthesized score really sets the tone for this classic sci-fi thriller. It’s a repetitive, slowly swelling score akin to John Carpenter’s music, and it’s hard to imagine the Terminator films without it. Evoking both the desolation of the future and the mechanical danger of the present, the first film’s soundtrack is simple but hard to top, so good luck to Lorne Balfe, who will be scoring next month’s Terminator Genisys.
Warning for one bloody slide:
#37: Rudy (1993), no nomination – Jerry Goldsmith
After succeeding with the Oscar-nominated score for Hoosiers, Jerry Goldsmith re-teamed with the same director and writer for Rudy, one of the greatest and most satisfying underdog stories ever, whether you like football or not. While this one didn’t get a nomination, the music became another favorite for movie trailers. Ebullient as Rudy’s gridiron aspirations, this score is as uplifting as they come. Yes, hobbits can play football too.
#36: The Last of the Mohicans (1992), no nomination – Trevor Jones/Randy Edelman
While I can’t say I enjoyed the overall film, the music for this adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s most famous work is surprisingly exceptional, considering the headaches that apparently plagued the score’s production. “Promontory” is my favorite track, even though it accompanies the most tragic scene. Properly grand and intrepid, this Celtic-infused musical beauty might have won an Oscar, but its dual composers supposedly made it ineligible. Those darn Academy rules!