Continuing with my Top 50 film score countdown, the next five jump from the 1970s to the 2010s. Again, these are scores (not collected soundtracks) that both complement their respective films and make for some superb listening music. I love to just put these on in the background and write away. Exciting, inspiring, heart-breaking, gorgeous—movie music has some of the greatest diversity of any genre (at least, I consider it a genre). Enjoy!
#35: Superman (1978), Oscar nominee – John Williams
One of those bombastic themes that is instantly connected with its source film, the score for Richard Donner’s Superman wears its heroism on its sleeve, as well as a giant S on the chest. S for sensational, symphonic, stately, stunning, soaring, strong as steel, and, oh yeah, hope (see Man of Steel). Those blaring trumpets always bring the “real” man of steel to mind, spiraling through the earth’s atmosphere. As iconic as it is, I do feel I should give a shout-out to the theme for the animated TV series, which is surprisingly heroic and awesome in its own right, though obviously much shorter than the film’s score.
#34: Wuthering Heights (1970), no nomination – Michel Legrand
Listen to this score, and you will see the stark moors and wind-swept heather so prominent in Wuthering Heights. This 1970 version with Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall may not be the most famous adaptation of Emily Brontë’s gothic novel, but it’s the one that always leaves my VC a blubbering mess, thanks in large part to its haunting melodic backdrop. Beautiful with or without the film, the eerily romantic score tends to linger in the mind, making this my favorite version of the story.
#33: The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos (2008), no nomination – The Cinematic Orchestra
I feel a little stupid since I was originally going to place The Theory of Everything here, because I was blown away by the hypnotically flowing melody of the ending music. What I didn’t know until recently was that this song, called “Arrival of the Birds,” was not originally from the Steven Hawking biopic, but rather this Disneynature flamingo documentary. I haven’t seen it, but with music like this, I now want to; from what I’ve listened to, the remaining score is equally lovely. (For the record, I do enjoy the rest of the Oscar-nominated music in Theory of Everything too, but this really spoke to me.) The Cinematic Orchestra’s work has apparently been borrowed by many different TV shows and films, and I’m now very interested in this group as well. Those violins are glorious, whether they’re for a handicapped genius or a flock of pink waterfowl.
#32: The Hobbit trilogy (2012, 2013, 2014), no nominations – Howard Shore
I don’t think anyone can claim that Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy is better than The Lord of the Rings, but if there’s any area that it comes close, it’s Howard Shore’s score. Like the rest of The Hobbit movies, the music doesn’t compare with its predecessor, but it still carries the splendor of epic fantasy. It builds on the first trilogy’s scores with several evocative themes worthy of Middle Earth, like “Misty Mountains” and the medieval march of Laketown. Perhaps it might have stood out more, were it not compared with LotR, but The Hobbit’s score is still a grand achievement for Shore.
#31: Inception (2010), Oscar nominee – Hans Zimmer
As I said in my review, Christopher Nolan’s Inception remains the only film that completely and utterly blew me away, and its music played a large part in its impact. The building grandeur of the music bears suspicious similarity to Zimmer’s score for The Thin Red Line, but boy, does it pack an emotional punch! Electronic with some violins, trumpets, and electric guitar thrown in for good measure, the majestic yet tender climax alone is enough to make it on this list.
Mild spoiler warning: