At last, we have reached the end of this long list of marvelous movie scores. Except for #5, all of these are venerable franchises that needed memorable music to enchant listeners throughout the series, and each of their composers delivered in spades. All of these films hold a special place in my heart, and the music played a huge role in making them true favorites. Enjoy!
#5: Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), no nomination – Joe Hisaishi
Words cannot describe the sense of peaceful grandeur this score gives me. Not only is this my favorite Miyazaki film, but it boasts the best music of all the Studio Ghibli movies. With this theme (and Nausicaä), Joe Hisaishi entered the club of my favorite composers. Ideally befitting a story of flying high amid ancient civilizations, this is one tune I hum on a regular basis.
#4: Indiana Jones franchise (1981-2008), Oscar nominee – John Williams
Action themes don’t get much better than that of famed archaeologist Indiana Jones. As much as I love the music in Chariots of Fire, I have no doubt that the score for Raiders of the Lost Ark should have won that year. The other three films borrow and build on Williams’ original masterpiece, which is a standard by which all other action movie composers are judged.
#3: Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (2003, 2006, 2007), no nominations – Klaus Badelt/Hans Zimmer
Step aside, Sinbad. This will forever be the greatest pirate music, the kind of rip-roaring soundtracks that make listeners want to swashbuckle with the likes of Jack Sparrow and Will Turner. While Klaus Badelt isn’t as well-known as Zimmer, who collaborated for the first film and took over for the second and third films, Badelt will forever be remembered as the man credited for the first’s fantastic music. One of the most recent scores to be instantly iconic.
#2: Star Wars saga (1977-1983, 1999-2005), Oscar winner (only the first film) – John Williams
Do I really have to say anything? Can anything really trump the iconic strains of John Williams’ most famous work? Well, one thing can in my book, but for countless fans, including the AFI, this score reigns supreme. As unlikely as it seemed, Williams actually managed to match his own achievement with the operatic theme for The Phantom Menace, which I probably enjoy listening to even more than the original. With Williams returning to score The Force Awakens, I’m looking forward to hearing his continued brilliance this December.
#1: The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003), Oscar winner (first and third films) – Howard Shore
I suppose it’s not surprising that my favorite films would also feature my favorite scores. Unlike Pirates or The Piano, there isn’t just one track in this trilogy that I love to death; I adore the entire soundtrack, all three, from start to finish. The charming folksiness of the Shire, the medieval bombast of Khazad-dûm, the equestrian stateliness of Rohan, those ethereal vocals that heighten the splendor of each film’s climax—it’s all so perfect, whether for the film or for pleasure listening afterwards. Middle-earth would not be the same without Howard Shore.
Full list to come!