The Ten Best Pieces from Film Scores

Engie (nevillegirl) at her blog posted her Ten All-Time Best Pieces From Film Scores, and I couldn’t resist.  Here is my version of the list, with only one piece from each movie, no predominantly vocal pieces, and only pieces from movies I’ve seen.  They are in no particular order, because I didn’t want to pick favorites.  Because music plays such a large role in the presentation of a film, and because the conception of the film itself is often reflected in the conception of the music, many of these choices were personal favorites.  For one who never saw the movie, perhaps the conclusion would be different.

The Throne Room from Star Wars: A New Hope— John Williams

The music at the end of A New Hope combines all the greatest themes from the first movie.  Even though Williams is one of the biggest musical thieves ever (having borrowed from Holst, Shostakovich, Strauss and more), he composes brilliant film scores, and one of the best is Star Wars.  This piece plays at the celebration after the first Death Star goes kaboom, and it combines the fanfare with all the other themes in the movie perfectly as it moves into the end credits.  It’s strong and classical-sounding, and yet you can hear the tribute to Also Sprach Zarathustra in its seventies and eighties space movie sound.

Enterprising Young Men from Star Trek– Michael Giacchino

The theme for the 2009 Star Trek movie seems to be building up to something, but it never quite gets there.  You’ll know what I mean if you try to play the theme on piano without strictly following a specific track– it’s impossible to end it right because it doesn’t completely resolve.  Ever.  All the same, the music in this track perfectly portrays the majesty of spaceships… in space.  And the horn part is crazy.  According to iTunes, I’ve listened to it eleven times (which is half as many times as I’ve listened to a certain other song on this list– but that’s still a lot).  This is a space movie theme that goes beyond space movie themes, though it isn’t as memorable as the original Star Trek theme.  “Space…  The final frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.  Its ongoing mission: to seek out exclusively English-speaking, humanoid aliens; to kill all crew members with strange-colored shirts halfway through every episode; and to boldly go where no elf– I mean, Vulcan– has gone before.”

Test Drive from How To Train Your Dragon— John Powell

To move away from space travel, we have dragon travel instead.  Test Drive is one of the best pieces on the HTTYD soundtrack (which I own).  It puts the traditional Celtic sound together with a full orchestra, and the effect is amazing.  The theme oozes feelings of flying high above the world– then you feel it suddenly take a dive and you’re inwardly screaming, “WE ARE GOING TO DIE!”  Then it gets back to controlled flying, but it’s even more fun than the original flight.  This is the track I’ve listened to 22 times in my three months of owning it, and many more times just from YouTube.  It’s a brilliant, brilliant piece.  I’d love to play this in an orchestra someday.

Theme from Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs— Mark Mothersbaugh

I wish I could give a specific track instead of just the theme, but I don’t know this soundtrack well enough to get the perfect theme.  If anyone could tell me the name of the track that this clip is from, I’d be much obliged.  Sometimes it seems that the only times this plays so perfectly and strongly is on the DVD menu, which is aggravating.  They have hints at it all through the soundtrack, but nothing really perfect.  Nevertheless, this is a great piece of music, written to fit a great movie.  I listen to this soundtrack once and walk around the rest of the day like Flint, singing his own theme song.  I named a specific kind of beat (featured in a variation of this melody) after Steve the monkey.  I love this piece.  It just seems so strong and determined.  Once I figure out which track to buy, I’m buying it from iTunes and listening to it 33 times in three months.  I promise you that.

Speaking Unto Nations (Symphony No. 7) from The King’s Speech— Ludwig van Beethoven

You knew I’d sneak Beethoven in here somehow.  I saw this movie for the first time last night and gained a convenient excuse.  Out of all the music in the film, the classical music (Mozart and Beethoven, most notably) was the most memorable.    The piece speaks for itself.

The Battle from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe— Harry Gregson-Williams

When you’ve watched the movie as many times as I have, the story immediately springs to mind as you listen.  The combination of the Narnia theme and the Witch’s theme make for an amazing battle soundtrack.  Sometimes battle scene music is scanty and lacking in melodies, but this, even with such a loud, percussive scene, keeps a solid melody running throughout.  The choir and strings combined, the sudden quiet sections, and the occasional change in keys form brilliant effects.

What Shall We Die For from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End— Hans Zimmer

The soundtrack to the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie is my favorite of all the Pirates soundtracks.  Though there are good themes from previous movies that it lacks, new themes take their place.  This song in particular, a callback to the sea shanty sung at the beginning of the movie, holds a place in this list without question.  The words of the shanty give important backstory, and perhaps if I had known it through the second movie, the entire five-hour story of the second and third movies combined wouldn’t have been so tedious.  It’s a brilliant plot when you think about it– it was just too long.  Anyway, this song is strong, dark, and beautiful, all at once.  I love it.

Clair de Lune from Ocean’s Eleven— Claude Debussy

I’m getting sneaky; there are two classical pieces in this list.  I love this piece.  The effect it creates at the end of a good heist story such as Ocean’s Eleven is amazing.  This is an arrangement– the original is solo piano, which creates a better effect (I think).  You can hear that here.

The Uruk-Hai from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers— Howard Shore

Again, I didn’t know exactly which track to pick for this, but I picked the one that combined a lot of the themes.  The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, throughout the trilogy, is a great one.  The astounding thing is that it was composed– all nine hours of it– at once.  Of course, Shore only had to compose a few themes and a million variations.  This piece is a good example.  The Fellowship theme, the Isengard theme, and a few others were mixed together to make a tense, firm-sounding piece that goes well with the idea of hobbits running for their lives as tall people stay behind and die.  And that, of course, is the true story of The Lord of the Rings.

Main Theme from The Bourne Identity— John Powell

I actually prefer the Piano Guys version, which mixes these themes with the Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto, but that’s just another desperate ploy to get a third classical music piece into the list.  Though the Bourne movies aren’t very strong in the soundtrack department, consisting mostly of percussive noises and weird, edgy screeches between punch sounds, the few themes it has are quite good and exciting.  The slow melody at the beginning is quite beautiful.

So, iTunes, I’ve given you up to $10 of sales per person, though it isn’t guaranteed.  I hope you’re happy now.  I give complete credit for the idea to Engie, linked to twice in the first sentence.

What did I forget?

Leave a comment


  1. vjmanzo

     /  December 31, 2012

    Ummm…you forgot Danny Elfman. I’ll assume that was a mistake and forgive you once you amend the list to include “Ice Dance” from Edward Scissorhands. Really, anything from DE will do.

  2. Erin

     /  December 31, 2012

    Argh. I am definitely stealing this idea for a blog post. I can’t resist.

    • Erin

       /  December 31, 2012

      Oh, and by the way, that Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs clip is from the track, “Introducing Flint”. I know that because I own it and I’m definitely putting it on my top ten list.

  3. *coughs* Wow, people like this idea… 😛

    I haven’t heard of some of the stuff you listed, but I agree with the stuff that I do know… and I corrected my HTTYD theme to Test Drive. xD

    I really like the Throne Room piece. And you saw The King’s Speech! Yay! What’d you think of it? (Besides the music.)

    *I* would say that you’re missing HP… but you haven’t seen those so never mind. But seriously, don’t knock them ’cause they’re from HP.

  4. Also, if you’ve seen Thor, that has a very good score.

  5. Charley R

     /  December 31, 2012

    Fab list! Admittedly I’ve not seen many of the films, but hey ho, those I do recognise with I agree with hugely!

    As to nevillegirl above . . . I wasn’t all that impressed with “Thor”‘s score, really. Or the movie, though in places it’s a proper gem, but it just . . . failed to deliver everything it had the potential for, really. Eh. Different tastes, I guess.

    Though I would argue that the “Sherlock Holmes” movies (with Robert Downey Jr) have an incredible score, too. If you watch them, you’ll know.

    • Never watched Sherlock Holmes, unfortunately. I’ll listen closely when I do, however.

    • *gasps* Thor’s score is so pretty… the same can’t be said about him, though.

      • Charley R

         /  January 2, 2013

        Really? I guess it just never caught my attention. And what are you saying? I thought he was rather dishy . . . but, well, Loki totally stole the show for me xD

      • Probably not, because the stupidity just drowned out everything else. 😉

        Is dishy good or bad? I didn’t think he looked that great.

      • Charley R

         /  January 3, 2013

        He was a complete daft bat. But hey, not every hero in existence is a bright one, hehehe.

        “Dishy” is a Brit term for “rather attractive”. It’s not usually highly emphatic, but it indicates a certain degree of appreciation. Mine is namely for those gorgeous flowing locks xD

      • *shudders* I couldn’t get past the vacant look in his eyes…

      • Charley R

         /  January 3, 2013

        Eh, to each their own.

    • Erin

       /  January 1, 2013

      To Charley R – I definitely agree with Sherlock Holmes. It’s Hans Zimmer – how can it not be epic?

      And I absolutely love “Sons of Odin” from Thor, though I’m not familiar with the rest of the soundtrack, so I’m not sure if I like the whole score. And personally, I thought the movie was amazing. Loki. Is. Awesome.

      • Charley R

         /  January 2, 2013

        Loki is indeed the most awesome pointy-horn-hat wearing Asgardian ever.

        And yes, Hans Zimmer. The man is a genius.

      • Erin

         /  January 2, 2013

        Agreed x2.

  6. Have you watched any of the movies from the Dark Knight Trilogy or Inception? Because the soundtracks in those movies gave me chills. It’s composed by Hans Zimmer, who’s awesome.

  7. In November, I needed some new music to listen to while I was writing, so I pulled up Pandora and started listening to movie soundtracks. There are some really good ones out there…

  1. My Top Ten Favorite Pieces from Film/TV Scores | The Little Engine that Couldn't

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