Top 10 Famous Film Scores

“I can write songs, I’ve had songs in movies, but I can’t compose film scores, you know?”

Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys.

Writing a film score is a real art form. Many have tried and failed and few go on to make a successful, long-lasting career from it. Anyone hoping to get started will need the guidance of a professional recording studio. The general rule with film scores is you don’t want to take people out of the movie. It shouldn’t necessarily dominate, but it should prove integral to the film’s effectiveness. Let’s take a look at ten great examples.

10. Jaws – John Williams

“Two notes. That’s all it took to scare millions of people out of the water, and out of their skins” (Roger Ebert, film critic). Roger said it best. The most effective, most minimal film score ever.

9. Psycho – Bernard Herrmann

Nerve-wracking scenes augmented by nerve-wracking strings. Herrmann’s violin heavy score plays as big a part of keeping you hiding behind the sofa as Hitchcock’s phenomenal direction.

8. Mulholland Drive – Angelo Badalamenti

Perhaps best known for his incredible Twin Peaks score, recently passed genius Angelo Badalamenti’s work on Mulholland Drive should not be underestimated as it contributes immensely to the blurring of the dreamworld and reality carved out by David Lynch.

7. Halloween – John Carpenter

No list would be complete without Carpenter. Not only did he inject fresh lifeblood into horror, with Halloween, he also created its iconic score. Remarkable.

6. A Clockwork Orange – Wendy Carlos

Stanley Kubrick’s dark masterpiece owes a great debt to the incredible work of Wendy Carlos. Their electronic reimagining of classical themes works perfectly in Kubrick’s world of malchicks, devotchkas and bruiseboys.

5. Blade Runner – Vangelis

Wow, just wow. Ridley Scott’s dystopian sci-fi epic Blade Runner is unimaginable without Vangelis’ incredible score. The main theme sparkles and shines with an otherworldly elegance that is simply unforgettable.

4. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope – John Williams

Written by John Williams and performed by an 87 piece London orchestra, it is difficult to imagine watching Star Wars without the score or indeed watching it and not remembering it forever.

3. Jurassic Park – John Williams

The third and final entry for John Williams could be argued to be his best work ever. That scene when the helicopter approaches the island in the original movie and the main theme booms out is one of the great film score moments.

2. The Lord of the Rings – Howard Shore

An epic film demanded an epic score and Howard Shore certainly didn’t shy away from the responsibility. Excluding the Hobbit films the Lord of the Rings trilogy includes a staggering 100 plus leitmotifs and some of the moments on the score comprise of over 400 musicians. Just staggering.

1. The Good, the Bad & the Ugly – Ennio Morricone

To complete this top ten, which could easily be argued in another order, we have Morricone’s crowning achievement. Possibly the most memorable theme in cinematic history – although Star Wars, Jurassic Park & the Indiana Jones films rival it. Beautiful and just perfect for the movie.

  • Aidan has had a lifelong passion for the world of entertainment. From an early age, Aidan was drawn to movies, television shows, anime, comics, and other forms of visual storytelling. This passion has led Aidan to become an expert in the field, with a deep understanding of the art and craft of filmmaking, as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the medium. Whether you're a casual movie-goer or a hardcore cinephile, Aidan's writing is sure to inform, entertain, and inspire.