Sound off!
In which we make some lists.
This comes out of a discussion I had with my father, about how many artists you'd have if you put together a list of cinema's best soundtracks. So, I've created a list of what I consider to be the top 20 soundtracks. Obviously, I'm posting this because I expect people to disagree, so here it is. The rules I've used:

1. Original soundtracks, which rules out, say, Pulp Fiction that were
2. Created by the composer, which rules out Top Gun, but not other
3. Movies that people have actually seen, presumably ones that saw a general release in North America. I include My Neighbor Totoro here, which is Japanese, because otherwise I was stuck and you can buy it in Borders. Also, unlike the Disney movies I was otherwise going to use, it's
4. Non-vocal, although there's some allowance for choral work. I've listed no musicals, though, which unfortunately casts Alan Mencken to the kerb.

There are probably some odd choices, and some obvious ones. But, hey. Following is the Border Collie Film Association Top 20 Movie Soundtracks List. Ephemeral YouTube links added for many, where I could find them without too much work.

#20: Born Free (John Barry)

Why: Fitting the tone of the film exceptionally well, Barry's evocative score--which also produced a single of the same name, which you may or may not be humming as we speak--kicks us off because unlike every other film on this list, it isn't sci-fi.

#19: Star Wars (John Williams)

Why: Star Wars (representing the franchise as a whole) appears on this list for two primary reasons. Firstly, the Imperial March, which for sheer sinisterness is hard to beat. Second, that moment (which all people should remember) in the theatre when the blue opening text disappears and the opening crawl begins.

#18: Starship Troopers (Basil Pouledouris)

Why: the notion of putting this ahead of Star Wars probably strikes some as blasphemy. I've done it for two reasons: first, the "Klendathu Drop" sequence, I think, rivals the Star Wars opening crawl in impact if not in nostalgia, and secondly the bombastic, fanfare-heavy score fits this otherwise unremarkable (or terrible, depending on your feelings) Verhoeven flick perfectly--more so than nearly all other movies I can think of.

#17: How the West Was Won (Alfred Newman)

Why: Newman has his fair share of competition in this genre. A top-20 list without Newman would be completely unthinkable, so I'm giving him How the West Was Won whose main theme--with its hoedown feel and fiddler-posing violins--is almost quintessentially western.

#16: Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (Ennio Morricone)

Why: Morricone's theme to this spaghetti Western is not actually especially western in feel, and it has electric guitars. Weighing against this, however, is that it is one of the most recognisable (perhaps even the most recognisable) bit of movie music of all time.

#15: The Guns of Navarone (Dimitri Tiomkin)

Why: Dimitri Tiomkin scored about six billion movies, so like Newman, not having him on here would be pretty unthinkable. I'm going with The Guns of Navarone to demonstrate Tiomkin's ability to write a credible fanfareish march that sounds disturbingly like the theme to "Gilligan's Island" when sung.

#14: Ben-Hur (Miklós Rózsa)

Why: in many ways, Ben-Hur defines what we think of as Roman (well, sword-and-sandals) music (the opening fanfare for instance) orchestration. This also gets points for the "Parade of the Charioteers", to my mind a yet-unmatched bit of music both.

#13: Black Hawk Down (Hans Zimmer)

Why: Black Hawk Down didn't get much notice for its music, which is a shame. The opening is a melancholy vocal arrangement that sets the tone of the movie gorgeously, and the edgy music throughout serves as a perfect counterpoint to this, probably the best modern war movie out there.

#12: Tonari no Totoro (Joe Hisaishi)

Why: because animated movies deserve some credit too, and Hisaishi's light, playful music for this movie is simply delightful. Between the sprightly "Village in May" and the slightly eerie "Path of Wind" virtually everything in the soundtrack is catchy and just on the "childlike wonder" side of youthful, a splendid complement to this children's movie.

#11: Doctor Zhivago (Maurice Jarre)

Why: for the wistful Lara's Theme, of course, a singularly beautiful piece of music notable for its ability to remain evocative regardless of the medium (the movie's balalaikas, piano, full orchestration).

#10: Stargate (David Arnold)

Why: an incredibly underrated soundtrack, David Arnold (who also scored Independence Day and Godzilla, to give you an idea of the kind of movies he gravitated to in his early career) had only scored one other movie when he wrote the music for Stargate. Aside from the fact that it does sort of sound like it could have been in Independence Day, too, the music is just beautiful.

#9: Jurassic Park (John Williams)

Why: Williams is mostly known for his over-the-top fanfare and march sequences (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars) but when you're not looking he can turn out some incredible stuff that isn't meant to make you wish you were Han Solo. The Jurassic Park soundtrack, conveying alternately a sort of dreaminess and a terrific sense of awe, is some of Williams' best work.

#8: Finding Neverland (Jan Kaczmarek)

Why: the score for Finding Neverland is a real triumph, mostly light arrangements with lots of nice piano that meshes wonderfully with Marc Forster's vision of the movie.

#7: Lawrence of Arabia (Maurice Jarre)

Why: Maurice Jarre's music for Lawrence of Arabia has classical pretentions; in particular the overture sounds... mm, almost Slavic, perhaps? Stravinskyan? In any case, the famous theme, which ought to call forth images of camels and desert in most people, almost says more about the desert than Zimmer, who apparently spends most of his life there.

#6: Gladiator (Hans Zimmer)

Why: surprisingly for the man who also orchestrated The Lion King and Black Hawk Down, Zimmer manages an Africo-Mediterranean feel quite well, here. Of particular note is his take on the grandeur of Rome, which is rather more ethnic than Rózsa's, and his battle theme, which draws heavily from Holst--as it should.

#5: Titanic (James Horner)

Why: Celine Dion's overplayed (if not bad) single aside, Horner's music for the movie is all top-notch. You could probably substitute other Horner music of the same grandiose orchestral style (parts of Apollo 13, for instance or, yes, the underrated soundtrack to the animated movie Balto, which nobody else likes as much as I do), but pieces like "Southampton" ought properly to be iconic.

#4: The Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein)

Why: Bernstein gets to take home the gold for the Western soundtrack, which also doesn't have fiddles. It's possible that this is simply because I'm in love with the music, with its classical, Copland-ish feel and its stirring tempo.

#3: Dances With Wolves (John Barry)

Why: like Gladiator, John Barry's theme to Dances With Wolves is also interesting as a look at how Barry saw western music. Shunning fiddles, he instead creates a sweeping portrait of the American frontier that invites us to think of openness, boundless skies and possibilities. Better than the main theme at conveying this, I think, is "Journey to Fort Sedgewick", which for my money manages to be grand without being bombastic.

#2: Saving Private Ryan (John Williams)

Why: naturally Williams makes it into the top 3. Saving Private Ryan's music is just gorgeous, with shades of "Appalachian Spring"; Williams writes the score to one of the greatest war movies ever made without being martial. It's also very subdued for such an unsubtle movie, alternately inspiring and almost memorialising. Simply wonderful.

#1: The Lord of the Rings (Howard Shore)

Why: ok. Compare "Concerning Hobbits" with the Enya Aragon theme or the opening choral music. For that matter, compare the pan flute and full orchestral version of "Concerning Hobbits". Compare these to the relentless beat of the Uruk Hai. And to the Zimmerian theme of Rohan. And to the music for the Council of Elrond, which the new Battlestar Galactica liked so much they used it as much as possible. And to the soaring theme for the Fellowship. By themselves any of these would a memorable soundtrack make, but together Howard Shore has accomplished nothing short of incomparable soundtrack genius.
Galluskek
25.05.2009 - 5h19
Comrade Alex
26.05.2009 - 2h53
Gallsukek
26.05.2009 - 7h24

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