5 Memorable Overtures In Cinema

It’s a shame films don’t have them any more. Some say they’re out of date, but I believe they’re part of what made the cinematic experience in the 50s and 60s (particularly in David Lean films) the best, even though I wasn’t alive in that era. I’m talking about overtures, a fragment of film scores which seem to have escaped us. Some of you might remember when you went to the cinemas a while back and they had that really, blaring triumphant music, before the film had even started. That’s what I’m talking about. Here are five memorable overtures — not necessarily the best, but ones that spring to mind — when I think of those great themes.

1: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

In David Lean’s best movie, we are greeted with the fantastic, epic tale of war and peace that spans an amazing timeline. From breathtaking cinematography to amazing acting and everything in between, it’s impossible not to rejoice when we hear or see the first few frames of this magnificent movie.

2: Ben-Hur (1959)

I have a lot of admiration for the incomprehensible effort that went into the making of this movie, and although it’s not one of my favourites, it sure is beautiful to look at, and a success in my book. And the opening… sublime.

3: The Ten Commandments (1956)

When it comes to historical epics, even if you have an admittedly sub-par movie, as I feel this is, at least you’re likely to have a great soundtrack, and this is certainly no exception.

4: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1967)

Though when many people think of the music at the start of this Kubrick classic, they think of it’s fantastic, epic opening to the tune of Also Sprach Zarathustra, that, technically, is not the film’s overture. The real overture comes before it, but in the interest of sound and satisfaction, I’ll include a clip from that memorable opening scene instead.

5: Dancer in the Dark (2001)

Ah… You’ve got to admire Lars von Trier for putting in an awesome overture for his film long after they had died out. Perhaps the most epic of them all, the amazing emotion I feel when listening to this track will always stay with me.

So those are my choices, now… what’s yours?

What overtures do you cherish every time you hear their notes? What do you think of my choices? Leave a comment and lemme know what you think.

Thanks for reading.


About Tyler

Patient observer of all things film and music, from Béla Tarr to Boards of Canada. Foul mouthed and clinging to the edge of sanity.

Posted on June 5, 2011, in Movies, Music and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I totally agree with you, in addition I will add:

    1- Il Gattopardo (1963)/ Visconti.

    2- Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)/ Leone.

    3- The Searchers (1956)/ Ford.

  2. First thing that came to mind when I saw the title is Ben-Hur, so I’m glad to see it on the list. I really need to see Lawrence of Arabia already!

    • Lawrence of Arabia is a classic if ever there was one. There are a million reasons to see it, and I know you’ll like it. I suppose it’s similar to Ben Hur in some ways…

      • Y’know I actually rented it a long while ago but never got around to seeing it for whatever reason. I’ll definitely give it a watch soon as I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.

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