Five Great Original Film Scores I Love

When music occurs in film, as we all know, it’s either soundtrack or score. I think more focus is put on the soundtrack than one of the most important parts of the film, the score. It represents the mood and feeling of the movie, and can carry all the emotions without even speaking a word.

Magnolia by Jon Brion

In my favourite movie of all time, I could list hundreds of reasons why I love it as much as I do, but one of the top ten would have to be Jon Brion’s fantastic score. I bought the CD a few months back, and it’s been playing over and over almost non-stop. It’s easy to miss it while watching the movie, but every time I watch it now that music is in my mind; I notice it, and it affects me. It’s an almost perfect score, for a perfect movie.

American Beauty by Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman’s score to Sam Mendes’ breakthrough feature manages to be consistently soft, even when it’s in its angriest mood. The complex layer of disputing emotions conveyed through the music track the path of the characters as they are pulled along a storyline of uprising and downfall. An incredibly original, poignant and affecting score that’s enough to put a tear in your eye every time:

Mulholland Dr. by Angelo Badalamenti

The film’s reliance on music is extraordinary, and even though not all of it is composed by Badalamenti, much of it including the terrific ‘Love Theme’ is. It’s incredibly sad, moving music that lulls the viewer into the same dreamlike state of frightening dystopian disorder that Lynch does with his film. Listen to it for yourself:

Requiem for a Dream by Clint Mansell

Arguably the most well known score on this list, Clint Mansell’s score, while being overused in various advertisements and television programs, consists of much more than just the popularised, searing Lux Aeterna. The downward path of drug abuse portrayed in the film and it’s effect owes a lot to the music, which subliminally makes it seem more horrifying and disturbing, if that were indeed possible. Check out this piece from the score, which is nowhere near as appreciated as it should be:

The Fountain by Clint Mansell

The second album from Clint Mansell also features some of his best, most underrated work as a composer. While the film itself was rather disappointing and conflicted among critics, the score is an inarguable success. The track ‘Death is the Road to Awe’ is one of the ten best pieces of musical score I have ever heard, and it’s not the only one worth mentioning. So much of the album is pure brilliance.

Those are my picks. I could list more, but this is plenty of listening material for you guys for now. Hopefully you can find the time to listen to some of the tracks above… there are many more on YouTube. If there’s anything you’d like to add, leave a comment below.


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 August 3, 2011, in Lists, Movies, Music and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Nice picks there Tyler.

    I know it is a bit of a cliche but the score from ‘Inception’ still makes my hairs stand on end. Amazing stuff

    Thanks for sharing!!


  2. My favorites are Requiem for a Dream, Gladiator, The Social Network, The Dark Knight, Exorcist and in that order. Requiem’s music is all around great not only the Lux Aetherna as you pointed out.

    Others I like: The Truman Show, The Last Samurai, American Beauty, The Godfather, Star Wars, Home Alone. Probably there are more but cannot remember them right now.

    But if only main/theme music was judged… 🙂

  3. Clint Mansell is the best! The song called ‘Perfection’ at the end of the Black Swan score is awesome, even though it’s not completely original.

    I love the Inception soundtrack (particularly ‘528491’…that’s my favourite song ever), the Schindler’s List one and The Social Network’s one.

    • Those are all great soundtracks, especially Inception. I love that track too (although I must confess I’m one of the millions who love the track ‘Time’ better).

      Death is the Road to Awe from The Fountain soundtrack (the last video in this post) is my favourite piece of original score ever.

  4. I recently watched I Am Love which had a wonderful soundtrack throughout and is one of the few soundtracks that I’ve found worthy of praise in a long time. It was haunting, whimsical and nostalgic all in one. A truly great, eclectic score with a very European feel to it.

    I also love the soundtrack to Ravenous. Great film as well.

    Of course it should go without saying Ennio Morricone’s spine-tinglingly brilliant score from Il Mercenario (The Mercenary AKA A Professional Gun) particularly L’Arena is epic. Of course most people will only know it from Kill Bill vol. 2 and (because Tarantino is becoming increasingly unoriginal) Inglourious Basterds.

    Disney must also get an honorary nod as most of their animated films have very good music to accompany them as the Academy often recognises as well.

    • Your suggestions are valid but the five on this list (with the exception of Requiem for a Dream) were just small, lesser appreciated scores that I love, rather than more mainstream ones like Disney and Morricone… they’re too obvious. Although I can’t say anything for I Am Love as I haven’t seen it; I find the title irritating.

  5. I like the “Saló” theme. Makes the film all the more disturbing.

    • Yeah, its hard to miss the music playing in the background when you have your eyes shut for much of the film’s duration. Just kidding, I never closed my eyes during any of it; I believe if you’re watching a movie, you WATCH it, get what I mean? But yeah, that music is great. Is it wrong to say I have it on my iPod (another pathetic joke)?

  6. It does add power. Nonchalance in the background of such depravity…

  7. I detect a decidely recent bias, Tyler! LOL. Not even a nod to the great Bernard Herrmann for Psycho or Citizen Kane or Taxi Driver (not to mention dozens of other classics)? Franz Waxman for Sunset Boulevard? Saturday Night Fever or Shaft?

    • I love all those scores, but as I said in reply to neocowboy’s comment, “Your suggestions are valid but the five on this list (with the exception of Requiem for a Dream) were just small, lesser appreciated scores that I love, rather than more mainstream ones like Disney and Morricone… they’re too obvious.”

      In a list of my favourite scores of all time, Herrmann would undoubtedly be in the top five, but this was just meant to be a short list of more “modern” scores, rather than the classics that so continuously get critical acclaim. The Taxi Driver score, for example, is widely known and talked about, but when was the last time you heard someone ramble about how much they love Clint Mansell’s score to The Fountain?

  8. Great list Tyler, couldn’t agree more with the choices.

    Something to note is that Clint Mansell collaborated with the band Mogwai on the score for “The Fountain”. Mansell is a definite favorite of mine for his subtle approach (the score to “Moon” is one of my favorites), and you should definitely check out Mogwai’s music if you enjoyed that score.

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