This page shows you the list charts. By default, the movies are ordered by how many times they have been marked as a favorite. However, you can also sort by other information, such as the total number of times it has been marked as a dislike.
Published April 2016
The key to a great musical accompaniment in a film is imperceptibility. When a song is so perfect for a movie moment, audiences won’t even notice it until the scene has already begun. The fit is intuitive. But listening back to a soundtrack after seeing a movie immediately can create a different experience. The melodies and lyrics conjure visual memories from those other stories. Sometimes, though, a soundtrack stands on its own, independent of the film that united those individual tracks. Whatever the situation, movie soundtracks offer essential cultural contributions to both movies and music, and we’ve rounded up the 50 best of all time.
This Essential List of 101 Great Film Score Milestones (in chronological order) from 1933-2001 was compiled by John Caps in the November-December 2003 issue of Film Comment magazine in an article titled "Soundtracks 101 – Essential Movie Music: A Listener's Guide." The article also provided a brief history of film music in the introduction and further details on each of the choices.
Facts and Commentary About the List:
•The list was created to mark the 70th anniversary of the film score in 2003.
• The list consisted of composed instrumental film scores (whether symphonic or electronic, classical or pop in style), not film musicals or song scores, from American and British films (English-language films).
•These were films from the talkie era onwards (and recognizing that silent films were never silent).
•The quality of a film often has nothing to do with the rating of its film score, e.g., Taras Bulba (1962, Waxman).
•According to the author, the list was "representative rather than exhaustive; all of the scores in the list "contribute something memorable, something personal, to their films - and communicate one step further to us as music."
•Predictably, one-fourth of the list was taken by the six giants of the Golden Age (Steiner, Waxman, Korngold, Newman, Rozsa, Herrmann). Yet the author also recognized some of the great, but seemingly forgotten, figures of the recent past: Laurence Rosenthal, Richard Rodney Bennett, Dave Grusin, David Shire, and Basil Poledouris.
Feature films that credit Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer as their composer.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) is not included because he was not credited.