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.
Philip Brophy's book provides a soundmap to a hundred films that engage the ears. Covering titles as diverse as "Way of the Dragon" and "Apocalypse Now," "Le Samourai" and "Stalker," "Angel Dust" and "Citizen Kane," each entry outlines the film's distinctive contribution to the hitherto underexplored world of sound and music in cinema.
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.
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.
Musical theorist Michel Chion coined the term "synchresis" to define the forging of picture and sound, the way artistry on both sides of the line blurs into our favorite movie moments. Sound design can manifest and warp reality, but film scoring has its own synchresistic effect, albeit one that's rather bizarre.
There's no reason music should ever be playing against a film aiming for truth. Yet over 100-plus years of filmmaking, a composer's touch — or restraint — has become an essential part of the medium's power. A musical cue stamps an iconic scene, a director's vision and a film's legacy. There are sense memories connected to the opening notes of an iconic theme.
Nevertheless, it took the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a few years to recognize film music's weight-pulling at the Oscars. Film's transition into a synced sound medium kept the business resisting the honor until the 7th Annual Academy Awards in 1935. Even then, the statue went to various studios' music departments, the composer merely a cog in the machine. In 1938, composers were finally dignified with the "win." And the field was highly competitive — until 1945, studios were guaranteed a nomination simply by submitting a qualified entry.
Throughout Oscar history, film scoring demanded division based on the films in the mix. In the early years, there was "Best Original Score" and, for musicals or adaptations, "Best Scoring." In 1962, the distinction morphed into "Substantially Original Score" and "Scoring of Music Adaptation or Treatment." The 1970s saw another shift into "Original Dramatic Score" and "Original Song Score and Adaptation." It wasn't until the 1980s that the Hollywood musical's lifespan diminished enough to collect musical submissions into one "Best Original Score" category, the Academy deeming scores adapting existing material ineligible. But soon enough, the organization revived the "Dramatic" and "Comedy/Musical" distinction between 1995 and 1998. While it may have felt like an overextension, the split allowed for Rachel Portman ("Emma") and Anne Dudley ("The Full Monty") to become the only two female composers to pick up Best Original score honors to date.
So, to honor nearly 80 years of film score winners, we're presenting the 25 best. But to keep ourselves level-headed, our list is relegated to champions of the Best Original Score, Drama or Comedy categories. No musicals or adapted scores (this time). The list is a fusion between our two individual picks, the highest ranking scores finding common ground between us. Compiling the best of the best involved leaving a few amazing scores out of the mix, however. You won't find Max Steiner's "The Informer," Francis Lai's "Love Story," James Horner's "Titantic," A.R. Rahman's "Slumdog Millionaire," John Barry's "Dances with Wolves," Hans Zimmer's "The Lion King" or Marvin Hamlisch's "The Way We Were" on this list, but know they were close.
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.