Here is a list of my Top 10 Movie themes. These lists are subjective so please list your Top 10 Movie themes and whether you agree/disagree with these choices.
1. Main Title – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Music composed by Ennio Morricone
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly does not have that many spoken lines. The music is an integral component and adds to the mystery and the suspense especially in the action scenes. The music is like another character here and it takes the movie to another level and the music by Ennio Morricone has become synonymous with westerns.
“The score is composed by frequent Leone collaborator Ennio Morricone, whose distinctive original compositions, containing gunfire, whistling, and yodeling permeate the film. The main theme, resembling the howling of a coyote, is a two-note melody that is a frequent motif, and is used for the three main characters, with a different instrument used for each one: flute for Blondie (Man With No Name), arghilofono for Angel Eyes and human voices for Tuco.” (From Wikipedia)
2. James Bond Theme
Music composed by Monty Norman
I don’t think there is anything left to be said. One of the most iconic signature themes ever created.
3. Also Sprach Zarathustra – 2001: A Space Odyssey
Music composed by Richard Strauss
“Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a tone poem by Richard Strauss, composed in 1896 and inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical treatise of the same name. The composer conducted its first performance on 27 November 1896 in Frankfurt. A typical performance lasts half an hour. The work has been part of the classical repertoire since its first performance in 1896. The initial fanfare – entitled “Sunrise” in the composer’s program notes – became particularly well known to the general public due to its use in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.” (From Wikipedia).
This is what Stanley Kubrick, the director had to say about the use of classical music in a interview.
“However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart or a Brahms. Why use music which is less good when there is such a multitude of great orchestral music available from the past and from our own time? ”
4. Titles – Chariots of Fire
Music composed by Vangelis
One of the most inspiring themes ever composed the movie won an Oscar for Best Original Score. This was the inspiration for the ad that used to come up on Doordarshan with celebs running with the torch. This is from an interview of Hugh Hudson, the director.
‘A huge factor in the film’s success was the outstanding soundtrack composed by Vangelis – which is still used slavishly in just about any TV running sequence. Hudson decided he wanted Vangelis, an old friend of his, to produce something modern. “I knew we needed a piece which was anachronistic to the period to give it a feel of modernity. It was a risky idea but we went with it rather than have a period symphonic score. It’s become iconic film music – perhaps in the top 10 famous soundtracks of all time – which is good because the music is about 30 per cent of a film.”‘ Hugh Hudson Interview Link
This is what Hugh Hudson said in another interview.
‘The Chariots of Fire theme, composed by Vangelis, was so critical to the feel of the movie that Hudson says “it was almost like another character in the film.” The original idea was to use Vangelis’s “L’Enfant”—which would underpin the romantic tension in The Year of Living Dangerously a few years later—but the Greek composer swore he could do better and went away to try.
“David and I gave him the chance,” says Hudson, “but then he would have to come and play it to David. It was a kind of challenge.” Shortly after, says Hudson, Puttnam and his wife were dining out in London when an excited Vangelis, who had tracked them down to the restaurant, “tipped up in his big Rolls Royce and asked them to come out. They climbed into the Roller, and he played his music over its big speakers. It blew them away.” Hudson adds that “Vangelis told David, ‘My father is a runner, and this is an anthem to him.’ So there was a personal reverberation running through it.” It was one of the first electronic sound tracks, and it won Vangelis an Oscar.’ Link
And what’s even more amazing is that the composer can neither read nor write music. Link
5. Main Title (The Godfather Waltz) – The Godfather
Music composed by Nino Rota
Interestingly the score was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score and removed at the last minute.
‘the Academy’s decision has also come, in part, due to a situation which arose with Nino Rota’s score for “The Godfather” in 1972, which was pulled from the list of nominees after it was discovered that the film’s love theme was used in another film, 1958’s “Fortunella.” The Academy would like to right a wrong now rather than withdraw a nomination further down the road. “The Godfather Part II” won the original score Oscar and featured the same love theme which rendered Rota’s initial score ineligible.’ Link
6. Dead Already – American Beauty
Music composed by Thomas Newman
This one has a stop-start feel to it. The music rises likes a crescendo one moment and then goes silent at another. What I love most about this one is the use of the tabla. The score was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Music Score.
7. Lara’s Theme – Doctor Zhivago
Music composed by Maurice Jarre
The movie won an Oscar for Best Original Score. Here is what Maurice Jarre said about the theme in a 1984 Interview.
“Thinking about your question, David did use a temp track for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. He fell in love with a supposedly old Russian folk song, a very nice piece of music. When I viewed the rushes, he said that he wanted this theme to be incorporated into the score. However, when MGM tried to clarify the copyright situation, it turned out not to be a traditional folk tune, but an original piece of music for which MGM could not get worldwide clearance; so they did not want the theme used.
When I heard about this decision, I had to start to write something completely new with only a few weeks to go to the recording sessions. Up until then, I had been relaxed because I knew that I was going to use this folk song as the main theme. So when writing a new theme, subconsciously or not, I tried to go around this melody that I had heard so many times before to get the same kind of feel and phrasing. Every time I presented a new theme to David, he rejected it and said that I could do better. I wrote four different themes in this time, but none of them was quite right. By this stage I was not only getting depressed, but also panicking because time was running out. Then, one Friday, David told me to stop work, to stop thinking about the film or the music and go away for the weekend to the beach or mountains, to clear my brain and start afresh on the Monday. So I did this, which was very hard because of the pressure and with the days running out. Anyway, Monday arrived and I realized that the stupidity was this temporary track. I should try to write something totally different, and I wrote a kind of waltz. After those 2 days of clearing the brain, in one hour on Monday morning I had found “Lara’s Theme, which was the opposite of the original temp track.” Link
8. Dream Is Collapsing – Inception
Music composed by Hans Zimmer
‘The score for Inception was written by Hans Zimmer, who described his work as “a very electronic, dense score”, filled with “nostalgia and sadness” to match Cobb’s feelings throughout the film. The music was written simultaneously to filming, and features a guitar sound reminiscent of Ennio Morricone, played by Johnny Marr, former guitarist of The Smiths. Édith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” appears recurringly throughout the film, and Zimmer reworked pieces of the song into cues of the score. A soundtrack album was released on July 11, 2010 by Reprise Records. Hans Zimmer’s music was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Score category in 2011, losing to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of The Social Network.’ From Wikipedia.
9. Theme From Mission: Impossible
Composed by Larry Mullen & Adam Clayton
One more iconic signature tunes. One can feel the adrenaline rush just listening to this and conjures up images of Tom Cruise
in that final scene from Mission Impossible.
10. The Pink Panther Theme – The Pink Panther
Music composed by Henry Mancini
Now this classic theme has been copied and parodied in numerous movies and TV shows whenever there has been a fumbling detective.Tags: 2001: A Space Odyssey Adam Clayton Also Sprach Zarathustra American Beauty Chariots of Fire Dead Already Doctor Zhivago Dream Is Collapsing Ennio Morricone Exclusive Hans Zimmer Henry Mancini Inception James Bond Lara's Theme Larry Mullen Maurice Jarre Miklós Rózsa Mission Impossible Monty Norman Nino Rota Oscar Richard Strauss Stanley Kubrick The Godfather The Good the Bad and the Ugly The Pink Panther Thomas Newman Tom Cruise Top 10 Movie Themes Vangelis