Film scores have the power to transport us to a key moment in time. It might be the first time we saw a particular movie but, more often, it is an emotional, nostalgic epiphany – a recollection of what that particular score has come to symbolise in our lives.
Classic FM launched their annual Movie Music Hall of Fame vote on Howard Goodall’s programme on 12 July and we at Radio Times are delighted to join the network in their search for the top 100 greatest film scores of all time. The final countdown will be broadcast on August Bank Holiday Monday, so it’s time to get voting.
We asked some of Classic FM’s presenters to tell us their Top 5 favourite scores and set our own film experts to work. It has proved to be much more difficult to select just five than any of us thought.
To set the ball rolling, here are my personal favourites – after days of crossing out, agonising and, eventually, returning to my original Top 5. The best thing about this exercise though is going back to wonderful music you have not heard for years and reawakening those special memories they bring.
Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1982) – Philip Glass
One of the first composers to use minimalism in film scoring, the jarring dynamics of the piece shoot from sober, atonal moments of pure darkness to wild, speeding, dangerous rushes of chaos. The perfect match for the film’s theme.
Once upon a Time in America (1984) – Ennio Morricone
It was hard to choose from Ennio Morricone’s scores but the haunting combination of melancholia with a none-too-subtle threat of violence captures the heart and intent of Sergio Leone’s final film.
Spellbound (1945) – Miklos Rozsa
I know my RT colleagues prefer Bernard Herrmann’s work with Alfred Hitchcock. Indeed, Hitch himself declared Rozsa’s score for Spellbound “got in the way of his direction.” But just listen to that theramin sing in the concerto. And it won Rozsa his first Oscar for a film score in 1945, so there.
Midnight Cowboy (1969) – John Barry
Barry is bound to appear in numerous positions on this countdown but, for me, this score conveys such a sense of hopelessness that it hits an emotional trigger every time I hear it. Released as the 1960s came to an end, it is truly an anthem for doomed youth.
The Omen (1976) – Jerry Goldsmith
I’m sorry but I could not have a Top 5 without a horror film score. Music is key to a truly chilling atmosphere in a film and, after a devilishly difficult decision between this and Mike Oldfield’s score for The Exorcist, my soul was won by the terrifying power of Jerry Goldsmith’s Ave Satani. Be afraid, be very afraid.