You, the readers of Radio Times and RadioTimes.com, as well as the listeners of Classic FM, have spoken! More than 21,000 votes were cast, and you have crowned John Williams’ Schindler’s List the nation’s favourite movie music theme, in the Classic FM Movie Music Hall of Fame in partnership with Radio Times.
As well as taking the number one film score, John Williams has again been voted the nation’s favourite composer of film music, with five entries in the top twenty alone, including Schindler’s List, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.
Williams told Classic FM: “I’d like to express my gratitude to the listeners of Classic FM for selecting my music from Schindler’s List for this high honour. It was a privilege to be involved in the making of this film, and it’s very gratifying to know that so many people around the world continue to embrace it after nearly 30 years.”
This year’s chart also revealed a surge in popularity for film music composed by Ennio Morricone, who died in June at the age of 91, with three entries in the top 20.
The countdown of the top 100 themes were broadcast on Classic FM over the bank holiday weekend.
The Classic FM Movie Music Hall of Fame 2020 – Top 20:
- Schindler’s List – John Williams
- The Lord of the Rings – Howard Shore
- Gladiator – Hans Zimmer
- Out of Africa – John Barry
- Dances with Wolves – John Barry
- The Mission – Ennio Morricone
- Star Wars – John Williams
- Chariots of Fire – Vangelis
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Ennio Morricone
- Jurassic Park – John Williams
- Doctor Zhivago – Maurice Jarre
- Cinema Paradiso – Ennio Morricone
- Ladies in Lavender – Nigel Hess
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – John Williams
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – John Williams
- The Magnificent Seven – Elmer Bernstein
- 633 Squadron – Ron Goodwin
- Amelie – Yann Tiersen
- Blade Runner – Vangelis
- Braveheart – James Horner
Before the unveiling of the nation’s favourite film soundtracks took place, some of the Classic FM presenters shared their favourite sounds of cinema, as featured in 15-21 August edition of Radio Times.
On-air Saturday & Sunday 10pm
‘I was lucky enough to interview Hans Zimmer at the piano and play through the multiple themes he composed for Gladiator. It’s all so clever. Many composers choose one, maybe two themes to introduce characters or encourage a feeling. In parts of Gladiator, you can hear up to seven themes at one given time, all intertwining yet making perfect sense. Extraordinary.
I love it all. So many complex themes running simultaneously, yet all so recognisable. The simplicity and haunting sound of the vocals over the theme Now We Are Free through to the underlying, sinister, syncopated drumming announcing that battle is commencing. It’s utter genius.
The memories it evokes for me are falling in love with Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus, through to recording the piano version on my first classical album and later an actual duet at the piano with Zimmer himself!’
On-air Monday-Friday 10pm
‘One of my abiding memories as an eight-year-old child was standing in a very, very long queue to see The Empire Strikes Back. It was the movie that everyone – including all my school mates – wanted to see that year.
There is something about the opening theme that speaks to the kid in all of us. The first few bars are so powerful and iconic. Immediately, you’re hooked. It’s time to sit back and relax – the adventure is about to start. It is incredible that across different generations, the music means exactly the same and is part of the reason that so many people have fallen in love with the Star Wars journey, as it’s continued over the decades. I also think the soundtrack is a great way of introducing children to the power of a full orchestra and the positive impact that classical music can have on your life.’
On-air Saturday 7am
‘A good soundtrack should be complementary, not overwhelming. It should fit the mood perfectly and Patrick Doyle’s stunning orchestral score for Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility does just that. I live about a mile from where Austen lived on the Isle of Wight and if you’ve always loved her books, you do get a bit picky about adaptations. You think, “Hmm, will they get the waspish tone?” Emma Thompson really does get that tone and Doyle’s score perfectly suits the mood and the characters.
It’s an orchestral score and there are two songs as well. Weep You No More Sad Fountains, sung by Jane Eaglen, and the piece that everyone knows, and is regarded as the theme tune of the film, My Father’s Favourite. It’s a beautiful selection but there is a little piece on the CD – which I’m looking at now – called Willoughby, which is especially meaningful, as we played it at one of my daughters’ weddings. It’s all right saying something is your favourite film score, but how often do you play it? That’s the test. I play this regularly, it’s calming and puts me in a good frame of mind.
I think it’s great to use classical music for a soundtrack because it brings it to a wider audience. It’s nice when people hear part of a classical piece in a film and realise where it came from originally, so I’m never snooty and purist about it. I’m a populist – I try to get more people to tune in. Whether it’s gardening or music, I want as many people as possible to enjoy it. I can’t be doing with elitism.’
On-air Saturday 3pm
‘One of my all-time favourites is from the soundtrack to Platoon – the 1986 film classic about the Vietnam War, that used Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings as its main theme. I loved the truth of the music, bearing passionate witness to the horror and futility of war. It was impossible not to hear the profound grief and sadness in every note, interlaced with hope.
I remember my late teens – and all the banners and protests against the Vietnam war. I also remember the terror that a loved one in the US Air Force would never make it out alive; and my boundless relief that he did.’
On-air Saturday 5pm
‘The choice of my favourite film theme always represents a titanic – if not Titanic – struggle between vintage and modern. If I could choose two, I’d pick one from the 30s or 40s, and one that’s completely 21st century. I’m always drawn back to the melodrama of Citizen Kane by Bernard Herrmann, the innovator who would go on to shape some of Hitchcock’s classic thrillers; and I love the merry dance that is Kane’s Return and the Christmassy excess of Mother Memory.
For a truly modern score, I would have to choose Dunkirk by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, a perfect mix of academic, philosophical and personal input from the director Christopher Nolan, who gave Zimmer a pocket watch, whose ticking he sampled, and which drives the entire recreation of the mass exodus from Dunkirk beach.’
On-air Monday-Friday 8pm
‘My favourite film and soundtrack is actually two films, Claude Berri’s wonderful 1980s French historical dramas, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. They are based on Marcel Pagnol’s stories of rural life in Provence in the early 20th century and you have to see them both, because it’s one story split into two. Together they capture the intense local politics of a little French village in Provence and all the rivalries, tension and tragedy that follows.
The wonderful theme music is largely a reworking of the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi’s overture to his opera The Force of Destiny. Verdi is used so well and is so appropriate to the narrative, it’s almost as if he wrote it for the film. If only he knew! Very soon after seeing them, my late wife and I bought a tumbledown farmhouse in south-west France and immersed ourselves in the area, the local language, the local customs. Sadly, I lost my wife to dementia and then decided that, without her, I couldn’t keep it any longer. But for 20 years, we enjoyed that rustic, rural life. It was just lovely, and so I love every second of those films and hearing the music. I absolutely love it.’
On-air Monday-Friday 12pm
‘Initially E.T. passed me by and I remember feeling like the boat had sailed after it had been on release for a few weeks. I had it in mind that it was a film for little ones and not one for the slightly more mature individual. A friend then persuaded me to give it a whirl – they’d seen it twice already.
Chum: “You’ll cry, I guarantee it”.
Me: “I won’t”.
I did. Of course. Think I hid it well though. The music, that soaring, joyful, life-affirming music takes you to goose bump central. E.T. won the Academy Award and a Grammy for composer John Williams, who must have the biggest mantelpiece in the universe. No wonder he and Spielberg have worked on so many movies through the years. What a partnership.
There are still tears whenever I catch E.T. even after all these years.’
On-air Saturday & Sunday 10am
‘Ironically, my favourite movie theme is from a film I haven’t actually seen – the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson, and the overture by Alan Menken. It contains all the great Broadway songs from the original 1991 Disney cartoon, with an ending that never fails to bring a tear to my eye!
I used to watch the first Disney “Beast” with my kids when they were little, over and over again. We used to sing along to Be My Guest and particularly Gaston. Happy days.’
On-air Sunday 5pm
‘My favourite of all film scores is Ennio Morricone’s music for Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In America.
Leone’s music encompasses all the glamour of the Prohibition Era, but also the sadness and nostalgia of the principal character Noodles (Robert De Niro) as he looks back over his unrequited love affair with Deborah, his friendship with his three fellow hoods, and the betrayal by one of them that lies at this great movie’s heart.
Morricone’s magical score also features a 1924 hit Amapola, a great waltz tune that perfectly suits the movie’s mood.
Lots of people agree that Morricone’s music should have won the Oscar that year. It didn’t – his producers failed to enter it. And Morricone had to wait almost 30 years before he finally got one.’
On-air Sunday 7am
‘I’ve gone for the movie theme [The Sound of Music] that was sold as having ‘the happiest sound in all the world’ and the highest grossing film of 1965. It was one of the first films I saw as a small child and was totally bowled over by Richard Rogers’ magical music. The story, acting, tunes and breath-taking backdrop of Salzburg make it perfect. Little did I know as a small child that one day in the future I would get to sing the song Edelweiss from the film with the leading lady Julie Andrews. It was most definitely ‘something good’!’
On-air Monday-Friday 4pm
‘I love Tara’s Theme from Gone with the Wind. Max Steiner’s score is so beautifully constructed and the theme recurs throughout the film in subtly in different guises throughout the film. In truth, I could have picked just about anything by Steiner, who was one of the absolute geniuses of the genre: not for nothing was he known as ‘The Father of film music’.
My other choice would be the main theme from Out of Africa by John Barry. I was fortunate enough to interview him on several occasions over the years and gleaned some fascinating insights into his method. He would explain the vital importance of viewing a sequence or film for the first time and allowing oneself to react nervously to it. I have the score from Out of Africa on an LP, which has become very worn over the years by repeated playing, so I was delighted when it came out on CD so I could enjoy it without the clicks and pops.’
On-air Monday-Friday 6am
‘This [Diva] was a big film for me when I was at university. I saw it at The Lounge cinema in Headingley (sadly now long-gone) and its soundtrack, a blend of stunning opera arias and sonorous Satie-esque piano pieces (courtesy of Vladimir Cosma) really hits the spot. Added to the blue cinematography, the singing of Wilhelmenia Fernandez and Richard Bohringer’s bof-ish “Gorodish’. It has stayed one of my favourites across the years.’
Don’t forget to tune in to Classic FM over the last weekend in August for the full countdown, from 100 to 1, of the Movie Music Hall of Fame.