The music of Ennio Morricone – the composer’s most famous film scores

All the major film scores written by the legendary composer Ennio Morricone, including films by Sergio Leone, Brian de Palma and Quentin Tarantino

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Ennio Morricone

The legendary Italian film composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91, leaving behind an incredibly impressive and varied legacy.

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If you’re a fan of film then it’s likely you’ll have heard the music of Morricone on many, many occasions – across seven decades he wrote scores for as many as 500 movies – and we’ve picked out some of the most celebrated highlights of his illustrious career below. 

The Dollars Trilogy – A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Good, The Bad And The Ugly, The
Lee Van Cleef in The Good The Bad And The Ugly. ©MGM
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The first really high profile work on Morricone’s resume was the start of an immensely fruitful relationship with his fellow Italian Sergio Leone – he would go on to score every single one of the legendary director’s films from that point onwards. The Dollars trilogy, starring Clint Eastwood as the man with no name, remains the best known example of the Spaghetti Western genre and the scores have gained iconic status.

You can order the original soundtrack for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on Amazon for £6.29.

Days of Heaven (1978)

Days of Heaven
Days of Heaven – Clean Landscape Key Art
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Morricone’s first Oscar nomination came for his score for the 1979 Terrence Malick film Days of Heaven, although he lost out on the top prize, with the award going to another Italian great – Giorgio Moroder, for his score for Midnight Express. The score did win the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music at the BAFTAS, however.

The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter is known for often composing the scores for his own films but for his 1982 body horror classic he turned to Morricone, apparently because he wanted the film to have a more European musical approach. Morricone ended up writing two separate scores for Carpenter – one orchestral and one with synthesiser, with Carpenter opting for the electronic one.

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Another highlight of Morricone’s partnership with Leone, the score for epic crime drama Once Upon a Time in America was the last collaboration between the two Italians before Leone’s death in 1989. The score is often cited as one of Morricone’s best but reportedly missed out on Oscar consideration due to a mistake in filing the paperwork. It is included in the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 25 Best American Film Scores of All Time, scored a Golden Globe nomination and won a BAFTA.

The Untouchables (1987)

The Untouchables
(L-R) Andy Garcia, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner and Charles Martin Smith
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Morricone worked with Brian de Palma on three occasions, with this being the highlight, earning him a third Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score, appearing on the AFI’s list of the Top 25 Best American Film Scores of All Time garnering a further nomination at the Golden Globes and winning a BAFTA and a Grammy – altogether a pretty impressive haul.

Cinema Paradiso (1989)

Cinema Paradiso
CINEMA PARADISO
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The score for Cinema Paradiso indicated the onset of another of Morricone’s most fruitful continuing collaborations: that with Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, with other films including Everybody’s Fine, Pure Formality and Malèna, the latter of which saw him claim further Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. For Cinema Paradiso, Morricone one another BAFTA.

Bugsy (1991)

Bugsy
Bugsy, Ben Kingsley as Meyer Lansky ©2005 Columbia TriStar
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Bugsy was one of two collaborations between Morricone and American director Barry Levinson, the other being Disclosure in 1994, which was the highest grossing film Morricone worked on his career. Bugsy was the composer’s fourth score to be Oscar nominated, while it also gained him another Golden Globe nomination as well.

In the Line of Fire (1993)

John Malkovich
John Malkovich

One of the highest grossing Hollywood films which Morricone worked on was this 1993 political action thriller film, which one again saw the composer score a film starring Clint Eastwood. The score also saw him gain an ASCAP Award for Best Original Score.

The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight
SAMUEL L. JACKSON stars in THE HATEFUL EIGHT
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Morricone finally won his first competitive Oscar for his work on Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight in 2016, almost a decade after he had won an honorary Academy Award for “his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music.” At the time he was the oldest person to ever win an Oscar, while the score also won awards at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes. Tarantino had previously borrowed existing Morricone music for earlier films including both Kill Bill films and Inglourious Basterds, while he also wrote songs for the Django Unchained soundtrack.

Other scores composed by Morricone include: The Mission, Mission to Mars, Wolf, Bulworth, Ripley’s Game, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, Le Professionnel, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Two Mules for Sister Sara, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Frantic, Rampage, Love Affair, and U-Turn.

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Ennio Morricone: 60 years of Music is available from Amazon for £5.99 on CD or £23.41 on vinyl.