What’s the Score?

I was listening to Radio 5 t’other day and film critic Mark Kermode was giving a whippersnapper some advice on the best music scores in films.

Of course, all the movies Kermode picked were complete pants. But it did get me pondering how crucial a soundtrack is to a film. And, when done correctly, can infinitely improve a movie from great – to masterpiece.

So, here are my top five. Actually, there are six. Because I couldn’t decide which one of these to leave out.

First up is Betty Blue. Composed by Gabriel Yared and directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix.


Next up, Paris, Texas. Composed by Ry Cooder, directed by Wim Wenders.


These aren’t in any particular order, by the way. Next is The Piano. Composed by Michael Nyman and directed by Jane Campion.


Who could forget The Soggy Bottom Boys? This classic from O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?. Composed by T Bone Burnett, directed by the Coen Brothers.

Aimee Mann isn’t actually credited as the composer of Magnolia. But apart from a Supertramp song at the end, the entire soundtrack is by her. Directed by P.T. Anderson.

I couldn’t resist popping in another masterpiece by Michael Nyman. This time for The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, directed by Peter Greenaway.
All absolutely brilliant movies and worth checking out.
I’m sure there are many more I could’ve chosen. The Godfather springs to mind, as does Jaws.
All alternative suggestions welcome.



Filed under Art, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Film, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Music, Writing

18 responses to “What’s the Score?

  1. Don’t forget all those great Ennio Morricone-scored films, including Cinema Paradaiso, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Once Upon A Time in America, etc…

  2. Patrick Chapman

    All excellent choices, Dave. I also have a soft spot for Howard Shore’s music for David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers. The Blue Velvet soundtrack too, especially the funny bits. 2001: A Space Odyssey comes to mind as a perfect ‘found cues’ score. And more recently, the extremely lovely music for Under the Skin, by Mica Levi. One of my touchstones is Vangelis’s Blade Runner. Perhaps my favourite though, is Pino Donaggio’s soundtrack to Don’t Look Now. That’s just a heartbreaker.

  3. Dances with Wolves & Edward Scissorhands, Maybe, the more we love the movie, the more we love the theme tune!
    There have been some brilliant theme tunes to tv series, too. I loved the intro (music and graphics) to that fairly recent series set during the Cold War , “The Game”. Also, the theme tunes to “Peaky Blinders” and “Utopia” are/were really cool.

    • Yes, I think that’s true. Though, there are plenty of great movies too whose soundtracks I can’t remember. Wings of Desire, for example, is one of my favourite films, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember the soundtrack.

      I absolutely loved the soundtracks to Peaky Blinders and Utopia. There was a French zombie series called The Returned (I think) which also had a great soundtrack.

      • I’ve heard rumours that the second series of The Returned is or has been filmed and it will be screened in the UK late this year or early next year. I hope this rumour is true. They keep pulling the plug on tv dramas that I really love, usually after the first series, having left it on a total cliffhanger e.g. Odyssey, Banished, Flash Forward, The Paradise, to name a few. They were going to do another series of Utopia, too, but have decided against this. Grrrrrrrr
        The Wings of Desire soundtrack is on YouTube. I’ve just had a listen. It’s great. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCtCclkUhxA&list=PLUHln_JM0qnKUlOSvpanWBO32nzpRdFWq

      • I shall look forward to another series of The Returned. It was understatedly spooky. I also loved Odyssey. Did you ever see Happy Valley with Sarah Lancashire? It was brilliant. But I’m biased, as it was set in Yorkshire. Thanks for the link, I’ll give it a listen.

      • No, I didn’t see Happy Valley, but anything with Sarah Lancashire in it is always brilliant. Must check it out. By the way, I love the Yorkshire accent 🙂 Am catching up with watching the second series of the dystopian series “The 100”. Somehow I missed it on TV, so have had to pay for it on Amazon. Fortunately, I have a 22″ screen to go with my PC, which is great. I watch Game of Thrones through Amazon as well, as we don’t have Sky TV any more. Cheaper to buy the occasional series that’s been shown on Sky and have Freesat.

      • Channel 4 emailed me with their latest news. The Returned is definitely returning soon. They’re re-showing the first series now (on More 4, I think) in advance of this. Yay! Zombies with a difference.

      • Thanks 🙂 I love that theme tune. It’s so haunting and tinglifying (yes, I’m inventing words again!).

  4. Dave, you drew me in to this thinking it was about sport and now here I am at the movies. I bow to your superior knowledge on these matters and am always delighted to see your lists on Arts matters because they are great guidelines for what I might like.

  5. Excellent post. Getting freaky how similar our tastes are in many respects:) Agree with Patrick’s additions of 2001, Blade Runner etc. I’d add as ‘found cues’ would be Mahler’s music for Visconti’s ‘Death in Venice’ and the use of The Doors classic ‘The End’ in Apocalypse now. Perfect score.

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