15 Greatest Film Scores of All-Time

What Culture contributors pick some their favourite movie music for your listening pleasure.

Robert Beames

Contributor

At the risk of sounding like I’m about to present a minor category at the Academy Awards, film scores can make or break a movie. They can lift our spirits or make us cry. They can have us punching the air during the climactic final fight or… you get the idea where I’m going with this and I’m pretty sure the importance of music to film is not a hard sell. Many of the greatest films would not have become so iconic or memorable had they not featured such stirring or moving soundtracks. Some movies you could arguably enjoy just as much as a an extended music video for their soundtrack. In fact there’s one film in this list that’s definitely better seen that way (no prizes for guessing which).

We asked our writers to make a case for their favourite bits of movie music and the following is what they came up with. And the result is a bit of a John Williams love-in, with no less than four of the great man’s scores singled out for praise by our team – with Jaws, E.T., Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park making the cut ahead of such stone-cold classics as Star Wars, Close Encounters, Indiana Jones and Superman (blimey, he really does have a great CV).

Two of my favourite scores/composers of recent times – both from Paul Thomas Anderson films, incidentally – don’t even get a mention, so I’ll honour them here: Jon Brion’s woozy and tense yet lyrical score for Punch-Drunk Love, with it’s tenderly romantic central theme (below), and Jonny Greenwood’s similarly edgy and unsettling work on There Will Be Blood.

So, in no particular order, you can read about – and listen to – the choices of some of our writers over the coming pages…