Once a member of rock band Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman has been one of Hollywood’s most popular and prolific film scorers for many years; his unique style of music earning him countless plaudits including a Grammy, an Emmy and four Oscar nominations. Scoring for every genre of film possible (for instance, last year he scored six films including Dark Shadows, Men in Black III and Silver Linings Playbook) his soundtracks can be anything from creepy and dark to exciting and emotional.
His scores and soundtrack additions have shaped the way we have heard cinema for the last generation as much as Hans Zimmer or Randy Newman, and he unfortunately tends to receive far more criticism than he is due, thanks to a more theatrical conviction in his compositions. But it is certain that when Elfman is on form, he is able to imbue films with personality far more than many of his contemporaries.
So out of many memorable melodies across endless films, presented here for your pleasure are Elfman’s five best soundtracks.
5. Batman Returns (1992)
Danny Elfman is of course best known for his long-time collaboration with kooky director Tim Burton, with Elfman’s music complimenting all but two of Burton’s films (and one of those was Sweeney Todd, a ready-made musical). One of the dynamic duo’s best is the weird and wonderful sequel to Burton’s superhero blockbuster Batman.
While Elfman’s work on the original film is excellent – the superb theme tune which, although it didn’t dislodge ‘NA NA NA NA BATMAN!’ from people’s heads, did go on to be the theme of the popular Batman: The Animated Series – his score for Batman Returns is an improvement.
The soundtrack for Batman is an enjoyable score for an adventure film but in Returns Elfman gets to create distinct theme tunes for the oddball characters that populate the movie. Catwoman’s haunting, sneaking theme which suits the unexplained supernatural side to the character. Similar to Edward Scissorhands (more on that later), the movie has a Christmas setting so Elfman makes use of some seasonal tinkling and ‘ooooh’ vocal work but also creates a feel of menace thanks to the use of screeching strings, something particularly present in the opening scene that reveals the origins of Danny Devito’s Penguin…
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