Best film score of different genres.

I’ll be somewhat vague/open about what qualifies as a genre, but I’m generally looking for the score best at conveying the mood of a movie, or just an outstanding piece of work in any given genre.

I’ll start with the one that made me think to write this thread.

For a gloomy/morose movie, the Memento score (David Julyan) is excellent.

It’s absolutely bleak, and captures the feeling of futility in the movie really well. It fits. It’s extremely depressing, but nice in its own way.

Action Suspense - Predator score (Alan Silvestri).

Very good at creating a sense of, at times, urgency, confusion, suspense… and still a good action movie score overall.

Head-stomping action: Conan the Barbarian score (Basil Poledoris).

There’s actually some great stand-alone music on the score, definitely one of my favorites of all time. It’s just excellent orchestral work. The themes are very good, and work well in the movie to get you in the mood to watch some people being decapitated. Some of the score in the movie doesn’t fit especially well, but most of it is excellent as a stand-alone music piece, while other parts of the score fit absolutely perfectly.

I’ll probably list more as I think of them.
I wish they’d have got Poledoris to do the LOTR soundtracks. I was generally unimpressed by Howard Shore’s work on it. I think he’s great for some stuff, but swords and sorcery isn’t his thing.

Not quite sure how to classify this one…

Mystery/Suspense - Silence of the Lambs score (Howard Shore). Every piece on the score is an excellent standalone piece of music, but it all fits the mood of the movie perfectly, too. It’s mostly atmospheric, rather than driving, and that works perfectly. Definitely one of my favorite scores.

I’m going back a bit farther:

Historical adventure: The Adventures of Robin Hood by Korngold. I can’t imagine the movie without it.

Horror/suspense: Psycho, by Bernard Herrman. Atypical, all strings, but iconic and tense/creepy.

I love the score for Babe by Nigel Westlake. Great composer with a real ability to evoke and compliment scenes of nature and the outdoors. He also has in incredible cd called Entomology.

Also, you can’t beat Danny Elfman for the Tim Burton genre; dark yet childlike surrealism.

The music in Signs is quite haunting. Even better, the whole thing is based on three notes. Much like Beethoven’s fifth (the later being four notes)

Western: Ennio Morricone’s score for Once Upon a Time in the West is suitably epic and melodramatic. I think it wonderfully maximizes the emotional impact of the final showdown between Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson. I believe much, if not all, of it was actually composed before the film was shot.

John Barry’s various “James Bond” scores are definitive, particularly Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and The Living Daylights, and his haunting score for Moonraker was manifestly the best thing about that film. The non-Barry scores have been disappointing to say the least, although I’d argue that McCartney did his best solo work on the credit track to Live And Let Die.

Barry has a style that can be distinguesed elsewhere. I remember watching the poorly-promoted and seen Enigma and thinking it sounded like a particularly mournful Bond score. Sure enough, Barry wrote and conducted the theme music. He was also supposed to do the score to The Incredibles, but then declined (apparently he didn’t want to return to doing a Bond-ish score), but Michael Giacchino did a fantastic job of mimicing Barry.

Ennio Morricone did fantastic work, not only on Sergio Leone films (and an astonishing number of films starring Clint Eastwood) but also on other films, like John Carpenter’s The Thing.

And of course, Greek New Age composer Vangelis with Blade Runner, The Bounty, Nankyoku monogatari and *L’apocalypse des animaux *. I’m not a New Age fan (nor do I care for most of his other, non-film score work) but his music is often the best things about the films they score, as with 1492: Conquest of Paradise.


I always thought the soundtrack to Goodfellas was as close to perfect as you can get for the feel of a movie.

The score to Hunt For Red October was pretty damned good. Basil Poledouris as well, I think.

And of course the score to Amadeus, which was more or less all Mozart.

The only soundtrack I own is A Perfect World and although mostly it is a collection of classic country songs it has 2 pieces from Clint Eastwood and Lennie Niehaus - Big Fran’s Baby and End Credits Medley which includes the theme. The former is the single most evocative bit of movie music I have ever heard, to this day I can virtually see the scenes in my head.

I really liked Eastwood’s score for Million Dollar Baby and the, probably mostly unknown, Paul Kelly score for Lantana.

Creepy Hannibal Lecter Genre - The score from Manhunter.

I love all the Shriekback tunes, especially This Big Hush. It was done by Michael Mann, the guy who did Miami Vice.

I’d nominate the soundtrack from The Piano. Just brilliant.

Morricone’s score to The Mission managed to combine heavenly beauty with menacing tension - very effective in portraying the South American tribes before and after the Europeans brought them religion.

Monster’s Ball has a great score. Impressionistic guitar looping that never resolves until the last sentence of the movie. It such a great release of tension. If you like this style of music, check out Bill Frisell who somewhat pioneered this style

While I agree that Hermann’s Psycho is brilliant, his NxNW is clearly my favorite.

In the Remake of a Classic About Young Boys Standed on a Tropical Island category, Lord of the Flies wins for bet ripoff of Stravinsky.

James Horner had me with Star Trek II. Howard Shore bowled me over with The Fly.

And who did Farenheit 9/11? I really liked that.


I will say that the score for Lord of the Rings was absolutely perfect, and anybody who disagrees can step out outside. :wink:

The barn-raising scene from Witness had just about the best movie music I have ever heard… Maurice Jarre, if I recall correctly.

The Usual Suspects (John Ottman) is hauntingly beautiful. I know the CD straight through. . . “The Greatest Trick” and both versions of “Main Theme” are excellent.

Having sung four performances of the Lord of the Rings symphony, which is based on the music from the film scores, I can assure you that it’s actually quite boring and repetitive. :slight_smile: