Last night I sat down and watched Willow (a perennial favorite), and during the scene in the ramshackle village on the snowy mountaintop (where Willow and Mad Mordigan meet up with Eric and the remains of his army), I noticed that the music was incredibly familiar, but from another movie. A split second later, it came to me; it was some very clear echoes of James Horner’s earlier score from Star Trek II (in particular, the song Battle at the Mutara Nebula.
I’ve noticed this once before; Leonard Rosenman lifted some main themes and orchestrations from his Lord of the Rings score (the 1970s movie) and used them fairly in tact for his Star Trek IV score.
I’m just curious how common this is, and if folks have other examples of a composer scoring a film with parts of a score from a previous movie.
Sometimes it’s done as parody or homage, depending on the film. A bit of Randy Newman’s main theme from The Natural was used in Mr 3000 (music by John Powell & Vernon Reid).
James Horner is probably the most notorious culprit when it comes to recycling his own cues from one film to the next (though Hans Zimmer gives him a run for his money). Virtually every prolific (and busy) film composer does it at one point or another, but these two have earned reputations for being serial back-to-the-trough dippers.
The music from Platoon gets used A LOT in other movies. I can’t name any off the top of my head, but every few years I hear one theme in particular used in a new movie.
Danny Elfman has been composing Batman again in pretty much every movie I’ve seen from him in years.
The Incredibles pays homage to the music of James Bond films. For example compare the music in the scene where Mr Incredible finds out about the dead superheros on the database and the space scenes in You Only Live Twice. The trailer also uses the opening theme of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. IIRC at one point John Barry was being considered by Pixar for the Incredibles score.
It didn't strike me at first but there is definitely a resemblance between the the main themes of Schindler's List and Harry Potter; both of course by John Williams.
Nino Rota’s score for The Godfather was ineligible for an Academy Award after it was discovered some of the cues- including the famous theme song- were reused from Rota’s previous score for Fortunella.
Re Elfman and Horner:
Soon after Tim Burton’s Batman came out in 1989, I noted how reminiscent the main theme was of Christopher Young’s score for Hellbound: Hellraiser II, released the previous year. It became a minor running joke with my friends how Elfman had ripped off Young.
Fast forward to 2004, as I’m watching Spider-Man 2 (Danny Elfman credited as composer), and during the scene where Dr. Octavius is demonstrating his fusion reactor, I think: “That music sounds an awful lot like Hellbound… What the heck, after 15 years is Elfman still thumbing his nose at Young?”
Doing a bit of digging, I found out that it was indeed an excerpt from the Hellbound soundtrack – Apparently Elfman and director Sam Raimi had some sort of particularly vicious falling out during the making of the film, and with the soundtrack incomplete, Raimi resorted to filling the gaps with pre-existing music from several sources. Whether he chose Hellbound simply because he liked it, or because it stylistically fit well with Elfman’s stuff, or as a subtle dig at Elfman, remains a mystery to me.
A somewhat less rancorous fight between James Horner and James Cameron during the making of Aliens (they later reconciled for Titanic) also left the score unfinished. Cameron, however, decided to go the OP one better, and recycle bits of the score within the same film, such that the music from the “fleeing the exploding atmosphere converter” scene is repeated at the climax of Ripley’s final brawl with the Queen.
The theme music to the Children of Dune miniseries has been reused in many many trailers.
James Horner’s score for The Rocketeer has been used in a LOT of trailers, I’ve noticed.
Max Steiner’s music for the original 1933 King Kong got used and re-used by RKO, according to the book The Making of King Kong.
The score from Forbidden Planet showed up in other films, including the awful From the Earth to the Moon (NOT the HBO series, I hasten to point out)
Amelie and Good Bye Lenin! both use Comptine d’un autre été: L’après-midi by Yann Tiersen.
That would be Barber’s Adagio for Strings, and yeah, it gets around (actually, looking at that list, it had at least two movie credits to its name before Platoon).