Rehashed movie scores

This will probably be a short thread, as most people probably don’t notice these things, but…

Sometimes it seems that a film composer will take the lazy way out and copy a bit of his own work for use in a different movie. What ones have you noticed?

I swear in that last week or so I saw something where I recognized part of the score. I think it was Along Came a Spider.

In The Name of the Rose, William and Adso are discussing the love of a woman, to the strains of some sweet chords in the strings. Why was I reminded of Mr. Spock? Oh yeah, James Horner lifted his own work from Star Trek II.

Star Trek II also had a nice little trumpet riff when Khan was attacking the Enterprise. Horner must have loved it, because he repeated it in Willow.

Speaking of Trek, Star Trek IV had a nice progression of chords in the closing theme. Leonard Rosenman saved himself a little work by taking it directly from Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, most notably in the Helm’s Deep scene.

I hear the theme from Jurassic Park rehashed fairly often (or was it a rehash to begin with?). I’m trying to remember what I’ve heard it in.

More as I think of them.

Oh, just put James Horner’s name all over this thread and get it over with. There’s the legendary four-note, danger motif that is used in Enemy at the Gates, Willow, Troy, Land Before Time, Project X etc. Then there’s how much he rips off from Prokofiev (Glory’s main theme: Ivan the Terrible, Land Before Time: Romeo and Juliet) and others, most notable is how he lifted the Willow theme verbatim from Schumann’s 3rd Symphony. Not to mention Khachaturian’s Gayane Balle Suite in Aliens.

And that’s just the stuff he uses from other people! :smiley: He constantly reuses his own stuff (Searching for Bobby Fisher: Bicentennial Man: A Beautiful Mind) and it becomes distracting for a movie fan since you now know a certain musical piece no longer identifies the scene you had in mind.

A case could be made for Media Ventures (a company started by Hans Zimmer). Pirates of the Caribbean is a complete rehash of any MV-involved score imaginable (check the number of “colaborators” on that one): The Rock, The Peacemaker, Broken Arrow… Speaking of The Peacemaker, it is also a rehash of Crimson Tide, though, in all fairness, Zimmer considers it a continuation of that score (rehash). Then there’s the infamous “Journey to the Line” from The Thin Red Line which makes its way into Pearl Harbor, The Last Samurai, and Magnolia.

There are, of course, several other examples, but these are the most noteworthy. Williams’ theme for The Patriot is a tad too similar to “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Amistad, but it still kicks some ass. Elfman’s Batman theme can be found in Herrmann’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The hobbit theme from Lord of the Rings is eerily similar to “This is My Father’s World”.

We can go on and on, but the truth is, most of them are either too vague or deliberate (such as Williams’ Star Wars and Zimmer’s Gladiator being based on Holst’s “Mars”, at points). There are sites such as this one that record some real ones and some others you simply can’t comprehend why they’re there. What we do know is: Horner’s a hack.

One that jumped out at me the other night when I was watching the first Spiderman movie: the music during one of the scenes where Norman Osborn confronts his Green Goblin alter-ego sounds very much like the Ed Wood theme.

I thought that Danny Elfman did them both, but now that I look at the back of my DVD boxes, I see that Ed Wood’s music was done by Howard Shore.

Horner is, indeed, too easy a target, but the math theme in A Beautiful Mind (“Playing a Game of Go”, “Creating Governing Dynamics,” “Cracking the Russian Codes”) is just theme and variations on the counterpoint from the extremely complex Main Title track of Sneakers.

This is tough to prove but if you listen to the Prokofiev music playing during the ice lake battle sequence in " Aleksander Nevsky ", and then listen to the main theme of the film “Jaws” ( supposedly original music by John Williams, talented thief ) you will see …or hear…a titanic example of hubris and theft.


Actually, I’d argue James Horner’s score for Star Trek II borrows more liberally from Nevsky than Williams does (it is only two notes in the Jaws main theme, after all–notes that I suspect were put together sometime prior to 1975).

If I see any influence of Prokofiev, it’s in the Imperial March from Empire, which sounds a lot like it came from Sergei’s Romeo & Juliet.

John Barry rips himself off frequently. Special attention is given to “You Only Live Twice” & “Midnight Cowboy” as having the same riff, but “Out of Africa” & “Somewhere in Time” are also both remarkably similar.

Danny Elfman’s themes for Batman & Spiderman are quite close, I think.

I don’t think that Elfman ever directly quotes himself (not that I’ve noticed), but he does seem to draw from a limited pallette. He loves him some whole tone scales. After hearing the Simpsons theme approximately 18736 times, my advice is “Diatonic, Danny, diatonic.”

The question becomes this: Is it “moral” for a composer to directly quote himself? After all, if something is good, it’s good. And for filler stuff (as opposed to main themes), it may work just fine in several applications. On the other hand, it smacks of laziness.

Alan Silvestri is another one. I can usually tell it’s his work because they generally have the same hum to it. Think Predator/Back to the Future type.

Nyet, komrade. It’s the way those two notes were used !!!


Two words: Carmina Burana.

John Williams seems to reuse a lot of his old stuff over and over again in the Star Wars movies. I mean, jeez, can’t Darth Vader walk into room and have a DIFFERENT song play? :smiley:

But yeah, I’ve played some of John Williams’ other stuff when I was in band, and it does all sound vaguely like Star Wars music, even when we were doign a song about a circus, IIRC.

One thing I see borrowed from a lot is “Mars - The Warmaker” from Holst’s “The Planets”. It’s actually a very good song to use for battle sequences. I recently noticed that a version of it was used in the final battle music for Fire Birds. It was used rather subtly in that one too.

Of course, some TV shows based on movies (most notably Stargate: SG1) will use themes from the movie in various ways on the show.

No, they’re not.

A lot of people in this thread are saying “Williams’ scores sound similar”, “Silvestri’s too”. Well, Predator and Back to the Future were composed by the same person. Every composer has a stylistic mark, be it in their use of triads (as in Williams’ case), their love for dissonance (Shore), or their love for percussion (Elfman). Of course they’re going to sound similar.

Other examples of what is just not “similar”: David Arnold’s theme to The Musketeer was based on Superman (the director had temp-trackitis).

There’s nothing unique or unusual about this occuring in film music. Composers (of all periods and genres) who do not self-quote are the minority. Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, anywhere you look there’s the whole gamut from knowing and subtle self-reference to wholesale recycling.

The first time I heard a complete CD of Holst’s The Planets I wondered if I had mistakenly put my Star Wars soundtrack in by mistake. I swear I could hear the Main Title, Leia’s Theme, Luke’s Theme, and everything else in Holst. After that, the only thing on the Star Wars soundtrack that seems at all original is the Cantina piece, but I figure I just haven’t come across the inspiration for that one yet.

Of course after ripping off (er, I mean paying homage to) Holst, Williams then seems to re-use his own scores time and again. He reminds me a bit of Taco Bell - a few basic ingredients that he keeps re-arranging and re-combining to create something, “new.” And, like Taco Bell, it’s very satisfying going down, but it doesn’t always sit well.