Top 10 Favorite Film Scores

Inception – Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer has written many outstanding film scores in his career, but in my opinion, Inception is his finest: a vivid, imaginative, and throughly entrancing musical soundscape that is every bit as brilliant as the movie it accompanies. Even more amazing is the fact that Zimmer crafted the entire thing without seeing one single frame of the film. He just read the script.
Dream Is Collapsing

The Bourne Supremacy – John Powell
One of the best soundtracks the espionage genre has ever produced. Marked by Powell’s signature fusion of electronics and traditional orchestra, this one has it all: intelligence, emotion, creativity, and adrenaline-soaked action. It’s awesomeness in MP3 format.
Bim Bam Smash

Gladiator – Hans Zimmer
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius…” *cough* Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s only one of the greatest movie lines ever – but I digress. Not only does this score create an enduring backdrop for director Ridley Scott’s Roman epic, it also lends itself extremely well to independent listening. From its glorious battle music to its more poignant moments, this one is a winner all the way.
The Battle
Honor Him

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Complete Recordings) – Howard Shore
I’ve had this score for over four years now, and I’ve never yet grown tired of it. Middle-Earth is actually in the music – you can hear it, you can feel it, you can even see it with your mind’s eye. That’s what I call evocative. And rich. And magnificent. That’s what I call a must-have for Tolkien enthusiasts and soundtrack aficianados alike.
The Battle of Pelenor Fields
The Eagles

How To Train Your Dragon – John Powell
How do I love this score? Let me count the ways: 1) for its memorable themes, 2) for its beauty and energetic fun, and 3) for the fact that John Powell composed it. It also has a Cletic flair to it, and for me, that’s always a plus.
This Is Berk
Forbidden Friendship

The Dark Knight – Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard
Elfman’s gothic grandeur worked well for Tim Burton, but it’s not exactly suited to Christopher Nolan’s gritty re-imagining of the Caped Crusader. Enter Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, two of the finest composers working today. Their score is grim, complex, and forceful, just like the film. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I’ll be the first to call it bona fide brilliance.
Harvey Two-Face
Like a Dog Chasing Cars

Sherlock Holmes/Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Hans Zimmer
I’m including these together as one, since they compliment each other flawlessly. They’re inventive, mysterious, exciting; heck, they’re even comedic, at times (which shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve seen the films). But best of all, they’ve retained their freshness with each listen – and that, my friends, is the mark of great music.

I Am Legend – James Newton Howard
This one packs a bigger punch if you’ve seen the (equally excellent) film, but even non-viewers can appreciate it. Howard captures the tragedy and danger of the movie’s desolated post-apocalyptic world, imbuing the music with a sense of grief and longing and peril. Yet there’s also a determined tone to it – one which beautifully reflects the main character’s unwillingness to give up, even when everything around him is falling apart.
My Name is Robert Neville
Darkseeker Dogs

The Last of the Mohicans – Trevor Jones/Randy Edelman
“Epic” is a sorely overused word these days, especially when it comes to things which are (in all honesty) less than epic. Fortunately, the use of that description is completely warranted for this soundtrack. Actually, it’s somewhat of an understatement, but still…
Main Title
Fort Battle

Saving Private Ryan – John Williams
The score for Steven Spielberg’s WWII film is, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, the magnum opus of John Williams’ entire musical career: it is truly nothing short of a masterpiece. Interestingly enough, rather than mirror the onscreen carnage, Williams opts for a more restrained approach. A wise choice – the result is one of the most haunting, reflective, and heroic scores you’re ever likely to hear.
Hymn to the Fallen
Approaching the Enemy

I know, I know – I’m a geek (even though I’m pretty sure I’m not alone). If you’re a geek, too, share your thoughts down in the comments section. I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or suggestions!

42 thoughts on “Top 10 Favorite Film Scores”

    1. War Horse is probably my second favorite Williams score, and of course, Star Wars is great, too. :) Yes, you should try out more of Powell’s work – he’s got some great stuff out there.

  1. Corey,
    Thanks for sharing this.

    John Barry was the last composer I payed any attention to.(Dances With Wolves, Somewhere In Time). The wife and I spent a weekend at the Macinaw Island Grand Hotel . Brings back memories.
    I think Enya contributed to a score or two on a Lord of The Rings trilogy.

    1. Thanks for commenting, CCT! :) I haven’t listened much to John Barry (besides his music for the old James Bond movies), but I’ve heard plenty of good stuff about his work on Dances With Wolves. And yes, Enya contributed to the LOTR soundtracks. “May It Be” is quite beautiful.

    1. Patrick Doyle did the music for S&S, right? I’ll have to check it out. I’ve listened to The Mission, and agree: it’s a lovely score. “Gabriel’s Oboe” is simply stunning.

  2. Some very good selections! Many of those films were outstanding and the soundtrack equally as good. Couple I think are outstanding are the sound tracks to Forest Gump and Titanic, Philadelphia has a great sound track also.

    1. Yes, I love pretty much every film mentioned, which may be partly why I love the soundtracks so much. I don’t have Forrest Gump or Titanic, and I’ve never heard of Philadelphia – thanks so much for the suggestions! *goes off to look them up* :)

    1. I’ve noticed that whenever I watch a movie I greatly enjoy, I feel compelled to check out the music. :) I’m guessing that accounts for why so many of my favorite soundtracks are from some of my favorite films.

  3. I’ve listened to the vast majority of those ^_^ As well, some of my favorites are Braveheart, Legends of the Fall, Transformers (the first one), and Pirates of the Caribbean….. yup. I think I’ll stop there xD Epic post, of course :)

    1. Haha! I knew you’d like this post, Abby. :) Great suggestions (though I admit I don’t particularly care for the Transformers score). I still need to get my hands on Legends of the Fall.

  4. Hoorah! The soundtrack post is here! :D

    Bourne is there, Sherlock Holmes is there, Hans Zimmer is there = awesomeness. :D The only ones missing are the National Treasure soundtracks, the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks, and the Man from Snowy River soundtrack. ;) I’m looking forward to the Avengers soundtrack being released, because that’s another that I wish to get my hands on.

    Anyways, great post! Thanks for sharing. :D

    1. Yes, the soundtrack post is here! :) I really like the first National Treasure soundtrack, but I only have one track (“Cibola”) from the second one. At World’s End is my favorite of the PotC scores – it’s Zimmer, for cryin’ out loud – and The Man from Snowy River is awesome, too. I love the song “Chase” from that one. I’ve listened to a bit of The Avengers, and I can tell you one thing – the main theme is blooody brilliant. :)

  5. Lord of the Rings & Gladiator are two of my fave’s as well… however, you missed Braveheart! (I know you’re not a big fan of the movie, but what about the soundtrack? I love those pipes & flutes! Incidentally, I just re-watched Gladiator this past weekend – for the first time with my kids. My oldest son Caleb who is 15 now wants to be a Gladiator…

    1. LOL! That’s funny. Though I’m thinking… does he really want to be a gladiator, or does he actually want be Russell Crowe? ;) As for Braveheart… even though I didn’t care for movie (as you know), I think the soundtrack is excellent – it has a permenant place on my “epic music” playlist. :)

  6. Good list, Corey! I want to hear the Sherlock Holmes sometime… Actually, I want to see the film too. I really enjoy listening to soundtracks! As for my favorites… that’s kind of hard.

    Prince of Egypt, Master and Commander, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, How to Train Your Dragon… That’s four. Not exactly in that order. :p I just got the fifth season soundtrack of Doctor Who for my birthday. It’s fast becoming a favorite too. :D

    To the KING be all the glory!

    1. Master and Commander is awesome (both the movie and the music), though I’ve never listened to the Doctor Who soundtracks. Maybe I’ll have to give ’em a go… oh, and happy birthday! :)

      I think you’d enjoy the Sherlock Holmes films. I reviewed them both here and here. :)

      1. You should try listening to them sometime! Season Five was my favorite score, just from watching the show (or, well, lots of the show. We don’t watch all the episodes actually.), but the others are good too. I really like track 9, I think it is. I am the Doctor. For some reason I really like that one. And thank you! :D

        Thanks for the links too. I’ll have to keep an eye on Netflix… I don’t think the second one is there yet. :)

        To the KING be all the glory!

  7. May be I lived a very shelter life from much TV and movies…I’ve only seen 4 of the 10. Definitely need to see Dark Knight…a friend of mine said there are some good presuppositional apologetics sermon illustration…

  8. It’s pretty obvious that we have similar tastes when close to half the links you posted were purple (rather than blue) on my browser. Or it might just mean that I spend too much time listening to film scores on Youtube, haha.

  9. Good list but were is the classic Star Wars soundtrack? Other than that good list and thank you for the comment on my Blog (J and J Productions).

    1. Hi James! Thanks for dropping by! :) I only have the score for The Empire Strikes Back, which is excellent, but not in my top ten. I know John Williams is generally best known for his work with George Lucas, but I find myself liking most of his other even better.

      But of course, “The Imperial March” is pretty hard to beat in terms of awesomeness. :D

  10. I enjoy Hans Zimmer, but I can’t list more than one or two of his scores among my favorites. If I had to pick a top ten, it’d be something like this (rough cut, no particular order):
    -How to Train Your Dragon, John Powell
    -Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, John Williams
    -Back to the Future, Alan Silvestri
    -The Incredibles, Michael Giacchino
    -Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Pt. 2, Alexandre Desplat
    -The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
    -The Dark Knight, Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard
    -Titanic, James Horner
    -Finding Nemo, Thomas Newman
    -The Fellowship of the Ring, Howard Shore

    I do think your list is very good, though. I’ll have to check out I Am Legend and Saving Private Ryan. I’m a huge Williams fan, and I enjoy Newton Howard’s stuff most of the time! I already own all of these except Gladiator, Last of the Mohicans, and the two aforementioned.


    1. What?! You don’t have Gladiator or Last of the Mohicans? How can this be? You must rectify this situation immediately, or else… ;)

      Seriously, though, I like your list – I’m not a big fan of Desplat, but I remember liking the music for Deathly Hallows. I’ve never listened to The Social Network score, even though multiple friends and acquaintances have told me to. I guess I should get on that… :)

      1. I bought the scores to The Social Network and The King’s Speech (Desplat) at the same time, right after the airing of the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony. Social Network won, so I bought them to see which one I’d like better, fully expecting myself to like the Desplat more. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed The Social Network more. Go figure!
        If you listen to it and really like it, I’d suggest checking out the same duo’s score to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s mostly ambient, but it’s 3 hours of music for only $11.99 on iTunes! I find it really enjoyable, at least.

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