This list of emotive efforts is compiled in order of release.
The Godfather (1972) – Nino Rota
Family and honor. A certain sophistication and panache. The ‘old country’. Rules and etiquette, and people who will not hold back with if these are broken. All in all, The Godfather.
Taxi Driver (1976) – Bernard Herrmann
Herrmann’s final score invokes all his great Hitchcock ones from the past. The contrast of innocence and sleaze that the movie revolves around (Travis Bickle’s childish naivety and his taste for firearms and porno theatres; Jodie Foster’s world-weary but pubescent prostitute) is clearly portrayed in this memorable piece.
The Deer Hunter (1978) – Stanley Myers
This is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, period.
Chariots of Fire (1981) – Vangelis
Nothing invokes victorious, slow-motion running like this slow-burning theme. The Sun newspaper has been milking it for their London 2012 Olympics coverage for months.
Local Hero (1983) – Mark Knoppfler
Dire Straits are a bit of a joke these days, used for throwaway gags in the likes of Shaun of the Dead (Simon Pegg’s Shaun has no qualms about lobbing one of their LPs at marauding zombies). This pisses me off, as they were one of the best British bands of the ‘80s – and this haunting, gorgeous theme to Bill Forsythe’s wistful tale shows how evocative they could be. Newcastle United F.C. fans will know what I mean.
Crocodile Dundee (1986) – Peter Best
Best’s theme uses guitar, drum, and (notably) didgeridoo to create an outback atmosphere that builds slowly and gets under your skin, working towards a rousing climax. Strewth!
7. Dances with Wolves (1990) – John Barry
You can almost feel the wind blowing through your hair as you survey the vast open frontier, the sun slowly setting across the flatland and bathing the scene in an amber glow. Man I love this theme.
True Romance (1993) – Hans Zimmer
I should, by rights, be putting the music from Terrance Malick’s Badlands ('Gassenhauer' from the classical suite 'Musica Poetica' by Carl Orff) here instead, seeing that Zimmer shamelessly rips it off. But then, True Romance is a pretty shameless flick, and besides I’ve always thought that Badlands is overrated. This theme is an oddly innocent counterpoint to the carnage the film throws up, and reminds us that at its core it is – aw, shucks! – just a sweet tale of love.
Braveheart (1995) – James Horner
Nothing like a good emotional piece of full-on orchestral music to deepen the impact of an anti-English re-working of history. Horner is really the best at this kind of epic, affecting score, and I should also mention the ace dance remix that moved ravers on the dance floor just as much in the late ‘90s.
Requiem for a Dream (2000) – Clint Mansell
At one point, this music was used to add a bit of drama to every reality show and TV spot around. Don’t think any of those featured heroin injections into abscesses or a dirty old man gleefully yelling “Ass to ass!” (although feel free to correct me). Not to mention New Line ripped it off for thier The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers trailer, too. Not hard to see why, as it’s one of the most powerful scores of modern times.