Best Music Scores Part I


John Williams. Hans Zimmer. Danny Elfman. James Horner.

Soundtrack composers have been elevated to the status of celebrities and rock stars in their own right. Though most people might not know what John Williams looks like,  everyone, whether they know it or not, knows his music. If you ask someone who their favorite composer is, you’re likely to get Hans Zimmer as an answer.

But let’s be honest, sometimes it’s difficult sitting through an entire movie soundtrack because of all the ominous music when you’re not feeling very ominous, or majestic music when you’re not feeling very accomplished.

Or you see a movie and you think, Wow, that music is beautiful. But when you look at the track titles on the soundtrack, you have know idea which one that piece of music falls under.

Music scores inspire me, and they help jog my imagination before I sit down to write. Scores challenge me to make my fictional worlds bigger and more lively. Here’s a few soundtrack pieces from movies you might not have ever considered adding to your collection. It’s okay if you haven’t seen the movies, just take a listen to the scores and share some of your favorite movie scores with us in the comments below.

Aaron Zigman, “Into the Forrest” from Bridge to Terabithia: 

If you can’t handle highly emotional movies, stay away from this Disney/Walden Media flick. But the music composed here that takes the viewers and its characters from reality to the land of Terabithia is magical in its own right. 

Basil Poledouris and Hans Zimmer, “Main Title” from White Fang:

When I was around eight years old my family and I took an Alaskan cruise. The theater onboard the ship played – appropriately – White Fang. And up until I found this score just a couple months ago, I remembered this haunting tune all those years, often humming it when I was alone or writing without music. 

Brian Tyler, “Main Title Overture” from The Greatest Game Ever Played:

This is from a lesser known Disney movie (I know, all of these happen to be from Disney  which is actually coincidental), staring the kid from those Transformers movies. I highly recommend it if you’re like me and prefer slower, historical movies. But the theme here practically tells the story on its own, about victory in the face of adversity and hardship. A great listen if you’re feeling defeated.

Christophe Beck, “Paperman” from “Paperman”:

“Paperman” is a short cartoon put out by Disney which featured before Wreck-it-Ralph. It’s hard to admit, but this short film is better than all of Pixar’s shorts (coming close to the one with the magician and his rabbit: “Presto”). Never has a short made me feel so much emotion and made me root so hard for its protagonist. If you haven’t seen it, just Youtube Paperman. The score here is fresh, and very original. 

Michael Gore, “Theme” from Terms of Endearment:

This movie made me fall in love with Shirley McLain’s acting. But the theme here is just as good as her performance. If you look for it on iTunes, punch in “Theme from Terms of Endearment by Cincinnati Pops Orchestra” – it’s a much better version than what Youtube has here.

Post your favorite scores below, even new takes on familiar scores are welcome!


Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

32 thoughts on “Best Music Scores Part I

  1. You are speaking my language once again. I love soundtracks. I’ve been listening to the Piano Guys a lot lately. I really love their cover of “A Thousand Years”:
    Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for Inception was amazing, especially the track “Time.” And “Dream within a Dream.” And, yeah, the whole thing.
    The Disney/Pixar movie “Up” had this great piece “The Stuff We Did”:
    This is also the I-triple-dog-dare-you-to-keep-a-dry-eye scene.
    “Harry and Hermione” from Half-Blood Prince:

    1. “A Thousand Years” has become one of my favorite songs lately. It’s so… haunting, for lack of a better word, and this musical piece you provided does the song justice. Just beautiful.

      I listen to the Up tracks quite a bit, and yes, it’s difficult to keep sober during them. “Carl Goes Up” and “Married Life” are my go-to tracks from this soundtrack.

      And almost any scene with Harry and Hermione from “The Half Blood Prince” on up are just priceless. Love this piece you provided. Thank you. (I also like the song “O Children” that they dance to. It had to grow on me, but it works.)

  2. John Williams? He’s a hack. Never wrote an original note in his life. His score for Star Wars is a total rip-off of “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. But the general public isn’t that discerning, and money talks.

    Now Danny Elfman, on the other hand, is a true original.

  3. I’d have John Williams, Danny Elfman, Dave Grusin, Thomas Newman, and MORE on my list of faves. A few that stand out in my mind right now are the soundtracks for Atonement (Dario Marianelli), or The Grifters (Elmer Bernstein). Requiem’s Clint Mansell was one that I also really liked, though it’s nothing epic. I really could go on, but I’m sure you know a good score when you hear one!

      1. Yes, yes, yes. And what I like about him is that his style is so distinct, and you can pick it out right away, but then again, not every score sounds the same!

  4. I’m an 80’s child, so I’m going for the Indiana Jones theme as the best ever. It gives me a shiver every time I hear it!

  5. I feel the need to disagree with Eric about John Williams. At least all of his scores have their own unique sound. Danny Elfman on the other hand . . . though his scores certainly stand-apart from all other composers, they all sound the same. You hear the score from Edward Scissorhands and it sounds just like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He has one sound that he uses over and over and over again. That is strictly my opinion though.

    1. Talk about always sounding the same, Williams is the king of that shtick. If Danny Elfman’s scores sound similar, at least it’s because he HAS a distinctive style. (Does Pee Wee’s Big Adventure sounds like Nightmare Before Christmas? I don’t see it)

    2. Actually, I agree. The score for Alice in Wonderland always brings me back to the Spiderman score – his work is absolutely wonderful, but John Williams does mix it up a bit more.

  6. One of my favorites – Alan Silvestri…Forrest Gump, Contact, Cast Away, Back to the Future, The Avengers…we used his Forrest Gump theme in our wedding…

    1. In your wedding, that’s awesome! Love Silvestri — Father of the Bride, A Christmas Carol… the list goes on. Cast Away has such a cool theme — even though there’s no music in the whole movie until he gets off the island. Well worth the wait, though 🙂

  7. Hack or not, most people know and enjoy scores from Williams. I know I do. Best Williams is Jurasic Park. Williams relies more in strings where Elfman is heavier on the horns. Like MIB theme. Zimmer to me is a good mix of both. Call me weird but I like the theme to original Batman movie in 89.

    1. I LOVE the original Batman theme. I almost put it in this list but decided to wait on it. And your’e right – Zimmer is a perfect mixture of both Williams and Elfman. Never thought of it that way.

  8. Thank you for reminding me about “Paperman.” Just thinking about the it now brings back some of the emotions I experienced when watching it.

    Thank you for visiting my NaNoWriMo blog!

  9. Thanks for the introduction to so much great music. When I think of soundtracks I like, the first that comes to mind is always the one from the 1968 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Nino Rota, and second is from ‘The Mission’ by Ennio Morricone. The theme ‘The Gael’ for ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ by Dougie Maclean is also stunning.

  10. I love how when you listen to scores non stop like I used to, you eventually can listen to a random piece and know which composer wrote it because you know his style. That was a profound moment for me. Great post and thanks for the follow!

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