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100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century

 

This is a list of memorable scores from films released
between the 1930s and 1990s.

No musicals or movie songs are included on this list.
They are listed here

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended DVDs

 

If you enjoy music from older films, this DVD is highly recommended. It is hosted with great candor by John Mauceri and includes music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alfred Newman, David Raksin, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Franz Waxman, and all the film scores mentioned are on the
Essential Film Scores list.

This DVD is well worth adding
to your collection:

Music For The Movies: The Hollywood Sound

 

 

 

 

 

 

This DVD is also highly recommended about the distinguished career of the greatest of all past film composers:

Music For The Movies: Bernard Herrmann

 

 

 

 

100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century

Selected by Roger Hall
Managing Editor, Film Music Review

and
member of the International Film Music Critics Association


Preparing any survey of film scores presents a difficult problem.

Which ones to choose and which ones to leave out?

This is not meant to be the definitive film score list. I don't believe that is possible. Tastes change over time.

This survey is meant to be representative of 100 essential scores
from films in English. No foreign language films are included.

It covers the years from 1933 to 1993.

More than 50% of the titles are in the so-called Golden Age (1930s-1950s). Many believe that the most respected and beloved films were made during those three decades. Of course there have been significant films made in other decades as well, only not as many.

Naturally some people may not agree with my choices. It is not possible to please everyone. There are fans of individual composers who would probably pick just about every film score by one composer.

There are three composers of the mid to late 20th century which have been given more titles because they provided the most memorable film scores: Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. This doesn't mean that other film composers are unworthy and more of them would be on a longer list.

It was a very difficult task to place one great film score ahead of another great one. The numbering is meant to establish some order for the 100 film scores and is obviously a matter of opinion -- mine. It is NOT based on any fan polls or other surveys.

Each film score was chosen as representative of significant originality more than just their popularity with audiences over the years.

The only series to make this list were for STAR WARS, with two films listed.

All the numbers have film title, date, and the film composer's name.

Click on the underlined links for CD reviews.

This list was first posted June 2006 and has been revised every year.

The latest revision was made November 2017.

 

100 Essential Film Scores


100. HOWARD'S END (1990) -- Richard Robbins

99. BATMAN (1989) -- Danny Elfman

98. FIELD OF DREAMS (1989) - James Horner

97. THE QUIET MAN (1952) -- Victor Young

96. AVALON (1990) -- Randy Newman

95. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) -- Franz Waxman

94. THE NATURAL (1984) -- Randy Newman

93.+THE PINK PANTHER (1964) -- Henry Mancini

92. THE SAND PEBBLES (1966) -- Jerry Goldsmith

91. RAINTREE COUNTY (1957) -- Johnny Green

90. THE ROBE (1953) -- Alfred Newman

89. THE UNINVITED (1944) -- Victor Young

88. KINGS ROW (1942) -- Erich Wolfgang Korngold

87. THE HEIRESS (1949)- Aaron Copland

86. TRUE GRIT (1969) -- Elmer Bernstein

85. THE OMEN (1976) -- Jerry Goldsmith

84. +OUT OF AFRICA (1985) -- John Barry

83. OUR TOWN (1940) -- Aaron Copland

82. THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965) -- Alfred Newman

81. GOLDFINGER (1964) -- John Barry

80. LUST FOR LIFE (1959) -- Miklos Rozsa

79. HAWAII (1966) -- Elmer Bernstein

78. AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS (1956) -- Victor Young

77. THE SEA HAWK (1941) -- Erich Wolfgang Korngold

76. PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE (1952) -- Miklos Rozsa

75. THE CARDINAL (1963) -- Jerome Moross

74. DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (1962) -- Henry Mancini

73. HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1940) -- Alfred Newman

72. HATARI (1960) -- Henry Mancini

71. THE HURRICANE (1937) -- Alfred Newman

70. SUMMER AND SMOKE (1961) -- Elmer Bernstein

69. SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) -- Max Steiner

68. THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1962) -- Dimitri Tiomkin

67. QUO VADIS (1951) -- Miklos Rozsa

66. ISLANDS IN THE STREAM (1976) -- Jerry Goldsmith

65. WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939) -- Alfred Newman

64. NOW VOYAGER (1942) -- Max Steiner

63. CLEOPATRA (1963) -- Alex North

62. THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY (1954) -- Dimitri Tiomkin

61. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948) -- Max Steiner

60. +A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951) -- Alex North

59. RIO BRAVO (1959) -- Dimitri Tiomkin

58. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) -- Elmer Bernstein

57. IVANHOE (1952) -- Miklos Rozsa

56. THE INFORMER (1935) -- Max Steiner

55. THE LOST WEEEKEND (1945) -- Miklos Rozsa

54. +THE MISSION (1986) -- Ennio Morricone

53. THE RED PONY (1949) -- Aaron Copland

52. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) -- Dimitri Tiomkin

51. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955) -- Elmer Bernstein

50. OBSESSION (1975) -- Bernard Herrmann

49. SHANE (1953) -- Victor Young

48. MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961) -- Bernard Herrmann

47. DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) -- John Barry

46. THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952) -- David Raksin

45. FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966) -- Bernard Herrmann

44. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961) -- Henry Mancini

43. KING OF KINGS (1961) -- Miklos Rozsa

42. +SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) -- Franz Waxman

41. +PLANET OF THE APES (1968) -- Jerry Goldsmith

40. THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943) -- Alfred Newman

39. SUPERMAN (1978) -- John Williams

38.+HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1963) -- Alfred Newman and Ken Darby

37. THE ALAMO (1960) -- Dimitri Tiomkin

36. A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951) -- Franz Waxman

35. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) -- Bernard Herrmann

34. THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940) -- Miklos Rozsa

33. THE SEARCHERS (1956) -- Max Steiner

32. THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1946) -- Bernard Herrmann

31.THE RUSSIA HOUSE (1990) -- Jerry Goldsmith

30. EL CID (1961) -- Miklos Rozsa

29. DUEL IN THE SUN (1946) -- Dimitri Tiomkin

28. +JAWS (1975) -- John Williams

27. +LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) -- Maurice Jarre

26. +E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) -- John Williams

25. THE BIG COUNTRY (1958) -- Jerome Moross

24 . +STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE (1977) -- John Williams

23. CASABLANA (1942) -- Max Steiner

22. +GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) -- Max Steiner

21.+LAURA (1944) -- David Raksin

20. PATTON (1970) -- Jerry Goldsmith

19. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER
(originally titled: ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY, 1941)
-- Bernard Herrmann

18. +CHINATOWN (1974) -- Jerry Goldsmith

17. RED RIVER (1948) -- Dimitri Tiomkin

16. SPELLBOUND (1945) -- Miklos Rozsa

15. +THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) -- Elmer Bernstein

14. STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) -- John Williams

13.NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) -- Bernard Herrmann

12 . SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993) -- John Williams

11. +PSYCHO (1960) -- Bernard Herrmann

10. +THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) -- Erich Wolfgang Korngold

9. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) -- John Williams

8. SPARTACUS (1960) -- Alex North

7. +HIGH NOON (1952) -- Dimitri Tiomkin

6. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) -- Hugo Friedhofer

5. +KING KONG (1933) -- Max Steiner

4. +TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) -- Elmer Bernstein

3. +VERTIGO (1958) -- Bernard Herrmann

2. + BEN-HUR (1959) -- Miklos Rozsa

+ = American Film Institute's "100 Years of Film Scores"

And the top film score is from what is generally regarded as the greatest American film...

1. CITIZEN KANE (1941) -- Bernard Herrmann

 

By Decade:

1930s = 7

1940s = 23

1950s = 24

1960s = 24

1970s = 10

1980s = 8

1990s = 4

Film composers with 3 or more scores on the Essential Film Scores list:

Bernard Herrmann = 10

Miklos Rozsa = 9

Max Steiner = 8

Dimitri Tiomkin = 8

Elmer Bernstein = 7

Jerry Goldsmith = 7

Alfred Newman = 7

John Williams = 7

Henry Mancini = 4

Victor Young = 4

John Barry = 3

Erich Wolfgang Korngold = 3

Franz Waxman = 3

Aaron Copland = 3

Alex North = 3


Most of these composers are mentioned or discussed in this book available on a multimedia computer DVD with bonus audio and video features:

 

A GUIDE TO FILM MUSIC (7th edition)

 

 

 

 

Film Music Web Poll

See the film scores and movie songs selected at this link:

Film Music Web Poll

 

 

 

20 Essential Movie Musicals

Favorite Movie Song Poll


 

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