Film Music Review
The Sammy awards










The 15th Annual
Best Film Music of the Year


Other than the New Film Score CDs for 2012, there are three time periods for the older soundtracks:

The Golden Age -- 1930s to 1950s

The Silver Age -- 1960s and 1970s

The Bronze Age -- 1980s and 1990s

Our three film music critics select what they believe are the best film music releases of 2012...



Selected by Roger Hall


Best New Film Score CDs

Best Golden Age Soundtrack CDs

Best Silver Age Soundtrack CDs

Best Bronze Age Soundtrack CDs

Best Compilation CDs

Best Album Producers

Best Record Labels


Selected by Steven A. Kennedy

Thoughts from the past year

Best New Soundtrack CDs

Best Golden Age Soundtrack CDs

Best Silver and Bronze Age Soundtrack CDs

Best Compilation CDs

Selected by Steve Vertlieb

Best Film Music Soundtrack CDs

Other Links

Previous Best Film Music (2005-2011)

100 Film Scores From The Past

The 25th Annual
Sammy Awards (or Sammys)
for Film Music CDs


The Sammy Awards for 2012



The Sammys and Best of the Year

By Roger L. Hall

Ever since 1988, I have been selecting the best film soundtracks, songs, and compilations for the Sammy Film Music Awards (or The Sammys). These awards are named after the movie lyricist, Sammy Cahn, who received 4 Oscars for his songs and was nominated more times than any other songwriter from the past.

This is the 15th year for the FMR Best of the Year survey.

I'm pleased that this year all three of us have chosen what we believe are the Best Film Music Releases of 2012 and we agree on four of the soundtracks [see below].

When considering the merits of film music, a critic can only express his or her opinion based on what they hear. So this list is naturally subjective.

What I'm pleased about this past year was the amount of high quality releases of vintage and also some new soundtracks too.

My CD choices are based on only those I have listened to and no claim is made to be comprehensive. There are just too many film music releases to hear them all and evaluate them.

FILM MUSIC REVIEW is focused on highlighting vintage soundtracks.
As a film music historian, I'm grateful for the attention paid to our film music heritage.
We need to remember and restore these classic film scores from the past just like the restoration of classic films from the past.

We also need to have new film composers who will be able to contribute value to the films they work on. One example is Austin Wintory's exceptional score for the video game, JOURNEY.

Here now are my choices for...


Best Film Music of 2012


Best New Soundtrack CDs

Music by Dario Marianelli

Like his earlier, ATONEMENT, this is another
outstanding highly refined film score by Marianelli.



Music by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil
(Water Tower Music)

This is a most impressive film score with magical musical moments,
especially the main theme, "Cloud Atlas Sextet."


Music by Austin Wintory

A powerful and beautiful score
by this most promising young film composer.



Music by John Williams
(Sony Classical)

In the realm of his earlier political film scores, AMISTAD, JFK and NIXON,
this is an excellent score by the world's best known film composer.


Music by Alexandre Desplat
(Varese Sarabande)

An outstanding film score
from the highly productive and perceptive Alexandre Desplat,
now among the first rank of film composers.



Best Golden Age Soundtracks CDs



music by Max Steiner
(Tribute Film Classics 2 CD box set)



BEN-HUR - 5 CD Box Set
music by Miklos Rozsa
(Film Score Monthly)



North By Northwest (Complete Original Soundtrack)

music by Bernard Herrmann
(Intrada CD)


music by Miklos Rozsa
(Prometheus Records 2 CDs)


music by Victor Young
(La-La Land)



music by Max Steiner


Best Silver Age Soundtracks CDs


Music by Henry Mancini
(Intrada CD)


SHIP OF FOOLS - Music by Ernest Gold
(Monstrous Movie Music)


Best Bronze Age Soundtrack CDs


Music by John Barry
(Film Score Monthly, 2 CDs)



music by Ernest Gold
(Monstrous Movie Music)

Best Compilation CDs

The Greatest Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin


Great Motion Picture Themes



THE WESTERNS - Music and Songs From Classic Westerns
(Jasmine 2 CDs)

Best Album Producers

Anna Bonn, William Stromberg, John Morgan

Douglass Fake

James Fitzpatrick

Lukas Kendall

David Schecter and Kathleen Mayne


Best Record Labels











Best New Film Music Books



Musique Fantastique (Book One)

(Randall Larson)



The Music of James Bond
(Jon Burlingame)



The Songs of Hollywood
(Philip Furia and Laurie Patterson)




The Best of 2012

Selected with comments by Steven A. Kennedy


Thoughts from the past year...

Roger noted that this is our 15 th year of providing “best of” lists. It is quite hard to believe that somehow we have both waded through releases to discover some of the best film music old and new that is available. The shift to digital downloads continues to impact the industry and for a reviewer it often means getting piles of genre scores. Many of these would, and should not have, ever seen the light of day. The availability of electronics and software to recreate instruments is a godsend perhaps to many composers, but the results are often not very listenable. Who would have thought that musique concrete would make a comeback? But that is essentially what has happened in its own unique film way.

At the same time, the plethora of on-line commentary means that listeners must wade through a lot of uneducated blogs and web sites with a limited world view or historical perspective. These were not around much when Roger started his site. The sort of critical commentary will no doubt find Les Miserables to be the best score of the year, which is of course silly since this is simply a Broadway show brought to the screen, well, but not “new”—and I do not mean to knock this great score. Of course, Broadway film musicals tend to get this sort of attention in every era, but today you have a better chance getting notice if the music is pop-based rather than orchestral anyway.

Roger and I often tend to like similar film music, though we have had our differences of opinion thankfully. The results of our diverse listening opportunities this past year will allow everyone a chance to reconsider a release that might have slipped by your radar.

If there was to be one “complaint” for the release of older scores, it would be that so many so-called “limited editions” are now being re-issued again. While it is great to allow listeners a chance to get a copy of a favorite score that sold out before, some of these editions feel redundant, especially when there is a lot of unreleased music still out there. Film Score Monthly slowly exited the CD production market this year while La-La Land and Intrada stepped up releases. In the case of Intrada, they made a great marketing decision related to limited releases by simply letting people buy the music and to quite speculating on small runs by buying more than one copy. It certainly helped fans get the music they wanted without missing out on great music.

Best New Soundtrack Releases

Some of the best scores this year were for really bad movies (JOHN CARTER anyone?) and of the many superhero movies, even Silvestri’s THE AVENGERS just felt generic. Shore’s return to Middle Earth was really just more of the same music from LOTR—brilliantly scored and engaging, but nothing new. I also thought the use of music in CLOUD ATLAS was really quite fascinating and though that score does not appear in my lists, the film will certainly be something to mine for the future when it appears on Blu-Ray. I have listed five scores that stood out and five more new scores that are equally worth ones attention.

Listed in alphabetical order:

Top Five


BRAVE - Patrick Doyle



The Dark Knight Rises: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack




The Impossible (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

THE IMPOSSIBLE - Fernando Velazquez


LINCOLN - John Williams


Won't Back Down (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

WON'T BACK DOWN - Marcelo Zarvos


Honorable Mention:

INVADER – Lucas Vidal

SHADY LADY – Moritz Schmittat


THE WOMAN IN BLACK – Marco Beltrami

THE WORDS – Marcelo Zarvos


Best Golden Age Soundtracks CDs

Two rather different scores from the Golden Age I feel are must haves for film music fans.

ROCKETSHIP X-M - Ferde Grofe

SHANE – Victor Young


Best Silver Age and Bronze Age Soundtrack Releases

Ben Hur

BEN HUR (1925/1987) - Carl Davis (Carl Davis Collection)

THE BLACK CAULDRON - Elmer Bernstein

BODY HEAT – John Barry (Film Score Monthly)

BLADE RUNNER – Vangelis (Buy Soundtrax)

CHARADE – Henry Mancini (Intrada)

HATARI! – Henry Mancini (Intrada)

HOOK – John Williams (La-La Land Records)

IT'S ALIVE – Bernard Herrmann (Film Score Monthly)

THE SHADOW - Jerry Goldsmith (Intrada)

SHIP OF FOOLS - Ernest Gold (Monstrous Movie Music)



Best Compilation Releases

Golden Age of Hollywood, Vol. 3

The Complete Harry Potter Film Music Collection (Silva)

The Golden Age of Hollywood 3 (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)

The Greatest Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin (LSO Live)

The Music of Arthur Benjamin and Leighton Lucas (Chandos)

Super Themes (Silva)


The Best Film Music Soundtracks

Selected with comments by Steve Vertlieb



1. QUO VADIS - Miklos Rozsa 

One of this three time Oscar winning composer's most monumental works, recorded brilliantly for Prometheus by producer James Fitzpatrick, with Nic Raine conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus to fabulous effect.

The Red House

2. THE RED HOUSE - Miklos Rozsa 

A stunning, spectacular new recording of Miklos Rozsa's landmark score, vibrantly conducted by Allan Wilson with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Winchester Cathedral Chamber Choir...a haunting musical masterpiece.

3. STAR TREK - the complete original series 15 CD box set

This hugely ambitious, comprehensive, archival box set is a must have for any fans of the original music for STAR TREK.

4. LINCOLN - John Williams

While quietly respectful of the magnitude of its subject, John Williams' minimalist score is nonetheless the most eloquent, beautiful motion picture music of the year, reflecting the stature and dignity of both Lincoln and his musical biographer.

5. DESTINATION MOON - Leith Stevens 

This striking futuristic symphony captures the excitement and exhilaration of space exploration and discovery with Leith Stevens' pioneering, complete original soundtrack recording...released for the first time in its eerie entirety. 


A haunting rhapsody from the pen of one of the screen's greatest composers preserved at last for posterity.

7. THE RAT RACE - Elmer Bernstein 

Elmer Bernstein's throbbing jazz accompaniment to this bitter sweet tale of survival on the mean streets of New York is a compelling backdrop by a great modern composer.

8. SHIP OF FOOLS - Ernest Gold

Ernest Gold's wonderfully romantic score captures the doomed cynicism of passengers bound for both personal and societal damnation.

9.  SHANE - Victor Young 

Victor Young's classically expansive western score is among the most beautiful of his career, and a poetic salute to the dignity and heroism of its iconic title character.


Another of Victor Young's most lovely scores, capturing the beauty and weightless exhilaration of winged flight among the clouds.

War of the Worlds / When Worlds Collide

11. WAR OF THE WORLDS - Leith Stevens 

A worthy musical sequel to his earlier tale of early space flight, the tables are turned as Martian invaders attack the Earth with a frighteningly impressive score by this wonderful, if sadly underrated, composer.

12. HATARI! - Henry Mancini 

One of Henry Mancini's most joyously exciting and diverse motion picture scores...portraying the wonder, mystery, and utter exuberance of Africa and those intrepid wild animal warriors who were paid to "Bring 'Em Back Alive."




All three FMR critics agree on these soundtrack releases in 2012:

HATARI! - Henry Mancini

LINCOLN - John Williams

SHANE - Victor Young

SHIP OF FOOLS - Ernest Gold


Two FMR critics agree on these releases:

QUO VADIS - Miklos Rozsa

The Greatest Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin (compilation)





Previous Best Film Music Releases


Best Film Music CDs of the Decade




14th Annual Survey - 2011

13th Annual Survey - 2010

12th Annual Survey - 2009

11th Annual Survey - 2008

10th Annual Survey - 2007

9th Annual Survey - 2006

8th Annual Survey - 2005



100 Film Scores From The Past


Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century



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Best Film Music of 2012



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Film Music Review (Winter-Spring 2013)

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