Film Music Review
The Sammy awards








The 18th Annual
Best Film Music Releases


Most online lists at this time of year have only recent films released during the past year.

Film Music Review has not followed this regimented routine and in the past has listed up to 20 releases on its Best of the Year lists, with an emphasis on vintage soundtrack releases since most online lists devote themselves exclusively to newer film score releases.

It is customary to praise restored films but restored or re-issued soundtracks should also be recognized and they have been included in Best of the Year lists on Film Music Review.

The lists are from two Film Music Review critics: Roger L. Hall and Steven A. Kennedy. Both are members of the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA).

Both new and vintage soundtrack releases will be included when the 28th Annual Sammy Film Music Awards (The Sammys), the longest-running awards for best soundtrack releases on CD, are announced on 14 February 2016.

Below are the choices of our reviewers for Film Music Review's annual survey of...






Best Film Music Releases of 2015

Selected by Roger L. Hall


Fortunately, as in past few years,
there are still many worthwhile vintage soundtracks being released
and they make up most of my list.
These soundtracks are all are worth adding to your music collection.
My ten choices are arranged in alphabetical order:


Best New Releases

Since Film Music Review focuses on vintage soundtracks,
I have only two new soundtracks on my list by
two of today's greatest film music masters.
For more new releases, see Steve Kennedy's choices below


The Danish Girl (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

THE DANISH GIRL - Alexandre Desplat (Decca/London)
on YouTube


Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Walt Disney Records

STAR WARS - THE FORCE AWAKENS - John Williams (Walt Disney Records)



Best Vintage Film Scores Newly Recorded or Reissued

Here are four memorable scores by Tiomkin, Goldsmith, Dragon and Rozsa
from films of the 1950s and 1960s...

GIANT (2 CDs) - Dimitri Tiomkin (La-La Land Records)
One of Tiomkin's great film scores of the 1950s with a memorable Main Theme


In Harm's Way (Expanded Original Soundtrack)

IN HARMS WAY - Jerry Goldsmith (Intrada)
a marvelous early Goldsmith score for a film
and Jerry Goldsmith makes a brief appearance at the piano


INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS - Carmen Dragon (La-La Land Records)
After so many years, it is a real treat to finally have this terrific score, with extra source music.


SODOM & GOMORRAH - Miklos Rozsa (Prometheus 2 CDs)
another high quality release with a new recording
from the team of James Fitzpatrick, Leigh Phillips, Frank K. DeWald,
and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Nic Raine.
Most impressive cue: "Battle of the Dam" (CD 2, Track 2 - previously unreleased)


Best Compilations

Two wonderful film noir music collections...


DOUBLE INDEMNITY - Paramount Film Noir in Hollywood (Intrada 2 CDs)
Recommended especially to film noir fans who want to hear what can be done by film music masters.



Jazz Noir - Various artists

JAZZ NOIR - 60 Menacing Masterpieces of Mystery, Murder & Mayhem (Not Now Music 3 CDs)
a wonderful collection of themes from many memorable movies, especially from the 1950s



Best Soundtrack Covers

These are the best looking covers from recommended releases featuring
music by the greatest of past film composers, Bernard Herrmann:

HANGOVER SQUARE/FIVE FINGERS - Bernard Herrmann (Kritzerland)


OBSESSION - Bernard Herrmann (Music Box Records & Tadlow Music)




Best Film Music Releases of 2015

Selected by Steven A. Kennedy


With the continued market drop of CDs, most music submitted for review is from download sources.  Notably, this means that a lot of music is released that even a decade ago would not have seen the light of day.  For those of us who listen to a lot of new film music, that can make it often easier to note some that really do stand out among the pack and as far as new scores go, there are actually a few.  One caveat is that I have not had a chance yet to hear Morricone’s new score which for his fans is what John Williams’ The Force Awakens is for those fans. There were a number of equally fine limited edition releases of older film scores, though these days that tends to be 1970s and newer then stuff from the Golden Age which tended to be hard to keep up with a decade or so ago.

First then, here are five scores worth revisiting from 2015.Fortunately, as in past few years,

Best New Releases

Cinderella: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

CINDERELLA – Patrick Doyle
Though certainly demanding to be in the grand style,  Doyle’s score is really a magnificent throwback to the romantic films of 50 years ago.  Whole sequences require music that is given free rein to unfold often with gorgeous results.

 Is it more of the same?  Well, yes and no.  The piano theme works quite well to provide a stunning difference from the rest of the musical intensity.  The sound of the score builds upon Williams’ own compositional development and experiments as well and a few standalone themes and a new march may eventually find their way to frequent musical appearances.  Though nothing stands out perhaps as some of the thematic threads did in the previous 6 scores. 


CAROL and MR. HOLMES – Carter Burwell
I need to cheat a bit here (as I usually like to limit one score from a composer a year) with two wonderful, and slightly different scores from Carter Burwell.  MR. HOLMES is a fascinating and often languid score that works quite well in the film which unfolds very slowly.  But, it is CAROL that actually impresses more with touches of vibraphone (recalling Yared’s THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY) and some additional nods to MILLER’s CROSSINGand even FARGO.  Both are stellar efforts from an often overlooked composer


TRUMBO – Theodore Shapiro
The film may have peaked too soon, but Shapiro’s jazzy score even seems to pull in the ghost of Bernard Herrmann at times (the “Prologue” and script montages are most fascinating in this respect).  Also notable are some of the avant-garde stylistic approaches to help emphasize conflict in what is probably the composer’s finest work to date.


Armstrong’s score for the Hardy update was another surprise of the year with strong thematic writing, especially a fine love theme, coupled with excellent orchestrations that help highlight the narrative well.  At times it was like a blend of Warbeck and period drama Barry.  Not bad company, and a score that plays well on its own to boot.


Other Notable CDs:

Some of the other additional surprises include Joe Kraemer’s exciting action score for MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION; Rob Simonsen’s really touching score for THE AGE OF ADALINE; Hans Zimmer’s electronic experiments and reminders of his earlier days of composition with CHAPPIE; a rather delightful score from Ilan Eshkeri for the SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE; and one of Brian Tyler’s finest scores for the uneven drama TRUTH.


Best Re-issues

Double Indemnity: Film Noir at Paramount

DOUBLE INDEMNITY: Paramount Film Noir in Hollywood
Miklos Rozsa/Hugo Friedhofer/Franz Waxman/Gail Kubik/Leith Stevens/Heinz Roemheld/
Victor Young (Intrada)

Intrada seems to find a way of wowing film score fans the most towards the end of the year and that certainly happened with this 2-disc set bringing some great film noir scores together topped with Rozsa’s classic DOUBLE INDEMNITY.  There some other gems here as well with a chance to hear Waxman’s SORRY, WRONG NUMBER being one of them.  Music by Gail Kubik is also a rather intriguing surprise with its more angular and contemporary sound standing out uniquely—one of the likely reasons most of the score was not used.  What the set does allow for is a chance to hear some lesser film scores that also helped to cement this particular musical approach in a really engaging release.

Jaws 2 - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2CD)


JAWS 2 (1978) – John Williams (Intrada)
Then there was JAWS 2.  The label released this concurrently with JAWS which was remixed to correct some of the complaints from the previous expanded version from a few years ago.  Personally, the themes and assuredness of the sequel score was always a favorite so having the score complete and in order was quite welcome.  Though admittedly, the original album was still pretty good in terms of representation, the sound here is certainly greatly improved.



OBSESSION (1976) – Bernard Herrmann (Music Box Records)
Almost easy to overlook, Herrmann’s VERTIGO redux of sorts. OBSESSION, finally got a stellar reissue that allowed fans of his music to revel in the rich orchestral swirls and musical style of this grand master. 

A Boy Named Charlie Brown (Rod McKuen)


A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN (1969/1970) – Rod McKuen (Varese Sarabande Records)
Rod McKuen’s score for this Charles Schultz classic was a reminder of his great talent in a very nostalgic release that features wonderful songs and wistful underscoring.

Belstone Fox-Original Soundtrack Recording by Laurie Johnson


The BELSTONE FOX (1973) – Laurie Johnson (Dragon’s Domain Records)
In the same children’s scoring vain, this new label showed wonderful promise with the release of Laurie Johnson’s touching score.






Best Film Music Releases for 2014

Best Film Music Releases for 2013

Best Film Music Releases for 2012

Best Film Music Releases for 2011

Best Film Music Releases for 2010


The 28th Annual
Sammy Film Music Awards

will be announced
on 14 February 2016




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