When I was young I used to enjoy movies as integrated entertainment experiences. A movie with an absorbing plot could carry me along on a wave, making me forget that I was in a theatre, transporting me to the world on the screen. As a result, every trip to the cinema was a pleasure. Of course, in those days I had nothing but a vague idea about the mechanics of good film making.
At college I joined a film-appreciation group. We dissected, in excruciating detail, the films of Jean Renoir, Luis Bunuel, Federico Fellini, Jean Luc Goddard, Fitz Lang, Orson Welles and others. When Alfred Hitchcock’s movies first came out, we studied the amazing techniques of plot that he used to build suspense, the ground-breaking use of lighting and camera angles and so on. The one thing that we never paid much attention to was the background music.
Since I’ve got older I’ve started noticing the musical accompaniment to movies. It seems so obvious now, but the musical score to the great movies make an incalculable contribution to the experience. Great movie scores that spring to my mind are, The Magnificent Seven, A Fist Full of Dollars, 633 Squadron, 2001, The Dam Busters, Casablanca, Star Wars, My Chariot’s on Fire, Top Gun, Doctor Zhivago, Superman.
Here’s someone’s list of 200 top film scores
Of course, the ideal musical score is one that enhances the mood on the screen without anyone noticing. It is rare nowadays that I watch a film all the way through without noticing the musical score, and I often find the music a jarring influence, intruding and detracting from my enjoyment of the film.
In the first Indiana Jones movie, The Raiders of the Lost Ark, the musical score is a lot of fun. There’s a strong theme that accompanies the main character. The theme starts up whenever Indiana seems to be winning, but fades every time he runs into setbacks. It’s really fun (and very effective). It’s just as if the conductor of the orchestra is watching the film, waving his baton to get the orchestra to follow the action.
Do you have a favorite movie score?