Desert Island Movie Scores

Which ten movie scores would you take off to a desert island with you? Simon makes his choices

E.T. - one of the most successful scores ever

A tough selection this, but the ten CDs I’ve picked would mean I’d need to find a constant supply of batteries/electricity on my idyllic desert island. See what you think of this lot, and if you’re so inclined, why not drop us a list of ten of your own, with reasons why?

JFKJohn Williams

I love John Williams’ scores a lot, but I’m vowing to limit myself to two of his choices only. Given that I’ve got the exceptional Raiders Of The Lost Ark music embedded in my head anyway, I’m going to trust my brain to get me through the moments when the Raiders’ March is needed. And instead, I’m starting off with JFK. What I love about this score is the sheer variety of it, in keeping with the mish-mash of visual styles that Oliver Stone employs in the film. The main opening theme is excellent, but the generous score CD is as varied a collection of music as I’ve heard Williams put out. His Nixon score, incidentally, is terrific too.

The UntouchablesEnnio Morricone

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Ennio Morricone = genius. I feel horribly guilty too about missing off his work with the Spaghetti Westerns, and truthfully, you can take pretty much any Morricone CD off the shelf and be content. But The Untouchables, while a relatively short score CD, is the most spun in my collection. It’s a lavish piece of work, from a man utterly confident in his talents, and rightly so. Mixing the tension of some of Brian De Palma’s sequences to a rich main theme, I just can’t help hoping that there’s a longer version out there somewhere.

BatmanDanny Elfman

For a long time, I had a real love of Danny Elfman’s music, and still have, to be fair. But most of it is contained in his 80s and early 90s material, such as the underrated score to Dick Tracy, the wonderful Edward Scissorhands and the simply splendid The Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s an argument as to whether Batman tops those, but it’s an album I’ve come back to time and time again over the past 20 years, and simply not been disappointed. It’s very theme-driven, but that’s not a problem, and while the opening ten minutes of the Batman Returns score beats it, the original Batman is the tighter, and better, album.

The Bourne UltimatumJohn Powell

I found myself discussing with another of the writers here at DoG the art of the action score that matches what’s happening on screen recently, not helped by a variety of movie directors/executives preferring to go for a soundtrack of noisy songs instead. But John Powell’s work on the Bourne trilogy is the exception. My favourite would be his score to the last film, which matches the tempo of the film beat for beat, and as all good action scores should do, it enhances the impact of what you’re watching. It’s also, again a modern day rarity, works as a standalone piece of music to listen to.

Ed WoodHoward Shore

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I love Howard Shore’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy work, and accept that some will make a voodoo version of me specially to bash me for not including it. But I just about edge his stylised and characteristic accompaniment to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. I appreciate that this isn’t the most popular score in the CD racks of HMV, but it captures the tone of the film, with a bit of tongue in cheek too, with real style.

E.T.John Williams

A masterpiece. It’s engrained in my head anyway for the trauma of watching the film itself as a six year old, but I’ve grown to adore the music from E.T. The delight of the 20th anniversary DVD that came out a few years ago was the documentary looking at John Williams conducting a live orchestra alongside the film. I sat there envious of every single person in that audience, and this is goosebump music of the highest order.

True RomanceHans Zimmer

I got through some tough times at university plugged into Hans Zimmer’s score to Crimson Tide, but he’s revisited it a couple of times in different guises since, and it rarely gets a spin now. But I do keep coming back to his work on True Romance. The signature piece, You’re So Cool, is breezily brilliant, and surprisingly upbeat for a movie score (most don’t dare to be, save for the crescendo at the end). It’s a bit of an uneven listen in places, and I do wish a full score CD could be made available. But the disc is worth it in this case just for that opening track.

Back To The Future Part IIAlan Silvestri

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Alan Silvestri is a quietly underrated composed, but his Back To The Future scores are both variety and very strong. My favourite is the second, not least because, as in the film, it has the most work to do. That it gives you a taster of Silvestri’s work on the third movie at the end is welcome, too. It’s a darker score than the other two Back To The Future albums, and better for it, but it’s not afraid to chuck in the terrific theme when it needs to as well.

The Last Of The MohicansTrevor Jones & Randy Edelman

A smashing piece of work, which Jones then seemed to photocopy and dilute when it came to scoring Cliffhanger a year or two later. There’s a swirling and epic feel to this one, though, and my choice here would be the version released in 2000 and recorded with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. That’s primarily because it puts the music back into chronological order, and there’s a much better tempo and flow as a result. Superb.

Field Of DreamsJames Horner

If I had to pick one? It’s this. James Horner is a genius, bluntly, but his evocative and emotional score matches the film toe to toe. My favourite track is the The Place Where Dreams Come True, nine minutes and seven seconds of measure, restraint and ultimately quite brilliant music.

Honourable mentions:This isn’t a list of what I consider the very best movie scores in the world (although I rate them very highly), rather the ones I rank as personal favourites. It hurts me a lot to leave out James Horner’s Aliens and Glory, Patrick Doyle’s Much Ado About Nothing, Dave Grusin’s The Goonies, Robert Folk’s Toy Soldiers, Ira Newborn’s The Naked Gun and shedloads of the score work done by Alan Menken on Disney films (there’s an article in itself there).

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What this list also highlights to me, though, is how few of these scores are recent, with just one emanating from the last decade. Are we losing the art of the music score? I hope not, but at the least, these ten discs will keep me off the streets for some time to come…

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