Can the music make the movie? We certainly think so!
Can the music make the movie? We certainly think so! Here are ten top tunes from the world of film.
The Jaws theme is just magnificent. Every time I listen to it I actually feel my heart pounding. It really simulates the anxiety of the real-life situation it’s attempting to recreate, building up the suspense to such a great extent that you think you’re going to have a heart attack. This is such an iconic piece of music that it has become synonymous with imminent danger in so many contexts.
John Williams said that the theme was meant to be “grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable.”
It is suggested that the two-note expression mimics the shark’s or a human’s heartbeat, and also the way it cuts off dramatically is like the rupture at the point of death.
Spielberg reckons the film would only have been half as successful without Williams’ music, and the pair went on to work together on almost every film afterwards.
In a similar vein to Spielberg and Williams in Jaws, Hitchcock once stated that “33% of the effect of Psycho was due to the music.”
Hitchcock’s shower scene in this movie is potentially one of the most famous movie moments in history, and it’s impossible to imagine the scene without its music. The music, like all good scores, reflects the moment perfectly, with a screeching sound timed perfectly with the melodramatic movements of Norman’s arm.
This part of the score also sounds like birds, which is supposed to foreshadow the notion that it is not Norman’s mother, but him, the stuffed-bird collector.
Despite the fame of this shower scene and it being synonymous with the accompanying music, apparently Hitchcock was originally opposed to there being any music in this scene.
3) Pirates of the Caribbean
When I was revising for my second-year exams I had the 10 hour Youtube video of this theme music on repeat. I’m sure it was the only thing that kept me going. It’s such a rousing, stirring piece of music, and I love it.
Alan Silvestri was initially hired to write the score for the first film, but due to creative differences with the producer, Hans Zimmer replaced him. Zimmer claimed he couldn’t do the bulk of the composing as he was tied to his work on The Last Samurai, so referred the producer to Klaus Badelt, but ended up collaborating with him on most of the primary scenes.
The music was needed for the film in three weeks. Seven composers took four days to complete the score, and because time was so tight they had to use a different recording studio for each session.
On the writing of this theme, composer John Williams wrote, “When I thought of a theme for Luke and his adventures, I composed a melody that reflected the brassy, bold, masculine, and noble qualities I saw in the character.”
I think he achieved this, and more, with the music’s militaristic and yet idealistic intro to the films, whilst also managing to write one of the most iconic pieces of theme music in the history of film.
The first few notes of this piece are so striking that even people who have never watched Star Wars recognise the tune. It has to be up there with the most enduring and famous theme tunes of all time.
5) Harry Potter – Hedwig’s Theme
Hedwig’s Theme is probably my favourite piece of music, ever. The way the delicate intro gradually builds up into a fast and powerful epitome of the Harry Potter movies is incredible, and I love how the music actually sounds magic and mysterious, capturing the wonder Harry, and indeed any child, would feel at being initiated into a world of witchcraft and wizardry.
This is another of John Williams’ masterpieces, as he scored the first three films, but his theme was used throughout the rest of the films.
“Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba Sithi uhm ingonyama”
I’m going to go ahead and call this the theme tune of The Lion King, since it evokes rolling images of African plains, desert, and a kingdom ruled by animals. Most importantly, it evokes memories of my childhood, along with just being an incredible song.
The lines that begin the song translate literally to: ‘Here comes a lion, father. Oh yes, it’s a lion’. Deep or what?
It was written by Tim Rice and composed by Elton John. Circle of Life, along with Hakuna Matata and Can You Feel the Love Tonight were all nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song in 1994 (Can You Feel the Love won it).
At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011, US President Barack Obama made light of the controversy over refusing to show his birth certificate by playing the part of the song in which Simba is lifted to the sky by Rafiki, as a satirical nod towards his Kenyan heritage.
7) James Bond
The James Bond theme is iconic by itself, but the way its woven into a different song individual to each movie in a way that suits the contemporary music style is so clever.
Monty Norman is the man accredited with writing this theme music. Between 1976 and 1999, Norman received £485,000 in royalties. However, there has been some contention over who actually wrote the theme: John Barry, who composed the soundtracks for 11 Bond films, has taken Norman to court twice over who actually wrote the theme, and both times the court ruled that Norman wrote it.
The theme was recorded in 1962, and the guitar riff in the original recording was played by Vic Flick, who was paid a one-off fee of £6!
This lovely theme tune has a plodding noise in the background which seems to reflect a resilient sense of the Allies’ resolve during WWII.
This theme tune is referenced widely in popular culture, as it is now synonymous with the action genre. It is played in Chicken Run, The Parent Trap, The Simpsons and Reservoir Dogs, to name a few, and is frequently played at England football matches.
So this certainly changes the tone a bit, but this article is on the most iconic theme tunes, and if someone asked you “Who you gonna call?” would there be anyone to call other than “Ghostbusters!”?
The Ghostbusters song was sung by Ray Parker Jr for the movie in 1984, and it reached number one that same year, staying there for three weeks. Parker was only given a few days to write a song, and was inspired by an advert he saw on the TV to make theme tune that sounded like a promotion of the film.
Released in 1997, this song made it to Number One all over the world. It was Celine Dion’s biggest hit, and one of the best-selling singles of all time, selling over 15 million copies worldwide.
The song won many awards, including Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1997, Grammy Awards’ Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1999, and the Golden Globe Award for “Best Original Song – Motion Picture” in 1998.
Despite this popularity, Rolling Stone readers decided on 2011 that it was the 7th worst song of the 90s. Funnily enough, Kate Winslet also hates the song, as she once admitted it made her feel “like throwing up,” because people keep playing it when she’s around.
Have we missed any of the great movie music moments? Let us know your favourites in the comments below!