The most powerful moments in film are always accentuated by meticulously designed scores. Different than soundtracks, the score of a film sets the ambiance and mood of every scene. Because these moments help to define how the audience both initially feels and responds to the action at hand, incredibly gifted composers are hired to make these moments as pivotal as possible. Whether it be a slow, methodical pumping, a cool, breathtaking instrumental, or a powerful, emotionally driven barrage, the score is often one of the defining characteristics of a truly great film. They stir our deepest emotions and fire up our imaginations, preparing us for the epically visual journey we take when enjoying the films they accompany.
Join us as THEMOVIEPOOL takes a look back at the most memorable scored moments in film history.
The Thing – Opening Sequence (Antarctica) Artist: Ennio Morricone
Ennio Morricone has worked extensively with horror master John Carpenter, his pulse-pounding, rhythmic staccatos always setting the mood for the scene. In the Thing, Morricone’s bleak and resonating staccatos helped set the tone for the stark, cold, desolate and isolated setting for the protagonists, Antarctica.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – Map Room Sequence Artist: John Williams
Few are as recognizable as John Williams and his history with Steven Spielberg is legendary in the least. Williams helped to create a sense of awe and wonder for the Indiana Jones series, but it was Raiders of the Lost Ark where it all began. In the map room, we truly believed in the powers of the Ark, and we hadn’t even seen it yet.
Superman: The Movie – Ending Sequence (Spaceflight) Artist: John Williams
It was this climactic ending, as The Man of Steel flew effortlessly through space, the sun peeking just over the horizon in the background that solidified our belief that a man could fly. It was the powerful brass lined Superman theme that allowed us all to join Kal-El on all his epic adventures. Batman – Costuming Sequence (Preparing for the Joker) Artist: Danny Elfman
Danny Elfman and Tim Burton’s relationship has been a staple regarding all of Burton’s films. Few however were as epic as Burton’s vision of Batman in 1989. But it was Danny Elfman’s dark, fluid, and resonating timpani and high-wound strings that brought the power of the Dark Knight to real life. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – Luke and Vader Final Battle Artist: John Williams
It was the fight people had been waiting years for. Like a sci-fi Thrilla in Manilla, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader faced off to an amused Emperor Palpatine to determine who was more powerful in their use of The Force. Once again, John Williams lent his genius to this scene, the score brilliantly executed to reflect the torrid emotional state of Skywalker as he dueled his father to the end.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Jack Sparrow’s Death Artist: Hans Zimmer
Another recognizable name, Hans Zimmer found new ground composing for Gore Verbinski’s high-seas epic. As the second film wound down, our intrepid anti-hero Jack Sparrow faced off against the inescapable lethality of The Kraken. With sword aloft, he plunged into the mouth of the beast, Zimmer’s overseeing score as defiant, valiant, and futile as our hero’s final act.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Battle of Helm’s Deep (Gandalf’s Entrance) Artist: Howard Shore
In a film moment that brought me to tears when I first saw it, Gandalf and the Rohirrim plunge down the eastward hillside to meet the army of Isengard in battle. As dawn broke over the hillside, blinding the monstrous creatures below, Howard Shore’s masterful capturing of the moment brought our hopes, dreams, and imaginations aloft.
The Matrix – Lobby Entrance Sequence Artist: Don Davis
Virtually unheard of action sequences dotted the entire film, The Matrix, but it was this first brutal gunfight (and the moments leading up to it) that kept audiences wide-eyed at the non-stop, insane action playing out before them. Don Davis’ electrifying techno-scoring of the fight kept our hearts thumping with every gunshot.
Predator – Helicopter Rescue Sequence Artist: Alan Silvestri
Alan Silvestri, whose masterful works include the Back to the Future Trilogy, Forest Gump and Beowulf, truly shined in this testament to the soldiers spirit. His soft trumpeting score brought deep emotion to this sci-fi monster epic and filled us with a sharp sense of what it means to be a member of the Armed Forces.
Jurassic Park – Brachiosaur Revealed Artist: John Williams
Anyone who was lucky enough to see Jurassic Park in theaters will never forget the moment when dinosaurs truly existed. Once again, the genius of John Williams brought the scene to life as audiences first glimpsed the most real dinosaurs ever seen in a film. The silence in theaters across the world was a testament to his brilliance.
So many great memories are forged through the sounds that we perceive in life. We can easily attach and associate them with the various moods and feelings they help forge. In turn, the notes continually, no matter how old the film or the viewer, bring them back to those moments, recreating them as freshly as they were when they first bore witness to them.
In the immortal words of French playwright and poet Victor Hugo, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.”
It is a journey of discovery, both before and after, and one I hope each of these scenes will allow you to escape back to, even if for just the briefest of moments.