10 Most Recognizable Film Scores

A film score is the background music of a film. The term soundtrack may be confused with film score , a soundtrack however, also includes everything audible in the film including sound effects and dialogue. A score is written specifically to accompany a film, by the original film’s composer(s). Some well-known orchestral soundtracks or better say film scores include:


10. A Gift of Thistle – James Horner


James Roy Horner an American composer, orchestrator and conductor of orchestral and film music is noted for the integration of choral and electronic elements in many of his film scores, and for frequent use of Celtic musical elements for his body of work in the notable¬† score called “A gift of Thistle” for Brave Heart.


9. Main March – John Williams


John Towner Williams also an American composer, conductor, and pianist, in a career that spans six decades, Williams has composed many of the most famous film scores in Hollywood history, including the theme for superman. Williams worked with director Richard Donner to score the 1978 film Superman.


8. Circle of Life – Hans Zimmer

The Lion King

Hans Florian Zimmer, a German film composer and executive score producer. He has composed music for over 100 films.  Zimmer traveled to Africa in order to use African choirs and drums in the recording of his scores. On the strength of this work, Disney Animation Studios approached Zimmer to compose the score for the 1994 film The Lion King. This was to be his first score for an animated film. Disney studio bosses expressed fears that Zimmer would be killed if he went to South Africa, so the recording of the choirs was organized during a visit by Lebo M. Zimmer won numerous awards for his work on The Lion King, including an Academy Award for Best Music (Original Score), a Golden Globe, and two Grammys. In 1997, the score was adapted into a Broadway musical version which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1998.


7. Waltz – Nino Rota

The GodFather

Nino Rota was a world-renowned Italian composer and academic who is best known for the themes he composed for the first two films of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, receiving for the latter the Academy Award for Best original Score in 1974.


6. Hymn to the Sea – James Horner


James Horner’s career spans over three decades and he has composed several of Hollywood’s most famous film scores. His score to the 1997 film Titanic remains the best selling orchestral film soundtrack of all time. At the 70th Academy Awards, Horner won Oscars for Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song for “My Heart Will Go On” (which he co-wrote with Will Jennings). In addition, Horner and Jennings won three Grammy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards for the soundtrack .


16 thoughts on “10 Most Recognizable Film Scores

  1. I think the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly should have appeared. Every one seems to have heard it, even if they haven’t seen the movie. I would put it over Titanic and Godfather.

  2. What about “The Good, The Bad & the Ugly”?! I’d argue that it should be #2 or #3 on the list.

  3. Its a good list but where would you put Jurassic park I think is should be higher then some of the others on this list.

  4. What about the scores of Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire & 1492 Conquest of Paradise (all by Vangelis)? Or 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Matrix (first)?

  5. Umm, seriously? No Morricone? The man that pretty much defined what the music for spaghetti westerns should sound like? Where is classic theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly?

  6. You mentioned my 1, 2, and 3, but none of them made the actual list. Gladiator is the greatest film score of all time. Jurassic Park is a remarkably deep and diverse score, and the Lord of the Rings score was amazing in the films and breathtaking the two times I went to see it in concert (Seattle and Cleveland).

  7. no miserlou? aka the theme song for pulp fiction? or time warp from rocky horror?

  8. Number 8, “Circle of Life” – the original song is composed by Elton John and Hans Zimmer is listed only as a producer of this song.

  9. Jaws, Back to the Future, Last of the Mohicans, Rocky, Dances With Wolves to name a few.

  10. Highly subjective subject. I would never recognize the soundtracks of Braveheart or Titanic, but I had guessed Exodus, The Sound of Music, Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Rocky, Dr. Zhivago, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off would all be on the list. I must be much older than you.

  11. Seriously? The Circle of Life?… What about Ecstasy of Gold by Morricone or the Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein?

  12. Although not originally made for the soundtrack, I’d include Also Sprach Zarathustra from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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