By Kelly Ann Beaton

I had lunch today with a colleague who told me that his passion was to score a movie. Not your everyday lunch time banter. He told me that he had invested over $20,000 in equipment and in building a music library of samples and foley. He said one day, when he didn’t have to work, he would pursue his interest full time.

It got me thinking about the power of music in film. When I think of all my favourite films, music is an integral part. Some film directors really understand the power of music. David Lean’s classic Dr. Zhivago (1965) is my favourite film on so many levels. But I am not sure that I would have fallen in love with the film, if it were not for Lara's Theme by the late, great composer Maurice Jarre (later became the song "Somewhere My Love" ) which won an Oscar in 1967 for best musical score.

Would Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) be as powerful without the haunting music of Nino Rota that made the viewer feel like they were sitting in Don Corleone’s hallway waiting to see the Don himself. An interesting note is that the music score for "The Godfather" was removed at the last minute from the list of 1973 Academy Awards nominees when it was discovered that the composer had used the same theme in Eduardo De Filippo's 1958 comedy Fortunella (co-written incidentally by Federico Fellini). However, the score for Godfather II would win an Oscar in 1974. Coppola’s appreciation of the power of music may also explain the unforgettable score used for the opening sequence of Apocalypse Now (1979), as the music of The Doors magically transports you to Vietnam.

I could go on and on, but I will end with two seminal films by John Hughes that mirrored my teenage years The Breakfast Club (1985) and Pretty in Pink (1986). Who can forget Molly Ringwald standing in the lobby of the school auditorium debating on whether to go in, while the strains of "If You Leave", by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark played.

As I tell all my students in the filmmaking workshops that I teach, try watching your favourite films with the sound off and see if you still have the same appreciation of the film. Try it this weekend and see what you hear.

From Wikipedia:
Poster of Dr. Zhivago: source moviegoods
Copyright: MGM 1965

From Wikipedia:
Screenshot of The Godfather: source adorocinema
Copyright: Paramount 1972


  1. I LOVE movie soundtracks. I own many of them including the soundtrack to Cinema Paradiso by the great Ennio Morricone. Remember the spaghetti western "The Good The Bad and the Ugly" starring Clint Eastwood? Morricone did the now iconic music for that movie. I also have a terrific compilation CD of Bernard Herrmann's music. Herrmann did music for Hitchock's movies including "Psycho" and "Vertigo".

    I agree with you Kelly - the soundtrack to a movie can makes us cry, scare the crap out of us or make us laugh our heads off. Being a movie music composer is probably one of the most fun jobs there is!

    Great post Kelly!

  2. Love this topic! Music is a huge part of my life as well as movies. Couple a good pair together and you'll have me hooked for life.
    The ones I can think of off the top of my head that I will always remember are The Crow - the grittiness and overall despair that radiated the soundtrack completed the despair in the story. Lost Souls, a NIN remake of Joy Division, is by far my favorite track.
    Garden State's soundtrack was put together by the leading actor, Zach Braff, and again, the mellowness of the music matched the tone of the subtle yet powerful subject matter while the undercurrent of emotional was prevalent. The Shins' New Slang arose from that soundtrack and will always stay with me.
    The Swinger's Soundtrack ranks up there with feeling as well, introducing new talent mixed in with old standards. It came up on the Swing rage back in the late 90's and omg how I miss that!!
    The last one that I can think of is Natural Born Killers. It's a little bit crazy, a little bit romantic, a lot cool. Another compilation from Trent Reznor worth noticing.

  3. What would JAWS be without John Williams' haunting music? Or, Star Wars? Or the Indiana Jones series? Or E.T.? He is an American composer who has many award winning movies themes to his credit. Truly talented.

  4. Kelly Ann, I'm a passionate admirer of movie soundtracks. A current favorite obsession are the soundtracks from Quentin Tarantino's films, especially the Kill Bill: Vol. 2 compilation and the one for Death Proof.

    Ennio Morricone, John Williams and Danny Elfman are masters of their craft. I absolutely ADORE the music from The Fountain by Clint Mansell - he'd be at the top of my wish list if I was in the position to hire someone to write a score for a film I made. I also love Tyler Bates' score for 300, and Hans Zimmer's score for Gladiator.

  5. When I think of soundtracks, two movies pop to mind. One is the absolute classic, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Right? I don't need to say why? *grin*

    Another one that hits me is an old favorite of mine, the spy spoofs starring Derek Flint. "Your Zowie Face" is woven throughout the movie and anytime I hear it, I think of Flint.

    Of course, my hubby tells me he did buy the soundtrack for Dr. Zhivago. So there's that!

    Great post!

    --Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com

  6. I have heard it said that composers for films are now the great composers of our times. Lord of the Rings score by Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer--I love whatever he does, Harry Potter theme song by John Williams. I thought Master and Commander was fascinating for its lack of music for the most part and still being compelling but with incredible use of sound. I personally thought this was one of the reasons "The Brave One" with Jodie Foster flubbed (at least to me). The trailer had some interesting music but the movie was trying to be quiet but it seemed almost accidentally quiet. I still think if someone scored this movie or picked a kick ass soundtrack, it would be much better.

    Love the subject~!


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