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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The 25 Greatest Movie Scores: Did the American Film Institute (AFI) Get It Right?

By Nicholas Stix
 

The AFI List


# FILM YEAR STUDIO COMPOSER
1 STAR WARS
1977 Twentieth Century Fox John Williams
2 GONE WITH THE WIND
1939 Selznick/MGM Max Steiner
3 LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
1962 Columbia Maurice Jarre
4 PSYCHO
1960 Paramount Bernard Herrmann
5 THE GODFATHER
1972 Paramount Nino Rota
6 JAWS
1975 Universal John Williams
7 LAURA
1944 Twentieth Century Fox David Raksin
8 THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
1960 United Artists Elmer Bernstein
9 CHINATOWN
1974 Paramount Jerry Goldsmith
10 HIGH NOON
1952 United Artists Dimitri Tiomkin
11 THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD
1938 Warner Bros. Erich Wolfgang Korngold
12 VERTIGO
1958 Paramount Bernard Herrmann
13 KING KONG
1933 RKO Max Steiner
14 E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL
1982 Universal John Williams
15 OUT OF AFRICA
1985 Universal John Barry
16 SUNSET BLVD.
1950 Paramount Franz Waxman
17 TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
1962 Universal Elmer Bernstein
18 PLANET OF THE APES
1968 Twentieth Century Fox Jerry Goldsmith
19 A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
1951 Warner Bros. Alex North
20 THE PINK PANTHER
1964 United Artists Henry Mancini
21 BEN-HUR
1959 MGM Miklos Rozsa
22 ON THE WATERFRONT
1954 Columbia Leonard Bernstein
23 THE MISSION
1986 Warner Bros. Ennio Morricone
24 ON GOLDEN POND
1981 Universal Dave Grusin
25 HOW THE WEST WAS WON
1962 MGM, Cinerama Releasing Alfred Newman


The first thing that struck me was AFI’s #1 pick. I don’t cite John Williams’ Star Wars score on my list at all, because it’s such a shameless plagiary of Holst’s The Planets, especially “Mars, Bringer of War.”

When my chief of research was ten or 11, I introduced him to The Planets. A few months later, I played Star Wars for him. At that point, John Williams was his favorite movie composer, but the moment he heard the opening to Star Wars, he was dejected and said, “I guess nobody’s really original.”

As for Nino Rota (#5), didn’t they know that Rota’s score for The Godfather was a plagiary? Rota was initially nominated for Best Original Score, but then someone dropped a dime on him, reporting that Rota had recycled the score from a previous movie he’d worked on, Fortunella (1958). According to IMDB.com, the nomination was then revoked, and the Academy substituted John Addison’s score for Sleuth.

If the AFI committee loved Rota’s score so much, they should have chosen Fortunella, instead.

Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Planet of the Apes (1968) (#18) is some god-awful techno-thing. I love most of Goldsmith’s work, but that is my least favorite score of his. Although his score for Chinatown (1974) is wonderful, his score for Patton (1970) is vastly superior to it.
 


My List
 

25. How the West was Won (1962): Alfred Newman and Ken Darby
24. Saving Private Ryan (1998): John Williams
23. The Reivers (1969): John Williams
22. On the Waterfront (1954): Leonard Bernstein
21. Dances with Wolves (1990): John Barry
20. Apollo 13 (1995): James Horner
19. High Noon (1952): Dimitri Tiomkin (O)
18. Jaws (1975): John Williams (O)
17. Red River (1948): Dimitri Tiomkin
16. King Kong (1933): Max Steiner
15. Shane (1953): Victor Young
14. The Big Country (1958): Jerome Moross
13. The Cowboys (1972): John Williams
12. The Red Pony (1949): Aaron Copland
11. Spartacus (1960): Alex North
10. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): Hugo Friedhofer (O)
9. Patton (1970): Jerry Goldsmith
8. Citizen Kane (1941): Bernard Hermann
7. Vertigo (1958): Bernard Hermann
6. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Elmer Bernstein
5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962): Maurice Jarre (O)
4. The Magnificent Seven (1960): Elmer Bernstein
3. Gone with the Wind (1939): Max Steiner
2. Field of Dreams (1989): James Horner
1. The Natural (1984): Randy Newman
 

Honorable Mentions:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961): Henry Mancini (O)
The Man with the Golden Arm (1955): Elmer Bernstein
Spellbound (1945): Miklos Rosza
The Third Man (1949): Anton Karas
Out of Africa (1985): John Barry
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976): Jerry Fielding

(O): Oscar winner

9 comments:

MikeatMike dotMike said...

The Superman movie with Christopher Reeve should be on any list. That score is outstanding. Raiders of the Lost Ark was great as well. Rocky? Come on man!

brad morris said...

How you dont have The Omen there?

Nicholas said...

Hey Brad,

How the hell are you?

The Omen's that great, you say? I'll have to check it out. But Patton was definitely Jerry's greatest score.

BTW, I haven't been in touch with you at your Facebook page, because FBK threw me off over a year ago. I can't respond to emails from there, even though they keep sending them.

Nicholas said...

Mike3,

I love the music to Superman, but the deal with that is the same as with Star Wars. It's another Holst ripoff by John Williams.

brad morris said...

The Omen won Goldsmith his only Oscar. All three of his Omen scores are great. but his score for Damien Omen 2 is my personal favorite score of all time, almng with Steven Price's score for Gravity.
Another great Goldsmitb score is Rudy. Tremendous music

brad morris said...

Superman is a great score but its very derivative. It was nominated for an Oscar, but Giorgio Moroders groundbreaking score deservedly won for Midnight Express that year

brad morris said...

Took a listen to Holsts The Plantets. You are right

brad morris said...

Also, check out Goldsmith's score to Outland. 1981 sci fi flick with Sean Connery. One of my favorites

Anonymous said...

What about Last of the Mohicans?