My rules for this top 5 list were very strict: no musicals, cartoons, 'action' films, sci-fi, westerns, suspense, or sports movies. I could easily pick 5 scores in each of those categories. This top 5 list had to be specifically for movies that have an emotional hold on me because of the FEELINGS the music gives me, not necessarily because of childhood nostalgia or their levels of excitement, though that's part of it. The scores below, when I hear them make me want to stop everything else and exist inside them. We're talking scores I would walk down the aisle to, scores I want played at my funeral, scores I listen to more than any others. Not because they're necessarily the best ones ever written. They just hit me in a place no other scores do. As you can see for yourself, they were all composed, or at least released, within about ten years of each other--a decade that was particularly formative in my own young life.
5) Amélie (Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain) (2001) by Yann Tierson
How many hours did I spend sitting in my college dorm rooms listening to this soundtrack? HOW MANY HOURS? The answer is: many. Many, many hours. Dear, charming film aside, Yann created some gorgeous, lovely music for it that stands all on its own. It makes me feel hopeful, romantic, wistful, at peace with my life. I had a difficult time trying to choose between "Comptine d'un autre été : L'après-midi" and any of the versions of "La Valse d'Amélie."
4) The Power of One (1992) by Hans Zimmer
I did not take easily to the soundtrack of The Power of One. I saw the movie in a high school social studies class, and then promptly forgot it until my freshman year of college in Canada. My RA had hopes to be a missionary in Africa someday, and she was obsessed with this soundtrack. She used to kindly give me and my roommate rides back into the States for holidays and breaks, and this soundtrack was on eternal repeat in her car. My roommate and I moaned about it at the time, as the RA would repeat trivia to us like, "Did you know the penny whistle is native to South Africa?" We didn't know and we didn't care. But something about this sweeping music written for South Africa lodged itself inside my heart, and I bought the soundtrack (and the movie) a year later. To this day, it gives me incredible chills and I could listen to it forever.
It was really tough to pick one song (other favorites are "Mother Africa" and "Woza Mfana") but "The Rainmaker" is just KILLER.* Please, please, please listen to it, and be sure to get through the lull that starts about 3 minutes in, because if you can get to 3:32 and beyond, HANS ZIMMER WILL MAKE YOUR HEART EXPLODE. Then the soloist! Aaaaand I'm crying. So moving.
3) The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) by Howard Shore
I am a pretty big LOTR fan. Not the biggest by any means, but pretty big. When the 3 movies came out I was obsessed. I glued pictures of my face over Liv Tyler's so it would look like I was standing next to Orlando Bloom, I got a massive scar on my right leg because I FELL trying to get my dad to come watch The Two Towers trailer, and in 2003 my sister and I attended a concert of Howard Shore conducting our local symphony in the score of the trilogy. I am very, very excited for the Hobbit movies. (I can't comprehend how anyone wouldn't be.)
I don't know how many times I've seen each of the films, but it would probably be embarrassing so let's leave it to mystery. Suffice to say, I LOVE them. And I owned all their scores on CD. As I will say with all these movie scores, it was super hard to pick one song. But I picked "The Lighting of the Beacons" from Return of the King because, to quote CSNY, it thrills me to the marrow. At 1:59, my face melts off.
2) The Last of the Mohicans (1992) by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman
I didn't see this movie until many years after it's release, probably not till college. But I knew the soundtrack. In my high school psychology course we had to do multiple writing assignments in class. To aid our concentration, the teacher would put on one of two soundtracks: Last of the Mohicans, and some other one. Can you tell which score stuck? I could have easily gone with "Main Title", "Elk Hunt", "The Kiss", "Top of the World", or "Cora." But that's why I went with "Promontory": it's like "The Kiss" and "Main Title" combined into one song. Its slow build is breath-taking and, let's be honest, makes me want to make out with Daniel Day Lewis, so it's gonna win out in the end. When I think of my favorite film scores, this movie is one of the first to come to mind. Thanks, Mr. Gasser.
1) Little Women (1994) by Thomas Newman
Thomas Newman hit it out of the park with this one. I saw this movie in theaters with my family, and it will forever make me think of them. We like to watch it at Christmas, as it feels like a Christmas movie. And the score is on all my Christmas music playlists. This music is delicious food, warm hearths, snow!, blankets and cocoa and mittens and sing-alongs and tears. Forever my favorite score of all time. I picked "Orchard House" but every single song is written on my heart. Love, love, love, love this music.
Honorable Mentions: Home Alone by John Williams ("Somewhere in My Memory"--*SOBS*) Hook by John Williams ("You Are The Pan"--*SOBS*), Titanic by James Horner ("Rose"--*SOBS*), Legends of the Fall by James Horner ("The Ludlows"--*SOBS*-- maaaybe counts as a western, I DON'T CARE) Dances With Wolves by John Barry ("Buffalo Hunt"--almost definitely counts as a western--I DON'T CARE), The Man From Snowy River by Bruce Rowland ("Main Theme"--*SOBS*--possibly a western, I'm beyond caring that you care), Lawrence of Arabia by Maurice Jarre ("Main Theme"--*SOBS*)...I could go on and on.
The tears. They are LEGION.
What are some of your favorite scores? What did I completely forget? And you don't have to keep to my strict parameters, unless you want to do so.
*I know what you're thinking: "But Maryann! "The Rainmaker" has human voices in it! That doesn't make it instrumental! You said only instrumental songs." And to that I say, non-diegetic voices get a pass. If the human voices aren't characters or taking place in the narrative, I'm going to allow it. Also, "The Rainmaker" can do whatever the hell it wants. I will put it on every top 5 list, no matter what rules it breaks! Just watch me!