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Thousands of Classic FM listeners and Radio Times readers have voted in The Classic FM Movie Music Hall of Fame. Now we can reveal the results!

Scroll down to see the nation’s Top 100 film themes of all time, including which score you voted into the coveted No.1 spot, as they play out on air on Classic FM, between 7am on Saturday 29 August and 7pm on Monday 31 August.

Top 100 Film Scores

War of the Worlds

Sci-fi stalwart, Williams, produced the score for Steven Spielberg’s dark 2005 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ famous novel. Williams composed “a very serious piece,” which he gave the “necessary frightening atmosphere” to bring Spielberg’s dark imagining to life.

Seven Years in Tibet

This sweeping epic told the true story of the relationship between a young German man – played by Brad Pitt – travelling through Tibet in the 1930s, and the Dalai Lama as a boy. For it, John Williams provided one of his most lushly romantic scores, featuring a haunting cello solo performed on the soundtrack by Yo-Yo Ma.

The Hours

Philip Glass has arguably turned the piano into the world’s most intimate instrument – and with his soundtrack to ‘The Hours’, in particular, he finds that sweet-spot between machine-like minimalism and gorgeous harmonic changes.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ not only won the Best Foreign Language Oscar but also gave Tan Dun an Academy Award for his brilliant soundtrack. The Chinese born composer is also known for his score for the more recent Chinese hit film, ‘Hero’.

Rachel Portman won an Academy Award for her score to the 1996 movie adaptation of ‘Emma’, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s a romantic and sometimes whimsical, even mischevious, score with delicate strings and woodwinds, all combined to conjure up the genteel world of Jane Austen’s novel.

War Horse

War Horse is a mix of pastoral folky numbers and full-on orchestral blow-outs as the films moves from the English countryside to wartime France. Spielberg’s 2011 film adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo book about a boy and a horse who fight in the first world war gets a real injection of emotion from Williams’s score. Spielberg says that when Williams asked him to come and listen to his early ideas for a score to War Horse, “I came over to his piano and he played me four different sketches and I cried four different times”.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Frenchman Alexandre Desplat was thrilled and somewhat terrified to score the final instalments in the Harry Potter franchise, and determined to revive some of John Williams’s iconic original themes, much to the relief of fans who felt bereft of them during Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper’s contributions to the series. Desplat is such an intelligent and subtle composer that his references to past motifs will be missed by most. Additionally there are some typical Desplat characteristics to enjoy: full scale symphony orchestra, diverse choirs and the deployment of novelty instruments, including lutes, recorders and the Japanese shakuhachi.


Director Sam Mendes returned to his composer of choice after their previous two James Bond outings together – Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Skyfall broke the formula of Bond with more domestic locations and a tense, surprising story line. Adele’s title song continued the grand tradition of dramatic Bond themes, while Newman evoked the tension and ambiguities of the plot.

‘Hook’ is another Williams-Spielberg collab. Williams was brought into the project at an early stage – a stage so early that the film was still being conceived by Spielberg as a musical. Indeed, around eight songs for the film were penned by Williams before the idea was dropped.


Director Martin Scorsese has said that Hitchcock’s Vertigo is about obsession “which means that it’s about circling back to the same moment, again and again. And the music is also built around spirals and circles, fulfilment and despair. Herrmann really understood what Hitchcock was going for – he wanted to penetrate to the heart of obsession.” For the strangely detached Scène d’Amour, Herrmann evokes Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to suggest an obsessive love that is only in the mind of the main character.

The Last Samurai

Hans Zimmer’s music for this Tom Cruise epic incorporates traditional flute sounds and many more Oriental touches, aiming to provide a synthesis between Western and Eastern cultures. Which is apt, seeing as the plot was inspired by the culture clash caused by the Westernisation of Japan in the 19th Century. Given that less-than-traditional blockbuster inspiration, you’d expect there to be some unease between the differing musical styles, but Zimmer is a pro at this kind of thing. The musical balance is impeccable, with the composer using subtle hints at the Eastern culture rather than beating the listener over the head with it.

The Pink Panther

Winner of three Grammys, an Academy Award nomination, and a top 10 spot in the charts in 1964, Henry Mancini’s theme for the Pink Panther is one of the most famous pieces of music in film history. The cartoon panther created for the opening credits of the movie by David DePatie and Friz Freleng was animated in time to the tune.

The English Patient

Set during the Second World War, this epic romance tells the story of a mysterious Englishman found badly burned in the Sahara. Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared’s score is filled with wistful, romantic love melodies, spanning time across the film’s flashbacks. Against the musical accompaniment, some of these scenes have a serene beauty oblivious to the war that is being waged elsewhere in the story.


Zimmer’s initially subconscious score behind the Dunkirk evacuation eventually heaves into an Elgar-esque salute. A master at work.

The Trap

You’ll recognise this famous tune as the theme played every year to introduce TV coverage of the London Marathon. The bombastic brass, cymbals and soaring strings of The Trap’s theme tune hardly seem appropriate as a soundtrack to a film about a fur trapper who buys a mute girl from her foster parents to take as his unwilling wife. However, the action is set in the Canadian wilderness, and you can definitely hear those wide open spaces and lofty mountains in this grand theme tune. As for its use to soundtrack the London Marathon, Goodwin reportedly approved, saying: “I never intended it to accompany running, but it was supposed to depict a certain amount of energy being expended.”

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

Following in the footsteps of John Williams in a series of spectacularly successful films was no mean feat for Scotsman Patrick Doyle, best known for scoring Kenneth Branagh’s classic Shakespeare adaptations. Doyle delivered magnificently, with a sweeping, magical score that captures the darker, more sinister elements of the plot with sweeping strings, ominous percussion and powerful male voice chanting. There are some Irish and Bulgarian influences in there, too, particularly for the brilliant Quidditch World Cup sequence.

Romeo and Juliet

There’s a timeless beauty to Nino Rota’s music for Zeffirelli’s lavish 1968 interpretation of the Shakespeare tragedy. The Love Theme has since become a by-word for romantic angst and, perhaps unfairly, has been used countless times in an ironic fashion on TV and in other films. From Andy Williams to André Rieu, many have committed this delicate melody to disc, but no-one has given it quite the same simplicity as Rota did in the original.

The Dark Knight Trilogy

Christopher Nolan’s brooding excursions into Gotham City are given a bleak, atmospheric soundworld by Hans Zimmer and team – listen out for Zimmer’s trademark percussion and electronics thundering throughout. Dark and ominous, like Batman himself.


John Barry composed and performed the scores for eleven Bond movies. By the time Goldfinger came along, Barry had perfected the ‘Bond sound’, a heady mixture of brass, jazz and lush melodies. The soundtrack album for Goldfinger knocked the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night off the top of the American charts in 1964, and earned the composer his first gold disc.

Empire of the Sun

With its almost ghostly reliance on child singers and religious overtones, there’s something incredibly poignant about John Williams’ soundtrack to Steven Spielberg’s epic war drama, adapted from the JG Ballard novel. In a typically Spielbergian move, the story is told from a child’s perspective, and it is this innocent viewpoint that informs the score, deceptively simple yet incredibly powerful.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

It’s not the best-loved Bond movie, but Barry’s soundtrack for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is up there with the very best of them.


As Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck locks himself into that grotty bathroom with its flickering lighting, an eerie string-led theme enters with him. Hildur Guðnadóttir, the Emmy-winning Icelandic composer behind ‘Chernobyl’ and a classically trained cellist, wrote the ‘Bathroom Dance’ theme that appears in several places throughout ‘Joker’ – and the score won Guðnadóttir a slew of awards.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Korngold’s 1938 Academy Award for his score to ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ marked the first time an Oscar was awarded to the composer rather than the head of the studio music department as had occurred, for example, with Korngold’s award-winning score to ‘Anthony Adverse’ in 1936.

Casino Royale

To go with “the best Bond in ages”, Bond nut David Arnold produced the best Bond score in ages, too. The track ‘Vesper’ is a small but perfectly formed chunk of Arnold heaven.

Love Story

Not only did Francis Lai win an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his work on A Love Story in 1970, but he also earned himself a place in the charts when the soundtrack album went to No. 2 in the Billboard album charts and the film’s theme, “Where Do I Begin” became a hit single for traditional pop singer Andy Williams. Lai also successfully recorded the song bwith a full orchestra, and he went on to write the music for the 1978 Love Story sequel, Oliver’s Story.


Atonement is based on the British romance novel by Ian McEwan. The aspiring writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit. Marianelli’s music for the film won plaudits from all quarters in a rare John Williams-free year at the Oscars.

78-year-old Carl sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America by tying thousands of balloons to his home. Michael Giacchino returned to Disney Pixar to create this moving, Oscar-winning score.

Midnight Cowboy

John Barry’s small number of cues – and the late-1960s rock songs he selected to include – contribute enormously to Midnight Cowboy’s particular poignancy. The main theme is all languid harmonica, played by the recently deceased Belgian virtuoso, Toots Thielemans. With added Mantovani-esque cascading strings and country twangs, Barry created something melancholy and atmospheric.

The Sting

‘The Sting’ is a heist movie revolving around two grifters and their attempt to con a mob boss. Hamlisch’s score makes extensive use of ragtime, including his own arrangement of Scott Joplin’s ‘The Entertainer’.

The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption centres on one man convicted of murder but, despite the circumstances, the film focuses on themes of hope and redemption. This 1994 movie was written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on a Stephen King novella. Nominated for an Oscar in 2004, Thomas Newman’s score reflects the emotional intensity of the film. A particular highlight of the movie was the beautiful ‘Sull Aria’ from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’, which was broadcast live to the prisoners.

Edward Scissorhands

Johnny Depp played a sensitive young man who just happened to have scissors for hands – hence his unusual name. This was the fourth collaboration for director Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman and it’s by far the most haunting and magical of them all. Elfman mixes quirkiness with enchantment, unusual rhythms with sumptuous, wordless, choral harmonies. And you’ve been hearing it ever since in live theatre shows and adverts on the TV.

Robin Hood Prince of Thieves

This is a score that initially owed its success to the monumentally successful end title song, ‘Everything I Do, I Do It for You’, co-written by Michael Kamen with Bryan Adams. As the song chalked up 16 weeks at No.1 in the UK, and won a Grammy award and an Oscar-nomination, interest grew in the rest of Kamen’s rollicking, brassy soundtrack. The overture remains a favourite with school and military bands.

The Gadfly

Although remembered principally for his large-scale orchestral works and concertos, Dmitri Shostakovich’s output for the big screen was also prolific. ‘The Gadfly’ is a proudly boisterous affair: a swashbuckling costume drama depicting the life of a Russian hero in 1830s Italy. The setting of the film gave Shostakovich the excuse to borrow musical ideas from Italian Romantic composers such as Verdi and Bellini, but it’s the six-minute Romance for violin and orchestra that explains the score’s continued popularity today.

Where Eagles Dare

Ron Goodwin’s score to this World War II thriller opens with a quiet, terse and repetitive drumbeat before a bombastic brass section joins in. It’s a simple theme tune for a film with a storyline that is anything but. Ascending scales evoke the cliffs below the Schloss Adler, the German castle that a team led by Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood must penetrate to fulfil their objective, and the film’s climactic fight on the roof of a moving cable car.

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

Williams went from an iconic two-note motif in Jaws to an iconic five-note motif for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He reportedly had to compose around 350 five-note phrases before he and director Steven Spielberg settled on the famous one heard in the 1977 sci-fi film. Eerie and haunting, it’s a fitting soundtrack for a film exploring the life-changing encounter between an ordinary American man and a UFO.


Classic FM Composer in Residence, Debbie Wiseman’s score for the Stephen Fry-starring biopic of Oscar Wilde has become as well loved as the film that inspired it. The poet, wit and general legendary cultural figure of Oscar Wilde himself also looms large over the work, and it’s clear that Wiseman’s inspiration was as much from his works than merely the work of the movie.


It’s fair to say that most folk would probably think of Unchained Melody when they think of ‘Ghost’, but Maurice Jarre’s spooky and supernatural score for the film is one of his best.

The Lion King

Hans Zimmer’s remarkable African-influenced score for the Disney classic turned animated drawings of lions into living, emotionally alive creatures. Hired because of his work on The Power of One and A World Apart, both set in South Africa, Zimmer infused his score for The Lion King with many elements of traditional African music and choral arrangements from South African composer Lebo M. The Lion King soundtrack, with a little help from Elton John, went on to be phenomenally successful, winning Zimmer an Oscar for the music, and becoming a blockbuster stage show too.

Forrest Gump

Alan Silvestri is one of the best action composers of all time, and it’s his partnership with director Robert Zemeckis that brings out the best in him – think Back to the Future trilogy. For Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump, Silvestri produced an Oscar-nominated score which chimes perfectly with the simplicity and naiveté of the eponymous hero. There’s hardly a moment here that won’t leave you feeling inspired and uplifted.

Sense and Sensibility

Patrick Doyle offered old chum Emma Thompson a touching, pastiche-Mozartian score for her faithful and hugely successful Jane Austen adaptation. Two songs are sung by the character of Marianne in the film, with lyrics adapted from 17th-century poems. The melody of ‘Weep You No More Sad Fountains’, Marianne’s first song, appears in the opening credits, while her second song’s melody features again during the ending credits. Doyle received his first Academy Award nomination for his score.

Somewhere in Time

Christopher Reeve played a playwright who becomes smitten with a young woman he sees in an antique photograph of an actress. Through self-hypnosis, he travels back in time to the year 1912 to find her. John Barry’s touching, romantic score has had a longer life than the film itself. Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini – the famous variation – is also used throughout the film.

The Third Man

40-year old zither player Anton Karas was discovered by director Carol Reed and The Third Man’s cast members playing in a wine cellar in Vienna. Reed immediately decided that this was the music he wanted for the film and Karas was enticed to London, where he wrote and recorded the soundtrack over six weeks. What became The Third Man Theme had already been in Karas’s repertoire, but he hadn’t played it in 15 years. The image of it being played on the zither’s vibrating strings even provides the background for the film’s title sequence. More than half a million copies of the tune were sold within weeks of the film’s release.

How to Train Your Dragon

This blockbuster animation won the hearts of children and adults alike, but John Powell’s soundtrack is pure action movie class. Something of a minor Hollywood legend, Powell has provided the soundtracks to some incredible money-shifting blockbusters throughout the years (try The Bourne trilogy, for starters). But with How To Train Your Dragon, he earned his first Academy Award nomination. It’s a soaring, adrenaline-pumping score – a bit like riding on the back of a dragon.

Once Upon a Time in America

This epic masterpiece from the team that invented the Spaghetti Western tells the story of Jewish immigrants in New York’s underworld over 60 years. Arguably one of Ennio Morricone’s greatest scores with haunting pan pipes, Prohibition-era jazz, and the wordless vocalising of Deborah’s Theme all contributing to the film’s mood of nostalgia and regret.

The Great Escape

Bernstein happily lived off the royalties from his jaunty, triumphant, catchy and extremely hummable theme to The Great Escape. It’s one of the most memorable and catchy of all film themes, and Bernstein would probably have been bemused at its appearance at England football matches, where it has been a fixture since the mid-1990s. Bernstein’s music is the perfect accompaniment to the Second World War film, in which Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough mastermind a mass escape from a German prisoner of war camp.

The Deer Hunter

Composer Stanley Myers and guitarist John Williams collaborated on this memorable soundtrack for the 1978 Vietnam war film directed by Michael Cimino. The most famous piece to feature in The Deer Hunter is the classical guitar piece ‘Cavatina’. However, despite becoming synonymous with the film, ‘Cavatina’ was not written specifically for it. In fact the first time it appeared in a movie was eight years previously, when it was featured on another film called The Walking Stick.

Before his name became inextricably linked to the James Bond movies, John Barry gave us this stately, impressive score with a title theme that is as bombastic as anything that has come out of Hollywood since. Zulu made a then-unknown Michael Caine into a sought-after actor, and it could be argued that it did the same for John Barry’s music career, too.

The Piano

A woman, her daughter and her piano arrive in 19th-Century New Zealand for an arranged marriage. But her future husband refuses to move the piano from the beach. In order that she might get her piano back she agrees certain favours with an illiterate neighbour. Michael Nyman’s profile rocketed following the success of The Piano and his film score went on to become a classical best seller. He didn’t write the central tune that runs through the film – that’s actually called ‘Bonny winter’s noo awa’ – but he did create the rest of the film’s evocative score.

Ben Hur

Miklós Rózsa conducted research into Greek and Roman music of the period to give his score an authentic sound while still being modern. Rózsa himself directed the 100-piece MGM Symphony Orchestra during the 12 recording sessions, which stretched over 72 hours. The composer won his third Academy Award for his score, which is considered to be the best of his career. It remained deeply influential into the mid 1970s, particularly on the epic scores of John Williams.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest & At World’s End

The second, incredibly successful Pirates romp picks up where the first movie left off, at the wedding of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan. Before either can say ‘I do’, Captain Jack comes between them again in his quest to save his soul from Davy Jones and a watery grave. Hans Zimmer’s score is just as over the top as Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow. It’s music with its nostrils flared, its chest out and its tongue in its cheek.


Disney animation moved back to its best form with this stunning feature. Christophe Beck, composer for the Muppets’ recent big screen outings, wrote touching music that perfectly complemented the songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.


Zimmer had previously scored Christopher Nolan’s Batman film trilogy as well as Inception, before delivering magnificently for Interstellar. His soundtrack was nominated for an Academy Award. Painstakingly composed over two years, Zimmer visited London’s Temple Church to record its historic organ. An ensemble of 34 strings, 24 woodwinds, four pianos, and a 60-voice mixed choir were later added. The feeling of air and breath resonates throughout the music as Zimmer explained, the film involves a lot of astronauts in spacesuits.


The peak of Max Steiner’s noir years, he apparently begged to drop ‘As Time Goes By’ from featuring in the film’s score, but was overruled. And now it’s iconic.

James Bond theme

The most famous guitar riff in cinema has featured in every official Bond film since Dr. No (1962), when it accompanied the opening title. It appeared again over the opening credits for From Russia with Love, and from then on became as integral to the James Bond universe as corny one-liners and gadgets. The guitar riff heard in the original recording of the theme was played by Vic Flick, who was paid a one-off fee of £6 for recording the tune. More than 70 cover versions of the piece have been recorded by artists over the years, including Count Basie, Glen Campbell and Hank Marvin.


The movie and the special effects may have dated since Christopher Reeve’s Superman first flew onto our screens in 1978. But the music hasn’t. If anything, it’s grown and become iconic, and that’s probably down to Williams’s ability to capture the essence of the movie in his music. This is John Williams in grand, brassy Star Wars fanfare mode, helping us truly believe that a man could fly.


“In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.” Luckily we have Jerry Goldsmith’s score compensating for the silence in this terrifying Sigourney Weaver-led space horror.

Pride and Prejudice

Combining charm and wit from Jane Austen’s novel with Dario Marianelli’s effortlessly delicate tunes, this score captures the Romantic spirit of the charming film adaptation. Using the piano sonatas of Beethoven as his springboard, Marianelli set about writing a soundtrack that sounds as if it could actually have been heard by any of Jane Austen’s characters. Indeed, given that several scenes involve some of the characters playing a piano, Marianelli found himself in the unconventional position of actually having to have music ready well before the film’s completion.


Before embarking on this score, Zimmer was told to let his imagination run wild. What emerged was a densely constructed, imaginative, electronic sound world, incorporating a guitar sound reminiscent of the music of Ennio Morricone played by Johnny Marr, former guitarist of The Smiths. Édith Piaf’s hit, ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’, which appears in the film, is also integrated into Zimmer’s score. The film’s iconic brass instrument fanfare even resembles a slowed-down version of the song.


Ten years after James Horner’s career went stratospheric with Titanic, expectations were high for his next collaboration with James Cameron on Avatar. The composer delivered a superb score that fused sweeping orchestral sounds with tribal percussion and synthesised sounds. The mystical world of the Na’vi is captured with tinkling chimes and the closing battle is one of Horner’s greatest with a huge choral climax.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin explored the relationship between Greeks living on the island of Cephalonia during World War II with their enemy occupiers . The mandolin is central to the story and, in an unusual move, composer Stephen Warbeck conceived the score before shooting even began, making the music the basis around which the film was edited. This is a delicate emotional score, pitting the sweetness of the mandolin against the darkness of war.

Once Upon A Time In The West

For his 1968 epic – his first for a major Hollywood studio – Sergio Leone called upon his countryman, the late Ennio Morricone to provide the score. The composer finished the score before filming had even begun so that the music could be played to the actors during shoots. An integral part of the film, with various leitmotifs relating to each of the main characters, the ‘Man with the Harmonica’ cue is particularly recognisable and has been put to use in other productions.

Romeo + Juliet

Shakespeare’s timeless play is updated to the hip modern suburb of Verona Beach. Director Baz Luhrmann’s collaboration with Craig Armstrong led to an enduring partnership, including the musical spectacular Moulin Rouge. An unconventional soundtrack to the very unconventional interpretation, the touching piano theme for the Balcony Scene has become the standout moment.

One of the most iconic pieces of film music, the two note shark motif that made going in the sea terrifying almost becomes a character in its own right. Rarely has a piece of film music so perfectly captured a film’s atmosphere. When Williams first played the two notes to Spielberg on a piano, the director initially laughed, thinking it was a joke. Williams described the theme, performed on the tuba, as “grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable”.

The Big Country

For a soundtrack that needed to be as sweeping as the action and location, director William Wyler turned to Jerome Moross who had orchestrated dozens of movies and had extensive experience composing for the concert hall, ballet and theatre. While Moross’s Oscar-nominated score is somewhat reminiscent of the wild west ballets of Aaron Copland, The Big Country became his most important contribution to film music, clearly influencing many of the great western scores that followed.


For the biggest film of its time, composer Horner turned his back quite deliberately on the traditional idea of what a film score for a Hollywood blockbuster should sound like. Instead, he focused on the Irish background of Leonardo di Caprio’s character, Jack Dawson, and created a sound world somewhat reminiscent of the likes of Enya and Clannad. Titanic earned Horner a fortune and two Oscars. And it also made Celine Dion, who sang the theme tune, a few pennies too.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer headed a team of 15 composers who worked on this score to get it completed quickly. Composer Alan Silvestri, who had collaborated with director Gore Verbinski on Mouse Hunt and The Mexican, was set to provide the score, but the producers went with Badelt instead. Johnny Depp swaggered and strutted as Captain Jack Sparrow, the music did too – thrilling, surging and just a little bit cheeky.

Last of the Mohicans

It could have ended up being an electronic score if director Michael Mann had his way, but thankfully this glorious 1992 soundtrack from Trevor Jones ended up as an orchestral affair. The film’s main character Hawkeye – played by Daniel Day-Lewis – had little to say, but the music spoke volumes. The jaunty fiddle of ‘The Kiss’, used to score a scene of horrific violence in which a character is burned to death and Hawkeye chases and hunts down a band of Indians, is a particular high point. A majestic, thrilling but ultimately simple soundtrack.

Ron Goodwin and William Walton

Battle of Britain

William Walton was originally commissioned to write the music for this World War II drama. When producers decided to drop Walton’s score in favour of Ron Goodwin’s, star Laurence Olivier stepped in and demanded his name be removed from the credits if Walton’s music was removed. Goodwin’s gripping score remained but Walton’s cue for the battle sequence itself was re-instated. It is Goodwin’s theme thought that became a favourite for military bands.

The Dam Busters

Eric Coates’ brilliant theme to the 1955 film, The Dam Busters, is now so popular in its own right that it’s often played at military flypasts in the UK. It’s not surprising, given its catchy tune.

Back to the Future

Alan Silvestri’s Back To The Future is right up there with Star Wars and Indiana Jones as one of those iconic Hollywood themes – brassy, bombastic and thrilling. Silvestri’s score flits around Marty McFly’s increasingly wacky adventures, but amongst all the chaos and the pop culture references that run throughout the movie, at its heart it still all comes back to that one main theme.

The Godfather

Rota’s score for Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster epic was removed at the last minute from the list of 1973 Academy Award nominees when it was discovered that Rota’s famous ‘Love Theme’ used the same melody as one he had used previously in Eduardo De Filippo’s 1958 comedy Fortunella. Confusingly, his score for The Godfather Part II went on to win the Oscar in 1974, even though it featured the same Love Theme that made the 1972 score ineligible. Whatever. It’s an all-time classic.

Apollo 13

This Ron Howard-directed drama told the true story of the ill-fated 13th American mission to the moon. At a time when space flights had become routine to the American public, the impending tragedy and heroism of the astronauts and scientists suddenly grabbed headlines again. Horner’s Copland-esque score for Apollo 13 is possibly his greatest, understated yet stirring, patriotic but with a reverence and dignity which at times makes it feel more suited to a historical documentary.

Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan won five Oscars in 1998 but Best Soundtrack was not among them. Spielberg wanted to keep much of the film silent, to concentrate on the true horrors of war and to make sure that the harsh and real atmosphere was heard (and it clearly worked, hence winning the Best Sound Oscar). This put considerable limits on Williams, but he still managed a moving theme, played over the end credits and soon becoming a stand-alone hit, Hymn to the Fallen. The wordless chorus with a trumpet and snare-drum combination certainly tugs at the heart strings.

The Sound of Music

Set in Austria, this beloved musical tells the story of Maria, who takes a job as governess to the von Trapp family while she decides whether to become a nun. She soon falls in love with the children and their widowed father, Captain von Trapp, and we’re plunged into their world of music, mountains, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have a knack for producing great cinematic adventures, and this was certainly the case with Raiders of the Lost Ark, which introduced Indiana Jones to delirious audiences around the world. John Williams’s blistering Raiders March, first heard on Raiders, went on to symbolise the reckless antics of Harrison Ford’s Indy for three more cinematic outings. The score received an Oscar nomination but lost out to Vangelis’ score for Chariots Of Fire.

American Beauty

Thomas Newman used a range of percussion to create a complex rhythmic soundtrack for Sam Mendes’s award-winning movie, including marimbas, pianos, xylophones and bongos, as well as more unconventional tools such as metal bowls. The pensive and thoughtful music perfectly encapsulates the ennui of the mid-life crisis being experienced by Kevin Spacey’s lead character. Newman’s soundtrack doesn’t so much drive the narrative forward as float it along and it’s one of the reasons that American Beauty ‘s denouement is so powerfully shocking.

Born Free

John Barry’s popular theme song for the true story of Elsa the lion cub nearly didn’t make it into the film. The producers thought it uncommercial and cut it from the print shown at the film’s royal premiere. Singer Matt Monro and lyricist Don Black lobbied the producers to restore it and succeeded; it finally appeared over the closing credits, which enabled it to qualify for an Academy Award. It won, as did Barry’s expansive soundtrack which gives just a hint of his Out of Africa score 19 years later. Born Free even pops up in the 2012 video game Silent Hill: Downpour.

Gone with the Wind

Max Steiner is one of the founders of film music as we know it today and his name is now attached to the annual ‘Max Steiner Award’ for film music which recognises his pioneering role in the early development of the craft. Steiner was drafted in to provide the music to Gone With The Wind and his sweeping score has really stood the test of time, still able to send shivers down spines and create goosebumps.

Dangerous Moonlight

Producers of the 1941 film Dangerous Moonlight had their eyes on Rachmaninov to write their score. The lugubrious Russian wasn’t that keen, so the job of penning the music went to Richard Addinsell. Despite all that, it’s fair to say that even he passed on much of the work, too: it fell to the arranger and orchestrator Roy Douglas to knit together the melodies and turn them into a fully orchestrated, heart-on-your-sleeve concert piece, known as the Warsaw Concerto. Full of indulgent harmonies and grand Romantic gestures, the piece remains hugely popular today.

Lawrence of Arabia

Jarre became involved in the 1962 epic after both William Walton and Malcolm Arnold had proved unavailable. Despite this, and the brief six weeks he was given to write the score, Jarre came through with music that perfectly captures director David Lean’s vast desert setting and Peter O’Toole’s Oscar-winning turn as Lawrence. One of cinema’s most famous themes, Jarre’s mix of orchestra and exotic percussion captures the romance of the desert. It earned him an Academy Award.


As Mel Gibson, playing Scottish nationalist William Wallace, cried “Freedom!”, James Horner’s stirring score helped transport us back to the 13th century. There were Horner’s trademark traditional Celtic and Scottish influences, and not a few eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of some Irish themes, and a Kena flute from the Andes. Combined with the orchestra and a spine-tingling boys’ choir, they create a stirring and beautiful, romantic score.

Blade Runner

Composed in 1982 and presaging the ambient music genre that would follow in the wake of house beats by almost a decade, Vangelis’s music perfectly captures the mood of the dystopian, rain-lashed Los Angeles in which the film is set. Evocative and seductively melancholy.


This delightful French comedy set in Montmartre became an unexpected global smash. It tells the story of the whimsical, shy waitress who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better. Yann Tiersen provided a charming Gallic score, with touching piano moments, and not a little accordion making it all very authentic.

633 Squadron

British composer Ron Goodwin created an iconic theme for this World War Two saga of heroism and bravery in which an RAF squadron is assigned to knock out a German rocket fuel factory in Norway. Goodwin’s big tune – with its rhythm of 6-3-3 – has become an evergreen piece for brass bands and remains one of British cinema’s catchiest themes.

The Magnificent Seven

Undoubtedly one of the greatest Western themes ever, Bernstein drew upon Copland’s Wild West ballets, to create a galloping, expansive romp that has remained a worldwide favourite. Along with the iconic main tune, the score also contains allusions to twentieth-century symphonic works, including a reference to Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, in the tense quiet scene just before the shoot out.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

John Williams’s close relationship with Steven Spielberg and the director’s own meteoric career meant that he was the composer for many major films of the period, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman and of course, E.T. for which Williams won his fourth Oscar. No one does the magic and wonder of childhood better than Spielberg, and no one could have produced more sympathetic and timeless scores.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

John Williams conjures up another magical score reminiscent at times of Saint-Saens’s Danse Macabre. The first Harry Potter film introduced the instantly recognisable ‘Hedwig’s Theme.’ With its use of the celesta in its introduction, it evokes another magical moment from musical history, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ from The Nutcracker.

Ladies in Lavender

Nigel Hess struck gold with Classic FM listeners with his music for Charles Dance’s 2004 film. Set in picturesque 1930s Cornwall, the sweeping, lyrical score perfectly matches the stunning scenery and ocean vistas. For the main theme, Hess employs a full symphony orchestra alongside a solo violin, performed on the original soundtrack by the star violinist Joshua Bell.

Cinema Paradiso

This touching 1988 Italian film celebrates both childhood and cinema. In keeping with the film’s study of a relationship between a child and a father figure, composer Morricone collaborated with his son Andrea for the film’s score and their work won them a Bafta. While Morricone is best known for the experimental nature of his earlier work scoring westerns for Sergio Leone with natural sounds, electric guitars and harmonica, Cinema Paradiso is a more traditional orchestral score. However, it is a perfect accompaniment to the sentimental and romantic nature of the film itself.

Doctor Zhivago

David Lean’s screen version of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago was a sumptuous, sprawling, epic about the life of a Russian doctor-poet who, although married, falls for a political activist’s wife and struggles against all the odds to survive the turmoil of war. It won numerous Academy Awards including one for Maurice Jarre’s moving score. While the music largely lets the movie speak for itself, the memorable love theme Lara’s Theme is a constant reference point and became a worldwide hit.

Jurassic Park

Written in the same year as Schindler’s List , which was a major award-winner in 1993, John Williams’s score for Jurassic Park may have been somewhat overshadowed. However the dinosaur blockbuster enabled him to use an array of compositional techniques which he employed in many of his 1990s film scores. The minute this theme was first aired, it sounded like it had been around for millions of years, instantly an old friend. Majesty is somehow written into the score and befits the wonderful, enormous creatures that Spielberg brought to life on the screen.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Italian master, Morricone, certainly created one of the most iconic pieces of film music with his main theme, and the rest of the score to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly comes complete with all the classic Morricone traits – including whistling, yodeling and gunfire.

Chariots of Fire

Greek synthesiser wizard Vangelis opted for a very modern, electronic score in contrast to the film’s 1920s setting – a decision that worked. The famous theme has lived way beyond its original purpose and is widely used for sporting events in real life, forming a memorable moment at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, with Sir Simon Rattle, the LSO and Mr. Bean! Vangelis won an Oscar for his soundtrack.

Star Wars

In 1977, Star Wars caused a revolution; Williams brought a new hope to movie soundtracks, reviving the golden age of grand symphonic scores. He’s since composed for most of the Star Wars movies and most recently worked on ‘Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker’. From the brass blasts of ‘Imperial March’ to Princess Leia’s theme, every one of Williams’s motifs is pure class.

The Mission

Morricone created his most successful score for the Oscar winning 1986 film. It tells the story of a Spanish priest who goes into the South American jungle to build a mission and convert a community of Guarani indians, whilst fighting off the dastardly Portuguese colonials, who are trying to enslave the community. Morricone’s score skilfully mixes Amazonian rhythms with the Baroque style of the Jesuit missionaries.

Dances with Wolves

Reflecting the movie’s political and ecological themes, Barry rejected the usual western clichés for a gentle depiction of the story’s wide-open plains. As well as the hugely popular ‘John Dunbar Theme’, the ‘Love Theme’ is eloquent and ever so slightly haunting; while the music used to accompany Two Socks (the ‘star’ wolf) is also beautiful.

Out Of Africa

John Barry – with a little help from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto – provided tender accompaniment to Streep and Redford’s doomed, sub-Saharan love affair. The soundtrack, evoking the expanse of the landscape, garnered Barry an Oscar for Best Original Score and also sits at No.15 in the American Film Institute’s list of top 25 film scores.


An Oscar-nominated score for the epic that revived the sword and sandals blockbuster. For Gladiator, Hans Zimmer uses a simple but stirring melody throughout and, as a result, the film joins the ranks of those movies for which the music is a key part of its success. Lisa Gerrard’s haunting voice added a timeless and atmospheric quality.

The Lord of the Rings

Canadian composer, Howard Shore, may have seemed an unusual choice for the most ambitious production in cinema history, but he triumphed. Nothing in recent years has come close for scale, drama, melody and skill. Shore’s score – which features some 80 different themes and motifs representing the various characters and locations – won him three Oscars, four Grammys and three Golden Globes.

Schindler’s List

John Williams initially thought this heartrending movie would be too challenging to score, telling director Steven Spielberg: “You need a better composer than I am for this film.” Spielberg responded: “I know, but they’re all dead!” As it turned out, Williams captures perfectly the traditional music and sad plight of Europe’s Jewry, and the shame of man’s inhumanity to man.

The Classic FM Movie Music Hall of Fame 2020