Great Film Scores

Posted on 6 Feb 00:30



Apart from actors and stories the core element of making a successful movie is its score and soundtracks. Movie soundtracks play an integral part in the whole movie going experience. The following films have great film scores worth mentioning.

1.  American Graffiti (1973)

Pop-culture in America at it's peak in the 1970s and many rising pop-stars grabbed the attention of the audience. Similarly, American Graffiti is a coming-of-age movie with comedic touch.  It was co-written and directed by George Lucas, who is fond of experimental and engaging music. The movie was a huge commercial success and became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. It also received a nomination for the best film at the Academy Awards. Its cast includes Richard Dreyfuss as Curt Henderson, Ron Howard as Steve Bolander, Paul Le Mat as John Milner, Cindy Williams as Laurie, and Candy Clark as Debbie. The plot of the film revolves around the group of teenagers and their adventures in a single night. However, apart from the story, the music is exceptional, early rock n roll. Fats Domino, The Platters and Chuck Berry complimented the characters and story. The voice of DJ Wolfman Jack also elevated the experience for the audience.

2.  Superfly (1972)

Few movies are especially known for its film score, and the movie, Superfly, ranks high among them. It is a blaxploitation crime drama. It was directed by Gordon Parks Jr. and the star of the film is played by Ron O’Neal, an African-American priest and a cocaine dealer who is on the verge of leaving the drug business. The soundtrack of the movie is written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. It is a masterpiece that worked as a bridge between the character and the audience in telling the story. The film score itself is very defining and completely establishes the connection of both sides of the story, a pimp selling drugs and the human lives destroyed and being destroyed by using them.

3.  Shaft (1971)

The movie, 'Shaft', is revolutionary and one of the pioneers of the genre, blaxploitation. It is a crime-action movie directed by Gordon Parks and the first of the 'Shaft' series. It is an adaptation from the novel of the same name. The cast includes Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, Moses Gunn as Bumpy Jonas, Charles Cioffi as Lt. Vic Androzzi, and Christopher St. John as Ben Buford. The plot is about the private detective, John Shaft, rescuing the daughter of a Harlem mobster from the Italians. Besides the plot and storyline, it received high praise for its music and background score which was a sensational hit. The music was produced by Isaac Hayes and received a Grammy Award for its beautiful composition. Moreover, the theme 'Theme From Shaft' received the Academy Award for the Best Original Song and an Oscar as well. The stunning album was featured in many Top 100 lists across the world. The connection with culture was so appropriate that the music became an inspiration for the many movies and cop shows of the 70's.

4.  Purple Rain (1984)

A musical drama movie featuring Prince, the rock star. It is directed and co-written by Albert Magnoli. It was the acting debut for Prince that illustrated his life and career journey and highlights his talent including his concert sequences. The cast includes Apollonia Kotero as Apollonia, Morris Day as Morris, Olga Karlatos as Mother, and Clarence Williams III as Father. Apart from its intriguing storyline, the music and soundtrack received outstanding praise and won the Oscar for the best original song score. The album is also named 'Purple Rain' from which two songs “When doves cry” and “Let’s go crazy” were featured on the US top-chart lists. Other commendable soundtracks “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star” were revolutionary for the time, and helped boost Prince's career and made him a pop-sensation.

5.  O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

It is a crime-drama with spiked with humor. The story takes place during the Great Depression-era of the 1930s. It is written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. The cast includes George Clooney as Ulysses, John Turturro as Pete, and Tim Blake Nelson as Delmar and supporting roles are played by John Goodman, Holly Hunter, and Charles Durning. The plot of the movie revolves around three friends who escape from prison and are in quest of finding treasure that was hidden by Ulysses before getting caught. Unlike other movies, it is more appreciated for its film score and the use of traditional folk music, and was received positively by critics. The soundtrack received a Grammy for the Album of the Year. The feel the soundtrack portrayed and re-created is from a vintage era through music. It featured several folk artists such as John Hartford, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Chris Sharp and Patty Loveless.

6.  The Harder They Come (1972)

A crime genre that integrates the journey of Jamaican folk music reggae and ska and helped in spreading it worldwide. It is directed by Perry Henzell and it became famous for its catchy music and uplifting rhythms. It stars Jimmy Cliff as Ivanhoe "Ivan" Martin, Janet Bartley as Elsa, and Ras Daniel Heartman as Pedro. The movie made a star out of Jimmy Cliff and his music career was boosted after the release as his music and soundtracks, particularly, “Rivers of Babylon” and “You Can Get It If You Really Want” were comforting to the ears. The story is about Jimmy who came to Kingston, Jamaica for the work but gets the opportunity of recording the song “The Harder They Come”. But a conflict with the producer drags him back on streets where he started dealing with drugs and ends up in a shoot-out with police from which he runs until his death. But he is remembered as a rebellious singer and for his great soundtracks.

7.  Saturday Night Fever (1977)

The movie is based on disco music and dancing and aids in revitalizing the disco music and making it popular around the world. It is a dance drama directed by John Badham. The soundtrack spread the disco craze and people got into the groove of this genre music. The story is about a working-class man who dances and drinks on weekends in order to feel relax and diverted from personal nuisances. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack by Bee Gees is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time and other artist’s numbers like Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven and The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno” pushed the movie to amazing heights. This movie also shot John Travolta's career into the stratosphere.


Movies without music or soundtracks are incomplete and leave a vacuum. It does not matter how strong a story is, it could never be presented to a great extent without the support of film score.

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