TV & FILM

OPEN POST: What is Your Favorite Movie or Franchise Theme Music?

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brian-mcgee - September 14, 2018

A killer theme is as vital to the success of a big budget popcorn film as any other element on display. There's got to be a triumphant fanfare or majestic introduction to welcome the audience into the world of the film. This is no time for subtlety or nuance, you've got to get the audience instantly fired up for what they're about to witness.

There are some composers, like John Williams and Danny Elfman, who have made this a cottage industry. Others have nailed it on their first try. Some on their tenth try. And some on their only try.

As much as I would have loved to include them, no theme songs, so, sorry Ghostbusters 1 & 2 fans, as well as anyone pulling for a specific Bond song, or even advocates for Eminem's Venom song. This is score only

I imagine the one that elbowed its way to the front of the line for most of you is John Williams' Star Wars theme. This is sort of the go-to answer, but deservedly so. It's amazing, it puts you in the right frame of mind for the adventure ahead. It's the best of what a theme can be in that it more or less only exists over the opening and closing titles, and that's not a knock against the rest of the music Williams created for Star Wars. It's just that this particular piece is so far above all the others, it's unfair to make the other music compete with it...

 

The brainchild of composer Monty Norman, later refined by his predecessor John Barry, the brass heavy James Bond theme has to be one of the first that leaps to mind. Every Bond film has opened with it—except 2006's Casino Royale which saves it for the end—and it is as iconic as any theme ever. It's a strong contender for anyone's top spot.

 

On the more rapturous side of things is "The Godfather Waltz," a somber, sobering piece of music that adequately prepares you for the melancholy to come in The Godfather films. Director Francis Ford Coppola handed the job to Italian composer Nino Rota, who created some memorable themes for Fellini's 8 1/2 and Bertolucci's Romeo & Juliet. Kicked off by a lone horn, the theme grows from there into an old world waltz that never leaves your head throughout the film.

 

"When is he gonna bring up Bill Conti's 'Gonna Fly Now' from Rocky, bro?" If we were doing theme songs, "Eye of the Tiger" would be a fierce competitor for the title, as is the amazing fanfare that starts this immortal theme from the Rocky movies. Conti is another Bond veteran, Conti lost the Oscar for this theme, but won it several years later for The Right Stuff. This is as iconic and immortal as themes get.

 

Howard Shore's scores for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films are as integral to their success as all the other technical elements. It won Shore three Oscars for his efforts and propelled into the upper echelon as a result of his excellent work. Watch the movies again and try to imagine getting anywhere near as emotional in certain moments without that score.

 

Elfman's got a lot of these, and of course his Simpsons theme is every bit as iconic as anything else he's done, but his 1989 Batman score remains his Mount Everest. The theme that Elfman created hasn't been usurped in nearly thirty years of trying via many other Batman movies. He replaced the 1966 Batman theme in our heads, and most remarkably of all, nothing has yet to replace his theme as the definitive Batman music.

 

Here's a strange one, but one that I felt merited consideration nonetheless as it meets all the criteria...

 

Alan Silvestri's greatest composition remains the Back to the Future theme music, another rousing theme used repeatedly throughout the films to generate an emotional response...

 

Of course, Indiana Jones is another great John Williams one...

 

As is E.T...

 

Superman...

 

Jurassic Park...

 

The list goes on.

For me, my favorite has always been one from my childhood. Henry Mancini's jazz theme for Blake Edwards' The Pink Panther remains my personal pick for favorite movie or franchise theme music. It's the epitome of cool and very much established the tone for the film. Plus, it's become ingrained in all our brains thanks to its use in the cartoon that followed.

So let's hear it. What's your favorite? If you guys like this, we can do TV themes next time.

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