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The Soundtracks that Defined Movies

Music carries a film and makes a deep impact on the storytelling by creating emotions in the audience. Often, moviegoers leave the theatre without thinking much about the film score. Not only has music created the background for the film, but it has also set the standard for film genres. Music adds magic to the film genre and we share a list of soundtracks that defined some of the best movies ever made.

1. Suspense

John Williams set the suspense in the heart of the audience with only three notes in the main theme for the film Jaws. He described the theme as “grinding away at you, just as a shark would do. Instinctual, relentless, unstoppable.” By manipulating the audience’s emotions, the score inspired anxiety and terror and left the viewer with a sense of anticipation.

Williams understands how powerful and effective an orchestral would work for the Jaws soundtrack. At that time, Hollywood had moved away from big orchestral scores, but the suspense film reignited an appreciation for dramatic film music and brought the industry back into a full circle. Williams continued to make inspired film score choices that defined Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park.

2. Thriller

Another unforgettable film soundtrack that imprinted itself deeply in the audience’s mind is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Originally, Hitchcock’s idea was to keep the iconic shower murder scene silent to allow Janet Leigh’s screams and the water running sound to fill the scene. However, Bernard Hermann had a different vision. He composed a piece of music on standby. It wasn’t until the film was edited that Hitchcock decided that the scene required music. Hermann shared his non-traditional score, turning romantic violins into chilling works of horror.

It’s no coincidence the soundtrack uses strings to create a painful, piercing sense of intrusion in the scene - one almost feels Leigh’s pain in being stabbed in the shower. It was an era when scores were generally about telling us how we should feel instead of showing us how it feels.

3. Epic

Another unforgettable film soundtrack that created a sense of epic grandeur is film composer Miklos Rozsa’s orchestral piece for William Wyler’s Ben Hur. Ben Hur’s battle scenes defined what it meant to soundtrack an epic. The song “Attack”! Became a point from which future films would draw their influence.

The soundtrack helped inspire other dramatic orchestration in an array of later epics such as Braveheart, Gladiator, and Lord of the Rings.

4. Western Shoot-out

Ennio Morricone created some of the most memorable and genre-defining scores for Spaghetti Westerns, especially the soundtrack for Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Morricone’s score for the film’s main theme was so symbolic, his motifs can be heard in both satirical and completely serious applications to this day.

Using coyote howls, whips, gunfire, and electric guitars for new film orchestration. This combination gave the musical definition of a wide, open frontier and sent Westerns into a completely new direction. Today, Morricone’s influence in films can be heard from Rango to the iconic movie No Country for Old Men and Django Unchained.

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