Sci-Fi and Fantasy Movie Music

Music is getting stupider as a whole it seems; at least the musicians are anyway.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love modern music.  I’m a big fan of country, hard rock and even some modern rock (can we still call 90’s modern rock, modern?).  It seems that all of the really good musicians, the ones who would have been the Beethovens and the Mozarts of our time are hiding in the movie soundtrack industry.  Now, I might be biased, okay, I’m really biased, but I think their best work is done when it is for the Sci-Fy and Fantasy genre.  I think this is true because most of the movies that are made that attempt to analyze human psyche, desires, dilemmas and states of being are done in this realm.  While these movies are generally centered on action for the general viewer, most nerds know that the views that are being portrayed are the heart of the film and most of the time the score can be a great indicator and enhancer to the experience.  I’ve been re-listening to a lot of movie scores, getting sentimental, and I wanted to list a few (just a few, not by any means a complete list) of my favorites.

10.  Star Wars – One of the originals and still one of the best (I’m including the entire score for this rating).  The themes are basic but instantly recognizable to everyone.  They speak of adventure, danger, longing and total epicness and if you don’t like it then I’m sure there is someone who is nearby who can punch you in the face for all of us.  Original Music was created by John Williams (who also was the mind behind music for Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jurassic Park just to name a few); thank you sir, we are forever in your debt.

9.  Star Trek (2009) – Please don’t kill me for putting Star Trek at #9 and Star Wars at #10.  Please remember this is my personal list and I happen to be a bit more of a Trek fan (I’m also including the entire score for this rating as well).  There have been multiple composers for this long-going juggernaut, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the theme for TNG, but for this list I’m going to have to pay homage to Michael Giacchino (the mind behind the music of LOST, Up! and Mission Impossible: III and IV).  The music he created for the Star Trek re-boot was…..well, it was perfect; it was giving me an unprecedented number of goose bumps during the opening scene.

8. Inception – Dream Collapsing – Composed by Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, Black Hawk Down, and Angels and Demons).  This must have been hard, to write music that would fit a movie about puzzles and dreams within puzzles and dreams; that is probably why Nolan went to one of the best.

7. Stargate – Stargate Overture – Yes, I am referring to the 1994 movie starring Kurt Russell.  Another sentimental one for me; this movie was the beginning of my journey to total nerd-topia.  From this movie to SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and SGU, this franchise was the starting point for my over-the-top love of Sci-Fy.  This song/soundtrack was huge in its scope; it made the size and mystery of the universe a palpable thing.  Composed by David Arnold (Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Independence Day), it is one of my all time favorites.

6. Iron Man – Driving with the Top Down – This is the song that plays when Stark is suiting up for the first time; very rock and roll.  I don’t know a single dude that watched the scene and listened to the music who wouldn’t have traded someone else’s kid to really be Iron Man.  The Composer was Ramin Djawadi and he did an all-around great job on that film.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho – Hans Zimmer proves that he can take a Disney theme park ride and put some real soul into it.  This track is a compilation at the end of a couple of different themes while focusing on the romance in the movie.  I always feel happy when I listen to it.

4. Jurassic Park – Theme from Jurassic Park – A sentimental one for me, as it was one of the first PG-13 movies I ever watched (and knew what I was watching anyway).  I think this one stands out due to the music’s contrast to what the film is about.  This is movie about dinosaurs and the opening notes are quiet and gentle, instead of speaking to the violence of the dinosaurs it plays to the inspirations of science and wanting to explore childhood dreams, in essence, Joy.  It reminded me a lot of the music from Hook.  Again, thank you Mr. Williams.

3.  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Every track is considered for this one.  Let’s face it, Howard Shore created one of the most stunning scores in history, not to mention three amazing soundtracks.  This will probably forever be the gold standard in fantasy music.  The longing, feeling of history/age, and beauty this music created will bless and haunt iPods for a long, long time.

2. 28 Days Later – In the House – In A Heartbeat – Composed by John Murphy, this song on its own pretty much redefined horror music.  The way the music complements the chaos and character development/transitions going on in the movie takes my breath away every time.  Even as a stand-alone work it transcends most genres due to its unique ability to exemplify the barely controlled insanity of the sub-conscious.  Love it.

1. Sunshine – Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor) – Also composed by John Murphy, this is my all time favorite Sci-Fi score.  Somehow I lose track of it from time to time but re-discovering it is always a wonderful thing.  I’m sure it means something different to everyone, but to me it is a song about self-sacrifice; the creation of something beautiful in death, whether it is death of the physical or of the mental/psyche.

It is interesting to note that both #1 and #2 were composed by John Murphy for films directed by Danny Boyle.  Maybe these two should get together more often!!!

Since I am feeling sentimental I think I will leave you with a quote from an SG-1 episode.  I didn’t understand it the first time I saw it, as I hadn’t totally come to grips with why I’m a nerd and why I love the genres that I do.  This explains what all these songs mean to me and why they speak to me the way they do.

“Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinded critics and philosophers of today, but the core of science fiction, its essence, has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all.”

– Isaac Asimov

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2 comments

  1. Do Disney movies count as fantasy? I’ve been listening to the Disney radio station on Pandora, and some of those compositions are quite fantastic. I have a kid, so it’s okay for me to admit this.

    • I’m not sure they are in the same wheelhouse, but I know what you mean. Some of the best music out there is from Disney movies. I personally am a fan of the soundtrack to the little mermaid.

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