I don’t think any fellow die-hard cinema fan would argue that music plays a tremendous part in successful movies. Today I’m taking time to focus on the music in movies, particularly popular theme music. To clarify, these aren’t popular songs featuring great lyrics and great voices. I’m talking specifically about theme music that everyone knows. Music that immediately registers with anyone who knows movies and enjoys them. Now with so many examples of great themes I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But no one can deny that these five movie themes are absolutely phenomenal.
#5 – “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
Ok seriously, what person reading this can’t hum the Indiana Jones theme to themselves right now? Indy is a truly iconic movie character. I mean who doesn’t love him? The toughness, the humor, and the wild adventures certainly contribute to the character’s popularity. But then there is that equally iconic theme music from the legendary John Williams. It’s rousing, exciting, heroic, and recognizable. But it’s also always used at the exact right moment in the film. It makes so many of the scenes all the more thrilling and it is music that everyone knows the moment they hear it played!
#4 – “Chariots of Fire”
Hugh Hudson’s 1981 inspirational drama is a movie I have been meaning to revisit for a while now. It was a huge Oscar success receiving seven nominations and winning four including Best Picture. One of those Academy Awards was for the brilliant music score from Vangelis. Within that score lies some of the most beautiful and magnetic theme music ever put to film. I remember after first seeing it and how it added so much to the picture. It was a shining example of how music can strengthen any film. There’s so much about the movie which I have forgotten, but one thing I remember with great admiration is the amazing theme music.
#3 – “Halloween”
The 1978 film “Halloween” is a genuine horror classic for a number of reasons. It was a tense and uneasy movie that launched an entire sub-genre of horror. And then there is that unforgettable theme music. Part of the reason that “Halloween” was so effective was its basic but incredibly moody theme music which consisted of a fairly simple piano melody written and played by director John Carpenter himself. There is nothing difficult or complex about it yet it is so fitting with the films atmosphere. In fact, it could be said it’s a key component to the movie’s scary vibe. It’s so good and incredibly easy to recognize.
#2 – “Star Wars”
As a Star Wars fan very few things get me going like the musical transition from the 20th Century Fox logo to the Lucas logo to the scrolling intro in the Star Wars openings. When (once again) John Williams’ blast of horns simultaneously appears with the Star Wars title I want to burst out in applause. And talk about theme music that everyone knows. Whether you’re a full-fledged Star Wars geek like me or not, the Star Wars theme music has etched itself in movie history. Williams created an assortment of brilliant music for the film’s score some of which have earned their own individual praise. But it’s the theme music that resounds and instantly identifies this science fiction classic.
#1 – “Jaws”
Without a doubt one of the greatest movie themes of all time came from the Steven Spielberg classic “Jaws”. The 1975 thriller features a creepy, moody tune that is so effective it terrorized audiences during its initial release. It’s the perfect tension-building device that amps up the intensity every time it’s used. In fact John Williams’ simple music is used more to announce the shark’s presence than anything we see visually. It’s importance in the film can’t be overstated. This score introduced Williams’ brilliance to the world and it has become some of the greatest and most suspenseful theme music ever made.
So there are my selections. Surely you’ve heard of each, right? Which ones did I miss? Please take time and share your picks in the comment section below.