AFI Scores With “Star Wars”
The Force is strong with John Williams.
Not only was his score for 1977’s Star Wars named the number one Greatest Film Score of all time by the list-happy folks at the American Film Institute, but the music he wrote for 1975’s Jaws and 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial also made the cut, coming in at number six and 14 respectively.
A jury of over 500 film artists, composers, musicians, critics and historians were tapped to determine which of the most memorable scores would be chosen for The Big Picture√≥AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores, a new list commissioned by the famed institute in association with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
Of the movie music rounding out the top 10, a number predictably belong to some of the most beloved films ever made. Coming in at number two was Max Steiner’s majestic score for 1939’s Gone with the Wind. That was followed in third place by Maurice Jarre’s sweeping orchestrations for 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia, Bernard Herrmann’s heart-piercing composition for 1960’s Psycho in fourth, and Nino Rota’s epic score for 1972’s The Godfather in fifth.
The rest of the AFI’s top ten were respectively: Jaws, John Williams; Laura (1944), David Raskin; The Magnificent Seven (1960), Elmer Bernstein; Chinatown (1974), Jerry Goldsmith; and High Noon (1952), Dimitri Tiomkin.
A who’s who of the cinema’s best tunesmiths were represented on the list: giants like Hermann, Steiner, Bernstein, Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini, John Barry and Alfred Newman.
The committee based its selections on criteria such as its creative impact√≥i.e. “scores that enrich the moviegoing experience by bringing the emotional elements of a film’s story to life;” its historical significance, or scores that help advance the art form; and the scores’ legacy in cinema history. The works chosen also had to be from American films.
Steiner, Herrmann, Bernstein, and Goldsmith each had two films on the list.
Aside from Gone with the Wind’s second place finish, Steiner also placed 13th with the score for 1933’s King Kong. Herrmann followed up Psycho’s fourth place victory with his thrilling orchestrations for 1958’s Vertigo, which came in at number 12. While outdoing himself with the music for The Magnificent Seven, Bernstein also etched himself in cinema lore with his stirring score for 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which was ranked 17th. And last but not least, Goldsmith shifted from Chinatown’s murder-mystery vibe to sci-fi with his score for 1968’s Planet of the Apes.
Some of the other notable composers on the list were Erich Wolfgang Korngold, whose swashbuckling score for the The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) ranked eleventh and helped make Errol Flynn the object of every girl’s desire; Franz Waxman, whose evocative music for noir classic Sunset Boulevard (1950) came in at 16 and revealed the darker side of Tinseltown; Alex North, who made his mark at number 19 with his score for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951); and Miklos Rozsa, who roused the masses with his work on Ben-Hur, which placed 21.
Mancini’s beloved theme from The Pink Panther (1964) landed in the 20 spot, Leonard Bernstein’s music for On the Waterfront at 22; and Morricone’s classic score from 1986’s The Mission at 23. Wrapping up the list was Dave Grusin’s score for On Golden Pond (1981) and Afred Newman’s for How the West Was Won (1962) at 24 and 25 respectively.
Here’s the complete list of AFI’s 25 Greatest Film Scores:
Star Wars (1977); John Williams
Gone with the Wind (1939); Max Steiner
Lawrence of Arabia (1962); Maurice Jarre
Psycho (1960); Bernard Herrmann
The Godfather (1972); Nino Rota
Jaws (1975); John Williams
Laura (1944); David Raskin
The Magnificent Seven (1960); Elmer Bernstein
Chinatown (1975); Jerry Goldsmith
High Noon (1952); Dimitri Tiomkin
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938); Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Vertigo (1958); Bernard Herrmann
King Kong (1933); Max Steiner
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982); John Williams
Out of Africa (1985); John Barry
Sunset Boulevard (1950); Franz Waxman
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962); Elmer Bernstein
Planet of the Aples (1968); Jerry Goldsmith
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951); Alex North
The Pink Panther (1964); Henry Mancini
Ben-Hur (1959); Miklos Rozsa
On the Waterfront (1954); Leonard Bernstein
The Mission (1986); Ennio Morricone
On Golden Pond (1981); David Grusin
How the West Was Won (1962); Alfred Newman
AFI Scores With “Star Wars”