Signature Cinematic Soundtrack Standards


I saw The Batman yesterday (it’s not The Dark Knight, but it’s one of the better Batman films), and I was pleasantly surprised during the credits to see that Michael Giacchino did the soundtrack.

For anyone who knows me, John Williams is the soundtrack of my imagination, scoring some of my favorite films of all time: the Star Wars saga, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park, to name a few. But one of my new favorites is Mr. Giacchino, who scored Lost, Rogue One, Up (for which he won an Oscar) and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder.

On the ride home from the theater, I realized I should have known it was Michael Giacchino doing the score, because of the song that played at the end of the film. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it for you but it has a signature element for which he is known: the soft subtle violin-filled music that brings emotion out of you. No matter how loud, happy or dark the rest of his music is, you can always count on hearing at least one track with those elements.

That got me thinking what I like about other composers and something that makes their work stick out to me. Now granted, I’m a fountain of useless knowledge, and I can easily recite who scored what film, what’s the best song, etc. But for those of us who are not so inclined, I’m sure hearing a particular element of what you’re composer is famous for will make you instantly realize it’s them. To wit:

  • John Williams is famous for leitmotifs, with his themes for the Force, Indiana Jones, the Empire, Superman and Jurassic Park. They are instantly recognizable and are synonymous for the film and or characters for which they are created.
  • The aforementioned soft, emotional music of Michael Giacchino.
  • The bombastic tunes of James Horner, with your loud brass and music that swells when the hero does something, well, heroic.

All these composers, including others like Hans Zimmer, have music that strike a chord with me, and bring out my imagination. It’s probably why I enjoy listening to movie soundtracks more than any other genre of music. And when you hear a particular composers work, you know what you’re in for and sometimes, they elevate the the film they’re in. Would Krull be so great without James horner score? Would you fear the shark in Jaws without the music?

Tell me in the comments below: what are your some of your favorite composers and film soundtracks? Why do you like them?

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