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Epic Movie Themes: 16 Cinematic Soundtracks From My Youth

Updated on March 28, 2022
Join us as we enter the realm of cinematic scores. The music of the movies.
Join us as we enter the realm of cinematic scores. The music of the movies.

Movie Themes That Still Catch My Attention

The 16 movie themes listed below, with YouTube links for your listening pleasure, are from some of the most memorable movies that I grew up watching. Most of the films are from the 70's & 80's, with a few exceptions. They are in not in any specific order, but I did notice that they seem to be what some would consider typical "guy" movies...that being said, I think every reader will find that they are captured by the epic and timeless scores regardless of gender or age. These are not songs with lyrics that just happened to be used in a movie soundtrack as an after thought, but instead are grand original orchestrations of cinematic proportions. All but one (2001:A Space Odyssey), to my knowledge, are original scores created specifically for each film. The next time you lose yourself one of these classic films, turn the sound down and you'll realize just how important these scores are to the overall enjoyment and mood of each of these films. Sit back, listen and return to that moment when you first heard these engaging, uplifting and sometimes chilling themes...

Which Do You Prefer...

Do you prefer original film scores or radio songs used as soundtracks?

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Star Wars : A New Hope

In a galaxy far, far away this classic space opera's iconic theme makes you want to engage in a dog-fight as the pilot of an X-wing fighter and wield a glowing light-saber in the battle of good versus evil. Lucas' game changing masterpiece movie paved the way for the science fiction genre to be reborn. Follow the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and everyone's favorite droids as they battle the evil Empire lead by Emperor Palpatine and his Sith Lord apprentice, Darth Vader. Punch it into hyperdrive and May the Force be with You!

George Lucas 1977

Film Score by John Williams


The coastal sea adventure begins...and terror from the deep ensues. A whole generation questioned whether it was safe to go back in the water. While spawning decades of sequels and various aquatic "villain" knock-offs, it remains the best and most terrifying of the genre. Although the story is bigger than life, it was it's basic "less is more" presentation of the central villain that made it work. You barely saw the Great White monster for mush of the movie, but the now infamous theme let you know he was coming...and he was hungry. This "fish tale" was based loosely on actual events that took place in NJ. And it can never be stated clearly enough. "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

Steven Spielberg 1975

Film Score by John Williams

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

He came from the far reaches of outer space...and wanted Reese's Pieces and a Speak 'n Spell. He was accidentally left behind by his people and made friends in an alien world with a couple of in particular, named Elliot (you said his name in E.T.'s voice, admit it). The film helped launched the career of Drew Barrymore and skyrocketed sales of those little peanut butter candies. The E.T.'s race has even been seen in Galactic Senate in the Star Wars prequels. We've all stuck up a finger in the air waiting for it to glow. So, get on your flying bike, dodge the government agents and do whatever it takes as you try to help E.T. phone home.

Steven Spielberg 1982

Film Score by John Williams

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

With the awe inspiring image of Devil's Tower and it's mashed potato remake, we were on the cusp of a new era in human history. After the discovery of a 30 year missing squadron of planes and a lost cargo ship that appears inn the Gobi Desert, the government scientist played an industrial sized game of "Simon" with alien visitors and their well lit spaceships. Were the Greys to be friend or foe? The somewhat playful music that is now widely recognized was enjoyable because you could easily "beep" it out vocally. This more "realistic" first contact movie had us convinced that "We are not alone" and was at once both inspiring and somewhat disconcerting.

Steven Spielberg 1977

Film Score by John Williams


"Yo Adrian!"...The classic underdog story with a South Philly attitude. Punch a side of beef, visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art and get punched (a lot). Rocky gets beat by Lando Calrissian...uh, I mean...Apollo Creed. This first installment of the Rocky series was written by and starred Sylvester Stallone. It won 3 Oscars, including the Best Picture Oscar, in 1977 and had a total of 10 nominations. He fought as many inner struggles, as man seeking his own self worth and the intricacies of personal relationships, as he fought matches in the ring. As anyone who has visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art can attest, you hum the song as you run, or a walk, up those impressive stone stairs.

John G. Avildsen 1976

Film Score by Bill Conti

Raiders and the Lost Ark

The adventure begins...the whip, the hat and the wry smile of Indiana Jones have become synonymous with the globe trekking, treasure hunting, action adventure genre . Traveling the world and excavating treasures on a professors salary was never more fun. All the swashbuckling of days gone by melded with all the action the modern movie goer could want. The theme song keeps your heart pounding through the entire trilogy (the forth one should be forgotten). Grab Short Round, yell out "I hate snakes" and go on an adventure.

George Lucas 1981

Film Score by John Williams

Blade Runner

Sci-Fi film noir at its best and a visual feast for any film buff. It is Ridley Scott's not so "alien" vision of humanity's bleak future. With replicants on the run and Harrison Ford's Deckard trying to make sense of what it it all means, you'll ask yourself "what is real...what is it to be human?" From Tyrell's insistence that "More human than human" is our motto to the conflicted Rachael and the ever questioning Deckard, this film and it's epic score are filled with a sense of despair and hope all at once.

Ridley Scott 1982

Film Score by Vangelis

2001 : A Space Odyssey

Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" awe inspiring score opens this classic film. It's a bone, it's a spaceship...welcome to the Hilton Moon Hotel. As a man, and mankind as a whole, searches for answers to his past and his future, he finds even more questions. HAL becomes unstable and sociopathic and we question whether it is a malfunction, and bold step in AI or the manipulations of those who set the whole game in play. Man, Old man, older man...Baby. This monolithic film perfectly pairs the creative talents Stanley Kubric and Authur C. Clarke. Out of our past and into our future we were, and are, not alone.

Stanley Kubrick 1968

Film Score by Johann & Richard Strauss

Superman the Movie

It's a bird, it's a plane...It's Superman. The Big "S" comes to life from the pages of DC Comics. The character, first appearing in Action Comics in 1938, had had a few incarnations before this blockbuster hit the theaters, but this one spawned the modern super hero movie genre. From Kal El's journey from Krypton to Earth, Clark Kent's Journey from Kansas to Metropolis we all found a hero to believe in. You'll believe a man can fly as he fights for Truth, Justice and the American Way!

Richard Donner 1978

Film Score by John Williams


Hide in the closet with Jamie Lee Curtis and get your coat hanger ready. Never has an inside-out William Shatner mask been so terrifying. Micheal Myers has returned to Haddonfield after escaping from a psychiatric hospital which he has been in for fifteen years...and he's not looking for candy. Donald Pleasence's Doctor Sam Loomis calmly states, "Death has come to your little town, sheriff."

John Carpenter 1978

Film Score by John Carpenter

Star Trek the Motion Picture

To boldly go where no man has gone before...again. Gene Roddenbury envisioned a bold new and hopeful future for humankind...The U.S.S. Enterpise's continuing mission hit the big screen and never looks back. Kirk, Spock, Bones and the original crew confront V'Ger who is coming home and is being quite illogical (or overly logical). While this sweeping theme began it's life on the original TV series, it became even more cosmic on the silver screen. May you live long and prosper and have peace and long life.

Robert Wise 1979

Film Score by Jerry Goldsmith

Back to the Future

A DeLorean, a Flux Capacitor, 88 mph and 1.21 gigawatts of electricity. It was smoothest ride through time paradoxes ever taken. Marty McFly and Doc bounce back and forth in time, trying to fix the time line and set thing straight, in this first installment of this awesome trilogy. 1955, 1985 and 2015 were the 30 year intervals and on October 21, 2015 we should all have our Hoverboards. And remember, "Where we're going, we don't need roads."

Robert Zemeckis 1985

Film Score by Alan Silvestri

James al

The instantly recognizable theme plays as the opening sequence spirals around the silhouette of Bond, James Bond. Q, M and 007 are in Her Majesty's service and fight the good fight against Bloefield, SPECTRE and others. The adventures of this 00 agent are made even more enjoyable by the cool cars, awesome gadgets, sinister villians and of course...the Bond girls. Multiple actors have played the part of the super spy over the years in this franchise of films that far outpaces, in number, all other franchises. He is a lady's man and a man's man all at once. And, as always, he'll take it "Shaken, not Stirred".

Various 1962-present

Film Score by Monty Norman

Conan the Barbarian

Muscles, thieves, swords, sorcery and a quest for the revenge of his mother's murder play out in this bigger than life film. Arnold hits the big screen and introduces the world to his muscle bound physique and his "interesting" speech pattern. The theme is bold and seems to fit the "time" period of this film perfectly. The genre was defined for decades to come in this first of the Conan films based on the pulp fiction and comic books of years gone by. Thulsa Doom sounded surprisingly like Darth Vader as he calls out to a random virgin, "Come to me, my child".

John Milus 1982

Film Score by Basil Poledouris

A Nightmare on Elm Street

A fashionable sweater and a glove to make even Edward Scissorhands jealous form the backdrop and visual center to this unique entry into the slasher genre. "One, two, Freddy's coming for you...Three, four, better lock your door...Five, six, grab your crucifix...Seven, eight, gonna stay up late...Nine, ten, never sleep again." As we all know, when you die in your dreams you die in real life. This series combined a chilling theme, quirky comments from the killer and enough sequels to give anyone nightmares.

Wes Craven 1984

Film Score by Charles Bernstein

Friday the 13th

Jason Voorhees welcomes you to Camp Crystal Lake, Well, to be more accurate it was his dear old mother who hunted camp counselors in the original film and not Jason himself...Since he drowned many years ago, his mother has been busy planning. Virgins to the left, tramps to their death. Machete [√} Hockey Mask (after the 1st film) [√] Chh Chh Chh Hhh Hhh Hhh [√]

Sean S. Cunningham 1980

Film Score by Harry Manfredini


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