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Classic Movie Soundtracks

Updated on July 23, 2018
one2get2no profile image

Retired from investment banking and teaching, Philip has written several books on investing. Currently working on novel Rape of the Aegean.

The Importance of Movie Soundtracks

It's been widely acknowledged that the John Williams score for the Steven Spielberg film Jaws was a big contributor to the success of the movie. There are many instances where a composer has been linked not only to the success of a film but also to the movie director. This article looks at the music that made the movies or the movie soundtracks that became classics and household names.Here are my favourites and hopefully your favourites. If you don't agree feel free to make a comment.

Gone With the Wind - 1939

This movie will remain forever as one of the greatest movies ever made. Tara's Theme which is the main soundtrack was written by Max Steiner for the unknown director Victor Fleming. This classic film starred Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, Leslie Howard and Olivia deHavilland.

The epic story of a woman's life during one of the most tumultuous periods in America's history. From her young, innocent days on a feudalistic plantation, to the war torn streets of Atlanta; from her first love whom she has always desired to three husbands; from the utmost luxury to absolute starvation and poverty; from her innocence to her understanding and comprehension of life and her beloved Tara.

Doctor Zhivago - 1965

Another great move with another fantastic soundtrack. This time the composer is Maurice Jarre and he wrote it for the great director of epic tales David Lean. Doctor Zhivago starred Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness and Tom Courtney.

Set just before as well as in the years following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the film follows the life of Zhivago as he marries, raises a family, and then has his life totally disrupted by the first World War, and then by the Russian Revolution. Shown against a world turned on its head, his life and freedom are torn from him as the new Russian society makes its demands.

Jaws - 1975

The ultimate scary movie. Many people are still asking themselves whether it is safe to go back in the water. The soundtrack was written by John Williams for the director Steven Spielberg.  The film starred Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss.

Martin Brody is the new police chief of Amity, an island resort town somewhere in New England. He has a wife named Ellen, and two sons named Michael and Sean. On a Summer morning, Brody is called to the beach, where the mangled body of Summer vacationer Chrissie Watkins has washed ashore.  Shark expert Matt Hooper believes Watkins was killed by a shark. Hooper is proven right a few days later, when Alex Kintner is killed by the shark that killed Watkins. On the 4th of July, Vaughn encourages people to swim at the beach, and Hooper is proven right again when the shark kills a man, biting the man's leg off. Brody asks Vaughn to hire Quint to find the shark. Because his own kids were at that beach too, Vaughn agrees to hire Quint to find the shark. Quint, Hooper, and Brody are sent out to sea in Quint's boat, the Orca, ready to do whatever it takes to find the shark.

Peter O'Tool

Lawrence of Arabia - 1963

Another David Lean classic and another Maurice Jarre haunting melody. The composer captured in music the huge expanse of empty desert that is the backbone of the film. The film starred Peter O'Tool, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quayle and Jack Hawkins.

A complex man who has been labeled everything from hero, to charlatan, to sadist, Thomas Edward Lawrence blazed his way to glory in the Arabian desert, then sought anonymity as a common soldier under an assumed name. The story opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident in London at the age of 47, then flashbacks to recount his adventures.

As a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916, he investigates the progress of the Arab revolt against the Turks during the first World War. He organizes a guerrilla army and for two years leads the Arabs in harassing the Turks with desert raids, train-wrecking and camel attacks. Eventually, he leads his army northward and helps a British General destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire.

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - 1966

The first of the spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone and starrring Clint Eastwood. The music was composed by Ennio Morricone and has become the signature theme for all westerns since then. The movie starred Clint Eastwood (as the man with no name), Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef.

The Good is Blondie, a wandering gunman with a strong personal sense of honor. The Bad is Angel Eyes, a sadistic hit man who always hits his mark. The Ugly is Tuco, a Mexican bandit who's always only looking out for himself. Against the backdrop of the Civil War, they search for a fortune in gold buried in a graveyard. Each knows only a portion of the gold's exact location, so for the moment they're dependent on each other. However, none are particularly inclined to share.

Yul Brynner

The Magnificent Seven - 1960

No apologies for another western as the music composed by Elmer Bernstein for director John Sturges is magnificently western and makes the movie. The Magnificent Seven starred Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and Horst Buchholz. A who's who of cinema talent.

A remake of "The Seven Samurai." Seven men are picked to guard a Mexican village from bandits that come every now and then to take whatever the town has grown since their last visit. When they are hired, they go to the town and teach the villagers how to defend themselves. When the leader of the bandits arrives, they see him and his men off. The next time they come the villages fear for their wives and children. They hand over the seven heroes. The leader of the bandits takes their guns and throws them out of town he gives them horses and gives their guns back to them when they are far out of town. The seven decide that they aren't going to run, and head back to the village for a final showdown.

The Pink Panther - 1963

Perhaps the funniest film ever made. Certainly the soundtrack written by Henry Mancini had a lot to do with its staying power. The Director was Blake Edwards and the movie starred the greatest comedian ever Peter Sellers. It also starred David Niven, Robert Wagner and Herbert Lom.

The trademark of The Phantom, a renowned jewel thief, is a glove left at the scene of the crime. Inspector Clouseau, an expert on The Phantom's exploits, is certain that he knows where The Phantom will strike next and leaves Paris for Switzerland, where the famous Lugashi jewel 'The Pink Panther' is going to be. However, he does not know who The Phantom really is, or for that matter who anyone else really is. He suspects everyone, even his own wife and as it turns out with good cause, as she is very friendly with Sir Charles Lytton.

The Book of Eli - 2010

I managed to find a modern movie with a soundtrack I liked and one which also enhanced the film. The talented Atticus Rose wrote the soundtrack for the hugely talented twins the Hughes Brothers who directed this movie. The movie stars the amazing Denzil Washington and Gary Oldman. If you ever want to say that a soundtrack is a perfect fit for a movie, then this is the one.

Eli has been on a journey for 30 years, walking west across America after a cataclysmic war that turned the earth into a total wasteland. The barren roads belong to gangs who rob and kill for water, a pair of shoes, a lighter, or even just for fun. Eli is a peaceful man who only acts in self defense, and becomes a warrior with amazing killing skills when he is challenged. After the war Eli was guided by a higher power to a hidden book and given the task of protecting the book and taking it to its final destination. Eli guards the book with his life, because he knows that the book is the only hope that humanity has for its future.

Movie's Poster

Bryan Adams - Everything I Do

Robin Hood = Prince of Thieves

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is directed by Kevin Reynolds and had its worldwide release in 1991. The stars of the film are Kevin Costner as the hero Robin Hood, Morgan Freeman as Azeem, Christian Slater as Will Scarlet, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Maid Marian of Dubois, and Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham.

The movie was a huge box office hit, grossing over $390 million worldwide, which made it the third highest earning film of 1991. Rickman received the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and the film's theme song, "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You", written and sung by Bryan Adams, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song.

Robin of Locksley (Costner), is an English aristocrat who joins King Richard "The Lionheart" in the Third Crusade, is held captive in Jerusalem together with his friend Peter. Robin escapes, saving the life of a Moor called Azeem (Freeman) during the course, but Peter perishes while absconding and makes Robin swear an oath to safeguard his sister, Marian (Mastrantonio).

Robin returns to England with Azeem, who has sworn to escort him until the obligation of saving his life is settled up. In England, with King Richard still abroad, the unpleasant Sheriff of Nottingham (Rickman) rules over the land, assisted by his friend Guy of Gisbourne (Michael Wincott), together with the witch Mortianna (Geraldine McEwan) and the immoral Bishop of Hereford (Harold Innocent). At Locksley Castle, Robin's father (Brian Blessed) is slain by the Sheriff's men after declining to join them.

Once in England, Robin finds his father deceased, his home in remnants, and the Sheriff and his men tyrannizing the people. While escaping the Sheriff's armies, Robin and Azeem happenstance a gang of outlaws hiding in Sherwood Forest, their leader is Little John (Nick Brimble).

At the end after the Sherriff is defeated, Robin and Marian acknowledge their love for each other and marry in the forest. Their wedding is momentarily disturbed by the return of King Richard (Sean Connery), who sanctifies the marriage and recognises Robin for his deeds.

How often do you go to the cinema?

How often do you go to the movies?

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    • one2get2no profile imageAUTHOR

      Philip Cooper 

      6 years ago from Olney

      I will add that score to the hub as I too love Brian Adams....thanks for dropping by and your comment.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am extremely surprised to not see kevin costners, robind hood on any lists for best sound track. I was merely 10 when the movie first came out and absolutley fell in love with the musical score. I would fall asleep every night for a year listening to it. My opinion, best musical soundtrack score to date!

    • one2get2no profile imageAUTHOR

      Philip Cooper 

      7 years ago from Olney

      Yes..I loved that theme too but I couldn't get them all in.

    • Spongy0llama profile image

      Jake Brannen 

      7 years ago from Canada

      I can't believe the Jurassic Park theme didn't make this list! Oh well, I guess John Williams can't get all of the kudos. Great hub, by the way. I wish I could think up such unique and specific topics.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Vertigo, and Planet of the Apes are also excellent.

    • one2get2no profile imageAUTHOR

      Philip Cooper 

      8 years ago from Olney

      Frank...I have a follow up hub with the Godfather, John Williams and Hank Zimmer...check it out.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hey Guys, uhh, what about The Godfather?

      Dark Knight?

      Star Wars?

      Anything with John WIlliams/Hank Zimmer.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Star Wars...they have amazing songs in that...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      There's this one song I've been looking for. It's played with violin at about medium speed. It sounds like it's used for action/drama. But I just can't think of the name or where it's from. The violin is played for about 10 seconds in one tone, then 10 seconds in a higher tone, then back down, kind of changing speed in each transition. I wish I could demonstrate the sound. It's pretty well known. I think even family guy referenced it once. It's a great song. Think of Hello Zepp by Charlie Clouser. It's done at about that speed, but has nothing to do whatsoever with Saw. Sometimes, imagining the song, I get both caught in my head at the same time.

    • one2get2no profile imageAUTHOR

      Philip Cooper 

      9 years ago from Olney

      Thanks Robert I'll check out those you mention.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hey, just found this page as I was searching for "Atticus Rose" after watching The Book of Eli. If haven't listened to, check out the soundtracks for Solaris (2002), Traffic, and Narc, all composed by Cliff Martinez (the original Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer!) I think he also did Sex, Lies, and Video tape.

    • BkCreative profile image


      10 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      We may not even know that we are listening to these soundtracks as they are played everywhere and so often, especially for commercials.

      Back in my day "Moon River" was very popular.

      Thanks for this hub!


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