10 Great Original Film Soundtracks

Orchestra recording score to a film
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As time progresses and music evolves, it's hard to define modern orchestral music using the same classical terminology used to describe the music of baroque, classical, and romantic period composers. Are today's original film scores the new classical music? It's possible that original film scores will be regarded as highly as those composed by Beethoven or Mozart. If that is indeed true, we've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best original film soundtracks from the late '90s and 2000s.

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Meet Joe Black - Thomas Newman (1998)

This is without a doubt, the album that started it all... our obsession with original film scores. Thomas Newman, a Hollywood heavyweight composer, has composed music for many movies, including Wall-E, American Beauty, Finding Nemo, Finding DoryThe Green Mile, and Spectre. Newman has a unique style of writing, and once you are familiar with it, it's easy to recognize. Creating themes is extremely important to Newman — a theme can introduce an idea or represent a character or feeling. Once the theme has been established, Newman is able to manipulate it or reconfigure it, either subtly or dramatically, in order to paint a more detailed and nuanced picture. What we like about Newman's score for Meet Joe Black is how accurately the music mimics the feelings and sentiment of the film; it's introspective, poetic, and lyrical.

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Tan Dun (2000)

Tan Dun's impressive work for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon effortlessly fuses Western and Eastern music in a unique and meaningful way. With the help of Yo-Yo Ma, Dun impossibly paints a vivid picture with a minimal sound. From the heart-pounding drums to the solo cello, his score is the foundation of a visually stunning, award-winning movie.

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Chronicles of Narnia - Harry Gregson-Williams (2005)

This blockbuster movie of 2005, based on the novel by C.S. Lewis, boasts a fantastic soundtrack. Each song masterfully depicts the movie's drama, so even without the silver screen, the score stands solidly by itself. Gregson-Williams has an impressive list of works including scores for the Shrek films, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Prometheus, and The Martian, but many of his fans agree that Narnia is one of his greatest musical triumphs. The music of the Chronicles of Narnia soundtrack are rather eclectic; it's a mix of modern and classical music with references to folk music.

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American Beauty - Thomas Newman (1999)

American Beauty, the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1999, has an amazing score. Composed by Thomas Newman, the music brings out the emotional subtleties words alone cannot do. Tastefully written, Newman's musical intuition to stay away from overly powerful, somewhat cliché musical themes adds to the film's inherent beauty. The music of American Beauty is more of a framework, a hollow shell accented with "mile markers", allowing the listener to fill in the gaps with their own emotions, feelings, and interpretations.

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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - Howard Shore

Like the music of John Williams' Star Wars, Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings is instantly recognizable. Its music evokes many of the movies' most memorable scenes. What's more, with over nine hours of film to cover, a lack of musical variety is not an issue here! Shore effortlessly captures the action, emotion, and atmosphere of the movie and translates them to notes on a page. The trilogy features several artists, but one, in particular, we are quite fond of is Renee Fleming.

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Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman (2008)

This album is starkly different from the other albums on this list. Rahman's Slumdog Millionaire, winner of the 2009 Golden Globe for Best Original Score from a Motion Picture, is definitely a youthful soundtrack fusing hip-hop and the typical Bollywood soundtrack into a modern-day, upbeat masterpiece.

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Finding Neverland - Jan A. P. Kaczmarek (2004)

Youth, joy, and reckless abandon are the themes of this fantastic soundtrack. Kaczmarek, a polish composer, envisioned the meaning of Peter Pan and transformed it to music. Children's chorus, solo piano, strings, and other energetic orchestrations take the listener exactly where they want to go - Neverland.

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Star Wars: Episode III - John Williams (2005)

Star Wars. Almost anyone can name the movie upon hearing the main theme and many can sing it if asked. The soundtrack to Episode III is nothing short of spectacular. Williams, whose music for Harry Potter and the Prisoner Of Azkaban was nominated for a Grammy for Best Score in 2005, is another Hollywood heavyweight composer. The music for Episode III is, perhaps, the darkest of the six Star Wars films.

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Finding Nemo - Thomas Newman (2003)

Thomas Newman's third entry on the list is his score for Finding Nemo. Gracious in design and impeccable in execution, Newman's music is heartfelt and sincere. In a cold, vast ocean, his music adds warmth and emotional richness that computer animated characters and vivid graphics cannot fully express.

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Amelie - Yann Tiersen (2001)

This delightful French film has a soundtrack that is rather unique. Its french flair and instrumentation are far from cliché. Employing a variety of instruments from accordion to solo piano, this score encompasses the film's fluttery charm and nature.