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100 Greatest Film Scores Book Review


“100 Greatest Film Scores” is a great starting point for those interested in film music.

Matt Lawson and Laurence E. MacDonald split duties here as authors as each have their own area of expertise. Lawson largely focuses on more modern scores while MacDonald tackles the classics and lesser known works. Together, the two cover a wide range of scores. Of course, much of the traditional film score classics are represented here ala “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” “Batman,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Psycho,” “Superman,” etc. However, there are a number of underrated and fairly obscure scores included here such as “Now, Voyager,” “The Red Pony,” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.” Each of the 100 entries contain written pieces about the films, awards the scores may have received, information and ratings about the available recordings, a bibliography notation, a photo from the film, as well as a piece about the actual score that covers everything from how the score fits in with the film to iconic cues. If 100 scores seems like too little, you’re in luck as a list of 100 additional film scores is also included. In addition to containing scores that should have been in the top 100 like “Halloween” and “Glory,” there are also several under the radar gems from “Taras Bulba,” “Raintree County” and “Green Dolphin Street.” Finally, the book concludes with an index, bibliography, a glossary of terms, and bios of the 50 composers whose work is featured in the top 50. Naturally, many of these composers have numerous entries in the top 100 like the legendary John Williams, Hans Zimmer, John Barry and Bernard Herrmann.

“100 Greatest Film Scores” was released at the right time for me personally. I’ve always been a film score fan, but it’s only recently that I have really done a deep dive into that world. Of course, I’ve long been familiar with many of the classic scores as an avid film buff and reviewer and I have listened to many scores by the likes of John Williams, Danny Elfman, and James Horner for decades now, but I do have my blind spots as it were. Now, as I mentioned, the book does indeed cover many of the greats that are forever burned into our memory ala “E.T.” and “Jaws,” but there’s also plenty of scores that I have either forgotten or have never even heard (“Scott of the Antarctic” anyone?) and that’s what makes this book worth picking up. Whatever your interest in film scores may be, there’s so many music suggestions here to experience on your own. I am certainly eager to play many of the scores whether they be on CD or on Spotify. I’m sure you may have to do some digging to find some of these scores on your own though!

In terms of the written material, the book is clearly well researched. Yes, some of the writing can be a bit tedious at times (how many times do they need to mention why it deserves a place in the top 100?), but more often than not, it’s educational. Whether you’re learning music terms, pouring over material about how Jerry Goldsmith approached his “Planet of the Apes” score, or reading about the history of the main theme of “Fargo” being based on a Norwegian folk song called “The Lost Sheep,” you’re bound to find many fascinating stories within these pages.

As with any list book, you’ll agree with some choices, disagree with others, and be baffled by the exclusion of some. I am still rather puzzled as to why documentaries and musicals were not eligible and I’m even more puzzled as to how “Tron: Legacy,” “The Rocketeer” or ANY James Bond score didn’t make the cut of either top 100 list. The lack of Bond in particular is really odd considering the main theme (and many other themes) are far and away some of the most iconic music in all of cinema!

Overall Thoughts: Whether you’re a film score connoisseur or simply have a casual interest in film music, “100 Greatest Film Scores” is the book for you. Highly recommended.


October 14, 2018 - Posted by | Book review | , , , , , , , , , ,

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