Comic book movies have built up a reputation for having remarkably good soundtracks -- the Batman movies alone have contributions from Prince, U2, and the Smashing Pumpkins. And who can forget Nickelback's
song for Spiderman
(okay, just kidding)? But the unsung heroes (see what I did there?) of the sonic landscapes of comic book movies are the scorers. Think about it, these guys are almost wholly responsible for establishing the feel and tone of their respective movies. For a related example, try to imagine Star Wars
without John Williams' compositions -- it's not really the same is it? So on the eve of The Dark Knight Rises
we did some elaborate research and constructed a list of the five best comic book movie scores, and their composers.
5. Batman - Danny Elfman
The original Batman
film is famous for bringing Batman back into the darkness of the comic books, away from the cartoonish, campy feel of the classic television series. Tim Burton gets the credit, but he couldn't have done it without Danny Elfman. Elfman's music for the movie is theatrical and cinematic with the perfect amount ominous and obscure undertones. It captures the dankness of Gotham City as well as the inner struggle that separates Batman from other superheroes. And without a doubt, Elfman's work is a huge inspiration for another Batman movie that we may see later on this countdown.
4. Barbarella - Bob Crewe and Charles Fox
What's not to love about the Barbarella
score? Full of psychadelic instrumentation, this film's music sounds like what would be played at a swanky lounge on some other-worldly planet. It's a perfect encapsulation of music in movies in the 1960s and best of all, it doesn't take itself too seriously. Part of me thinks that without Crewe and Fox's scoring we wouldn't have Austin Powers.
3. 30 Days of Night - Brian Reitzell
Brian Reitzell takes scoring a horror movie to a whole other level in this adaptation of the comic mini-series. Working completely with cacophony -- Reitzell rigged a pottery wheel with drum mallets and sticks for a lot of the sounds -- the score is at times alarmingly percussive and intense -- its anger is almost hard to listen to. At other times though it is shockingly quiet. The juxtaposition is brilliant in that these lulls don't act as respites, but as signs of more horror on the horizon.
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - Nigel Godrich
You really can't go wrong pairing up longtime Radiohead-producer with a hip, clever comic book movie. Godrich does an unbelievable job capturing the video-game aesthetic of the movie, especially during the fight scenes. It's as if Scott Pilgrim is in an Atari game, which is the point after all. But what he also nails are the more heartfelt moments in the movie with Four Tet and Radiohead-like instrumentals. This score may be the most listenable one around -- it truly stands on its own.
1. The Dark Knight - Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Okay, you knew we were going to go with it, but how could we not? Zimmer and Howard's score is dark (darker than Elfman's even), epic, and extremely memorable. The Dark Knight
is arguably the best Batman movie because of Christopher Nolan's vision and Heath Ledger's unbelievable performance as The Joker, but we say Zimmer and Howard are the whole reason that The Joker seemed so creepy and powerful in the first place. Besides being gritty and anarchic, we also love how this score barely leaves any space for optimism. We'll just have to see if The Dark Knight Rises
effectively completes Zimmer's excellent work on this modern Bat-trilogy. Early snippets in the trailer say it will be just as epic.
[Ed. Note: Arguably the most iconic of all superhero orchestral themes is Richard Donner's classic 1979 Superman, featuring that oh-so-recognizable horn motif by John Williams. I'd even argue it sits above all others as a model for how to establish a theme so perfect, so memorable, that it can't even be included in these lists anymore -- it's above them. Who hears this and DOESN'T picture big blue flying around the earth?
0. Superman - John Williams
So, did we miss any of your favorites?