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Even the most iconic films wouldn’t be the same without music. A good film score knows how to hit the right notes in accurately conveying everything from mood and theme, to emotions and tone. Similar to a soundtrack, which is a collection of music that wasn’t written specifically for the film but fits the overall theme, musical scores are meant to enrich the viewing experience. And if you’ve watched a movie that gave you goosebumps, the music could have something to do with it.
If you’re a cinephile or movie buff who enjoys musical scores, we rounded up a list of some of the best scores to buy on vinyl from classics movies such as “The Godfather,” “Psycho,” and “Sunset Boulevard.” For more shopping suggestions, check out our roundup of musical scores for film and TV.
Nino Rota scored the haunting music in “The Godfather.” To bring the soundscape to life, Rota combined synthesized original music with pieces from the Italian film “Fortunella.” Paramount executive Robert Evans didn’t like the sound at first, but director Francis Ford Coppola convinced him to use the score. Coppola’s father, Carmine, also contributed original music to the “The Godfather” as well as “The Godfather Part II,” “The Outsiders,” and “Apocalypse Now.”
From the opening scene to the final act, the music of “Sunset Boulevard” is regarded as a sonic masterpiece. Franz Waxman, the Oscar-winning German composer behind the scores for “The Bridge of Frankenstein,” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca,” utilized multiple techniques for this black comedy about an aging silent film star who hires a screenwriter to help stage her comeback. For protagonists Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and Joe Gillis (William Holden), Waxman contrasted bebop and tango music as character themes. If you’re looking for a new vinyl copy of “Sunset Boulevard” head over to the TCM shop.
One of many collaborations between Hitchcock and legendary composer Bernard Herrmann, the suspenseful music in “Psycho” feels like another character in the film. Herrmann wrote the music for “Psycho” at Hitchcock’s insistence, and it’s good that he was able to convince him because what resulted was a film score so potent that you don’t even have to watch the movie to enjoy the music. Hermann scored other Hitchcock notables such as “North by Northwest,” “Vertigo,” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” He was also the creative force behind the scores for “Citizen Kane,” “Taxi Driver,” and “Cape Fear.”
Harold Arlen and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg wrote the score for “The Wizard of Oz,” which includes the Academy Award-winning song, “Over the Rainbow.” Music for the 1939 film, starring Judy Garland, was recorded with a live orchestra before the film began shooting. Arlen later won an Oscar for Best Original Score, and most of the songs in the film like “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” “The Lollipop Guild,” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” became timeless classics.
The music of “Star Wars” might be just as epic as the films, and we have John Williams to thank for that. Williams is one of the greatest movie composers of all time, and “Star Wars” is some of his best work. The score from the 1977 motion picture was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and features “Princess Leia’s Theme,” “The Land of the Sand People,” “Imperial Attack” and “The Desert and the Robot Auction.”
Danny Elfman composed the score for Tim Burton’s “Batman” starring Michael Keaton as the masked crusader. Because the project was Elfman’s first blockbuster, he was understandably nervous about the job, plus he was more of a Marvel fan. Nonetheless, Burton gave him a copy of the comic book, “The Dark Knight Returns” to inspire music in “Batman.” Elfman went on to win a Grammy for the iconic “Batman Theme.”
Composing the score for “Apocalypse Now” played like a game of musical chairs. David Shire was originally hired to write the music, which he did, but was replaced after a falling out with Coppola, his former brother-in-law. Japanese composer Isao Tomita was also slated to score the film and even traveled to the Philippines to make the music but contractual conflicts prevented him from completing the film. Decades later, Shire and Coppola set their differences aside and the unused film score was released from the vault in 2017. There’s no vinyl version of the album available but you can listen to it on CD.