Five Blockbuster Scores To See Played By A Live Orchestra
The score of a film is one of the most important components of its build. It is something that can make or break it and even elevate it to new heights. It has the ability to create tension or even ease it, the score can have your heart racing at one point and then immediately after it melts. Having the right blend of music in a film is crucial and some films have the ability to go above and beyond musically. Masters like John Williams are well known and well rewarded for their achievements in making the audience enter the film emotionally and take a ride with Elliot and E.T. or fear the great white in Jaws. Recently even rock stars like Trent Reznor have joined the film score community and given us heart racing scores that blend the traditional orchestra with a electric guitar. Daft Punk absolutely blew the roof off of Tron Legacy with the electronic beats and pounding rhythms. While all of these are fantastic scores though, I have compiled a few that would be exceptional to have an orchestra play while you viewed the film. This experience is surreal and adds more life to what you are viewing on the screen. These scores have that ability to take you to a completely new cinematic experience through music.
5. Lord of the Rings
Composer: Howard Shore
Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy has a score to match the epic tone and sweeping battles that take place in the film. Composer Howard Shore has had a long career but has really began to hit mainstream success when he began working on Lord of the Rings and with director Martin Scorsese.
The films he has worked on include Hugo, The Departed, and Doubt with Oscar wins for both Return of the King and Fellowship of the Ring. What makes the scores for these films so captivating is both the whimsical theme that he gives to Frodo and Sam as they embark on their adventure but also the sweeping epic battle marches and suites that sing through the valleys as the battles tear through the land.
His sense of emotion in either situation is what makes his scores for the films so great and a reason why hearing them played by a live orchestra incredible. If I had to hear one song being played it would have to be the song for the battles of Helm’s Deep which carries a dark and low tone that rumbles from the ground and fuels the epic battle that is about to take place. The rain pours and the soldiers charge at each other and the score by Howard Shore takes the audience into the depths of the battle.
4. Indiana Jones
Composer: John Williams
A pure classic in movie scores, Indiana Jones had to make the list. While it may be tagged as cliche, there is no denying how important it was on the landscape of movie scoring especially for blockbusters.
When you say “Indiana Jones”, you instantly start hearing the theme in your head, it is one of the most iconic tunes in cinema, and a reason why it would be incredible to hear by an orchestra. The booming score to backdrop one of the greatest blockbusters of all time would be a spectacle to see. The added volume that an orchestra would add to the film would be insane with the brass creating an atmosphere unlike many other movie scores around.
What stands out so much in the Indiana Jones score is the adventure sense that it creates. Like I mentioned before, it is iconic, and this is what makes the score so impressive. The brass instruments glide you through the forest as the woodwinds back it up. The percussion keep the tempo pounding and create the suspense and action that is rivaled by few other films. This is a score that has been the influence for many other action/adventure films following it and follows suit with other John Williams scores as being very important for the future of music in films.
While Williams went on to create more classic scores after, there is no denying that this one may have left one of the bigger marks on film and hearing it played by an orchestra would help it reach its full potential and create a jaw-dropping cinematic experience.
3. Harry Potter
Composer(s): John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, Alexandre Desplat
The Harry Potter franchise has gone through a range of composers in its films ranging from the legend John Williams, to small names like Patrick Doyle, and concluded with one of the best in the business right now in Alexandre Desplat. This wide range of music that created the magical feel of the series makes it quite unique to the rest of my list.
While John Williams has made his way to a few spots already on this list, his contribution in the first few films was important but in my opinion not as ground-breaking as some of his other works. He did leave us with the very iconic theme to the series but outside of that did not change a genre like he did in series such as Star Wars. I did love the work that the composers that followed him did as they helped to levitate the franchise from the kid-friendly uplifting tone that was set in the first two films and move it to the dark and almost gritty tone that the rest of the series had.
The one name I really liked was Nicholas Hooper. His scores always could balance the lively touch and make moments mimic the tone that the first two films had but then he could turn it around and give a dark, action packed song that made the fight turn for the worse. Hearing all of the scores though would be a pleasure. The bouncy, magical tones of Williams would add to the nostalgic touch of the first two films while his third film score would help to develop the new tone. The Hooper scores are very lively at times as well and have those dark songs that grip suspense and make the grittier tone that Harry Potter goes to all the more amazing. The other composers really mix what Williams and Hooper did and add their own touch to make the other installments good but not momentous.
The song that sticks out to me is “Fireworks” which is played in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It is by Nicholas Hooper and has a wonderful medley. The notes lift in the beginning of the song and move into a very crazy guitar solo before lowering the volume of the song and moving the medley along. It comes booming back for the final minutes to cap off its final seconds and the overall feel and intensity of it is what makes it stand out to me.
Hearing the entire series played by an orchestra would be wonderful as the different tones that each film possesses would make the whole event something special.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
Composer(s): Hans Zimmer, Klaus Badelt
The Pirates of the Caribbean series has had its ups and downs with movies but there is no denying that the score is insane all the time. Hans Zimmer controlled most of the series with help from his mentor, Klaus Badelt in the first movie. He gave us a heart pounding score that has paved the way for many other action/adventures in the more recent years and shot Zimmer to instant hit within the genre.
Badelt and Zimmer gave us the very iconic theme song but Zimmer himself probably did the most damage in making important songs for the series. While the second movie wasn’t one of the best, the score certainly was as it contained songs such as “Wheel of Fortune”, “The Kraken”, and “I’ve Got My Eye on You”. These songs became staples for the franchise and really gave the movie some sort of substance outside of the other issues.
What makes the scores so impressive and worth hearing by a live orchestra is much like Indiana Jones, the scores roll with the adventure onscreen and with the orchestra behind it, it would help the music spread out and make the experience lively. What makes Zimmer’s scores so great is his use of so many different instruments and ways to make the sound unique and the song stand out from the rest.
The song that stands out the most to me is “The Kraken”. It opens and introduces the medley with it swirling up and down much like the waves as the kraken approaches in the movie. Once you are halfway through the song, it is overwhelming you, because much like the monster it is named for, its powerful tones and beats flow over you like water on a boat.
The heart pounding songs and tone that Zimmer and Badelt gave this series makes its scores one of the more iconic in the past few years. Hearing it played by an orchestra would create a fun atmosphere and add to the intensity and fun of the movies more.
1. Star Wars
Composer: John Williams
I conclude with quite possibly the most iconic of all the scores I have mentioned, Star Wars. While John Williams has made his way on this list more than a few times, he earns his spot with this selection. So many other films have stolen from this one it isn’t even funny. From the main theme to all of the battle themes, this movie has given a lot of composers inspiration.
Williams meshes science fiction, fantasy, and action/adventure into the songs to make them the perfect mixture to create the ambiance of epicness. The theme cavalcades in to set the tone with a roaring blare from the trumpets as the credits roll onto the screen. This pushes into the opening shot where the Imperial ship passes over the screen and the tension rises. The score hits its first high point when Darth Vader enters and we are introduced to the “Imperial March” and the effect never leaves. The haunting presence of Lord Vader marks one of cinema’s greatest villains with an iconic and amazing song.
Williams keeps it steady throughout the series as the songs always make their appearances throughout the series and he adds a few in that don’t detract from the score but don’t outdo the staple pieces. I would recommend seeing this played by a live orchestra because of its epic scale and the force that it would bring having it played live for you while the movies play.
The strongest song has to be the main theme. It is the most iconic and recognized one from the series and while the “Imperial March” is great as well, I feel like the theme carries multiple personalities inside of it that make it diverse. It opens in fanfare and then moves slowly into battle. I love the different themes that it takes up as it becomes a fanfare, battle theme, and love ballad all in one song.
Star Wars is a very important score and one that will probably stand the test of time as the best. The sense of adventure that Williams creates makes the movies even more insane.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Lots of badassery here! I attended a video game concert once when they played the Star Wars theme, it was epic!
It is real fun to see orchestras do this. It really livens up the experience!
Being a musician, this would be a fucking dream come true!
Many blockbusters left out, but it is limited to 5 movies so I understand. I love the idea of this I admit! My number one would probably be The Matrix, think about it!
There were so many to pick through! But The Matrix is a great addition!
The Matrix soundtrack is a good one, I would have included it in the list myself. Another one to add is Braveheart and even Gladiator.
Should we grab a golden moment and fantasise about how fucking amazing it would be to have the score played live when watching a movie in the cinema! I demand this fantasy to come true!
It actually has. I saw that in Atlanta, their symphony was playing Pirates of the Caribbean with the first movie. I want to go so badly!!
Can you please tell us more about this event? Did you just say that they were playing the Pirates score while playing the first film?
Here is their calendar. I saw that they had it happen once and it literally was just the movie on a big screen while the orchestra played. http://www.atlantasymphony.org/ConcertsAndTickets/Calendar.aspx
There we go, thank you Zach!
They have been doing some great video came concerts the past years, this trend should come to movie soundtracks too.
Good article with a dream idea, and great film/score picks! I would love to see any of these.
Fact check though: Klaus Badelt was not Hans Zimmer’s mentor, it was the other way around. Klaus started writing additional music for Hans and his colleagues in Hans’ studio in 1998, working his way up to composing full scores.
More info, for any Pirates score lovers: actually, Hans was also responsible for the main Pirates themes in the first movie (though they’re credited to Klaus), but Hans was not credited for legal reasons. (Hans had promised producers of The Last Samurai that he would work solely on that project.) But Pirates’ producer was in dire straits, so Hans snuck and moonlighted on Pirates anyway. He wrote all the main themes to Black Pearl in one go–“2 days and a night”–finishing at 4:56 AM. You can hear the trimmed-down demo of Hans’ initial themes in “Pirates, Day One, 4:56 AM” from the Pirates Of The Caribbean: Soundtrack Treasures Collection. Hans then passed the project and those themes off to Klaus, who directed the rest of the production, composing but also running between 8 rooms supervising fellow composers and orchestrators. Klaus heroically pulled the project together and produced 100+ minutes of music in 30 days.
Sources: hans-zimmer.com, “The Man Behind The Music” video interview with Hans Zimmer
John Williams appears quite a bit in this list (in this case, three of the top five here).