Iconic Movie Themes

We look back at some spine tingling themes in the movies

With JURASSIC PARK 3D hitting cinemas this week, we were reminded of the majesty of the film’s soundtrack, as well as the power that music in the movies has to transport us back in time and to move us.
Remember that amazing piece of score by John Williams as the helicopter swooped closer to Isla Nublar in JURASSIC PARK? Remember seeing the film 20 years ago in the cinema and being terrified of the dinosaurs and wondering ohmygod where did the goat go? That’s what we mean. We were so moved by seeing – and hearing – JURASSIC PARK on the big screen again, we decided to look back at some of the most iconic movie themes over the years.

Chariots of Fire by Vangelis – CHARIOTS OF FIRE

Do you remember the first time you heard the Chariots of Fire theme? There is quite a high chance that you heard the theme or were aware of it (and maybe did a silly slow motion run when singing it) years before you saw the film it was written for. Even though CHARIOTS OF FIRE beat out RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK for Best Picture at the 1982 Oscars, the score completely overshadowed the film – it’s about running or something, right?

The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) by John Williams – STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Is there a theme in any other movie that is so strongly associated with a character as The Imperial March? This leitmotiv not only characterises Vader, but it forms a national anthem for the Galactic Empire, and represents tyranny and oppression to the members of the Rebel Alliance.
Williams seems to have drawn inspiration from Mars, the Bringer of War by Gustav Holst and Piano Sonata No. 2, also known as The Funeral March, by Chopin for The Imperial March, and as kids, the opening notes struck terror into our young hearts.
Honourable mention also to Duel of the Fates from STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE

The Pink Panther Theme by Henry Mancini – THE PINK PANTHER

Henry Mancini’s theme for THE PINK PANTHER is filled with mystery, feels a little playful and has become synonymous with not only THE PINK PANTHER and the cartoon of the same name, but with suspense, sleuthing and mystery.
Mancini was Oscar nominated for this piece, but lost out to Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman for their work on MARY POPPINS. Mancini also created the fantastic music for BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES.

Super Fly by Curtis Mayfield – SUPER FLY

Super Fly is another theme that has overshadowed the movie it was created for, although in this instance, perhaps it is forgivable. Curtis Mayfield created an incredible funk masterpiece as the title song for a mediocre but fun Blaxploitation film; even if you have never seen SUPER FLY, it is a fairly safe bet that you have heard Mayfield’s soundtrack. SUPER FLY is one of the few films to have been out-grossed by its soundtrack, and for good reason; Mayfield’s title song is still a think of funkadelic wonder.

Back to the Future by Alan Silvestri – BACK TO THE FUTURE

Anyone who was a cinema-going child in the 1980s will surely have a soft spot in their hearts for Alan Silvestri’s score to BACK TO THE FUTURE. Not only is the title theme fun and epic, it is incredibly cinematic; it’s hard to hear the music without adding in memorable dialogue.
Silvestri’s score added to the cool factor of the film, as did the two songs from Huey Lewis and the News. Even now, 28 years later, on hearing the score, fans around the world still celebrate Marty’s amazing achievements and wish for a DeLorean and a quirky time travel companion. Well, we do anyway…

We could easily have done a whole article on the great John Williams and his soundtracks of epicness, but in the interests of fairness, we decided to widen our horizons a little. If you want to listen to some great work from Williams – other than The March of the Imperial Republic – literally listen to any one of his film scores. They are all incredible.

Honourable mentions to Danny Elfman for BATMAN, Clint Mansell for REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and DRIVE, Thomas Newman for the wonderful soundtrack to AMERICAN BEAUTY, and the equally wonderful soundtrack to SKYFALL, James Horner for ALIENS and John Barry for the James Bond theme. We could go on. And on…

JURASSIC PARK 3D is in Irish cinemas on August 23rd

Words: Brogen Hayes