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BOT's Top 100 Film Scores Countdown (2021): Fast Five Edition (TOP 10 WEDNESDAY EVENING EST)

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11. Jurassic Park (1993)


Original Music by John Williams



716 Points

Top 10 Placements: 2
Top 5 Placements: 3



Prior Placements:
2015- #10
2017- #10
2019- #13


We conclude this pod of 5 with the 4th John Williams score in a row, which has spent its time on the Countdown right at the border of the Top 10, though twice now on the wrong side of it. Williams spent a month in early 1993 composing for the film, and similar to his work for Close Encounters of the Third Kind wanted to write music that would convey the awe and fascination of confronting something not of this earth (or more accurately here, not of this time). This idea is echoed in the two major musical themes for the film, the main theme, as encountered when the first dinosaur is revealed to the main characters, and the journey theme, as encountered when the main characters first travel to the island (both being featured in the first youtube video in this post). This was the first time in their collaboration that Spielberg was not able to attend the recording sessions for the score, so Williams provided him with demo tapes that the director would listen to while halfway across the world. Williams' work was nominated for an Oscar, but lost out to a different Williams score for the same director.

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Jaws and Superman are way too low. They were legit my #3 and #2, respectively. Not on Top Ten?! 😱 


Very interesting. Excited to see what comes next now. 

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The Top 10 will be posted tomorrow evening.



4 films have made their first ever appearance in the Top 10. Given the history of this list, I expect most of you can figure out what those 4 films are. The question of course, is where those films will land.



See you tomorrow.

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10. Vertigo (1958)




Original Music by Bernard Herrmann



717 Points


Top 10 Placements: 1
Top 5 Placements: 1
#1 Rankings: 2



Prior Placements:

2017- #24
2019- #14



"Vertigo was not only the high point of Herrmann's work with Hitchcock, it was also the first in a series of film and TV scores that marked, arguably, Herrmann's most prolific and inventive period,
from 1958 to 1963."
- Steven C. Smith,



But somehow, the artistic sensibilities of these two artists was enough to bridge emotional differences. Perhaps it was Herrmann's respect for Hitchcock's abilities as a film director. Perhaps it was Hitchcock's working style, which allowed fellow artists to work at their own pace and on their own, leaving Herrmann to contribute without confrontation."



One of Alfred Hitchcock's most acclaimed movies started off entirely off the Countdown, and it has progressively barged its way to the forefront, now cracking the Top 10 itself for the first time. As much as BOT has certain preferences and tastes, sometimes, the old classics get their day in the sun

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9. Schindler’s List (1993)




Original Music by John Williams





767 Points


Top 10 Placements: 3
Top 5 Placements: 1



Prior Placements:
2015- #14
2017- #16
2019- #12



After viewing the film for the first time, Williams was profoundly moved and at first declined, informing Spielberg that he deserved a better composer. Spielberg’s reply is now legendary; “I know, but they are all dead.”




Lest we forget about the Williams in the room, though the prolific composer lost two Top 10 film scores in Jaws and Superman, he has gained one back, with a first-time appearance in the final running by his work for Steven Spielberg's emotional and heart-wrenchingly personal Holocaust epic.

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8. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)




Original Music by Maurice Jarre





792 Points


Top 5 Placements: 4
#1 Rankings: 1



Prior Placements:
2015- #11
2017- #6
2019- #7



Producer Sam Spiegel initially wanted to create a score with two themes to show the 'Eastern' and British side for the film and intended for Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian to create one half and British composer Benjamin Britten to write the other. 


"Jarre also gave LAWRENCE a distinctive sound by using two non-symphonic instruments in important solo roles: the cithare (zither) - in this case electronically amplified - and Ondes Martenot. Both had been used before (and would be used again) by many of Jarre's colleagues, but rarely together or with such prominence as here."

- Frank DeWald



One of the most iconic sweeping film motifs of the past 60 years has solidified its grasp on the Top 10, though time will tell if it ever will manage to break into the Top 5.

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7. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)




Original Music by Ennio Morricone





855 Points


Top 10 Placements: 1
Top 5 Placements: 7



Prior Placements:
2015- #21
2017- #13
2019- #19



Ennio goes to the room next door, to the studio, and asks me to follow him, saying, “Come to the piano and explain to me once again what you want for your character, because 1 don’t know what more I can do. I’ve already tried fifteen themes like this one!” Immediately I ask him: “Have you seen Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp?” “Yes,” he replies, “but what has that got to do with Cheyenne?” Then I explain. “Well, Cheyenne is the Tramp. He has at the same time intelligence and instinct, he’s a bandit and a lout, a son of a bitch, but he has the capacity for friendship. So there shouldn’t just be violence in Cheyenne’s theme, but also a great tenderness, because he’s a sweet, romantic character, proud and full of love.” When he’d heard all these descriptive words, Ennio begins to play: “Tan, tan tan tan tan, tanti tan tanti tan.” He’s composed the music by instinct and I say to him “That’s IT. That’s the one.” ’



We have our third brand new entrant into the Top 10 this time around, and it's the harsh and beautiful work for the fourth of Sergio Leone's acclaimed spaghetti westerns.

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6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)




Original Music by Howard Shore





861 Points


Top 10 Placements: 1
Top 5 Placements: 1
#1 Rankings: 1



Prior Placements:
2015- #2
2017- #5
2019- #1



“The world that I write in is very 19th-century and very green. I live in a forest so the connection to nature is very important to me. “And I think that was also the connection to Tolkien’s work. I know how important that was to Tolkien and his writing: everything that was green and good.”

- Howard Shore



Our #1 film of 2019 has shockingly dropped out of the Top 5 it has spent its list career residing within. Perhaps this is a sign that going forward, certain franchise films will continue to loosen their grip on the top.

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5. The Godfather (1972)




Original Music by Nino Rota





869 Points


Top 10 Placements: 3
Top 5 Placements: 1



Prior Placements:
2015- #12
2017- #12
2019- #11



"The reason The Godfather is close to being the perfect American film is the fine score by Nino Rota. Instead of being the usual lush string tour de force for which he is noted, The Godfather's music is meaningful and involving. The poignancy is set early by coronet and cello solos which depict the isolation and insulation of the Corleone family."

-William J. Knittle, Jr.


"Rota focuses on the heart and soul of the family spirit that drives Italian culture. He always said music was a vehicle for the soul and the second you hear that trumpet solo, you just know what he’s trying to do.”

- Rachel Zeffira



And we have our final brand new film ever in the Top 10, barging up all the way to #5. Nino Rota's lush and romantic music for Francis Ford Coppola's mob epic, while disqualified from the Oscars, is clearly not disqualified from BOT's head and heart.

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4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)




Original Music by John Williams





910 Points


Top 5 Placements: 1
#1 Rankings: 1



Prior Placements:
2015- #4
2017- #4
2019- #5


"My first task on Raiders Of The Lost Ark was to create a recognizable theme for the Indiana Jones character. Every time Harrison jumps on the horse or does something heroic, I wanted to pay reference to this theme. I remember playing Steven a couple of options on the piano. He loved them and simply said, "Why don't you use both?" So those two tunes became the main theme and bridge of what we know call The Raiders March."

- John Williams


"I used to love those old romantic themes in Warner Bros. films like Now, Voyager. For the love story between Indiana Jones and Marion I thought that the music could be like one of those '30s themes and that would contrast well with the humour and silliness, even if it is inappropriate emotionally. I also remember doing pastiches of brass stabs that always represented the evil Nazis - all of it with tongue slightly in cheek."

- John Williams


Extremely consistent in its rankings, hitting fourth place for the third time in four goes, the jaunty and legendary music to Spielberg's adventure classic maintains a hold on the minds and ears of BOT. While some films have suffered setbacks and reversals of fortune over the years, this is not one of them.

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3. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1966)




Original Music by Ennio Morricone





936 Points


Top 10 Placements: 1
Top 5 Placements: 3
#1 Rankings: 1



Prior Placements:
2015- #3
2017- #2
2019- #3


"I thought that I might come close to this effect by overlaying two hoarse male voices, one singing "A" the other singing "E" somewhere in between sforzato and falsetto. I went to the recording room, talked about it with the singers, we recorded the voices and added a light reverb and the effect worked,"

- Ennio Morricone



Similar to Raiders, this film has been remarkably consistent, now hitting third place for a third time. It got to runner-up in 2017, but it remains to be seen if this film can ever truly muster the power to contend for the crown.

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2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)




Original Music by John Williams





951 Points


Top 10 Placements: 1
Top 5 Placements: 4
#1 Rankings: 1



Prior Placements:
2015- #5
2017- #3
2019- #4


“Empire will require 107 minutes of underscore,” Williams continues in Rinzler’s book. “You could say it’s the equivalent of several Lisztian tone poems."


“Darth Vader, I think, is one of his [George’s] great creations,” Williams says in the 2010 Blu-ray featurette A Conversation With The Masters, “and his music should be certainly militaristic, and certainly a march, and certainly in a minor key, and certainly coming at you with a repetitive and powerful declamatory force. The brass should be right in your face, the way Darth Vader is.”



The most acclaimed overall of the Star Wars saga has its best position yet on the Countdown, yet though the film itself has generally been considered to be the more superior overall, the film's music has never managed to supplant the movie that is our #1




1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)




Original Music by John Williams





1173 Points


Top 10 Placements: 4
Top 5 Placements: 3
#1 Rankings: 2



Prior Placements:
2015- #1
2017- #1
2019- #2



Williams went on, “One day, Steven called me and said, ‘Do you know George Lucas?’ I said, ‘No, I have no idea who he is.’ ‘Well, he’s got this thing called “Star Wars,” and he wants to have a classical’—his term, he didn’t say Romantic—‘classical score, and I’ve convinced George he should meet you, because he admired the score for “Jaws.” ’ I came out here one night, to Universal Studios, and met George.” As Williams remembers it, Lucas had been entertaining the idea of using pre-existing classical works on the “Star Wars” soundtrack. The composer argued for an original score, in which newly created themes could be manipulated and developed to best serve the drama.



Rinzler’s book also shares an anecdote from the scoring sessions with the London Symphony Orchestra, with actor Mark Hamill stating, “The main titles are my theme…the only reason I say that is because Carrie [Fisher] pointed to the Star Wars album and said, ‘Look, Mark, here’s ‘Princess Leia’s Theme,” and stuck out her tongue at me. Not that we’re not mature adults, but I pouted for three days thinking, ‘Where’s my theme?'”



It was never in jeopardy. Beating out Empire by over 200 points, the original Star Wars film, aside from a brief stumble in 2019, continues its run of dominance for the Countdown. It may be a bit predictable and samey seeing this film destroy the competition, but given its quality, its legacy, its standing in cinema history and in the development of film music, can you really blame it or the people who rank it?

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Thank you to everyone who submitted a list. I couldn't put this together without all of your contributions.



Here's hoping that 2023 will see a much bigger contribution from the community, because this is something I think can evolve in film placements as we get more people chiming in

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Williams rightfully takes his place at the #1 and #2 spots. Really the entire Star Wars saga score-wise, is an accomplishment unlike anything a film composer has done before or really likely after. 


Anyway, this list got a predictable by the end, but I appreciated that the top ten was a bit different from last time, and the new additions were nice. Great presentation @4815162342.

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Here is all of the 100 in one go





1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 


2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back 


3. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly


4. Raiders of the Lost Ark


5. The Godfather 


6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


7. Once Upon a Time in the West


8. Lawrence of Arabia


9. Schindler’s List


10. Vertigo


11. Jurassic Park


12. Superman


13. Jaws


14. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


15. Batman 


16. E.T.: The Extraterrestrial


17. The Third Man


18. Spirited Away


19. The Lion King (1994) 


20. Back to the Future


21. Conan the Barbarian


22. The Magnificent Seven 


23. Chariots of Fire


24. Halloween


25. Titanic


26. Blade Runner


27. Mad Max: Fury Road


28. Psycho (1960)


29. Apollo 13


30. Rocky


31. Princess Mononoke


32. Gone with the Wind


33. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


34. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service


35. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

36. Chinatown


37. Beauty and the Beast


38. Casablanca


39. Escape From New York


40. The Social Network


41. The Great Escape


42. The Natural 


43. Alexander Nevsky


44. The Adventures of Robin Hood


45. Up


46. Braveheart


47. Inception


48. The Right Stuff


49. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

50. The Last of the Mohicans


51. Pan’s Labyrinth


52. Robocop


53. Goldfinger


54. Ben-Hur


55. Close Encounters of the Third Kind


56. The Grand Budapest Hotel


57. Avengers: Endgame

58. Forrest Gump


59. Interstellar


60. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

61. The Bridge on the River Kwai


62a. If Beale Street Could Talk


62b. Inside Out


64. Edward Scissorhands


65. Sunset Boulevard


66. Touch of Evil


67. The Piano


68. Gladiator


69. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

70. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 


71. Days of Heaven

72. Finding Nemo


73. In the Mood for Love

74. Laura


75. La La Land


76. Koyaanisqatsi


77. North by Northwest


78. Doctor Zhivago


79. Under the Skin 

80. Spartacus


81. The Ten Commandments


82. On Golden Pond


83. The Incredibles


84. Tron: Legacy


85. Star Trek: The Motion Picture


86. Taxi Driver

87. Suspiria (1977)


88. The Godfather Part II


89. The Mission


90. The Hunt for Red October


91. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir


92.  Avengers: Infinity War

93. How to Train Your Dragon 


94. Wall-E


95. Once Upon a Time in America


96.  Starman

97. Sunshine


98. Terminator 2: Judgment Day


99. The Untouchables

100. Captain America: The First Avenger



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