6 Of The Most Under-Appreciated Film Scores of All Time

A good score can carry, accentuate, or even draw out emotions in a scene. Scores can tie scenes together, or develop motifs for characters and locations, or simply accentuate the drama or pacing throughout a film. That’s why award shows recognise film score composers each year.

Unfortunately, a single “Best Original Score” award is never enough to highlight all of the best music included in films each year — not to mention the scores from previous years (or decades) that have been all but forgotten since they originally released.

With that being said, here are 6 of the most under-appreciated film scores of all time.


It’s hard to imagine any Hans Zimmer score being “underrated.” In fact, you could safely argue that Dunkirk’s score was pretty highly rated, given its nominations during award season and the overall praise the audio/sound team earned.

Then again, Dunkirk is possibly the least celebrated (and certainly least talked-about) film from Christopher Nolan. Is it any surprise that the film score would fall into the same bucket?

What makes it great: The entire core of Dunkirk is balanced on sound design and audio that builds anxiety throughout the film. Zimmer was pretty transparent about Nolan’s vision of a film existing within a single piece of music, and how he wrote the score as a 100-minute track. It was a new approach that calls back to the silent film era, and that allows the score to tell the film’s story even without needing the visual elements.

Tron: Legacy

Disney has found a lot of success with film scores, with a history of choosing (and sometimes discovering) incredible composers who go on to have storied careers in Hollywood. This extends beyond the world of animation to Disney’s live action feature films… and Tron: Legacy is one of the most underrated films from that catalog.

Is it any surprise that Daft Punk — one of the most heralded music acts of the past century — could create a fantastic film score? Maybe. But pairing Daft Punk’s experience in House/Dance music with a film set in cyberspace was a perfect match.

What makes it great: Admittedly, this is a completely personal pick that is only partially supported by interest from the wider film community. Daft Punk leveraged a career in electronic music and old-fashioned musical storytelling to add layers of emotion to Disney’s SciFi action film, successfully tying a futuristic world back to the source material and a distinct ’80s vibe. The music stands on its own while also paying homage to the original Tron.

Princess Mononoke

International film scores are almost criminally overlooked in favour of the “big” names in Hollywood. That is doubly true for music from animated feature films, even from a beloved name like Studio Ghibli.

Joe Hisaishi established himself as a magician behind the best Ghibli films, similar to how Alan Menken is associated with all of Disney’s “Greatest Hits.” And while you could argue that any of his films include something worthy of an Oscar, almost everyone agrees that Princess Mononoke has the best score of any Studio Ghibli film.

What makes it great: Hisaishi’s composition style is like the perfect blend of European classical music with Japanese compositions. And if Princess Mononoke is the crowning achievement of Studio Ghibli, the score is Hisaishi’s best work. Each song has a unique emotional charge that will impact a listener, whether you’re checking out a single track or the entire score. And if there’s any singular trend on this list, it’s a respect for scores capable of standing on their own as well as adding new levels of depth and nuance to the film itself.


It’s a little surprising to pair a psychological drama with a smooth jazz soundtrack, but Whiplash combines them well, and Justin Hurwitz’s score is almost as outstanding as the performances from J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller.

The nature of the score is a bit of an outcast on this list, since it blends the traditional “music underscore” compositions with original jazz compositions and jazz classics that viewers might recognise. Hurwitz’ ability to blend those three into a singular vision that supported the film’s narrative is admirable on its own, and even more impressive when you consider how excellent the final product is.

What makes it great: Music is the literal beating heart of Whiplash, and Hurwitz needed to deliver the right tone as well as the appropriate level of complexity in sound. (It’s a film set in a music conservatory, after all — only the best expert-level music would work.) Hurwitz combined original compositions and classic jazz pieces into a score that’s somehow both high-energy and easy-listening.

The Omen

Horror films have always had unappreciated music. But speak with any modern composer and you’ll hear nothing but admiration for the likes of John Carpenter, Wendy Carlos/Rachel Elkind, Ennio Morricone, and Philip Glass.

Carpenter’s work is memorable in the same way John Williams’ work stands out (The Halloween theme, anyone?), but Jerry Goldsmith’s score for The Omen is inimitable. There is something haunting about “Ave Satani,” blurring the lines between classic film scoring with ominous elements that set the standard for modern horror films. (Pun not intended.)

What makes it great: If the other film scores on this list capture the emotion and mood of their visual counterparts, then The Omen’s score delivers the same eerie and unsettling feeling of sitting through a horror film. It’s a strange and disconcerting experience listening to the score, but that’s what made it such an influential piece for the entire genre.


Danny Elfman has worked on everything from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure to Men in Black to Spider-Man. He’s the go-to composer for any Tim Burton film, a fan-favourite for superhero blockbusters, and an aficionado at crafting the scores of slow-building dramas. However, Batman was Elfman’s “big break” in terms of big-budget productions.

Nearly everyone on the project doubted Elfman could handle it, and the producers originally wanted to hire Prince and Michael Jackson to write the music instead. But Tim Burton insisted on an original score, and he hand-picked Elfman for the project. And the results speak for themselves, crafting themes that continue to influence Batman projects 30+ years later.

What makes it great: No offense to Hans Zimmer, but Elfman’s score for Batman is arguably the best superhero film score ever written. (We can’t count The Guardians of the Galaxy, because the licensed songs on that soundtrack have a clear and unfair advantage.) Batman’s score is perfectly dark, foreboding, and epic in equal parts, and always in the right moments. It delivers a heroic sound that is just right for the corrupt and dismal streets of Gotham.

Drew Gula is the senior content editor for Soundstripe, a company that provides content creators with the best royalty free music and music for commercials. He’s also a lifelong musician who finds himself listening almost exclusively to soundtracks and scores.

Source : https://www.filmink.com.au/6-of-the-most-under-appreciated-film-scores-of-all-time/

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