Movie Score Discussion (Featuring Emmakwall (explains it all))

Hey there, dear readers!

How are you doing this fabulous Tuesday? We all know how much a movie’s score can add to its experience. I have brought it up in several of my reviews and so have many other movie reviewers and critics.  My fellow movie blogger Emma, over at Emmakwall (explains it all), is one such person.  Emma loves movie soundtracks, probably even more than I do!  She is a huge movie music fan and regularly looks at and analyzes movie soundtracks, even devoting an entire section of her site to soundtracks.  Being the movie music fans that we are, we decided to have a chat about our common interest. Let’s get to it!

Me: Hey, Emma, I’ll start with a simple question: Why do you think a good score is important in a film?

Emma: Well it highlights and accentuates what’s going on in the movie scene. Even if the person watching doesn’t always realise! Whatever the emotions are being played out on screen, they can be heightened even further by the background music, giving the viewer an even better experience.

Me: I agree. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been watching a film and all of a sudden emotions build inside me, simply because of the music.

Emma: Can you think of any scores that made an impression on you when you were younger?

Jurassic Park logo

Me: There were two scores that really impacted me when I was younger: Jurassic Park and the Star Wars original trilogy. Both of which happened to be written by the great John Williams, who is my favorite film composer. When John Hammond says “Welcome to Jurassic Park” and the Jurassic Park theme begins playing, I get so excited, even today after several dozen viewings.  Same with when the music starts when the opening crawl begins in any Star Wars movie.  Although, you can’t beat the Imperial March! I’m pretty sure I listened to that on repeat all day once at work.

Emma: That’s brilliant! I love that Drew, I’m the same. Sometimes I listen to my favourite scores just to build up that feeling of emotion again. You chose two brilliant scores there I must say, I’ve always really loved the music in Jurassic Park. Doesn’t John Williams score every Spielberg movie?

Me: Williams has done a good chunk of Spielberg’s movies but he hasn’t scored all of them.

John Williams

John Williams

Emma: Ah I see, I stand corrected said the man in the orthopedic shoes! I better educate myself on which Spielberg films Williams didn’t end up scoring. Sounds marginally interesting, there must be a reason behind it?  I love “Somewhere in My Memory”, the cute music he wrote for Home Alone. That’s an awesome story about listening to the Imperial March on repeat at work. I might try that when I’m next walking into the boss’s office!

Me: It was a ton of fun! I was just sitting there coding and I felt like a boss. Any score by John Williams is gold. Who are some of your favorite composers?

Emma: I really love dramatic scores, one of my favourite composers is Ennio Morricone and that’s largely down to his Spaghetti Western stuff (which is fairly dramatic in places!). If I hear something like the “Ecstasy of Gold,” I feel pretty much invincible. I also really like John Murphy. He wrote “In the House, In a Heartbeat” for 28 Days Later and the “Adagio in D Minor” for Sunshine (both Danny Boyle films!). “Adagio in D Minor” is pretty much my favourite score, like ever. I wasn’t even enjoying Sunshine that much the first time I saw it (in the cinema) then this incredible, amazing music started and I was transfixed. I now love the movie as well and I guess I have the score to thank for that!

Me: I’ve only heard of Ennio Morricone from several of Quentin Tarantino’s films, I’ll have to look up some of his stuff some time.  I remember watching Sunshine a while ago and not really liking it.  But since then I’ve heard a lot of people saying they think it is an awesome sci-fi movie. So between that and you really liking the score. I think I’ll have to give it another shot.

Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone

Emma: Are there any scores that have made a real difference to you, when watching a movie? Made you like it more, or even dislike it more?

Me: I don’t think the score has ever been a make-or-break factor in a film for me.  If I liked it or didn’t like it, it was usually because of something else about the film.  I can’t really think of a time when I’ve watched a movie and thought “Man, this music is terrible” and it took me out of it.  I imagine that would be more of a factor in horror movies where atmosphere is a huge part of it, than in something like action or sci-fi films.  However, there have been plenty of times when I hear the music and think “this is making it so much better.” Star Wars, like I said before, Pirates of the Caribbean always comes to mind, too, or more recently, Sicario.

Emma: I totally agree with you that scores (or indeed just regular soundtracks of songs) can’t make or break a film but when I look at my favourite movies most of them do have a pretty rocking soundtrack. The most recent movie I watched that made my “top 10” was The Guest and its subsequent soundtrack reeeeally made an impression on me. I only have three playlists on Spotify and ‘The Guest OST’ is one of them! Would I have loved the movie as much without the music? I’m not sure. The music was the movie. I wrote a review around the time and said something along the lines about how it relied somewhat on the music to emphasise its scenes and atmosphere. And look at something like Guardians of the Galaxy, that mix tape of pop songs made it so much more fun and memorable. Though a great soundtrack can’t make a great movie, perhaps it can make an average movie that bit better?

Guardians of the Galaxy movie poster

Me: I think personally, I tend to notice a good score or soundtrack more than a bad score or soundtrack.  So I agree that a great score can make an average movie better. It sounds like a score has made you like a film where you didn’t enjoy the rest of it. Have you ever had a score ruin a movie for you?

Emma: Yes, I have had a film ruined by a rotten soundtrack! There’s a low rent horror (my kinda movie) called The Woman and its soundtrack was so awful, so offensive, so abysmal and so bloody loud – I almost turned it off. Investigation on IMDB later showed many viewers had thought the same thing as well! The music was stupidly loud for starters but the worst thing was it was SO awful! A cross between “I’m an angsty teenager” and a dripping tap.

The Woman movie poster

An example of how not to score a film.

Me: That sounds terrible! At least you aren’t alone in your thinking.  Guardians of the Galaxy is a great example to bring up for a fun soundtrack.  I saw that with my mom and she doesn’t normally like the big superhero movies but she loved Guardians for its soundtrack, among other things.

Emma: Aww I love that about your mum! I must say Guardians of the Galaxy was certainly an above average film anyway, I loved it! But the mix tape just added that extra sparkle and genius. I’m excited for the sequel just to see what the song selection is! When that early scene with Chris Pratt started, where he was dancing around and shooting things (I think?) I was thinking yes, I’m gonna love this!!

Can you think of any awful music experiences in film? And don’t say High School Musical!

Me: Haha OK. Rock of Ages. That movie sounded like it was going to be really good.  I listen to classic rock music the most so I was looking forward to seeing a movie based around many of my favorite tunes. And then it was just one of the worst movie experiences I’ve had.  I’ve been really reluctant to go back and watch it again.

Rock of Ages movie poster

The tagline should have read “More Songs, More Dancing, More Bullshit”

Emma: I’ve never seen Rock of Ages… I’m kind of glad I haven’t after that! But I will go look it up in a minute out of interest. Must have sucked though, being so disappointing especially when you were looking forward to it. You’ve got me thinking about movies based around music now, I’ve barely seen any! Ooh and I wanted to ask will anything will ever beat the Imperial March for you?

Me: Probably not. The Imperial March is embedded in my head. It’ll be awfully hard to beat it!

Emma: I did love Magneto’s Theme in X-Men: First Class and thought that was a good contender for baddie music! Shame they didn’t use the same music in Days of Future Past, it was kick arse!

Me: I’ll have to listen to Magneto’s theme again because I don’t remember it right now. Do you prefer a big, bold score? Or something a little more subtle and intimate?

Emma: Excellent question and I know my answer immediately – big and bold! Something that consumes me and makes me feel something – whether that ‘something’ is being scared or triumphant or sad. I like subtle stuff too, I love the Warm Bodies score for example and that’s very delicate and cute. Maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive anyway? I mean something could start off subtle, only to lead into a bold crescendo?

Me: The great thing about music is that it is dynamic. It can start off small and grow big.  So I would say that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  Two examples would be John William’s Indiana Jones scores and Alan Silvestri’s Captain America: The First Avenger score.  They both have songs that start softer and get more dynamic as the song progresses.

Alan Silvestri

Alan Silvestri

Emma: A lot of Morricone stuff can start soft but end big. Actually thinking about it, I think those kind of scores are my favourite! I also now have Peter Griffin’s rendition of the Indiana Jones score going through my head!

There’s a really clever track on the Kill Bill: Volume 1 soundtrack, it played when Elle Driver was dressed as a nurse, about to finish off The Bride. It starts off so cute and sweet, like you’re walking next to a pretty little river with loads of flowers. But it subtly (so subtly!) changes so that by the end of the track it’s actually very sinister and scary sounding. It’s awesome!

Me: That’s awesome that you bring up the Kill Bill movies. We were talking earlier about how a soundtrack can make a movie for someone.  The Kill Bill duology are my favorite Tarantino movies and a huge part of that is because of the soundtrack (mainly in Volume 1).  It’s so energetic and up-tempo.  It somehow fits perfectly with all the violence going on screen.

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Emma: That’s brilliant Drew, I love that! I must say Quentin Tarantino soundtracks are among my favourite anyway, they’re always so good and just as exciting for me, as the movie. I did a post a while ago trying to put his soundtracks into order of ‘brilliance’ and Kill Bill: Volume 1 featured in the no.3 slot, I’ve always loved it too. Pulp Fiction has always been my favourite soundtrack, ever and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. I just find it so… listenable!

Do you listen to any soundtracks as though they were ‘regular’ albums? I mean, as great as movie scores can be, they’re not always listenable on a daily basis (unless it’s the Imperial March!). The Pulp Fiction soundtrack I can listen to like I would a pop album – singing along etc. Ditto with the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy. But with some scored soundtracks often I’ll have my favourite tracks and pick them out as and when I want to listen to them, rather than listening to it as a complete record.

Me: I listen to soundtracks all the time! I have a film score and a Disney music stations on Pandora radio that I often listen to at work. I also have several soundtracks on my home computer, including most of the Disney Renaissance films, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Frozen, and Into the Woods.  Like you, I also have specific songs from other movies as well.  A catchy song is a catchy song, no matter where it comes from.

Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer

Emma: That’s so cool Drew! Do you sing along? Which Disney soundtrack is your favourite? Whenever I’m at a party with my girlfriends I swear we always end up listening to Disney songs by the end of the night! My favourite is The Little Mermaid and I’ve owned no less than three copies of it. True love!

Me: Pssh, do I sing along? Of course I sing along! I think my favorite overall Disney soundtrack is Mulan. The Little Mermaid is good too, and so is Beauty and the Beast, but every song on the Mulan soundtrack is great, not just most songs like the others mentioned.  Some of my favorite individual songs not from Mulan are “Friend Like Me,” “Be Our Guest,” “Under the Sea,” “Bear Necessities,” and “Let it Go.”

Emma: I’m not really familiar with Mulan which is really, really annoying! Rest assured I will be looking up the soundtrack on Spotify. There is something unique to the Disney soundtracks, or at least the older ones. I love your favourite songs! All good ones to belt out whilst on your own in the car! Some of my favourites include ‘Under the Sea’, ‘Part of Your World’ and ‘A Whole New World’ (how predictable).

Me: How do you feel about musicals? Do you like movies that use songs heavily? Or do you prefer music to be used to enhance the film and not be centered around it?

Emma: I’m not a fan of musicals generally… I love Grease, Chicago and Bugsy Malone but that’s about it. It’s not the music I don’t like, it’s more the ‘stage school’ style of singing and I find them a bit [over the top].

So generally I prefer music that just enhances the movie but there are  exceptions. I love the TV shows Glee and Flight of the Conchords. And of course, Disney songs! And one of my favourite movies is a British gangster film called Love, Honour & Obey. There are segments throughout where each character sings a fluffy pop song in a karaoke style. It’s quite bizarre but quite brilliant! Are you a fan of musicals?

Me: Before today, I would have said “No, with Disney being the exception.” But after thinking about it, I think I like them more than I thought I did.  I like watching non-Disney musicals like Footloose, Grease, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods.  It’s not a genre I actively look for but guess I have liked more of them than I haven’t liked.

Kind of a side-bar, but did/do you play any instruments?

Emma: I don’t play any instruments but I’ve always wanted to play the piano! I did teach myself the first bit of “A Whole New World” on my tiny Casio keyboard when I was a kid! And you know the song they do on the giant keyboard in Big? I taught myself that too. Haha Tragically I had no-one to play both parts with so just took it turn to play them both myself!

Me: Haha Oh, no! That’s no fun playing it by yourself. At least you have a start for learning piano. Maybe in the future you can teach yourself some more and put on a show!

I ask because I played alto saxophone and I think that gave me an appreciation for the work that goes into a writing and playing a musical score.  I think that note is a good one to wrap up on.  Thank you so much for the chat Emma! I’ve had a ton of fun talking movies with you.

Emma: Thanks so much for having me Drew it’s been a lot of fun and you’ve certainly given me some new things to think about!

We want you to join in on the discussion. What are some of your favorite movie scores? Who are some of your favorite film composers? What makes a good soundtrack?

Big thanks to Emma for taking the time to talk movies with me. I always enjoy discussing the different aspects of films so this was simply a blast!


38 thoughts on “Movie Score Discussion (Featuring Emmakwall (explains it all))

  1. I love this post! I’m a big fan of movie soundtracks, and I completely agree that a good soundtrack makes a movie even better. Star Wars, as you probably know, is my favorite film franchise 😉 and part of that is due to John Williams’ epic score. Imperial March is probably my all-time favorite piece of his, and I love his scores for Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones–he’s done so many iconic things! I also really loved Daft Punk’s score for the Tron sequel, even though the movie isn’t my favorite.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Ashley! I had no clue you were a fan of Star Wars. 😛 I can’t get enough of the Imperial March! John Williams has created so many iconic scores, it can be hard to pick a favorite. I’m not a huge fan of Daft Punk but I have heard a few tracks from the Tron Legacy score and enjoyed it a little.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always loved Howard Shore’s score for Lord of the Rings. The Fellowship theme is so sweeping, so epic, and so kickass. His Hobbit score also really elevates those films, Azog’s theme is far, far more menacing than the character himself.
    You always have your classics, 2001 comes to mind. Not a huge fan, but the score is great, though the main theme is so overplayed it’s a bit of a joke, like Chariots of Fire.
    Rocky’s great, be it Gonna Fly Now or Eye of the Tiger.
    The worst scores for me or the most generic–neither memorably good or bad, say, a generic “blockbustery” soundtrack, like Star Trek Into Darkness or the first few X-Men films, totally forgettable. Trying to hum them offhand is a futile endeavor.
    I’m not much of a music guy, I don’t listen to music offhand, but I really appreciate what it adds to a movie.


    • Epic is the perfect way to describe the score for Lord of the Rings. That commonly shows up on my Pandora station and I always want to get up and head out on an adventure when I hear it. I may not have liked the Rocky movies as much as everybody else but Bill Conti’s score was amazing. Even for non-music people such as yourself, good scores always seem to leave an impression, underlining why a good score is so important.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s pretty interesting that music has become irrevocably linked with film, even after the dawn of the “talkie.” In all honesty, a score made more sense in a silent film, so its fascinating that they remained even after the end of the silent era.


        • I hadn’t thought about that before. But if you think about it, some of the most powerful movie music moments happen when the characters aren’t talking, so it’s kind of the same thing as the silent films.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Great interview Drew and Emma! Enjoyed it immensely. I have a bit of trivia about soundtracks: On “The Walking Dead” the music is arranged by Bear McCreary. He is also well known for designing creatures in movies. He used to go by “Crush” McCreary and he designed the creature costume for “The Village” as well as many others. That eponymous sound at the beginning of every Walking Dead episode is the work of a creature maker. Sometimes I think the music can be as scary as a creature.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Damien! I’m glad to hear it. 🙂 I had no idea, thanks for the trivia! You’re absolutely right. Take Jaws for example. Just hearing the signature “da dun” can give you goosebumps.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kim! i have to confess that I have never seen Titanic… so I’ll just take your word for it. 😛 That’s alright if you don’t pay attention to the score. Try it next time. Think about how the music is influencing what you are feeling. Often it will accentuate what is happening on screen. It’s amazing how a great composer can manipulate your feelings, even if you don’t realize it is happening.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow it’s up!!!! Thank you SO MUCH Drew and wow it looks incredible with all the pictures added, all typed up! Thank you again for having me, it was a lot of fun 🙂 thanks to all the lovely comments from everyone as well 😀


  5. Nice post guys! My favorite composers are Ennio Morricone, John Williams and Howard Shore. I also like the music used by Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen in their movies.


  6. A fun post. Musicals–‘West Side Story’–I flip flop between that and ‘On the Waterfront’ as the best film ever. What a great musical. It’s weird. Of all the cartoons that are out there, ‘Mulan’ keeps popping up as a great animated film. I believe in the power of scores. I would say Philip Glass and Dario Marianelli for ‘Pride and Prejudice’ pulls at the heart strings perfectly.


    • Thanks. I haven’t seen West Side Story in years and I have never seen On the Waterfront. Mulan has all the right elements, including the music, that make it one of my favorite animated films. I’ll have to check out some pieces from Pride and Prejudice (since I haven’t seen that one either…).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this! I saw Star Wars in the theater the year it was released. Literally 1 second into the movie, I fell in love with movie scores, when the horns blared and that iconic song played. I love everything John Williams does, from Star Wars to Superman to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the list goes on and on. There used to be a movie score station on XM Radio, and I was devastated when they took it away.
    And I totally agree about Rock of Ages. As a rock aficionado, the music from that movie was a slap in the face. It was a watered down version of the music that is now part of my DNA. If it’s music that stuffy old people like, and pay a lot of money to see on Broadway, then it is not real rock music. I happened to watch the movie when it came on television, and it was horrible.
    I really miss the old pop and rock movie soundtracks, and I really miss movie montages. But, I am happy that there are still good movie scores being written.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Paul! I had satellite radio for a little while. A movie score station would have been amazing. I rented Rock of Ages shortly after it first was released on home video and was really excited. After the first few song numbers, I struggled to get through the rest. It was not good. Oh man, montages aren’t done like they used to be. They can be both the corniest and the best part about a movie. I think as long as there are passionate composers like Williams or Zimmer, there will be great movie scores.

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂


  8. Awesome conversation. Lots of great points and excellent picks. Who doesn’t love Williams? ET is a fav too. Philip Glass’ score for Kundun is amazing. Haunting and breathtaking. I also love Danny Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands. I think scores are most monumental in horror. It really sets the mood, thickens the atmosphere, and heightens the tension. John Carpenter’s Halloween still gets me… plus his The Thing… scored astoundingly by Morricone 😉


    • Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it. ET pops up on my Pandora station every now and then. I don’t recognize Philip Glass; I’ll have to look him up now. Horror is one of the genres where I think a score can really hurt it. If it takes away from the atmosphere, it can ruin the horror element. It doesn’t matter as much in something like a comedy or adventure but it mattes a lot in a horror.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. For me
    I think John Williams was probably the master of the movie score he has such a huge list of credits from Jaws to Star Wars to Indiana Jones and even Ferris Bueller’s Day Off . Without a great score so many movies would be so much less than they are. Think of Jaws and you think of that haunting scary couple of notes that come into your head without thinking and tell you that despite all reason there is defiantly a shark in the swimming pool. Or the language of music in Close Encounters is perhaps the movies most memorable scene, for nearly every great movie the score is nearly as important as the script or the acting.


    • There are many great film composers but Williams will always be at the top. I can’t really think of anything to say because you nailed it. I couldn’t have said it better myself. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!


  10. Great post!!! I love movie scores so much. I’m so glad to have found some fellow bloggers who love movie music too. It amazes me how many movie bloggers don’t mention or even notice the music in a film. It can make or break a movie for me! I know I recently rated The Good, The Bad And The Ugly far more highly than I would have if it hadn’t had that amazing score. 😊 One of my biggest loves, though, is Thomas Newman.


    • Thanks, Mutant!! Well, you have found the right people. Maybe we should have done a three person conversation. 😉 I’m with you, I’m surprised it isn’t mentioned more often. If I notice a really good or really bad score, I try to mention it because it is important to me. I think I prefer some of Randy Newman’s stuff to Thomas Newman but they both have created some great scores.

      Liked by 1 person

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