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From the TIME Archive
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Oscar Greats

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Music that makes these movies
Your thoughts on our list:

The one movie I feel should have definitely made the list (of top 3 movies, let alone 100), is Seven Samurai. Maybe this was an oversight because you didn't want more than two Kurosawa films on the list? If this was the case, I feel Seven Samurai is a better movie than Yojimbo.
—John Ferrigno

Here are three of my top ten list that didn't make it: Lacombe, Lucien, Hard Times and Samurai Trilogy.
—Rick Ackerman

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Best Soundtracks
Cheeky and Romantic: Robin Hood
The Adventures of Robin Hood: Erich Wolfgang Korngold was the greatest of Hollywood's many romantic composers—let's give a grateful nod here to Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Miklos Rosza Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Bernstein—and this is Korngold at his best—excitable, cheeky, yet always romantically caring.

Citizen Kane: It's impossible to choose a single Bernard Herrmann score as his best. His was a protean talent, embracing every genre, but with a peculiar gift for illuminating psychotic behavior (Hangover Square, Psycho, Taxi Driver). Let his contribution to everyone's favorite great movie, Citizen Kane, represent everything that was wonderful about this most daring of Hollywood's musical sophisticates—his gift for blending major and minor chords (not to mention electronic music and sound effects), his skill with pastiche (the fake opera excerpts he composed for the film) and above all, his ironic spirit.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Moaning chorales, electric guitars, brass bands, the occasional twang of a Jew's Harp; Ennio Morricone, vastly expanded the movie composer's instrumental and tonal palate and this is but one of his several ear-bending, mind-expanding masterworks.

Laura: Forget, if you can, the pop song derived from David Raksin's theme. Concentrate, instead, on the plaintive, permanently haunting variations he created for the film itself. It is largely his score that lifts this otherwise limited movie beyond its genre limits. Lest we forget: this is something great scores sometimes accomplish.

On the Waterfront: Leonard Bernstein only wrote one film score, but it is a haunting masterpiece, seamlessly blending modernist tropes with the darker hues of late romantic melody, which he also loved. In a curious way this movie summarizes his tastes and strengths as a composer and as a conductor-proselytizer for Twentieth Century music.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at RKO: When Fred and Ginger paired for nine song-and-dance films in the 30s, the top pop composers of the day (which means, pretty much, the best of all time) lined up to provide them with great tunes. This two-CD set contains irrefutable evidence that Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and the Gershwins did some of their most lingering work for Ginger and Fred. It contains all 30 numbers from their RKO couplings, plus four from Fred's solo effort A Damsel in Distress and the Arlen-Mercer "One for My Baby" from The Sky's the Limit. Need more convincing? Here's just a taste of the playlist: "Night and Day," "Cheek to Cheek," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Nick Work If You Can Get It," "They All Laughed," "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "They Can't Take That Away from Me." Case closed.

The Man With the Golden Arm: For Otto Preminger's film about a Chicago card dealer (Frank Sinatra) who falls victim to heroin addiction, then tries to get the monkey off his back, Elmer Bernstein came up with a powerful, pioneering concoction of cool jazz, big band and the Hollywood symphonic style. The score sets a bunch of moods—tension, anxiety, the grand swagger of being a cool guy in a tough town—with varied orchestrations and memorable melodies. How memorable? I haven't seen the film (also highly recommended) in 30 years, yet a half-dozen tunes from Bernstein's score still lodge in my brain. I'm humming one now and—without the aid of any drug—man, do I feel juiced!

Jules et Jim: Movie romance has no better friend than Georges Delerue. As scores became brasher and brassier, or clanged with rock chords, Delerue stuck to his plangent melodies. He was the house composer, the engaging sound and soaring soul, of the French New Wave; his music ornamented films by Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Philippe De Broca (18 collaborations!) and Francois Truffaut—most spectacularly in Shoot the Piano Player and this eternally beguiling triangle tale. The score accompanies, and often carries, Jeanne Moreau through her affairs with best buddies Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre). But the indelible musical moment may be when Moreau sings a charming folkish tune, "Le tourbillon," as its composer Boris Bassiak plays guitar.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: Kids might sneak a play of this soundtrack for the kick of hearing four-letter words rarely put to music. But adults, especially those who grew up on Broadway melodies, love the South Park movie score for its fond, roguish evocations of songs from Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof and Les Miserables. Parker's not-so-secret sin is that—virtually alone among heterosexuals under 50—he loves the grand ambitions and soaring chords of the old songs. He stashes versions of them in the TV episodes of South Park (who can forget Cartman's rousingly lurid gospel number "Body of Christ"?) and, abetted by super-arranger Marc Shaiman, packed a dozen fabulous parodies into the movie. Actually, parody schmarody. These are terrific songs—the finest, sassiest full movie musical score since the disbanding of the Freed Unit at MGM.

Roja:Though he is renowned as the preeminent composer of modern Bollywood, A.R. Rahman was born and still works in Madras, 1,000 miles south of Bombay. His Tamil compatriot, the writer-director Mani Ratnam, yanked him out of jingle-writing to compose his first full score for Roja (The Rose) the tale of a woman whose lover is kidnapped by terrorists. Through this grim political parable, Rahman laced some spectacular melodies that not only serve the drama, they create their own[EM]as in the duet ballads "Yeh Haseen Vadiyan" and "Roja Jaaneman," which first are grounded in recitative, then suddenly ascend into celestial melody. This astonishing debut work parades Rahman's gift for alchemizing outside influences until they are totally Tamil, totally Rahman. He plays with reggae and jungle rhythms, fiddles with Broadway-style orchestrations, runs cool variations on Morricone's scores for Italian westerns.

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