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Somewhat apocryphal stories abound regarding Carol Reed discovering musician Anton Karas while scouring Vienna bars and nightclubs. Reed actually heard Karas playing at a production party and insisted the Austrian zither player come to Reed's hotel room and record songs to use for the contract. Later in production, Reed realized he wanted to use Karas' music for the whole film and flew Karas out to London to record the score. Karas became a top-selling musician thanks to the film and opened a nightclub called "The Third Man" in Vienna, which he ran to the end of his days.
TIE #50 Cloud Atlas
Composers: Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klmek, Reinhold Heil
Points: 49 Number of ballots: 3 Highest ranking: #3 on 1 ballot
Bernard Herrmann's wife says that when Martin Scorsese, then relatively unknown, called her famous husband to ask Hermann to do the score, he at first refused saying, "I don't write music for car movies." Hermann only accepted after reading the script, and then wrote a highly original score using dissonant brass to punctuate the inner emotions of Travis.
TIE #47 Edward Scissorhands
Composer: Danny Elfman
Points: 50 Number of ballots: 5 Highest ranking: #6 on 1 ballot
Tim Burton had asked Robert Smith of The Cure to do the soundtrack, and had even sent the script. Robert was busy recording "Disintegration" at the time, and didn't know who Burton was, so passed up the opportunity, handing Danny Elfman the job.
TIE #47 Rocky
Composer: Bill Conti
Points: 50 Number of ballots: 3 Highest ranking: #5 on 1 ballot
"Avildsen wanted to maintain this classic fairy tale feeling about it.” But Conti knew it was crucial to ground the film’s score in something less “fairytale” than Beethoven. “I reminded him that we were in the streets of Philadelphia, I should bring in some of the other elements of the day. Meaning it was supposed to be real time in ’76 and we should have music of the street, along with the classic feel of a timeless fairytale.”
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Points: 51 Number of ballots: 6 Highest ranking: #15 on 4 ballots
Composer Hans Zimmer was instructed by Christopher Nolan to make a unique score: "it's time to reinvent. The endless string ostinatos need to go by the wayside, the big drums are probably in the bin." Nolan did not provide Zimmer a script or any plot details for writing music for the film, and instead gave the composer "one page of text" that "had more to do with Zimmer's story than the plot of the movie."
In the opening scene, the sounds of a string quartet can be heard tuning up for a performance in the soundtrack. Just before the title rolls down, you hear a conductor tap on his music stand to ready the quartet for a performance. The people tuning up are the Kronos Quartet, who played most of the music for the film. The maestro bringing them to attention is Darren Aronofsky, the director.
TIE #43 Fargo
Composer: Carter Burwell
Points: 52 Number of ballots: 7 Highest ranking: #4 on 1 ballot
Not only was "Feed the Birds" Walt Disney's favorite song in the film, but it is said that anytime he visited the Sherman brothers (Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman) during the rest of his life, all he would have to do was say, "Play it," and they knew he wanted to hear "Feed the Birds".
John Williams had actually written two themes for the film. He played them both for Steven Spielberg on the piano and Spielberg loved them so much, he suggested that Williams use both of them. He did and the result was the famous "Raiders March", performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (who did not perform in any more Indiana Jones films). The March has become one of the most popular movie themes of all time.
“Sam Mendes, the director, loved the plastic bag theme (aka Any Other Name) very much and that it worked really in that scene where there’s this plastic bag floating. We got to the end of the movie and it was clear that we were going to have to go back to that theme and Sam had already given me that impression that that was what he was going to do."
#39 Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters
Composer: Philip Glass
Points: 56 Number of ballots: 3 Highest ranking: #1 on 1 ballot
Glass said that he felt empowered by the confidence Schrader had in him, considering “Mishima” was Glass’s first film project that was anchored in a narrative. “We were in a Tokyo diner talking about the book, just me and him,” Glass recalled. “I asked, ‘How do you want the music to work?’ He took the script and pushed it over to me and said, ‘You tell me.’
#38 Mulholland Dr.
Composer: Angelo Badalamenti
Points: 57 Number of ballots: 3 Highest ranking: #5 on 1 ballot
"David isn’t the kind of guy who just wings it. He can tell you a very clear idea of what he thinks you should be like. So, he suggested let’s avoid an orchestra, let’s keep things somewhat synthetic. He threw out names like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. He set-up some parameters, and gave me a phase one of spending two weeks generating sort of let sketches, and then said if anything resonates, I’ll go down that path. In my mind it wasn’t so much scene specific things but tones and tonal ranges."
#36 Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone
Composer: John Williams
Points: 62 Number of ballots: 5 Highest ranking: #11 on 1 ballot
"I was writing from just conversations with Chris, I was writing while we were shooting. I started sending him pieces of music without telling him where they were supposed to go, just to see if he would figure it out. It's a game we get to play. I get to see if I can be articulate in the music and see if the director can hear it." Hans Zimmer
#34 Picnic at Hanging Rock
Composer: Bruce Smeaton
Points: 64 Number of ballots: 5 Highest ranking: #2 on 1 ballot
"When Steven Spielberg first showed John Williams a cut of the film, Williams was so moved he had to take a walk outside for several minutes to collect himself. Upon his return, he told Spielberg he deserved a better Composer. Spielberg replied, "I know, but they're all dead."
Composer: Dario Marianelli
Points: 66 Number of ballots: 3 Highest ranking: #3 on 1 ballot
"The idea came because of the theme of the movie. You start the movie with somebody typing and already you see a bit of fiction within the fiction of the film. But it also captures something in Briony’s character. ... There’s something almost mechanical about her at times. She’s almost like a mechanism that has gone slightly wrong and she becomes obsessive about things. It’s like some little cog gets stuck in her mind."
Composer: James Horner
Points: 69 Number of ballots: 4 Highest ranking: #2 on 1 ballot
"Mel Gibson is brilliant. And he steps back, and he's still a brilliant, brilliant director, and I'd give anything to do a film that he was doing. There are certain films, it's all about how much freedom you're given."