10 Best Movies Scored By Howard Shore
Film composer Howard Shore is a frequent and longtime collaborator with fellow Canadian, director David Cronenberg—often considered the master, the godfather of body horror. The two have worked together since Cronenberg’s feature film debut The Brood. As the result of a childhood friendship with Lorne Michaels, he also worked as the musical director of Michaels’ brainchild Saturday Night Live during the first half-decade of its run. Shore has also scored critical and commercial successes like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as a handful of Martin Scorsese’s films, including The Departed, which is often regarded as Scorsese’s best film of the 21st century. Shore has had quite a career; that much cannot be denied. Here are ten of the best films he has worked on to date.
The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg’s The Fly is divisive. The haunting, visceral use of practical effects is characteristic of his films of this era. Some may find it hard to watch — and rightfully so. Very few are as skillful at making special effects a sensory experience as Cronenberg. However the film, for all its brilliance — including great performances from Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis — would be next to nothing without Shore’s score to set the tone.
Videodrome is generally considered to be Cronenberg’s breakout film. Deservedly so — Cronenberg wrestles with the effects of home video with brilliant execution. James Woods gives quite a performance, and Blondie herself Debbie Harry steals the show in every scene she is in. Shore delivers yet another great, synthy score here.
The Departed (2007)
Martin Scorsese’s late-period work The Departed is perhaps the pinnacle of his post-millennium work. However, The Wolf of Wall Street and Silence are themselves, contenders, as well. Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio all give one of the best performances of their respective careers in this Boston-based mob film set to the tune of some of Shore’s best compositions.
Gangs of New York (2003)
Gangs of New York is a staggeringly unique film. Scorsese, one of the best American filmmakers to portray organized crime, takes that skill and re-applies it to a pre-Prohibition setting. It may not be his best film, but it is one of his most ambitious, creating a fascinating portrait of very old New York City when the Five Points housed Irish immigrants and anti-Catholic gangs rather than Chinatown and Little Italy. The film also marks his first of many collaborations with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Dead Ringers (1988)
For his film Dead Ringers, Cronenberg drew from the real-life story of Stewart and Cyril Marcus, twin brothers who were both gynecologists and died under bizarre circumstances. Jeremy Irons fills the role of both brothers, one confident and the other meek. It is yet another brilliant piece by Cronenberg which uses nightmarish body horror to meditate on human nature. Shore’s compositions for the film are deeply affecting.
A History of Violence (2005)
Cronenberg’s later-period work is characterized less by body horror science fiction and more into the horror of earnest realism. Viggo Mortensen gives a strong performance — even if not quite as good as that of his next Cronenberg film. As Cronenberg’s subject matter changed, so too does Shore’s compositions, giving markedly less synth here than previously.
Eastern Promises (2007)
Even for Cronenberg, Eastern Promises is considerably dark. The subject matter in question includes sexual assault, premature death as a result of sexual assault and the brutal realities of a Russian mob. The resulting film is one of his most poignant, especially in the new millennium. Mortensen delivers another incredible performance, as does Naomi Watts. Of his 2000s films — and of the 2000s films scored by Shore — this is the most essential.
eXistenZ is something of a companion piece to Cronenberg’s previous film Videodrome. Both grapple with home entertainment in a way only the master of body horror could. The film trades out James Woods and Debbie Harry for Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and video cassettes for video games. It is as engrossing as the previous film and Shore’s typical musical style is prominently on display.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs is easily the pinnacle of the recently-passed director Jonathan Demme. It is tense from start to finish, in part because of the deeply chilling performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins as sociopathic cannibal Hannibal Lecter and in part because of the unnerving score provided by Shore. Hopkins and his talented co-star Jodie Foster — as FBI Agent Clarice Starling — were both awarded Academy Awards for their work in the film, as well as Demme, though sadly Shore was snubbed.
Lukewarm to negative reviews of Alien 3 resulted in a lackluster directorial debut for David Fincher. However, three years later he truly broke through into public consciousness with his brutal, thrilling and skillfully-crafted neo-noir film Se7en. Everyone is in top form, from Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow on screen, to Howard Shore at the composer’s desk. It remains after all these years still one of Fincher’s most essential films.
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