Our Favorite Scores From Ennio Morricone
How do you write about a legend? Ennio Morricone was one of the most influential film composers of all time. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Mission, The Thing, The Untouchables, Days of Heaven — Masterpieces, all of them. Each crafted with a unique style, sound, and beauty, unlike any other soundtrack. Such scores defined my youth.
Sadly, Morricone passed away on Monday in Rome at age 91. His legend will continue thanks to his masterworks, which inspired the likes of Hans Zimmer, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, and James Horner and continue to inspire composers to this day. Morricone’s contributions to the world of film music are astonishing. If you need proof, here are some of my favorite tracks from his vast body of work. Feel free to post yours in the comments!
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Perhaps the greatest and most recognizable western score of all time, Morricone’s work on Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly challenged the traditional sound of the Hollywood cowboy pic thanks to its exceptional mix of vocals, guitar, flutes, drums, whistling, gunfire sound effects, and ocarina. A true classic.
Morricone utilized five different themes for his stunning work on Brian De Palma’s violent 1987 crime drama The Untouchables. The first, a more traditional, even adventurous action theme that defines Elliot Ness and his crew; the second, a menacing series of electronic beats accompanied by an eerie harmonica that permeates Al Capone and his crew (the harmonica sound always freaked me out as a kid, mainly because I associate with the scene in which Sean Connery’s character gets blown away in gruesome fashion); a third, much cozier theme plays over sequences of Ness with his family; the “Death Theme” is appropriately downbeat and plays over the numerous tragic moments in which our heroes are gunned down; and finally, the extravagant Al Capone theme. Each carries its own distinct style and work astonishingly well in the classic film.
My favorite of Morricone’s scores, The Mission has so many beautiful themes and is such a magnificently constructed work of pure emotion and heart that it quite literally overwhelms the soul. I imagine this is the music playing in the hereafter to greet Morricone at this very moment. (Side note: Listen to this score while reading The Lord of the Flies. It will change your life.)
The brilliance of Morricone’s score for The Thing lies in its minimalist approach. A majority of the score comprises of rhythmic beats and synthesizers; and yet, it works surprisingly well in the finished product and remains one of the better horror scores of all time.
Two Mules for Sister Sara
I grew up watching this gritty western comedy starring Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine and as a result harbor a deep love of Morricone’s score. Listen to the main theme and tell me that isn’t the most random, wild, but ultimately badass intro for any film!
Finally, here are a couple of Morricone-inspired cues from other composer’s works just so you can get an idea of how influential the composer truly was.
(Photo by Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Redferns via Getty Images)