You can have fantastic action, a well-written script, and a great ensemble. But comic book films would still be nothing without a great score. Orchestral (or electronic) scores can elevate films to new heights. They can give a grand motif to the hero’s entrance, accentuate those rare moments where there is heart and soul in a comic book film, and make the action scenes all the more suspenseful. So here’s to the top ten comic book film scores.
#10: The Dark Knight
I’m pretty sure putting Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s score on #10 is going to raise some controversy. The TDK fanboys will be pissed that this didn’t make it higher on the list while people who are tired of TDK wish I didn’t put this on the list at all. Look, I love The Dark Knight and the soundtrack. The main theme is definitely the series’ calling card, something only a few films have been able to do successfully. And it definitely sets the mood and tone for the film. However, the soundtrack didn’t stick in my head as well as other comic book films, which is why it’s at #10. Nevertheless, #10 isn’t a bad position at all considering all the soundtracks it had to compete against.
#9: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World left a lot of creative room for creating a score. Not only for its zillion game and pop culture references, but also for its completely energetic off the wall approach to storytelling. And Nigel Godrich did not disappoint with his score. It would be tempting to play it safe and just do a traditional score. Likewise, it would be tempting to go over the top and make it a zany video game soundtrack. But Nigel Godrich does neither. He experiments with electronic music without making it completely bizarre. Everything fits with the film, from the boss fights to the more sentimental moments. And kudos for putting Fairy Fountain (The Legend of Zelda) in the film.
#8: The Rocketeer
It might not be the most well known film or the biggest success, but The Rocketeer‘s score might be one of my favorite scores of all time. There’s a grand, sweeping sentiment to the score that captures the spirit of The Rocketeer perfectly. James Horner (Braveheart, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Aliens, Titanic, etc.) is perhaps my favorite composer of all time, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Although I didn’t put this as high up on the list, this is definitely a must buy for any soundtrack enthusiast.
Yes manga fans and editors. You didn’t think I’d really leave this gem out, did you? Geinoh Yamashirogumi hit the mark, proving you don’t need heavy metal for bike chases and end of the world destruction. Kaneda’s Theme alone warrants this into the top scores. It doesn’t shy away from being unique, mixing several different genres. This might not be for everyone, but there’s no denying this group’s genius use of experimental styles and tribal instincts.
Danny Elfman is no newbie to comic book scores. His most notable comic book score (or in general) is Batman 89. But just because Batman 89 was a landmark score, doesn’t mean Spider-Man should be ignored. One of the reasons why I’m (the only) a fan of Spider-Man, is that it does have heart to its big blockbuster phenomenon. And although the character’s relationships are very well written, I think Elfman’s score does give everything more weight to it. The main theme song proves that even scenes of Spider-Man swinging around from building to building can be a heartfelt moment.
#5: Batman (1966)
How could I not include this in the list? Just like the movie, Nelson Riddle’s soundtrack is pure campy fun. Not only for the famous theme song, but also for the rest of the music. Listening to it instantly reminds me of why I love West’s Batman. This soundtrack makes me want to punch someone in the face…or blow up a shark.
#4: The Crow
Although Graeme Revell certainly has his success, he’s not as well known in the public consciousness. However, his score for The Crow is nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s the perfect companion to the soundtrack of The Crow. It’s dark, moody, and Gothic. Using synths, guitars, and even choirs. There’s no way I could forgive myself if I didn’t put this into the list. This is the soundtrack I have in my iPod for casual listening as well as serious listening.
#3: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Fine, I cheated. This is a television special, not a feature film. But there was no way in hell I was going to leave this out of the list. Vince Guaraldi’s songs cannot be ignored. Whether it be their cultural impacts or the fact that they’re the pinnacle of both jazz and film scores. However, if you wish this list to only contain films, then swap this with A Boy Named Charlie Brown or Race for Your Life Charlie Brown. Either way, Peanuts films have some of the best scores of all time.
The theme song is enough to warrant John Williams’s score for the #2 spot. This is what a score should achieve. It captures the total essence of Superman, the music itself is an emotional charge, and it’s something you never forget. The soundtrack is epic, grand, and is an original. Let me put it this way. I don’t think Superman would be the same without Williams’s score.
#1: Batman (1989)
DUH! Did you really think I wouldn’t put this at #1? While it was a tough tie between Superman and Batman, I knew I had to hand it on over to Danny Elfman. Not just for the theme song, but every other song in the film. Without Elfman’s score, I don’t think this film would’ve been as big of a hit. It simply made Batman into the dark, Burtonesque film that it was. I could break down the score and tell why I loved it scene by scene. But of course, that would take up an entire article. That’s how good it is. Although, I’m sure you already know that. And if you have never heard of this score, whether the Burton films, the animated series, or Lego Batman, what have you been living under? A rock?