Cinematic Scores: The Best are Prog

Is there any better modern cinematic composer than Hans Zimmer?

I would be stunned to find out that most lovers of prog music don’t also love really artful and meaningful films.

I’m not knocking goofy films.  I love Bowfinger, Old School, etc.: movies my brothers and I lovingly refer to as “great stupid movies.”

And, of course, there are a number of movies that play what my friend, Mike Church, calls “juke box” music–The Wedding Singer or almost any John Hughes movie.

I’m, however, thinking of actual cinematic scores written for the screen.

And, to be fair–and probably state the obvious–many of the best modern soundtracks, such as those by Hans Zimmer–are clearly influenced by prog rock.

But, what about others?  One that can’t claim any prog influence as they came before the late 1960s.

  • North by Northwest
  • Psycho (ok, there’s not a bad Hitchcock movie soundtrack)
  • Charade
  • A Shot in the Dark


Or, after 1968:

  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • Alien
  • Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
  • The Mission
  • Last of the Mohicans
  • Tombstone
  • Dark City
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy (ok anything by Zimmer)


Or, great TV shows:

  • Babylon 5
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Stranger Things


What am I missing?  Please correct or add in the comments below.  I look forward to all suggestions.

8 thoughts on “Cinematic Scores: The Best are Prog

  1. Leon Alvarado

    In my mind there are two of the best movie scores not mentioned in your post. The original Planet Of The Apes soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith and the original Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis.

    As far as mating music with moving pictures goes, it’s hard not to recognize what Stanley Kubrick did with his films. The soundtrack for 2001 is so masterfully put together that’s hard to believe the pieces weren’t written for it. Wendy Carlos did some pretty unique music for a Clockwork Orange and The Shining. On both of those films Kubrick also placed some existing musical pieces that flow outstandingly well with his films.


  2. Well,of course I’d be remiss,if I did NOT mention the brilliant and moving soundtrack works of Mr. John Barry,on the film “Dances with Wolves”,seeing as I’m a Native,Lol. But even if I wasn’t,it’s still a brilliant piece of work and brings thought and feeling to that film through it’s music!!! 🙂



  3. kruekutt

    Hans Zimmer’s Dunkirk score is, in my mind, his greatest achievement. An astonishing score that doesn’t just mimic the developing scenario, it profoundly shapes and effects how you see what’s on the screen. The eucatastrophic climax of the score (quoting Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations) is an incredible emotional release.

    I know that Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films are (to understate) not Brad’s cup of tea, but I can’t say enough good things about the Howard Shore scores for the trilogy — sprawling yet marvelously unified, heartfelt and visceral, using Richard Wagner’s leitmotif technique to develop both the story and each character’s journey (along with very prog odd-time rhythms for the bad guys). I got to sing in the chorus when my local symphony performed these scores live to projection over the course of three years; they’re incredibly evocative, powerful and satisfying. (There’s also a very fine book about the complete scores, The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films, by Chicago-based percussionist/musicologist/film score buff Doug Adams.) These are on my “Albums That Changed My Life” shortlist.

    And may I put in a good word for a “juke box” score? The soundtrack to the Jamaican crime film The Harder They Come is both a dead perfect encapsulation of the movie and a brilliant introduction to reggae. Amazing stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bryan Morey

    I second Rick’s mention of LotR’s music (and the Hobbit, for that matter). However one may feel about the movies themselves, the music is outstanding. I’ve used the extended versions of the soundtracks to study to for years now, and I’m amazed every time I listen to them.

    A good prog soundtrack – Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire.” Can’t get much more prog than that.

    Liked by 2 people


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