More on Soundtracks

The soundtrack of a sci-film or television is arguably just as critical as the visual awe we experience from the greats such as 2001: A Spaced Odyssey, Blade Runner, Alien, Star Wars and many more.

A dynamic score adds punch to a great sci-fi visual scene, without it, the scene's impact diminishes. Before the age of soundtracks recorded on film, some silent movies were presented with live orchestras or pianists such as D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915).

When the first talkie - The Jazz Singer (1927) arrived, soundtracks recorded on film virtually ended the career of 'film theater musicians.' Some film leaders revived the art of live theater musicians such as Francis Ford Coppola, who presented Abel Gance's Napoleon (1927) including a live orchestra.

More Sci-Fi Soundtracks

Battlestar Galactica: In 2003, McCreary became the sole composer on the the re-imagined series of Battlestar Galactica. McCreary also composes for Caprica, a prequel series set in the fictional Battlestar Galactica universe.

To date, six Battlestar Galactica soundtrack albums have been released, and have garnered a great deal of critical acclaim and commercial success. The soundtracks for season two and three ranked amongst's Top 30 Music Sales on their first days of release.

The Bride of Frankenstein: Franz Waxman's score for James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein has held up better than almost any other movie music of the 1930s.

In addition to their association with the movie for which they were composed, major parts of Waxman's score later turned up in the Flash Gordon serials (like The Bride of Frankenstein, made at Universal), especially Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, and fragments also showed up in various westerns and B-thrillers.

Children of Dune: Up-and-coming talent Brian Tyler was hired to provide the music and surpassed all expectations, Children of Dune became one of the most popular soundtracks of 2003.

The album opens with "Summon the Worms" with a powerful thematic performance of the main theme in the brass and racing strings. Much of the score consists of ethnic percussion, woodwinds, and vocals, but Tyler never lets it fade into the filler music.

Mars Attacks!: No entry in the Burton-Elfman cannon is quite as audaciously splattered about like 1996's Mars Attacks, an all-star salute to a gory collection of 1962 Topps' gum cards that ended up as a love-it / hate-it affair of the best kind.

Elfman's Day the Earth Stood Still-on-acid salute to all things musically sci-fi about the late 1950's and early 60's, is an ooo-wee-oooo era besieged by theremins, lava lamps, ridiculous-looking aliens, cheeseball effects. It's everything approximated by Elfman's Herrmann-meets-Esquivel score.

Back to the Future: Alan Silvestri's energetic music would get the attention of director Robert Zemeckis, who took a chance on him with Romancing the Stone.

With Back to the Future, the composer to unleashed a thrilling symphonic score that would make him an eminent orchestral composer from that time on with the likes of The Abyss, The Bodyguard, Night at the Museum, and G.I. Joe.

Forbidden Planet: Forbidden Planet's innovative electronic music score (credited as "electronic tonalities" - partly to avoid having to pay any of the film industry music guild fees - was composed by Louis and Bebe Barron.

The MGM producer Dore Schary discovered this couple quite by chance at a beatnik nightclub in Greenwich Village while on a family Christmas visit to New York City. Schary hired them on the spot to compose his film's musical score.

The theremin (which was not used in Forbidden Planet) had been used as early as 1945, in the movie Spellbound, but the Barron's score is widely credited with being the first completely electronic score. This soundtrack preceded invention of the Moog synthesizer (1964) by eight years.

King Kong 1933: In 1933, the legendary Max Steiner wrote a score that was epic, romantic and terrifying, setting the standard for the key elements that audiences have come to associate with Kong.

Steiner's grand score celebrates the golden age of adventure, but also retains a kind of playful naivet' with the music.

Robocop: For RoboCop, Poledouris would be able to tinker with a trend that would soon become a passion of his: combining synthesizers with hugely orchestral constructs.

The resulting experiment was suitable for the half-human, half-machine cyborg at the heart of the story, and score collectors should be grateful that the producers of the film ultimately elected for this approach rather than the tempting, totally synthetic or hard rock alternative.

Sunshine: This soundtrack isn't all about intensity, 'Mercury' seemingly lures you into believing it will began as the previous track, instead it grabs the listener and sends them in a euphoric state; it gives you a sense of absolution and freedom - which is quite uplifting.

Sunshine doesn't hold the same theme, but a mixture of them. Hope, disparity, intensity, eeriness, and claustrophobic touches with every track hold the soundtrack together as it fits perfectly with the film. The electronic grittiness and eerie feel of many of these tracks keeps you weaved within its atmosphere.

Stargate: It took the young Brit David Arnold, to storm onto the scene and remind the industry of the glory of its own classic epics, drawing several comparisons in reviews to the popular works of John Williams.

In doing so, he captured the high swings of emotion that old adventure scores delighted in delivering to audiences, with themes flexible enough to both grace the quiet interludes as well as explode during explosive action scenes with thousands of CGI extras.

Solaris (2002): The score completed the film Solaris. Cliff Martinez embalmed us with this orchestral-ambient-electronic suite, and in the process, he has quite possibly signaled a shift/evolution in how we look at film scores.

The instrumental beauty speaks to us in a very mature manner. Its message (delivered with gentle calm) is that in principle, soundtracks don't always have to rely on the 'classical' method of arranging instruments.

Excerpts from: (for Blade Runner) (for Sunshine) (for Solaris 2002)
(for The Matrix, King Kong 1933)
(for The Bride of Frankenstein)
(for Alien, Children of Dune)
(for T2: Judgment Day, Robocop, Stargate)
(for Star Wars, Star Trek The Motion Picture)
(for Back to the Future, Mars Attacks!,
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
(for The Day the Earth Stood Still,
2001: A Space Odyssey)

SFMZ's Greatest Sci-Fi Soundtracks
Composed By SFMZ Webmaster

We gathered a list of sci-fi soundtracks submitted by site visitors and let them vote what they think is the ten greatest, along with some audio clips and highlights of the sci-fi soundtrack composers.

About the Poll

This top ten list is voted by site visitors and the term "greatest" is subjective. The poll is for entertainment purposes only and it reflects their opinions only. This poll was closed once it reached 1,000 votes total.

The Day The Earth Stood Still: There are two main reasons for the music's influence. Firstly there is the composer's characteristic intensity, resulting from the way he employs short musical fragments and uses these building bricks to construct a powerful, atmospheric score.

Secondly Herrmann, who is well-known for the careful way he selects his instrumentation, on this occasion chose to add the Theremin to that sound palette. He was certainly not the first to use this electronic instrument in a film, but Herrmann's usage went beyond mere sound effect. Where used, the instrument plays a vital role, its unusual tones bringing it to the fore as a solo instrument. The conviction of its use made this the instrument of choice of science fiction composers for many years to come.

Bernard Herrmann

An Academy Award-winner (for The Devil and Daniel Webster, 1941), Herrmann is particularly known for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock, most famously Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo. He composed the scores for several fantasy films by Ray Harryhausen, and many TV programs (The Twilight Zone). Herrmann's involvement with electronic musical instruments dates back to 1951, when he used the Theremin in The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Top Ten Sc-Fi Soundtracks - Number 9

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: There are some soundtracks that signal a major voice in film scoring has arrived, like the time you heard the raging brass of King Kong or the trumpeting first bars of Star Wars.

A huge bolt from the blue was hearing the nautical space adventure stylings of James Horner's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was a score that stands as a highpoint in science fiction that would make Horner one of the dominant musical forces in Hollywood.

Horner was smart enough to make even more use of the TV TREK theme in the score before going into his own 'Main Title.' Taking a lot of the notes out of the kind of seafaring sound inspired by the likes of Claude Debussy's 'La Mer.'

James Horner

Horner's first major film score was for the 1979 film, The Lady in Red. He made a breakthrough in 1982, when he had the chance to score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), establishing himself as a mainstream composer.

Aliens earned Horner his first Academy Award nomination. He has been nominated an additional nine times since. Horner's scores have been sampled in film trailers for other movies. The climax of the track Bishop's Countdown from his score for Aliens ranks fifth in the most commonly-used soundtrack cues for film trailers.

A Clockwork Orange: The music is a thematic extension of Alex's (and the viewer's) psychological conditioning. The soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange comprises classical music and electronic synthetic music composed by Wendy Carlos. Some of the music is heard only as excerpts, e.g. Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (aka Land of Hope and Glory) ironically heralding a politician's appearance at the prison.

The main theme is an electronic transcription of Henry Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, composed in 1695, for the procession of Queen Mary's cort'ge through London en route to Westminster Abbey. 'March from A Clockwork Orange' was the first recorded song featuring a vocoder for the singing; synthpop bands often cite it as their inspiration.

Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos' (born Walter Carlos) first release was entitled "Moog 900 Series - Electronic Music Systems" (R. A. Moog Company, Inc., 1967) and it was an introduction to the technical aspects of the machine. In 1971, Carlos composed and recorded music for A Clockwork Orange (1971). Carlos worked with Stanley Kubrick again on the score for The Shining, though in the end Kubrick mostly used pre-existing music cues by other composers.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture: You will leave this album floored, impressed, and dying to go back for more of this unique, gripping musical journey. Even the little parts, like the brief introduction to the Klingon theme Goldsmith would use in his later scores or the wondrous but short 'Flying Office', dazzle in their intricacy.

Goldsmith's finest score, for it enraptures you like few other works, plus it boasts a wealth of themes and variations that no future Trek score comes anywhere close to. With most Trek scores nowhere close to this level of quality, the original shines even brighter than it did 30 years ago. You cannot call yourself a true film music lover (or 'soundtrack geek', for benefit of our site name) until you've truly experienced this music. To do otherwise would be illogical.

The Matrix: The Matrix was a refreshing bit of cinema that came just before the turn of the century. No small part of the success of the film was due to the net result of Don Davis' score coupled with Jason Bentley's source cue selection.

Cues like "Spybreak" and "Clubbed to Death" have since been used in a variety of commercial means and along with The Matrix itself have become a significant part of film history.

The most entertaining cues tend to come from scenes that are within The Matrix itself. As Mr. Thomas Anderson begins his journey down "the rabbit hole" he finds himself in a dark, dance club, where he is to meet the infamous, hacker "Trinity." A mix of "Minefields" by Prodigy and "Dragula" by Rob Zombie are featured as source in the atmospheric club scene.

Don Davis

Don Davis wrote scores mostly for television series up until 1995, in which he wrote a few of the cues for the animated Disney motion picture A Goofy Movie. He continued to score television series until the two then young directors, the Wachowski brothers, hired him to score their neo-noir film Bound.

Davis' magnum opus is Matrix trilogy: The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions. It was set apart from other film scores of its time for its atonality and avant garde style of composition, with influences from polytonal minimalist works like John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine and cluster-like techniques prominent in the works of composer Witold Lutosawski.

T2: Judgment Day: The score that Brad Fiedel would produce for Terminator 2 is largely a technological update of the first score, utilizing many of the same motifs and synth effects, and there were positives and negatives to this retainment. On the plus side, Fiedel does have a knack for conjuring obnoxiously effective electronic sounds that adequately represent some of the technological horror you witness on screen.

Additionally, the carry-over of the primary theme and supporting motifs into any sequel is important, and Fiedel does an outstanding job of incorporating all of the elements from the first score into the second one. If you enjoyed the stark, groaning atmosphere of the first Terminator score, then Terminator 2 will surely impress you.

Brad Fiedel

A popular and progressive composer in the 1980s, Brad Fiedel worked on several successful movies, predominantly in the action and thriller genres, and pioneered the use of electronic instruments and synthesizers almost disappearing from the mainstream at the end of the 1990s.

Fiedel has scored many popular and successful movies, including Fright Night (1985) and its sequel Fright Night II (1988), The Big Easy (1987), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), The Accused (1988), Blue Steel (1990), T2: Judgment Day (1991), Blink (1994), and True Lies (1994), although in recent years, Fiedel has not been in demand as much as he once was.

Alien: Jerry Goldsmith split the score into two styles. The theme for the spacecraft Nostromo and its doomed crew is a romantic trumpet and orchestra theme ("Main Title") that is followed by a mysterious two-note echoing motif. It suggests both primal wonder for the great unknown and the nagging fear that follows it. Goldsmith very well knew that to suggest something "alien" he had to create sounds both unfamiliar and threatening.

A great score is one that makes every track a winner, and Goldsmith gives us every variation of building suspense there is without a false note. There's moody environmental cues like "The Lab" and "The Eggs". There's slow build suspense cues such as the "The Shaft" and "Hanging On." There's high energy action cues like "It's A Droid" and "Out The Door."

Jerry Goldsmith

Goldsmith is considered as one of the prominent film composers in the 20th century. He won five Emmy Awards, an Academy Award for The Omen, and was nominated for 17 other Oscars. He worked in various film and television genres, but is noticeably associated with action, science fiction, fantasy, and horror films.

Goldsmith provided tailor-made scores for many genres, including war films (Patton), film noir (Chinatown), action movies (Rambo), erotic thrillers, sports pictures, family comedies, westerns, comic book adaptations, animated features, fantasy (Legend) and science fiction (Planet Of The Apes, Total Recall, Alien, five Star Trek films).

2001: A Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick always had a reputation for individuality in his film-making. He invariably created films which stretched the boundaries of established practice in terms of concept, story, camera work and direction. With 2001: A Space Odyssey he also confounded expectations in the soundtrack department.

He chose to ignore Alex North's specially composed music and stick to his original "temp track" consisting of classical works of his own choosing. The rest as they say is history.

His choices of music ranged from the conventional to the positively weird, taking some courageous risks with his creation, but those choices complemented the storyline perfectly and created a soundtrack legend along the way.

The initial MGM soundtrack album release contained none of the material from the altered and uncredited rendition of "Aventures", used a different recording of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" than that heard in the film, and a longer excerpt of "Lux Aeterna" than that in the film.

The soundtrack was a commercial success, reaching the 21st spot at the Billboard 200, and receiving a RIAA certification of Gold for an excess of 500,000 copies.

In 1996, Turner Entertainment/Rhino Records released a new soundtrack on CD which included the material from "Aventures" and restored the version of "Zarathustra" used in the film.

As additional "bonus tracks" at the end, this CD includes the versions of "Zarathustra" and "Lux Aeterna" on the old MGM soundtrack, an unaltered performance of "Aventures", and a nine-minute compilation of all of Hal's dialogue from the film.

Top Ten Sc-Fi Soundtracks - Number 2

Blade Runner: Vangelis' futuristic composition of Los Angeles' dark future is a beautiful and haunting collection. It has many memorable themes that go perfectly with the tone of the dark, rainy, neon-lit alleys of the under world of the city. Themes such as "Rachels Song," "Damask Rose," "Blade Runner Blues," and the emotional "Tears in Rain" are pure masterpieces.

It certainly made Ridley Scott's film a serious piece of work. The overall mood of the score is often dark and somewhat surreal - Vangelis' synthetic forte of electronic scoring is a perfect match for this tale of the future.

Since the premiere of the film, two official albums have been released containing music omitted from the film and also new compositions featuring a similar style.

An orchestral rendition of part of the soundtrack was released in 1982 by the New American Orchestra. However, the original soundtrack album (1994) features vocal contributions from Demis Roussos and the sax solo by Dick Morrissey on "Love Theme". The track "Memories of Green" from Vangelis' 1980 album See You Later was also included.

The original soundtrack release was critically acclaimed�nominated in 1983 for a BAFTA and Golden Globe as best original score. Also, there was the promise of a soundtrack album from Polydor Records in the film's end titles.

The 1989 compilation Themes included some tracks from the film, but it was not until two years after the 1992 Director's Cut of the film that the score saw an official release.


He is best known for his Academy Award winning score for the film Chariots of Fire, and scores for the films Blade Runner and 1492: Conquest of Paradise. Vangelis began his musical career working with several popular bands of the 1960s.

In a career spanning over 49 years, writing and composing more than 40 albums, Vangelis is generally regarded by music critics as one of the greatest composers of electronic music of all time.

Star Wars Episode IV: The music of Star Wars has become so engrained in pop culture that it is nearly impossible to say anything new about it.

US pop culture has been drenched with familiarity with its main titles. It has featured stronger development in one (some would argue two) sequel score, not to mention expansions through the prequel trilogy scores.

The closing action cues get more powerful and driving, and the force theme fanfare that kicks off the exceptional end credits is crisp, regal, and emotionally engaging. At the end of the day Star Wars is one of the few scores that lives up to its critical AND mainstream hype.

John Williams' score for Star Wars was recorded over eight sessions at Anvil Studios in Denham, England on March 5, 8�12, 15 and 16, 1977. The score was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra with Williams himself conducting.

The score was orchestrated by frequent Williams' associate Herbert W. Spencer, who also orchestrated The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

In 2004, it was preserved by the Library of Congress into the National Recording Registry, calling it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

In 2005, the American Film Institute named the original Star Wars soundtrack as the most memorable score of all time for a US film.

John Williams

While skilled in a variety of twentieth-century compositional idioms, Williams's most familiar style may be described as a form of neoromanticism, inspired by the same large-scale orchestral music of the late 19th century - especially Wagnerian music and its concept of leitmotif - that inspired his film-composing predecessors.

Williams produced a grand symphonic score for Star Wars (1977) in the fashion of Richard Strauss and Golden Age Hollywood composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner.

Its main theme "Luke's Theme" is among the most widely recognized in motion picture history. The film and its soundtrack were both immensely successful, and Williams won an Academy Award for Best Original Score.

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