Most memorable film themes

by TomConnors | created - 26 May 2011 | updated - 27 Apr 2013 | Public

There are tons and tons of movies that have great music, but every once in a while there area few that just stick out more, and are easily identified after hearing only a few notes. John Williams dominates the list, but there are so many greats as well by Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith, and more... Here's a few of the best...

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1. Jaws (1975)

PG | 124 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
87 Metascore

A local sheriff, a marine biologist and an old seafarer team up to hunt down a great white shark wrecking havoc in a beach resort.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Votes: 464,621 | Gross: $260.00M

All it takes as those low key bump-bump....bump-bump-bump.... and you know exactly what you're hearing. Probably used more times in OTHER movies than any other film theme. Even the parodies of the song are too close to confuse it with anything else. John Williams signature theme became a character, a voice, it was the shark.

2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

PG | 121 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

8.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
90 Metascore

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle-station while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness

Votes: 1,027,914 | Gross: $322.74M

Probably one of the most recognizable theme song in History next to Jaws. George Lucas' space-saga needed a beefy big score, otherwise the old-school space-serial type film that he had made probably would have half fell on it's face without John Williams booming score setting the stage for the biggest adventure of all time. Lucas had originally planned on using existing classical music, and tracks from 2001: A Space Odyssey, thank god he changed his mind.

3. Superman (1978)

PG | 143 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

7.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
86 Metascore

An alien orphan is sent from his dying planet to Earth, where he grows up to become his adoptive home's first and greatest superhero.

Director: Richard Donner | Stars: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando

Votes: 138,138 | Gross: $134.22M

Once again John Williams hits one out of the park, as he proves to be the MVP of film scores over and over again. Williams' theme for the Man of Steel, Superman for his film debut in 1978 is still associated with the last son of Krypton, to this day. All the stars lined up for this movie, like most of them on the top spot, but you can't help to think that the extremely appropriately identifiable theme songs helped them feel so big and important.

4. Rocky (1976)

PG | 120 min | Drama, Sport

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
69 Metascore

Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer, gets a supremely rare chance to fight heavy-weight champion Apollo Creed in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

Director: John G. Avildsen | Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers

Votes: 427,359 | Gross: $117.24M

Sport movies would never be the same after Rocky. The formula worked to a T here, as it did continuously through most of it's sequels, here the music is so important to Rocky's world. Bill Conti's theme sticks with you because of the emotions it makes you feel every time you hear it. Every time your running fast somewhere, working out, or anything remotely close, you hear it in your head and start to hum it to yourself, for some reason it charges you, gives you that extra boost, hell it worked for Rocky right? Go for it!

5. Halloween (1978)

R | 91 min | Horror, Thriller

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
78 Metascore

Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield to kill again.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran, Nancy Kyes

Votes: 177,526 | Gross: $47.00M

John Carpenter's striking and chilling score to his signature film is just spot on and perfect, still the scariest film theme ever. Much like Tubular Bells in The Exorcist, the music sends chills down your spine as the piano plays those high keys, as an electronic hum builds like two different songs that finally collide just like the inevitable strike of serial killer Michael Myers as he wields his butcher knife.

6. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

R | 105 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

7.3
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64 Metascore

A freewheeling Detroit cop pursuing a murder investigation finds himself dealing with the very different culture of Beverly Hills.

Director: Martin Brest | Stars: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher

Votes: 138,717 | Gross: $234.76M

7. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

PG | 138 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
90 Metascore

After an accidental encounter with otherworldly vessels, an ordinary man follows a series of psychic clues to the first scheduled meeting between representatives of Earth and visitors from the cosmos.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon

Votes: 155,218 | Gross: $132.09M

8. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure

8.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
85 Metascore

Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies

Votes: 737,783 | Gross: $248.16M

9. Beetlejuice (1988)

PG | 92 min | Comedy, Fantasy

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
70 Metascore

When a recently-deceased ghost couple find their now-vacant home invaded by an obnoxious family, they hire a sleazy ghost who gets rid of humans to help them.

Director: Tim Burton | Stars: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, Annie McEnroe

Votes: 211,821 | Gross: $73.71M

10. Batman (1989)

PG-13 | 126 min | Action, Adventure

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
69 Metascore

The Dark Knight of Gotham City begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being the clownishly homicidal Joker.

Director: Tim Burton | Stars: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl

Votes: 293,472 | Gross: $251.19M

I remember hearing an interview with Danny Elfman where he said that he had come up with the melody for Tim Burton's Batman theme while in the bathroom aboard an airplane. He said something to the effect of how the engines for the plane helped him sonically envision the batmobile's booster blasting as the horns trumpeted the Dark Knight's signature tune. I'd like to believe it's true, either way, the theme erased the hokey version from the 60's TV show. Like John Williams and Steven Spielberg, Danny Elfman and Tim Burton still have a symbiotic relationship for their films still going strong.

11. Gremlins (1984)

PG | 106 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
70 Metascore

A boy inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.

Director: Joe Dante | Stars: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, John Louie

Votes: 162,242 | Gross: $148.17M

12. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

PG | 124 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

8.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
82 Metascore

After the rebels are overpowered by the Empire on the ice planet Hoth, Luke Skywalker begins Jedi training with Yoda. His friends accept shelter from a questionable ally as Darth Vader hunts them in a plan to capture Luke.

Director: Irvin Kershner | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams

Votes: 955,484 | Gross: $290.48M

13. The Pink Panther (1963)

Not Rated | 115 min | Comedy, Crime, Romance

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
55 Metascore

Inspector Clouseau travels to Rome to catch a notorious jewel thief known as "The Phantom" before he conducts his most daring heist yet--a princess' priceless diamond with one slight imperfection, known as "The Pink Panther."

Director: Blake Edwards | Stars: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine

Votes: 41,617 | Gross: $10.88M

14. Psycho (1960)

R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

8.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
97 Metascore

A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin

Votes: 479,808 | Gross: $32.00M

15. Friday the 13th (1980)

R | 95 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

6.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
19 Metascore

A group of camp counselors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp which, years before, was the site of a child's drowning.

Director: Sean S. Cunningham | Stars: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan

Votes: 94,962 | Gross: $39.75M

16. Back to the Future (1985)

PG | 116 min | Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi

8.5
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86 Metascore

Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent thirty years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Votes: 835,999 | Gross: $210.61M

17. The Godfather (1972)

R | 175 min | Crime, Drama

9.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  
100 Metascore

The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton

Votes: 1,298,570 | Gross: $134.97M

18. The Odd Couple (1968)

G | 105 min | Comedy

7.7
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Two friends try sharing an apartment, but their ideas of housekeeping and lifestyles are as different as night and day.

Director: Gene Saks | Stars: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Fiedler, Herb Edelman

Votes: 27,104 | Gross: $44.53M

19. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

R | 91 min | Horror

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
78 Metascore

Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. While the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won't lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep.

Director: Wes Craven | Stars: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, John Saxon

Votes: 168,826 | Gross: $25.50M

20. Star Trek (2009)

PG-13 | 127 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
82 Metascore

The brash James T. Kirk tries to live up to his father's legacy with Mr. Spock keeping him in check as a vengeful Romulan from the future creates black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time.

Director: J.J. Abrams | Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Leonard Nimoy

Votes: 537,680 | Gross: $257.73M

21. The Social Network (2010)

PG-13 | 120 min | Biography, Drama

7.7
Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
95 Metascore

Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking site that would become known as Facebook, but is later sued by two brothers who claimed he stole their idea, and the co-founder who was later squeezed out of the business.

Director: David Fincher | Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara

Votes: 530,942 | Gross: $96.96M

22. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

PG | 136 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

6.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
51 Metascore

Two Jedi Knights escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to claim their old glory.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd

Votes: 604,162 | Gross: $474.54M

23. The Terminator (1984)

R | 107 min | Action, Sci-Fi

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
83 Metascore

A seemingly indestructible humanoid cyborg is sent from 2029 to 1984 to assassinate a waitress, whose unborn son will lead humanity in a war against the machines, while a soldier from that war is sent to protect her at all costs.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield

Votes: 669,554 | Gross: $38.40M

24. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

PG-13 | 178 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

8.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
92 Metascore

A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean

Votes: 1,378,226 | Gross: $315.54M

25. Jurassic Park (1993)

PG-13 | 127 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
68 Metascore

During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough

Votes: 701,010 | Gross: $402.45M