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Mike Reyes

32 Scenes That Are Dramatically Enhanced By Their Musical Scores

Paddington looking out a window in Paddington.

Music is a vital source of energy for any movie, whether it’s a carefully selected soundtrack or a bespoke musical score. In the case of that second option, there are so many moments one can trace back fond memories of pictures like Jurassic Park and James Bond movies, right down to the scene. With that in mind, we’re about to get nostalgic and recall scenes that are dramatically enhanced by their musical scores. 

(Image credit: Universal/Amblin)

The Visitor’s Center Showdown - Jurassic Park (John Williams)

The legendary John Williams’ resume of music is nothing short of mythical, especially through his efforts in films such as Jurassic Park. If you’ve never felt a swell of excitement when Roberta the T-Rex swoops in to save the day, then maybe you need to listen to the cue “T-Rex Rescue and Finale” again, just to be sure. 

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Arthur Fleck’s Killing Joke - Joker (Hildur Guðnadóttir)

Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for Joker isn’t a traditional soundscape, but rather an element as off-kilter as its own dark protagonist. When Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) tells his infamous killing joke to late-night host Murray (Robert De Niro) the unrelenting tension of melodic elements heard on cues like “Escape from the Train” propel this scene to its fatal, horrific conclusion. 

(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

The Adventures Of Carl And Ellie - Up (Michael Giacchino)

It’s ok if you tear up just reading the words “Married Life,” as Michael Giacchino’s legendary opener for Disney/Pixar’s Up has associated that title with the greatest heartbreak imaginable. As we watch Carl and Ellie Frederickson’s courtship move through the years, the tune carries these dialogue-free scenes with all of the required emotional weight. 

(Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures)

Hiccup And Toothless’ Test Drive - How To Train Your Dragon (John Powell)

Heroes and buddies alike need their theme music, especially when an adventure like the How To Train Your Dragon series is afoot. Through John Powell’s sweeping cue “Test Drive” on the soundtrack of the 2010 franchise starter, we see Toothless and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) finally teaming up to be the dragon/rider combo that eventually find themselves part of a greater adventure. 

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

“Avengers Assemble” - Avengers: Endgame (Alan Silvestri)

“Portals” is yet another sterling addition to composer Alan Silvestri’s career as a renowned artist. Starting as a faint glimmer of hope, and building towards Avengers: Endgame’s big moment where Captain America (Chris Evans) gets to finally say “Avengers…assemble!”, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t remember those in-theater reactions we’ve seen through numerous Avengers reaction videos. 

(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

Define Dancing - Wall-E (Thomas Newman)

“Define Dancing” is not only the name of a very important cue that changed during Wall-E’s production, it’s also one of the best moments of the entire picture. As Wall-E and Eve get to know each other through dance, and even begin to get closer to a mutual love, composer Thomas Newman’s blend of electronic and traditional melodies lets the audience share that beautiful weightlessness this budding couple is experiencing. 

(Image credit: MGM)

“The Name’s Bond…James Bond” - Casino Royale (David Arnold)

The theme to the James Bond movies is as iconic as the character itself, so it’s a touch-balance to know how and where to use Monty Norman and John Barry’s classic tune. In Casino Royale, it was an important 007 cornerstone saved for the end of the film. Watching Daniel Craig’s Bond confront the villainous Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) became even more impressive, thanks to David Arnold’s modern arrangement closing out this origin story with a punch. 

(Image credit: Sony)

"Ok, Let's Do This One Last Time" - Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (Daniel Pemberton)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a multiversal dramedy that allows more than one Spider-Person to claim themselves as the one and only. So it’s natural that a track named "Only One Spider-Man" would be the basis for the many variations that composer Daniel Pemberton put together to showcase each of these MCU-adjacent heroes. Each time it happens, the laughs grow louder, and the tune never gets any older.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Shower Scene - Psycho (Bernard Herrmann)

Everybody knows Bernard Herrmann’s short, sharp tune from what’s colloquially known as “the shower scene” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho; and as they should. Not only is the scene signaling the demise of Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane an oft-parodied moment, but that very musical sting, or some imitation of it, is usually along for the ride.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Bank Heist - The Dark Knight (Hans Zimmer And James Newton Howard)

"Why so Serious?" Acting as the iconic question frequently asked by Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, it’s also the title of the Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard piece that helps introduce him in the film. Propelling the scene with the sweet guitar riff and percussive pressure needed to welcome us back to Gotham, it’s the unnerving notes played on the violin that tie everything together in an epic example of fear. 

(Image credit: TWC/StudioCanal)

Bear Bath - Paddington (Nick Urata)

As if Paddington wasn't a movie with enough adorable joy packed into its finished product, it has an adorable "give the bear a bath" sequence. With Nick Urata's cue "Bear Bath" playing over this moment of good-natured humor, the whimsy really shines through in this bright and bouncy tune.

(Image credit: Mirror Releasing)

Tish And Fonny’s Love Story - If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell)

Nicholas Britelll's "Agape" from If Beale Street Could Talk is, quite frankly, love in a song. As it accompanies the recollection of Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) in their early courtship, there's a tenderness that's so moving you're bound to tear up. Seriously, you are going to cry listening to this.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

A Very Sweet Introduction - Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley)

The main titles to 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, on top of looking delicious enough on their own, also happen to double as a menu for Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s assortment of tunes from the picture. Fudge is rippling and chocolate is churning while audiences get their first taste of “Pure Imagination” thanks to this delicious confection.

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

The Jupiter 1’s Launch - Lost In Space (Bruce Broughton)

“The Launch” is quite a busy tune from composer Bruce Broughton’s Lost in Space score. As this piece of music is playing while the Robinson family is preparing to make their journey among the stars, the 1998 reboot of the famed ‘60s sci-fi series goes all out with only the most top-notch effects and Matt Le Blanc's Major West as its pilot. All the while, this stirring tune takes the recurring melody that pops up throughout the film and turns it into a most heroic event. 

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

“Get Off My Plane!” - Air Force One (Jerry Goldsmith)

With one line, and one commanding action, Harrison Ford’s presidential lead in Air Force One saves himself, and the plane. Dispatching of Gary Oldman’s terrorist threat is a well-earned triumph that comes after the cat-and-mouse game that played out before it. And when the moment finally arrives, the movie’s signature Jerry Goldsmith melody kicks in, boosting the patriotism in even the most jaded film viewer.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Emergency Docking With The Endurance - Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)

It’s an honest crime that the track “No Time For Caution” is only on the collector’s edition of Interstellar’s Hans Zimmer score. Not only is it a gorgeous tune on its own, but after watching Matthew McConaughey wrangling an entire space station back into control, you might feel a bit out of breath yourself. Blame those fantastic blaring organs that really set the scene towards the end. 

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

“You’re the man now, dog!” - Finding Forrester (Terence Blanchard)

As Finding Forrester's protagonist Jamal (Rob Brown) becomes the pupil of reclusive author William (Sean Connery), the process of refining his author’s voice includes score and soundtrack cues. But one of the most powerful is in the scene that launched the meme, as Terrence Blanchard’s score subtly boosts Brown’s typing and Connery’s proclamations of “You’re the man now, dog.”

(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Kevin Flynn’s Sacrifice - Tron: Legacy (Daft Punk)

One of the most heartbreaking moments on the Tron timeline is the day that Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) sacrificed himself to allow his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) to return home. Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy gets plenty of merit for its bombastic electronica pieces like “Derezzed” or “The Game Has Changed,” but “Flynn Lives” is the orchestral triumph that still brings fans to tears. 

(Image credit: Universal/Amblin)

George And Lorraine’s First Kiss - Back To The Future (Alan Silvestri)

Ok, so “Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine?)” isn’t a track exclusive to Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future. However, thanks to composer Alan Silvestri working some melodic magic to heighten the tension, then relief, of George (Crispin Glover) and Lorraine (Lea Thompson) taking this huge step into their futures, a ‘50s pop song and a first kiss become the most important things in the world at that moment. 

(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

Dinner Rush At Gusteau’s - Ratatouille (Michael Giacchino)

Michael Giacchino’s “Dinner Rush” from the Ratatouille score comes at a subtly brilliant moment in the Disney/Pixar classic. As Remy (Patton Oswalt) is running a dinner shift with his fellow rats in the kitchen, the action comes fast and furious; which is reflected in this very tune. A triumphant repeat of “Le Festine’s” melodic signature that almost acts as an indicator that Remy’s realizing, in real time, that his dreams have come true.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Andy Dufrenese’ Shower Of Freedom - The Shawshank Redemption (Thomas Newman)

Some moments are truly unforgettable in a classic like The Shawshank Redemption. One such highlight is the moment that Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) breaks out of a sewage tunnel and into the free world. Thomas Newman’s “Shawshank Redemption” theme heralds that moment with such a bittersweet beauty, which ultimately gives way to victorious horns. 

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Tony’s Close Call In Monaco - Iron Man 2 (John Debney)

Some of the best moments in music come when you’re invoking other legends of the craft. Iron Man 2’s John Debney gives us an example of that phenomenon with the cue “Mayhem in Monaco,” which plays as Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) first squares up against Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) on an F1 track in Monaco. Close calls, tons of destruction, and a ticking clock are all baked into this tune; but it’s the Jerry Goldsmith-style theme that’s fully realized on the track “I Am Iron Man” that really gives this MCU moment its punch.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Opera Chase - The Man Who Knew Too Much (Arthur Benjamin/Bernard Herrmann)

 Composed by Arthur Benjamin and arranged by Bernard Herrmann, a certain spot in “Storm Clouds Cantata” is marked for death, as an attempt on a diplomat’s life is set to take place. Watching Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day trying to fend off this attempt in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much is a pure, wordless thrill - until Day's shrill cry of terror shatters the moment in proper Hitchcockian fashion.

(Image credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The Throne Room Ceremony - Star Wars (John Williams)

If you didn’t already know this one through watching Star Wars countless times, then maybe riding Disney Parks' various Star Tours attractions has you primed for this next entry. Either way, John Williams' music from the end of A New Hope is one of the most memorable cues from this particular galaxy. Even if the debate over Chewbacca’s lack of a medal was eventually settled in franchise lore, this moment still sticks out.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Reunion Of Friends - Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (John Williams)

The franchise theme that recurs in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets gets a bit of an upgrade in John Wililams' "Reunion of Friends." While it sneaks in and starts with its traditional softness, the melody eventually amps up into an elevated version of "Hedwig's Theme." It was so powerful it found its way into the trailer for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as that extra spark meant "adventure" in this series' musical language.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

“Can you hear the music, Robert?” - Oppenheimer (Ludwig Göransson)

Early on in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, one singular cue fans the flame of scientific discovery and progress in the mind of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy). Ludwig Göransson’s “Can You Hear The Music” starts off as a soaring melody, the tempo picks up as the imagery gets a bit more intense. Before you know it, it feels like you’re watching and listening to chemical reactions at work, in real time.

(Image credit: Dreamworks)

“I’m sorry, Wilson!” - Cast Away (Alan Silvestri)

Ever cried over a volleyball before? Cast Away’s limited musical score from composer Alan Silvestri will change that pretty quickly. As Chuck (Tom Hanks) laments the loss of his volleyball friend in the ocean, just as he’s setting off to freedom, the music only helps loosen those tear ducts for this sad parting.

(Image credit: Universal)

The Indoraptor Rises - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Michael Giacchino)

A simple musical statement that plunges everything headlong into terror, “World’s Worst Bedtime Storyteller” is a cue that bathes in holy dread. As a choir sings ominously, accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom cue, the mighty Indoraptor climbs to the top of Lockwood Manor and roars in a scene that feels like something out of the creepiest Universal Monsters movie.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Gotham’s Introduction By Night - Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (Shirley Walker)

The opening to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, on a visual level, is merely a tour through the Gotham City skyline at night. However, thanks to Shirley Walker’s powerful main title theme to the film, that tour turns into a hunt for the Batman. He doesn’t appear, but by the time this track is over, you’ll still feel like you’ve visited Gotham City and barely escaped some sort of terror.

(Image credit: Paramount)

The Tunnel Chase - The Italian Job ‘03 (John Powell)

John Powell knows the thrill of scoring speeding cars rather well. Throughout his time on the Bourne films, chase sequences became a stock in trade for his musical skills. But before he gave the world “Bim Bam Smash” from The Bourne Supremacy, Powell delivered an adrenaline rush with The Italian Job’s “Tunnel Run,” which injects a chase through the sewers of L.A. with even more urgency. 

(Image credit: Dreamworks Pictures)

Maximus’ Battle Of Antiquity - Gladiator (Hans Zimmer)

Hans Zimmer loves long cues of sweeping scope and intensity, as you’ll hear in Gladiator’s “Barbarian Horde." Playing during the raging battle where Maximus (Russell Crowe) and his fellow gladiators change historical records through tactics, an action-packed scene became the stuff of legends through the accompanying music helped land Sir Ridley Scott’s action epic in pop culture history.

(Image credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Darth Vader’s Rampage - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Michael Giacchino)

In a sequence that shows off Darth Vader in perhaps his most threatening Star Wars appearance yet, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story includes a short cue called “Hope” that accompanies Vader’s rampage. As a menacing choir sings amidst Michael Giacchino’s threatening, then hopeful, score, the Sith Lord is seen at his most threatening. 

Music makes the images play fonder, and the examples that we've just discussed are only a drop in the bucket of cinema's best moments. So the next time you head to the movies, or flip on one of your old favorites at home, keep your ears and eyes open for moments like these classic showstoppers.

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