Ennio Morricone’s best movie soundtracks


Ennio Morricone was born in Rome on November 10, 1928 and he wrote his first composition at the age of six. He studied classical music and, after graduating, began writing scores for theater and radio. He was hired as an arranger by the RCA label in Italy and also started writing for pop artists. In the mid-1960s, he discovered the Italian contemporary music scene and created avant-garde music that pushed the boundaries with the Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza, a collective of experimental and improvised composers.

But it’s of course his movie soundtracks that have earned him the most praise. Morricone composed more than 500 soundtracks for film and television and became famous for the music of spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone, including The good the bad and the ugly and a handful of dollars. In 2007, Ennio Morricone received an honorary Oscar (presented by Clint Eastwood) for his “magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music” and in 2016, at the age of 87, he won an Oscar for his score of Quentin Tarantino’s film. The Hateful Eight. So, without further ado, here’s our pick of the best Ennio Morricone movie soundtracks.

A handful of dollars (1964)

A handful of dollarsone of Ennio Morricone’s best movie soundtracks, was his first collaboration with Sergio Leone and was followed by For a few dollars more (1965) and The good the bad and the ugly (1966). The original liner notes for a handful of dollars noted that “the music matches the excitement note for note, shot for shot” and Morricone’s memorable soundtrack was integral to the film’s success.

For a few dollars more (1965)

For a few dollars more was the sequel to Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western A handful of dollars. Ennio Morricone’s atmospheric film soundtrack, featuring whistles, wordless voices and the chiming of a clock, builds tension and completes the dramatic storyline.

The good the bad and the ugly (1966)

The good the bad and the ugly, Ennio Morricone’s most famous movie soundtrack, was the third film in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” starring Clint Eastwood. The iconic main theme depicts the howl of a coyote and includes sounds of gunshots, whistles and wordless vocals, providing the perfect setting for this spaghetti western. This soundtrack is widely regarded as one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time.

Once upon a Time in the West (1968)

by Sergio Leone Once upon a Time in the West, starring Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson, was released right after the “Dollars Trilogy”. Ennio Morricone’s haunting score features evocative themes for each of the main characters. In a highly unorthodox move, Leone asked Morricone to complete the score before filming began, so he could play the music in the background to inspire the actors on set.

The thing (1982)

Ennio Morricone’s haunting score for director John Carpenter’s sci-fi/horror flick The thing is notable for being one of the composer’s earliest electronic scores. Although John Carpenter often composed his own scores, he was too busy to compose the soundtrack for The thing and commissioned Morricone, as he wanted a more European sound for the film.

Once upon a time in America (1984)

The gangster epic of Sergio Leone Once upon a time in America was the last film of the great director. Ennio Morricone’s melancholic score, evoking a nostalgic sense of loss, won a BAFTA Award. Morricone developed musical themes for the characters in the film, including one of his greatest tracks, “Deborah’s Theme”, featuring wordless vocals by Edda Dell’Orso.

The Incorruptibles (1987)

Brian De Palma’s Prohibition Era Drama The Incorruptibles follows the story of mob boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Ennio Morricone’s thrilling score was the first of three collaborations (The Incorruptibles, Victims of war, Mission to Mars) between the composer and the director. Its soundtrack, capturing all the tension and poignancy of the story, was nominated for an Oscar and won a BAFTA award.

Cinema Paradiso (1989)

Ennio Morricone’s beautiful score for Giuseppe Tornatore Cinema Paradiso, the story of a boy’s friendship with a movie projectionist, evokes the film’s themes of love and longing and is one of Morricone’s best soundtracks. Tornatore won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in 1989, and Morricone’s soundtrack won the BAFTA for Original Film Score in 1991.

Malena (2000)

Ennio Morricone’s bittersweet score for Giuseppe Tornatore’s Sicilian initiation film Malena, with Monica Bellucci, was nominated for an Oscar. The film itself was panned by critics, but Morricone’s soundtrack is among his best.

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Ennio Morricone surprisingly won his first Academy Award for Best Soundtrack in 2016, aged 87, for The Hateful Eight directed by Quentin Tarantino. Although Tarantino had used pieces by Morricone in his films before, this was the first time he commissioned a composer to write original film music. It was also the first time that Morricone had scored a Western since the release of The good the bad and the ugly.

Listen to the best of Ennio Morricone on Apple Music and Spotify.


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