Movies and music have been tightly entwined since the beginnings of cinema. So it's no simple feat to search the vast landscape of film soundtracks and identify ten landmarks. In doing so, I had to establish some ground rules.

I chose to exclude movie musicals, simply because they are their own breed of moviemaking. It just wouldn't be fair to evaluate a movie specifically designed for music and visuals against one that was not. (But perhaps we'll do a list of top ten musicals someday.)

I'm also ignoring soundtracks that are simply collections of songs—albums that are merely "inspired by the film," though that eliminates significant soundtracks like The Graduate and Flashdance. While music is essential to such films with songs specifically written for them, it still seemed unfair to stack simple pop music next to original film scores.

This also explains the absence of an obvious choice like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Alex North's original score for that film was nixed by Stanley Kubrick in favor of using 20th century compositions by established composers. The same logic applies to movies like Amadeus and Fantasia—both brilliant films that rely on music, but still unoriginal.

With all that in mind, here are ten original film scores that have left their mark on the history of cinema.

(Other notable works: The Silence of the Lambs, Gangs of New York)
Why is it that science fiction and fantasy often inspires the greatest film scores? Probably because they often offer a broad range of emotion—adventure, romance, thrills, mystery, as well as the distinction between good and evil—resulting in a more diverse musical palette. Shore's score may not initially grab the ear in the same way as John Williams, but the Wagnerian musical motifs become more familiar after more than ten hours of film. The four years spent writing this thing has clearly paid off, resulting in a recent Academy Award for Return of the King and putting Shore on the A-list of Hollywood composers for creating one of the great epic scores of all time.

(Other notable works: Jaws, Schindler's List, Harry Potter)
Pursued by a horde of warrior Hovitos in Peru, our hero leaps to a vine and swings into the river where his escape plane is waiting. If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones. And if it has theme music, it's got to be that instantly recognizable "Raider's March" that you most likely first heard in the scene described above. Easily one of Williams' most beloved film scores, Raiders epitomizes excitement, romance, humor, and awe. The prolific composer would continue to write admirable scores for the Indiana Jones sequels, but even they weren't as sweeping and memorable as this.

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(Other notable works: Out of Africa, Her Majesty's Secret Service, From Russia With Love)
It's not possible to cite a single film score that sums up this composer's contributions to cinema over the last forty years. He's best known as the man responsible for scoring the vast majority of the James Bond movies, beginning with Dr. No in 1962-he can at least claim to have arranged the classic Bond theme, but whether or not he actually wrote it is one of the great mysteries of movie history. With an amazing resumé of acclaimed films to his credit, most single out his Oscar-winning work for 1984's Out of Africa. But I've always been partial to his beautiful score for Dances With Wolves (for which the Academy also honored him). As with all his movies, including the Bond flicks, Barry again demonstrates why he's one of the best at sweeping drama and action, perfectly capturing the Old West's 19th century Romanticism.

(Other notable works: Charade, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Great Race)
A key component to the success of Blake Edwards in the '50s and '60s is this legendary composer. You might recall his theme from television's "Peter Gunn" or his Oscar-winning work in Breakfast at Tiffany's (including the standard "Moon River"). But Mancini will always be best remembered for the jazzy theme to this classic comedy caper. That, along with his often overlooked score to The Pink Panther, strikes a splendid balance between slapstick and mystery, which is exactly what you want to represent the bumbling adventures of Inspector Clouseau. More so than most composers, Mancini's music is perfectly matched for the films, yet are able to stand apart on their own.

(Other notable works: Patton, Planet of the Apes, The Russia House)
Popular for its time, many have complained about Star Trek: The Motion Picture in hindsight, saying it failed to deliver on the thrills and warmth of the original TV series, instead favoring overlong special effects shots. Perhaps, but the combination of flowing sci-fi visuals with Jerry Goldsmith's underrated score captured many of the same feelings of wonder inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey—the film even begins with an overture like that in classic cinema. Some of the music appropriately has a naval-like quality, which may be why composer James Horner ran with that idea to great success for the next two films in the series. Goldsmith's combination of atonal atmospherics and sweeping orchestrations would go on to inspire a "next generation" of sci-fi composers.

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(Other notable works: Dr. Zhivago, A Passage to India, Dead Poets Society)
Hollywood has had its fair sure of grand epics over the last hundred years. But not many can rank with Sir David Lean's cinematic masterpiece, which has the orchestral score to match its scale. Impressively dramatic in scope, blending British nationalism and elegance with Arabic mystery and majesty, this is the score most composers aspire to when they write for a period epic. Especially memorable is the entire crossing the desert sequence, offering a dynamic range of tension and release. Interestingly enough, Lawrence of Arabia, one of Jarre's earliest works, remains the pinnacle of his 50-year career.

(Other notable works: The Mission, The Untouchables, Once Upon a Time in the West)
Talk about redefining film scores in the 20th century! Morricone's breakthrough work for Sergio Leone's epic spaghetti Western blended musical genres more than any other before it-classic old western themes flavored with Mexicana, performed on electric guitars with Native American cries and whistling. It seems absurd on paper, and yet it was crazy and cool enough to work, single-handedly defining a genre and effortlessly evoking the film's visuals. Watch Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and there's simply no question where he got his musical inspiration.

(Other notable works: Vertigo, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Day the Earth Stood Still)
Herrmann's longtime partnership with the legendary Alfred Hitchcock would end up influencing suspense, thriller, and horror films for decades to come—and few have lived up to it. None are more unmistakable and unforgettable than this classic shocker, which marvelously matches the tension and dread of a scene with the drama on screen. The audience is thus played along like one of the string instruments from the infamous shower sequence. Some scores simply enhance a movie viewing experience—here's one that makes you live the experience. Psycho just wouldn't be the same without it.

(Other notable works: Casablanca, King Kong, Lost Horizon)
Steiner was a true pioneer in the earliest days of movie scoring, from the time they were first adding sound to film. The music behind this romantic epic remains the great-granddaddy of cinema soundtracks, establishing the way movies and music would be intertwined to this day. It offers an array of dramatic cues, battle music, comic interludes, and of course, love themes—is there anyone who wouldn't recognize "Tara's Theme" if they heard it? What's most impressive is that such a strong film score was generated so early on in cinematic history; it's held up surprisingly well for close to 70 years now. There just aren't many others that have had as strong an impact as this, except perhaps …

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(Other notable works: Superman, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind)
John Williams has been so consistently effective and influential on modern cinema over the last 30 years, he had to be listed twice. For that matter, we could've just done a list of Williams scores, but that'd be overkill. While some of his other works may have been more artful or dramatic, none have made a more permanent mark on culture than his work for the original Star Wars saga. There's nothing quite as exhilarating or awe-inspiring as that opening fanfare during each film's prologue, and the sweeping operatic grandeur of the music rarely lets up as the movie unfolds. Williams made particularly effective use of Wagenerian leitmotifs in the original trilogy (episodes 4 thru 6). You can listen to the soundtracks with your eyes closed and know exactly who or what the music is referring to. That's not just composition, that's inspired storytelling.

Russ Breimeier, one of our film critics, is also the chief music critic for our sister channel, Christian Music Today.