Music Break: 5 Great Themes from 5 Favorite Action Flicks

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As an action movies fanatic, I also love the music that accompanies them. Here’s a list of some great themes from action movies throughout the years.

Black Rain
Chase to the Steel Plant by Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer has been the go to guy for composing big Hollywood tent pole pictures within the last 15 years or so. But he started out composing small movies and this was his first gig at composing a budget Hollywood film. It’s also his first collaboration with Ridley Scott. In this underrated buddy cop action thriller, his style really shows and I love this film’s soundtrack. Especially this particular track, it’s from a scene where two of the main characters chasing a suspect that leads to a shootout. The music works perfectly with the scene and I always get goose bumps when I watch this scene and hear the theme.

Heat
Unused Ending score by Elliot Goldenthal

I thought Michael Mann’s Heat is a nearly flawless masterpiece and the music by Elliot Goldenthal is just as good. To me the music in the film is timeless, you can still watch the film today and never thought it’s from the 90s. This track was supposed to be used at the film’s ending scene but apparently Mann wasn’t too thrilled about it and decided to use Moby’s God Moving Over the face of the Waters track instead. This of course angered Goldenthal and he and Mann didn’t work together again until Public Enemies. I love Moby’s theme but I prefer this one over the one that was used in the final fim.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Song for Jesse by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Technically this film isn’t an “action” picture because there’s only one shootout scene but I thought it’s one of the best westerns ever made and quite underrated. The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis was just stunning. There are many great tracks from the soundtrack but this one is my absolute favorite. The whole film felt like a dream and this theme enhances the mood.

Sunshine
Surface of the Sun by John Murphy

I wish more Hollywood directors would hire John Murphy to compose their films, he’s one of my favorites, I thought his work in Mann’s Miami Vice was excellent. He and Danny Boyle has collaborated in many films together. This track from Sunshine has been used in many movie trailers and it’s a great one.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
We Have All the Time In World by John Barry

I can’t leave a James Bond flick out of a list about action pictures. John Barry’s excellent and timeless theme for one of my favorite Bond flicks. I can listen to this theme and the song by Louis Armstrong over and over again. I know for years many so called Bond fans hated this flick, but ever since Christopher Nolan said it’s his favorite Bond film, they have changed their tune about the film now. I’ve always been a fan and had Connery returned as 007 or Timothy Dalton accepted the role, it would have a been perfect Bond film to me. George Lazenby wasn’t bad as Bond but I couldn’t really accept him playing a super spy. But Diana Riggs was an awesome Bond girl.

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These are some of my favorite action themes, feel free to share yours in the comments section.

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20 thoughts on “Music Break: 5 Great Themes from 5 Favorite Action Flicks

  1. These are all great Ted, but my absolute fave of the five is OHMSS theme. It’s just soooo beautiful, it really captures the love story of Bond & Tracy. Gotta love John Barry!

    1. Yeah I love Barry’s theme for this Bond flick, it never sound dated to me. Even when I watched the film, the clothing and everything else were all dated in it but the music sounds like it could’ve been done by today’s composers.

  2. Surface of the Sun by John Murphy is a stunning track. You’re right, more people do need to get John Murphy onboard for scoring duties! This is such a powerful track, it’s no wonder it’s been used in other films as well as a load of TV ads! It’s that slow build, gives me chills every time.

    1. I love that score and I really hope Murphy gets to work on more big movies. I assume he’ll be composing the new Steve Jobs film since Danny Bolye is directing and they work together constantly.

  3. Sunshine is one of my favorite soundtracks Ted. It wasn’t released until years after the film came out so I have an extensive extended fan produced soundtrack including the famous bombastic, international trailer music entitled “Requiem For A Tower” from Two Steps From Hell (which was originally used in “Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers” video game trailer. And if the original melody sounds familiar, that was lifted from the Clint Mansell produced soundtrack Requiem For A Dream entitled “Lux Aeterna” by The Chronos Quartet). I also have the end titles from Underworld who co-produced the soundtrack with Murphy. Almost 30 tracks, some with dialogue, including music that inspired the soundtrack for the film from Brian Eno and M83. It doesn’t get more complete than that. Let me know if you’re interested in it.

    Here’s another great Murphy track from 28 Weeks Later. “In The House, In A Heartbeat”. It was so good he reused the track in Kick-Ass a few times too.

    Heat is one of my favorites too. Personally I thought Moby’s “God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters” was just epic… but that’s just me. Ever hear the story about Kubrick on 2001 and composer Alex North? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001:_A_Space_Odyssey_%28score%29#Jerry_Goldsmith_recording
    I’ve actually seen the movie with Alex North’s score. It’s just not the same movie. In this particular case I’d have to say the end justified the means. I’m not sure if you can find the whole dubbed movie now but there are dubbed scenes floating around You tube with North’s music.

    Cave and Ellis have done some great stuff together. Good pick. The Proposition was pretty cool too.

    Ted, I remember seeing Black Rain in the theater back in college. I later read a review that said Scott couldn’t shoot a street that wasn’t wet or didn’t have a ceiling fan in an interior scene. Also see Blade Runner. LOL.

    1. Hey Dave, you still have my email right? Go ahead and email me the details on where I can find those tracks you mentioned.

      Oh wow, I’ve never heard of that story about Kubrick and North. I love 2001: A Space Odyssey and I don’t know how I’d feel to see the film with a different soundtrack. I love Mobi’s song at the end of Heat but I loved Goldenthal’s score even more and wish Mann had use it the film.

      The funny thing about Black Rain was that it came out during the time when buddy cop action films were popular but it sort of got a lot bad press here in the States. Some critics called it racist and others just thought it’s boring. But apparently it received quite well in Japan.

      1. Let me know if you had any trouble with the email I sent you.

        Yeah I never thought too much of Black Rain although I do remember the soundtrack… and the ceiling fans.

        I remember getting into an argument with my teacher at music school. Alex North went to Berklee College in Boston of Music many, many years before I attended. I was in a music soundtrack composing class when our teacher told us the story between Kubrick and North and how Kubrick was such a jerk for throwing out North’s soundtrack. The whole class was like “what a jerk.” Meanwhile I was thinking, especially after hearing North’s soundtrack, Kubrick was right. Setting it to classical music like Richard Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz”, Johann Strauss II’s “Thus Sprach Zarathustra” and Ligeti’s “Lux Aeterna” (different than The Chronos Quartet) gave it such a timeless feel. I went up to him after class and challenged him. I said look, if Alex got paid, then Stanley could do whatever he wanted with the score. As a film buff and a musician I wasn’t really that torn because I felt the end justified the means. Personally I think he made the right choice even though Stanley could be a real SOB. See Shelley Duvall’s experience on The Shining. From IMDb… “He would really lose his temper with her, even going so far as to say that she was wasting the time of everyone on the set. Shelley later reflected that he was probably pushing her to her limits to get the best out of her, and that she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything – but it was not something she ever wished to repeat.”

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