Music Break: Five Beautiful Scores from Vangelis


Earlier this week, on May 17, one of the best Hollywood composers Vangelis passed away at age 79. Though he’s not the most prolific film composer, the few scores that he did are practically iconic. As a fan of the Greek maestro, I thought I’d do a tribute in this month’s Music Break.

Known for his orchestral style of electronic music, he began scoring music in the 60s for Greek films. In the 70s he achieved success as a solo artist, releasing a series of electronic albums while he also composed scores for various films and documentaries, including L’Apocalypse des animaux, a French documentary on animal kingdom. His mainstream success came in 1981 with the score for Chariots of Fire. It’s single reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and the album sold a million copies in the US. He won Best Original Score at the Oscars and was used at the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Here are five of my favorite Vangelis film tracks/scores:

Chariots of Fire – 1981

It’s the first Vangelis’ score I’ve ever heard and it’s stayed with me ever since. I remember watching the movie with my brother and not only did the film’s spiritual aspect move me, the music is absolutely transcendent. It’s one of those phenomenal pieces of music that’s instantly recognizable even when you just play a couple of notes.

The Year Of Living Dangerously (Excerpts of L’enfant) – 1982

Maurice Jarre scored the soundtrack to the film, but an excerpt from Vangelis’ song L’enfant from his soundtrack album Opera Sauvage was used.

Blade Runner – 1982

It’s still one of the best and most influential electronic music. The emotive synth-based sound is both sad and sensual, especially the Love Theme. It’s so emotional and soul-piercing, truly a masterpiece that’s as timeless as the film itself. Even Denis Villeneuve believed Blade Runner 2049 needed music that sounded more like Vangelis, so he parted ways from Johann Johannsson and brought in Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch to make it sound more like the movie’s predecessor (source: Screenrant)

Missing (1982)

In the same year, Vangelis worked on the score for this based-on-a-true-story drama. The story is about. an idealistic American journalist who disappears during the Chilean coup d’état in September 1973. The score has such haunting quality and is appropriately sorrowful.

1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)

I haven’t seen this movie but I love the majestic sound and the use of choir here. The evocative theme definitely makes it feel like you’re on a journey at sea. Per IMDb, Hans Zimmer was originally chosen to compose the music for the film until Ridley Scott decided to approach Vangelis.

Thank you Vangelis for your beautiful work… your timeless music shall live on. May you rest in peace.

What are your favorite Vangelis’ score(s)?

21 thoughts on “Music Break: Five Beautiful Scores from Vangelis

  1. I really love the score he did for Blade Runner as it’s one of the best scores ever made as I also forgot he did the one for Missing which is a great film more people need to see. I have seen 1492 and it was… eh but the score was good. He will be missed. I do love that theme for Chariots of Fire as I love the spoof of it in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

    1. Blade Runner is perhaps the best sci-fi scores that is still frequently imitated to this day. I haven’t seen Missing but now I’m curious to see it after listening to the score.

      1. It is a tremendous film as it features not just a great performance from Sissy Spacek but also Jack Lemmon who pretty much gives a masterclass in the art of acting in this.

            1. I don’t have Criterion subs but later this year I plan on just getting their 14-day free trial but I better make sure I actually have time to watch more than 1 movie before the trial is done, ahah.

    1. Blade Runner you mean right? Yeah, Chariots of Fire was hugely popular, the score was used for the Olympics and various commercials.

      Hope your moving plan is going well, Cindy!

  2. Wow, I didn’t know he passed it away, guess I haven’t been pay attention much with my travelings and been offline for a bit. Wish he’d composed more films, definitely love the Blade Runner theme. Every I hear or watch the film, always brings me back to the very first time I saw it back in my early teens.

    1492: Conquest of Paradise could’ve been an excellent film but as usual, studio interferences and tons of rewrites just messed up the film. The film’s failure also made Scott’s mini comeback career a short lived one. Not until Gladiator that his career was a success again.

    1. Hey Ted, how was Vegas?

      Yeah BR is such a great film, so futuristic yet has emotional touches. That ‘tears in the rain’ scene is so iconic.

      I didn’t even know Ridley did 1942 until I did research for this post. I am familiar w/ the score more than the movie.

      1. Vegas was fun, I was there back in April. I just got back from Miami, so now I’m now I have time to catch up shows that I want to watch.

        Scott’s career been in the slump throughout the 80s, Blade Runner was a flop but it became a cult classic. He followed that up with another big budget flop with Legend. He didn’t have a hit until 1991 with Thelma and Louise. He was able to make 1492 because of that film. Sadly, he also had slump throughout the 90s too.

        1. Oh right, Miami! Boy you’re going coast to coast, fun!

          Yeah, Scott’s career sure isn’t consistent but I give him props for always working and not giving up after a slump and the guy is in his 80s!

          1. Had Gladiator flopped, I don’t know if he would’ve survived in Hollywood. Thankfully it was a massive hit and catapulted Scott back into the A-list director. Maybe it was a good thing that his version of I Am Legend with Arnold got canceled. By the late 90s, Arnold’s star power is winding down and I think Scott would’ve directed another big budgeted flop.

            1. Gladiator was so risky! I mean who would’ve thought people wanted to watch a gritty movie set in Roman era, Scott was definitely bold in betting on that one and putting his own career on the line. I Am Legend was gonna be with Ahnuld? Ahah that could be interesting!

  3. rockerdad

    His work on Blade Runner is one of my all time faves. Up there with Ennio Morricone’s score on Once Upon Time in the West. Chariots of Fire is amazing as well.

    1. Hey Vince! I love so many of Morricone’s scores, even though I haven’t seen all the movies he scored. Yeah, BR is one of my all time faves too!

  4. Pingback: Better Know the Alliance: Issue No. 55 – The Minnesota Film Critics Alliance

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