Susannah’s Film Facts: What is a Film Score and How Important is it?

Greetings, collectors! I’m a new contributor to the Collective, and since I’ll be writing mainly on film scores and movie music, I decided to write my first post on what film scores are and give a basic introduction to the world of movie music. Today I will be explaining what a film score is and the importance of them in movies, as it is a very interesting and complex artistic side of the movies that people don’t generally pay very much attention to.

Also called “movie music” or the “soundtrack,” the film score sets the base emotion in movies that we couldn’t do without. The film score composer has done his job when the movie he has composed for conveys strong emotions and leaves the audience struggling with those emotions that they see on the screen and hear from the music. What is your favorite movie? Why is it your favorite? I bet it’s because of the emotion in the film, whatever makes you feel suspense, grief, joy, despair, etc.

But now try to imagine that movie without music. Wow. Fast forward to a particular scene you enjoy the most. Mute the music. Doesn’t it seem somehow dry and maybe even boring? My favorite film scores are from my favorite movies. Star Wars is a big favorite of mine and I personally think I would like it much less if the music was absent.

Thanks to the film score composers, however, movies are strong and compelling, full of emotion that is needed for a good movie. Think of the iconic scores, such as the Star Wars main theme, or the little trumpet that plays before Indy appears on the screen. John Williams is probably the most well known, most famous and legendary film score composer of all time and he has composed many movies since the mid 1900s, with his most well known themes from Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, the first three Harry Potter films, E. T., Shindler’s List, and more.

Here’s a couple fun little exercises for you. The first video below that you should watch is of Darth Vader’s very stealthy march on the Jedi temple from Revenge of the Sith. The scene is repeated: The first time around, Anakin/Darth Vader is evilly marching to the soaring and beautiful score of E. T. The second time, he is evilly marching to the correct music that the scene originally goes with (both scores are John Williams; you’ll hear two of his different styles).

(video credit: Michael Metzler Jr.)

Did you notice something a bit off the first time? It didn’t seem right. Everything was really evil and yet the music was so happy, as if we were supposed to expect Anakin might realize what he’s doing. The music went incorrectly with the scene. The second time, however, it felt right. You felt (most likely) a sense of awe mixed with hate and thoughts of suspense (and maybe regret on the character’s behalf). The scene in and of itself could mean nothing. Put it with the right music, and it all makes sense. You can even predict what’s going to happen (though sometimes that could be a bad thing).

I think the most powerful piece of music I have ever heard (and I think may be my favorite film score of all time besides the Star Wars theme) is an aggressive little song called “New Tail” from How to Train Your Dragon. This scene is one of the most important scenes of the whole movie, where Hiccup makes a new tail so that Toothless can fly and be free. Watch the video with the music muted first, and then watch it and let it blast through your speakers (feel free to close your eyes and soar with it, if needed).

A film score is a piece of music that goes along with the movie and is the main thing that conveys certain emotions through the screen, through our ears, and to our hearts. A film score can leave you with a longing to jump up and cheer forever or sit in a dark corner and cry your heart out. I have attended a couple film score concerts and have felt these things; one was a John Williams concert and there was no movie on any screen. All I saw was the conductor and the orchestra and heard them play the Flying Theme from E. T., and yet I still felt a surge of powerful feelings that I knew came only from the music. How much more can a film score improve your movie experience while you listen to and watch the emotions! Music can be triumphant, suspenseful, horrifying, sorrowful, cheerful, mysterious, magical, and always inspiring. People have taken the importance of music and applied it to movies, creating an overall satisfying experience for the audience and their emotional reactions for the characters because of that music. I hope that today you now understand more fully what a film score is and the importance of it in the movies.

Now to end this post with a soundtrack that I think we all know and love well.

May your life be forever full of magical music. Thanks for reading.

S. M. Metzler – Tea with Tumnus


  1. A film score is absolutely essential, and adds so much to the movie. For example, one of my hobbies is filmmaking. When I was fourteen I got together a bunch of friends and made a film of the entire Hobbit book. As you can probably imagine, it was pretty bland – not many of my friends were stellar actors, and my directing was… that of a fourteen-year-old?

    Yet when I added music to the film, it made it FANTASTIC. Fili and Kili’s death scene still gets me feeling emotional when I rewatch it, the music is so good. XD

    1. That’s so cool you made a Hobbit movie! Your experience with the score just goes to show how strong a film score is, no matter if you watch it with a movie or without. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Very well done Susannah!! Excellent work in comparing the two scores in the same piece of video. Film scores are so important and wonderful and you’re right, John Williams is the best!! Keep up the great work.

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