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The great Jerry Goldsmith was at the top of his game for decades, innovating and evolving and always looking to do something new. He could – and did – score any kind of film and almost without fail found some interesting music to write. Taking highlight tracks from his scores produces a playlist that lasts for many hours – but what are the real belters, the ten pieces that represent the breadth and depth of his output the best? Any Goldsmith fan will have a different list – this is mine.

  1. “The Enterprise” from Star Trek: The Motion Picture
    This is one of the few that would find its way to just about any list of Goldsmith’s best – and it’s remarkable how close it came to not being, given the composer’s first stab at this led director Robert Wise to point out that he hadn’t written a theme. Away went Goldsmith, at the last minute and under huge pressure, and he created his masterpiece. In the film it’s six minutes of shots of the USS Enterprise and shots of William Shatner looking at the USS Enterprise – for Goldsmith, that grand, famous theme presented in its most romantic guise, full of everything that Star Trek is about. The composer always said he didn’t understand Star Trek – but he was being so modest. He just got it. This film is a Jerry Goldsmith symphony accompanied by some special visual effects, and this piece is film music bliss.
  1. “End Title” from Alien
    Goldsmith’s two collaborations with Ridley Scott were amongst his most miserable experiences – he had more than a few choice words for the director and his editor Terry Rawlings afterwards – and this piece was excised from the movie in favour of a classical piece. But again, here is the film in a nutshell – just three minutes this time, dazzling romantic brilliance, moving from distant chills to sweeping emotion as it goes.
  1. “The Second Coming” from The Final Conflict
    Goldsmith scored a few duds in his time and it is remarkable how he put his heart and soul into them anyway – he can’t have sat and watched this wretched movie for the first time and failed to realise how terrible it was – and yet he wrote one of the truly great film scores for it. I had just about worn the album out before I ever saw the film – this cue I assumed must accompany some grand biblical scene of epic proportions – but no, it’s someone looking at primitive digital effects, a couple of small blinking dots shown traveling into Earth’s atmosphere on a little monitor – that’s it – but in Goldsmith’s hands it really does make it sound like the second coming.
  1. “The Construction” from Explorers
    Full of warmth, childlike excitement, a killer hook alongside the long-lined theme, this piece just sums up the sunnier side of the composer. He wrote some great music for Joe Dante, including one of his funnest themes for Gremlins, and for me this is the piece that sums it all up brilliantly.
  1. “Main Title” from Capricorn One
    The apex piece of music from the 1970s conspiracy thriller genre, this rhythmic beast – which has to be heard in its special album arrangement for the full effect – is a masterpiece of pulse-pounding excitement, copied so frequently by others in the decades that followed.
  1. “Raisuli Attacks” from The Wind and the Lion
    The ultimate piece of action music, and for me the most exciting two or three minutes of score that’s ever been put in a film. It’s exotic, epic, crams in full-length versions of no fewer than three themes – takes the breath away.
  1. “The Mutant” from Total Recall
    One of Goldsmith’s great reinventions came in this film, where he crafted a new style of action music and reached arguably the peak of his unique blend of orchestra and synths. This cue isn’t action – but is still so rousing and exhilarating, the new age electronics adding so much to the London orchestra.
  1. “Rafael” from Under Fire
    It would be a great mystery how an otherwise-unremarkable film like Under Fire could produce what is genuinely one of the finest film scores ever written, if not for two words: Jerry Goldsmith. Every track on the album is great and I could have picked any, but I’ve always just loved the way this take on the score’s great march theme builds in intensity as it goes.
  1. “The Demise of Mrs Baylock” from The Omen
    Goldsmith hadn’t done much film music featuring a choir before he scored The Omen – which has gone on to become one of the most iconic choral film scores. Again there are numerous tracks to choose from, but I opted for this because its just the perfect blend of thrills and chills, the Stravinskyesque orchestra alongside the demonic chanting producing perhaps my favourite piece of horror film music.
Jerry Goldsmith with friend at the Royal Albert Hall
  1. “Main Title” from Star Trek: Voyager
    I’ll end my list in the same franchise as where I started it. Goldsmith did many great tv themes and perhaps picking one from 1996 will make the true cognoscenti’s blood boil – but it’s perfect. He’s got those great harmonic leaps representing the crew’s accidental jump to the other side of the universe – and the grand, stately melody not just reminding us of the heart of Star Trek but also representing the great hope of returning home. I’m not sure anyone else involved in the show ever managed to satisfactorily get across to the audience the point of what it was supposed to be about – but Jerry Goldsmith managed it in a shade under two minutes.

That I couldn’t even squeeze in “The Hunt” from Planet of the Apes or anything from Patton or Papillon is to my great regret. My conclusion is that you just can’t represent Jerry Goldsmith with just ten pieces – he was so good, so often – but it’s fun to try. Leave your own lists in the comments.


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  1. Mike Kwasniak (Reply) on Sunday 14 February, 2021 at 19:33

    Thank you James,

    I’ll be creating this playlist in the morning 🙂

    I attended a concert by Goldsmith in London a hundred years ago, and was so upset when he rubbished ‘Star Trek’ in front of an auditorium full of fans. His music for the first movie is particularly extraordinary, and one of my most favourite OSTs.

    Mike

  2. Eric W (Reply) on Sunday 14 February, 2021 at 19:56

    A great list, all of the picks are worthy inclusions.

    But Goldsmith jhas such a large body of outstanding compositions there are many others that warrant a mention.

    Goldsmith himself would probably add the composition he liked so much he included it in three completedly different scores, Katya from The Russia House, also from his scores for Alien Nation and Wall Street.

    Other personal favorites:
    Sand Volcano from The Mummy
    Main Title from Chinatown
    Homecoming from First Blood
    Gremlins Rag from Gremlins
    King Richard from Lionheart
    Overture from Twilight Zone: The Movie
    The Hunt from The Final Conflict
    Carol Anne”s Theme from Poltergeist
    Theme from the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

  3. Damian T (Reply) on Sunday 14 February, 2021 at 21:57

    Very interesting list. Funnily enough I think The Enterprise is my least favourite moment from the ST-TMP score. Here is my 10:
    The Landing – Alien
    V’Ger Flyover – Star Trek TMP
    The Final Conflict – Omen III
    Let’s Get Her / Rebirth – Poltergeist
    Escape From Torture – Rambo II
    Optic Nerves – Innerspace
    Underwater Camp – Leviathan
    A Busy Man – Star Trek V
    The Reactor / The Hologram – Total Recall
    The Hijacking – Air Force One

    It’s just goes to show how incredible Jerry was when everyones favourites are completely different.

    • Damian T (Reply) on Monday 15 February, 2021 at 09:53

      Although I may have misread the brief!

  4. Damian T (Reply) on Monday 15 February, 2021 at 09:54

    Although I may have misread the brief!

  5. Danny Potargent (Reply) on Monday 15 February, 2021 at 10:47

    What a great idea to list 10 favorites from a composer. I hope this becomes a recurring theme (John Williams, James Horner, Silvestri, Morricone….). The list is endless…

  6. W. David Lichty (Reply) on Monday 15 February, 2021 at 12:46

    I discovered the real judge of Someone Else’s List as I read this, which is something other than “Would these be on mine?” I skimmed for the titles, and as each rolled past, I thought, “OH yes. Yep! Yes. U-huh, that one too…” not as in it’s also my list, but as in of course that’s one of the exact, top candidates, well worthy of such a Top Ten.

  7. ghostof82 (Reply) on Monday 15 February, 2021 at 15:34

    Hard to argue with anything on your list.

  8. Pieter Coenen (Reply) on Monday 15 February, 2021 at 17:21

    not right /hollow man
    bloody floor / hollow man
    tuareg attack / the mummy
    desperate case / freud
    end title /psycho II
    boat attack/jungle run /Caboblanco
    Main Title /Caboblanco
    Main title/Hour of the gun
    Bloody Christmas/ LA Confidential
    Night Fight / Rambo III

    just off the top of the hat…

  9. James Southall (Reply) on Monday 15 February, 2021 at 19:39

    I forgot The Artist Who Did Not Want To Paint. It should definitely be on the list.

  10. mastadge (Reply) on Monday 15 February, 2021 at 19:45

    Bajo Fuego!

  11. Stephan Herold (Reply) on Tuesday 16 February, 2021 at 16:43

    The TOP TEN TRACKS from one of my greatest filmmusic heroes.
    What a big challenge and actually an mission impossible.
    Often there are already several standout cues within a score.
    But ok, I’ll try anyway and probably won’t do the job justice.

    1. “The Attack” from The Blue Max
    (furious and aggressive action piece)
    2. “The Hunt” from Planet of the Apes
    (avant-garde score and my highlight title)
    3. “Lord of the Riff” from The Wind and the Lion
    (The main theme in all its glory)
    4. “The Dogs Attack” from The Omen
    (“Ave Satani”, any questions?)
    5. “End Title” from The Great Train Robbery
    (Lively and rousing)
    6. “The Enterprise” from Star Trek
    (THE Goldsmith theme par excellence)
    7. “Forced Flight” from King Solomon’s Mine
    (the assimilation of “Ride Of The Valkyries” is terrific)
    8. “End of a Dream” from Total Recall
    (Tour de Force piece)
    9. “Arthur Farewell” from First Knight
    (Splendid choir and orchestra piece)
    10. “Prepare for Battle/Victory for Us” from Timeline
    (unfortunately the last big action piece by the maestro)

    Thank you for your music, Mr. Goldsmith,
    who has been with me for 40 years and
    thanks also to you James for this site, which
    I have been following enthusiastically for many years.

  12. Cyril C. Grueter (Reply) on Thursday 18 February, 2021 at 14:29

    1. “Gift from the Sea” from Papillon
    2. “The Hunt” from Planet of the Apes
    3. “Camelot Lives” from First Knight
    4. “The Artist Who Did Not Want to Paint”
    5. “The Trees” from Medicine Man
    6. “Ouverture” from Twilight Zone – The Movie
    7. “The Dress Waltz” from Legend
    8. “Soarin’ over California”
    9. “Main Title” from Rudy
    10. “Sniper” from Under Fire

  13. Amit Rubinstein (Reply) on Thursday 18 February, 2021 at 18:30

    1. Nicaragua
    2. The Final Conflict
    3. The Enterprise
    4. The Sand Volcano
    5. End of a Dream
    6. The Final Game
    7. The Family Arrives
    8. Arthur’s Farewell
    9. A Kaddish for the Six Million
    10. The Artist Who Did Not Want to Paint

    runners up:
    11. The Road to Masada
    12. Raisuli Attacks
    13. King Richard
    14. First Contact
    15. The Mirrors (Alternate Version)
    16. The Monument
    17. Escape from the Torture
    18. First Flight
    19. Re-United
    20. A Long Walk/End Credits

  14. Pieter Coenen (Reply) on Friday 19 February, 2021 at 09:44

    Hello Amit,

    20. A Long Walk/End Credits , from which score is it?

    best regards

    • Amit Rubinstein (Reply) on Saturday 20 February, 2021 at 14:31

      Take a Hard Ride

  15. Andre>>Cape Town (Reply) on Sunday 28 February, 2021 at 22:53

    ‘The Artist who did not want to Paint’ is the title of the docu-Prologue for ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’…a film that celebrated the genius of Michelangelo, and the conflict between him and Pope Julius 11.After filming of the movie was completed [with a score by ALEX NORTH], the producers decided that audiences needed to know more about Michelangelo and his mastery over marble and scultptures, AND the fact that he never wanted to paint. NORTH persuaded 20th Century Fox to hire the young JERRY GOLDSMITH who created a score of incredible beauty….there’s the Renaissance theme for Michelangelo’s youth…the freedom he experiences in Florence with the liberal Medici Family, and the score’s highlight>> the glorious themes for statues of the Bible’s David and Moses.This score is a must for GOLDSMITH fans.

  16. Victor Field (Reply) on Sunday 7 March, 2021 at 14:08

    I think EVERY SINGLE PERSON HERE could make top 10s with no cue turning up on multiple lists.

  17. Danbeck (Reply) on Tuesday 9 March, 2021 at 17:55

    Great choices, from all of you but I’d squeeze in my top ten “It’s Not Your Mother” or the “End Titles” from Psycho II – the first is one of my favourite tension buids in Goldsmith’s scores and the End Titles with its extended rendition of the gorgeous theme is one of my favourites among his lyrical themes (more melancolic than syrupy).

  18. Danbeck (Reply) on Tuesday 9 March, 2021 at 17:56

    Great choices, from all of you but I’d squeeze in my top ten “It’s Not Your Mother” or the “End Titles” from Psycho II – the first is one of my favourite tension buids in Goldsmith’s scores and the End Titles, with its extended rendition of the gorgeous theme, is one of my favourites among his lyrical themes (more melancolic than syrupy).