Today is John Williams’ 90th birthday. 90 years of the maestro, incredile. John Williams has been nominated for 52 Academy Awards. Yes, that is the most in history. To celebrate that man who brought us “The Imperial March” and the “Jaws Theme,” we did the only thing that felt right: draft film scores.
The rules of this fantasy draft are simple: We are drafting movie (and other) scores. Not soundtracks, mind you, aka the pre-existing pop songs curated and selected to be integrated into a film. We are drafting scores, music orchestrated specifically for a particular artistic project.
- Drafting a movie means drafting its entire score.
- Re: Franchises
- Whoever drafts from a franchise first gains sole claim to all of the music that overlaps among the movies.
- Other movies from a franchise can still be drafted, but only the unique themes will be available.
- The draft will be six rounds, snake style.
- Four picks must be from movies.
- One pick must be from a TV Series.
- One pick must be from a video game.
The drafters this time are Dave, Erin, Sasha, and Nate, in that order. Everyone’s analysis and draft commentary have been woven throughout the results, with each drafter identified by a distinct font, as shown above.
Dave: It was never going to be anyone other than Williams. The only decision then was, which movie? If you know me, then you know I’m going Star Wars. However, even there, choices need to be made. The way our rules are set up, my advantage going first allows me to have sole-ownership of any and all Star Wars-wide themes that overlap the entire series, so it all comes down to which movie-specific tunes I’m most in love with.
Honestly, I damn near took Phantom Menace here. “Duel of the Fates” is so good, on the strength of that track alone I left my first viewing of Episode I wondering if maybe it wasn’t so bad. Obviously, it was, but I had to think about it.
In the end, though, there’s one Star Wars song to rule them all, and it belongs to Mr. Darth Vader and his Imperial fleet. “The Imperial March” is the coolest and best piece of film scoring in history. Full stop. No edits. It’s the best song of all time.
Nate: Only fair that Williams shows up in the first round.
Erin: When picking scores for my board, I tried to consider a few things. First, was the emotional impact the score had on me. Many of my picks are extremely sentimental, bringing me back to a place and a time in my past.
Nate: Was not expecting this to go off the board so early, but it’s towards the top of my TV list for sure.
Sasha: The opening theme is perfectly unstable for the show.
Sasha: Not saying this for persuasion purposes, I think this is the best film score of all time. Certainly, Star Wars is more iconic, and a worthy number one pick, but the depth, heart, and range of Howard Shore’s singular masterpiece stands alone.
The gripping terror infused in “A Knife in the Dark,” the enchanting wonder of “Many Meanings” and of course, “Concerning Hobbits” is the definitive musical representation of tenderness and curious love.
This score was the “One Ring” of the draft if you will and to get it with the third pick…is a miracle.
Dave: No way should we have gotten out of this draft without Howard Shore showing up.
4. Nate: Moonlight, Nicholas Brittel
Nate: The luxury of being at the back end of the first round is that I get to go with my heart on the first pick, without risking the loss of a more strategic selection. That’s why, with the fourth pick of the first round, I’m grabbing my favorite film score (to one of my favorite movies), Moonlight by Nicholas Britell. An absolute masterclass of marrying raw emotionality with heady conceptual composition (the chopped & screwed Little/Chiron/Black themes pitching down to mirror the protagonist aging, for example) and unequivocally one of the most beautiful collections of music ever set to film.
Which is a perfect segway into my second pick of the draft (and my 1b choice on my draft board)…
5. Nate: Jurassic Park, John Williams
Nate: If there’s a name synonymous with film scores, it’s John Williams. If there’s a film score by John Williams that has a more profound emotional impact than Jurassic Park, I haven’t heard it yet.
Front to back, JP is a perfect synthesis of everything J-Willy does best: from the iconic, inescapable hooks, to the soaring grandiosity mirroring the on-screen wonder, to the harrowing tension injected into each moment of suspense. In the wise words of my fellow drafter Dave (who unwisely opted to use his first overall pick on a different Williams film), “That John Williams score is no joke; it’s probably enough to get me crying all by itself.”
6. Sasha: (Video Game) Goldeneye 007 for N64
Sasha: For many of us, Goldeneye is the sound of our youth. It is late nightcaps with friends, Dominos pizza boxes on the floor, a stage for supreme glory and colossal disappointment, even at times a tool for pausing time. The metallic roboticism of the music is so perfectly emblematic of the era, when you hear it you’ll reach for a choker necklace and black eyeliner.
This score is all about the flourishes: the gong sound that only hits on beat 5 in “Mission Briefing” or the ticking clock percussion in the “Bunker” theme.
Great god damn game. Great god damn soundtrack.
Nate: Fantastic pick! Gotta rep the Klobb whenever you can.
Dave: Everyone knows the Klobb is the worst gun. Proxy mines all day.
Dave: This was a great pick.
Nate: Iconic, glad Moricone is getting a shout out this early.
8. Dave: Tron: Legacy, Daft Punk
Dave: Not a great film, but an underrated one, and with a film score to die for.
Dave: Complain all you want about how the show ended—though frankly, I think those gripes are overblown–the music for this series was without peer for nigh-on a decade.
Nate: Externally: Not bad! Internally: DUNNNNNN DUNNNNNN…DUHDUHDUHHHHH DUNNNNNN…DUHDUHDUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN…
10. Erin: The Royal Tenenbaums, Mark Mothersbaugh
Nate: To be honest, I didn’t expect this to make an appearance once we removed soundtracks from the mix. I’ll have to pay closer attention to the non-needle-drop music on the next watch.
It took Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross three notes to break me into pieces. This theme is equally devastating and devastatingly beautiful.
Is The Social Network the best film of the century? Maybe. Is this the best film score in a drama? Maybe. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provided this film with a delicate dissonance that coated this film’s tragedy with digital propulsion. This was Reznor and Ross’ third film score. Since The Social Network they have scored:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Love & Mercy
Talk about a coming out party.
Nate: Modern classic, very solid pick.
Dave: I was wondering when we would get our first Trent Reznor et al joint.
12. Nate: Black Panther, Luwig Göransson
Nate: I’ve got my all-time classic, and I’ve got my rip-your-heart-out indie darling, so the back end of round three feels like the right moment to solidify my roster with a modern blockbuster. Ludwig Göransson’s relatively young film-composing career has already produced a number of all-timers (Creed would have been a surefire pick if this was off the board, and his work on Tenet was a highlight from 2020), but none have been as impactful as his 2018 Black Panther score, easily one of the most creative musical pieces to come out of a tentpole franchise in recent memory.
Composed and produced in collaboration with Senegalise musician Baaba Maal, the BP score integrates traditional Senegalese, South African, and Zimbabwean instrumentation and vocalization along with hip-hop production to create a unique sonic fingerprint for the fictional nation of Wakanda (Genius has a fantastic breakdown of this process in their Deconstructed series). The result is a collection of music that is at once gritty and regal, and inextricably linked to the character so brilliantly portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman, who’s name can be heard echoing across the score via Massamba Diop’s talking drum.
Nate: This brings me into round four with a fairly iron-clad film roster, so in round four I’ll make the switch to video games. My esteemed colleague Sasha made this choice a bit easier for me by pulling the trigger on another nostalgia-inducing favorite in GoldenEye 007, so that means I’ll have to settle for, oh, I don’t know, the most iconic video game soundtrack in history?
Koji Kondo’s six-track Super Mario Bros. score is not only endlessly catchy (while also being deceptively complex); it is also absolutely essential to the functionality of the game. The immediacy with which his compositions situate you in each of the virtual domains of SMB, and the intensity they imbue into each level far exceed their chip-tuned sonic constraints. Oft imitated, never improved on, and (if I do say so myself) an absolute steal just past the halfway point in the draft.
14. Sasha: John Carpenter’s Halloween, John Carpenter
Sasha: The most iconic music in the genre. Before the high piano phrase even turns around you’ll be looking over your shoulder for your imagination’s version of Michael Myers. Did you know director John Carpenter wrote and recorded all of the music for the film in two weeks?
Iconic music with an amazing story. Winner, winner, Laurie Strode for dinner.
Dave: Flawless pick.
Nate: Extra points for director/film-composer double duty.
15. Erin: Back to the Future, Alan Silvestri
Erin: Although some of my top picks were taken, rightfully, by others (like Jurassic Park), I think I still achieved the variety I was hoping for on my roster. For movies, I snagged a late 60s western, an 80s blockbuster, an indy darling here, and a foreign film coming up next. I considered including an older film, like Casablanca or Rear Window, but given the specialized choices limiting the movie choices to four, I just didn’t have the space.
Erin: Selecting a movie about a video game is an interesting choice when “video game” is a category. I guess I’ve just never felt as moved by a video game movie as by the video game itself. (Although perhaps the Mario Brothers movie. The John Leguizamo and Bob Haskins one. Not the new one starring increasingly-unfavorable Hollywood Chris, Chris Pratt.) That being said, I haven’t actually seen Mortal Kombat.
17. Dave: (Video Game) Transistor, Darren Korb
Nate: I gotta say, spending a movie pick on the adaptation of Mortal Kombat so you could clear space to burn your video game slot on an RPG none of us have heard of is one kind of galaxy-brain drafting…
Dave: Yeah, the crazy strategy I got up to on this was I actually listened to the music and it’s great.
18. Erin: Amelie, Yann Tierson
Dave: I think this can unquestionably be called the steal of the draft.
Nate: Just absolutely heartwarming.
19. Sasha: The Lion King, Elton John and Hans Zimmer
Sasha: The Circle of Life
I Just Can’t Wait To Be King
Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
What else should I say?
Dave: While this technically falls within what’s allowed within the rules, I don’t think it really abides by the spirit. Mortal Kombat is a song written for a movie, yes, but it’s an electronica song, the words in it are more a list of playable characters, not lyrics, and it was made for the movie, not as a song released in its own right. That, combined with the way it was deployed in the film, made me comfortable taking it as “score.”
Picking an out-and-out musical, on the other hand… I dunno, it feels a little devious. But, technically, it’s allowed, so…
Erin: Lion King was one of my favorites growing up, and the genre of children’s musicals from this period is certainly something I have a strong emotional connection with. If I had considered this area as an option, I would have had a hard time choosing between Lion King, Aladdin, and Little Mermaid. I also briefly considered Labyrinth starring David Bowie, which I was absolutely obsessed with as a child, but I didn’t feel it was strong enough beyond the stand-out track, “Dance Magic” (again, I was also unsure if this was allowed when creating my board). “Dance Magic” still really slaps though, it might have been worth it just for that track alone.
Nate: I mean, it’s no Disney’s A Goofy Movie, but decent music.
20. Nate: Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
Nate: Dave dropped an absolute bomb into the middle of the draft with his “songs written for the movie can count as film scores” announcement, which gives me the pleasure of being able to use my fifth-round pick on my longtime favorite fake-movie-band: Josie and the Pussycats.
Whether you’ve never had the pleasure of checking out the music from 2001’s incisive commentary on commercialism and the music industry, or whether it’s been a few decades since you’ve revisited, do yourself a favor and carve out the next 37 minutes and 38 seconds to listen to what you’ve been missing.
You love early aughts pop-punk ear worms? Check. Impossibly catchy nah-nah-nah anthems? Check. Two of the best *NSYNC tracks that *NSYNC never wrote? Check. Produced under the watchful eye of Babyface (of “has more Grammys than fingers” fame) and featuring songs written by the late Adam Schlesinger, Berry Gordy, Adam Duritz, Deborah Caplan, and more, Josie is a brilliant collection of music that just so happens to come from a brilliant film.
Erin: Although I have never seen it, I appreciate the meta nature of picking a movie about a fictional band, thus getting a “score” created for the movie that would traditionally be considered part of the soundtrack. I thought about Almost Famous when building my draft board, a movie I love, but the Stillwater tracks were not as impactful as the soundtrack itself for me (I was also not sure if this was allowed at the time).
21. Nate: (TV Show) Twin Peaks, Angelo Badalamenti
Nate: It feels important for me to note two things here. First, I love Sasha Klare-Ayvazian. Second, I do not consider myself to be a person who derives any significant amount of joy at the expense of the suffering of others. But let me tell you, the look on my guy’s face when I cut the legs out from under his draft on the final pick was almost as rewarding as the brilliant Angelo Badalamenti score I got doing it.
If you’re not familiar with Twin Peaks, or Mr. Badalamenti, or his expansive collaborative work with the inimitable David Lynch, I would humbly direct you to this remarkably janky and hilarious video, which will tell you just about everything you need to know.
A perfect television score, and a perfect capstone to my draft.
22. Sasha: (TV Show) Seinfeld
Sasha: You hear two notes and you know what it is. The most popular show of all-time, distilled down to one instrument. Forever haunting bass players around the world with the inevitable, “can you play the Seinfeld music?” which of course they do not.
While other shows have exceptional themes, Seinfeld has a sound. You drop in the bass anywhere throughout the show and it is instantly orienting and familiar. Seinfeld‘s music is like your favorite old sweater. You just feel better when you wear/hear it.
In closing, this is my #1 “sum of the parts” draft. The diversity of music styles, iconic names, and film genres is unparalleled. We have the best film score in fantasy history, the GOAT video game music for millennials, an all-time score for a drama and the coming-out party for a prog rocker turned film composer royalty, THE iconic horror score infamously written and performed by the film’s director, Elton John AND Hans Zimmer in one fell Disney swoop, and the best comedy series of all-time.
That’s fantasy, action, drama, comedy, animation, and horror represented in one draft.
F**k with me now.
Dave: Why not just quit?
Nate: Hey Siri, define “floundering”?
Erin: I also don’t know why you would choose Seinfield when Curb Your Enthusiasm is still on the table.
23. Erin: (Video Game) Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
Erin: For TV, I got my number one pick, Succession, a social phenomenon with a gorgeous piano and violin-heavy score, beautifully reflecting both the complexity, and the hollowness, of the existence of the show’s characters (Huge shout out to Euphoria though).
For my video game, I grabbed Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts. Anyone who has played this game knows its playfully haunting score has the ability to live in your head rent free. I don’t think you will see this mixture of sounds reflected in any of the other teams, and I feel well represented in my choices.
24. Dave: Man of Steel, Hans Zimmer
Nate: It’s not the Zimmer we deserved. I’m also not sure if it’s the Zimmer we needed. It is, however, most certainly Zimmer.
Erin: Finding the tracks, revisiting these scores, and doing research for this draft was a joy.
- “Duel of the Fates” by John Williams
- Attack on Titan (TV Series) by Hiroyuki Sawano
- Euphoria (TV Series) by Labyrinth
- Jackie by Mica Levi
- First Cow by William Tyler
- The Conversation by David Shire
- Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon by Tan Dun
- Stranger Things (TV Series) by Survive
- Creed by Ludwig Göransson
- If Beale Street Could Talk by Nicholas Britell
- Phantom Thread by Jonny Greenwood
- Ocean’s Eleven by David Holmes
- Red Dead Redemption by Bill Elm & Woody Jackson
- Mission: Impossible by Lalo Schifrin
- Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone by John Williams
- Inception by Hans Zimmer
- Koyaanisqatsi by Philip Glass
- Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time by Koji Kondo
- Batman Returns by Danny Elfman
- The Simpsons by Danny Elfman
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
- Tron: Legacy
- Game of Thrones (TV)
- Mortal Kombat
- Transistor (Video Game)
- Man of Steel
- Succession (TV)
- The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
- The Royal Tenenbaums
- Back to the Future
- Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (Video Game)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
- Goldeneye for N64 (Video Game)
- The Social Network
- The Lion King
- Seinfeld (TV)
- Jurassic Park
- Black Panther
- Super Mario Brothers for NES (Video Game)
- Josie and the Pussycats
- Twin Peaks (TV)
EXPERIENCE THE DRAFT: