Jerry Goldsmith

9 Favorite Jerry Goldsmith Scores

Probably no other composer inspires more dedication and passion in film score fans than Jerry Goldsmith. A word to the wise: say a bad word against Jerry on message boards at your own risk.

I’ve already written about my favorite composer, Alfred Newman. So for this month’s “9 on the 9th” list post, I thought it only appropriate to recommend some favorites from a very special composer, one whose music first made me sit up and take notice.

Patton soundtrack

9. HOOSIERS (1986)

When I played soccer as a kid, my best friend got a concussion when he ran smack dab into me. And I lasted exactly one hour of football practice, crying to my mother after about how much it hurt. (She’s mortified to this day.) So needless to say, sports movies do not particularly appeal to me. Yet Jerry Goldsmith’s name was enough to get me in the theater to see HOOSIERS. This rural basketball tale features Goldsmith’s unique mid-80’s blend of electronics and orchestral timbres. The electronics simulate the slap of the basketball on the court and the music captures the quiet beauty of the Indiana farmland and ultimately propels you through the excitement of the game. If all sporting events came with a Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack, I might be a bigger fan.

8. MAGIC (1978)

Ira Levin’s original novel about a murderous ventriloquist dummy seemed a bit more ludicrous onscreen than on the page. But credit Goldsmith with creating a suitably creepy musical atmosphere. The score’s main theme plumbs the psychological depths of Corky’s (Anthony Hopkins) mental instability but it’s the seesawing harmonica motif that truly unsettles you. The year 1978 was particularly impressive for Goldsmith, which also included scores for COMA, CAPRICORN ONE, THE SWARM, DAMIEN: OMEN II, and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL. Even if some of the films aren’t particularly memorable, that’s six Goldsmith classics in one year.

7. PATTON  (1970)

With only 30 minutes of music in this 3-hour epic, Goldsmith makes every note count. The judicious economy of spotting helps emphasize the isolation of George C. Scott’s legendary general. From the jaunty march to the famous echoplexed trumpet effect, Goldsmith emerges victorious, even if Oscar voters didn’t think so. (The score inexplicably lost to the far more famous tune for the far less worthy LOVE STORY.)

Star Trek The Motion Picture soundtrack


Goldsmith contributes a groundbreaking score that is almost primeval in its sound. Contemporary wind techniques and inventive uses of percussion (such as playing on upturned metal bowls) characterize the music. The orchestra is turned into a simian beast and the score is as dry and brittle as the arid land it inhabits onscreen. The music may not be to everyone’s taste as a stand-alone listening experience. But for those who appreciate that rare foray into atonal and experimental film music, it doesn’t get any better than this.


The main theme may be overly familiar from its use on the STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION television series, but the score constitutes much more than just that main theme. The first listen to STTMP (as film score fans call it) in 1979 was thrilling, and it just got better and better with each repeated listen. Goldsmith soared above Robert Wise’s lumbering film to create an out of this world space symphony that was exciting, beautiful, even awe-inspiring. STAR TREK is considered by many to be Goldsmith’s magnum opus. The fact that it lost the Oscar to Georges Delerue’s adaptation of Vivaldi in A LITTLE ROMANCE makes many film music fans bristle.

4. UNDER FIRE (1983)

The war in Nicaragua was a tough sell at the box office. The film has its fans but I’m not one of them. And Goldsmith’s score within the film is poorly recorded and performed. Thankfully, Jerry rerecorded the score for a near-perfect album presentation. The score’s Latin rhythms and soaring melodies convey tension, fear, and hope in the war-torn country. The CD was only available as an import until Film Score Monthly released it domestically last year, improving the sound on an already flawless recording.

The Wind and the Lion soundtrack
The Boys From Brazil soundtrack
The Omen soundtrack


One of my favorite high school and college band memories comes from playing the concert band arrangement of a suite from THE WIND AND THE LION. As a clarinet player, we got all the incredibly difficult violin runs, yet the arrangement can only hint at the complexities in this exotic, exciting score. Intrada’s 2-CD set premiered the complete original soundtrack as well as improved sound on the excellent LP re-recording.


As I wrote in April’s post, this film is a guilty pleasure and I’ll stop and watch it anytime it’s on TV. Goldsmith’s score, with its belching brass and that sweeping Viennese waltz, overcomes the goofy implausibility of the story and adds to the enjoyment of the film even more. Like their release of THE WIND AND THE LION, Intrada’s 2-CD set showcased the completed original soundtrack as well as the LP recording, which had been a limited edition on Varese Sarabande and out of print (hence, prohibitively expensive on eBay) for years. By far, my favorite release of any film score from 2008.

1. THE OMEN (1976)

I have written so much about THE OMEN elsewhere on this site that writing any more seems superfluous. Suffice it to say that as the first soundtrack I ever bought, THE OMEN jump-started my love of film music and will always have a special place in my heart. I’d like to think I know every note of this score backward and forwards. And yet, 30-plus years later, I still find new things in the music to appreciate. Such is the genius of Jerry Goldsmith.

* * *

While his projects deteriorated in the late ’80s and ’90s, there was usually something to enjoy out of nearly every Goldsmith score. When Jerry passed away in 2004, I remember finding it difficult to explain the sense of loss to my therapist. I had never met the man, but his music had provided—and continues to provide—me with many hours of listening pleasure. I guess you might say on some level I owe him my career. Not a bad thing to be remembered for.

What are your favorite Goldsmith scores?

  1. I am no Goldsmith expert, but I do love some of his scores. From what I have heard, I love Total Recall, Air Force One, Rudy, Star Trek (all), Rambo First Blood, The 13th Warrior, Mulan, The Ghost and the Darkness, Basic Instinct, Gremlins, Capricorn One…

    To make a list would be impossible, but my top 3 spots have to be Total Recall, Air Force One and The 13th Warrior (all at nr. 1 hehe)

    1. Can you believe I’ve never seen or heard those 3 scores? (Shameful!) LOL And, yes, making a list was impossible and look at what I left out: THE SAND PEBBLES, THE BLUE MAX, RAGGEDY MAN, and a host of others.

      1. All the weird things I said back then ;)

        Here’s my top 9:
        1. First Knight
        2. Star Trek The Motion Picture
        3. Night Crossing
        4. Omen II
        5. Supergirl
        6. Star Trek Insurrection
        7. Total Recall
        8. Hoosiers
        9. Poltergeist II

  2. Interesting that your list falls much more heavily on the ’70s Goldsmith, and you consider his ’80s/’90s projects a “deterioration.”

    I definitely appreciate a lot of his pre-’80s scores (and adore some, like Star Trek:TMP), but my heart beats much more wildly for his ’80s/’90s output. Give me First Blood, Gremlins, Twilight Zone, Poltergeist, Rudy, Rambo III, Secret of Nimh, The Russia House, The Shadow…

    …I could obviously go on and on. I just think it’s funny how two people can both love Goldsmith, and still have very different tastes!

    1. Maybe a better way of putting it is a lack of what I consider A-list films more than “deterioration.” I think in my case the focus on the 70s is strictly because that’s when I was first experiencing film music and I have fonder memories of those films. And usually my taste runs more towards drama than action, sci-fi, comedy, or other genres. (Think “Oscar bait,” though we all know that the Oscars are not necessarily an indicator of quality.) I also like TWILIGHT ZONE, POLTERGEIST and RUDY very much (though I’ve never seen RUDY). Oddly enough, they were on the original list along with the others I mentioned in the comment above. But it’s impossible to pull together a Goldsmith list without leaving out some worthy contenders. I think it just goes to show Goldsmith’s genius that he wasn’t pigeonholed into one specific genre and seemingly could write something for everybody.

  3. My Favorite Scores, not in order are: The Blue Max, Star Trek TMP, In Harms Way, Wind And The Lion,The Trouble With Angels, Explorers, Rudy, The Invaders (Twilight Zone from 1961 with Agnes Moorehead), Boy’s From Brazil (my Lp is a promo copy from A&M Records, which I got when I saw the Film at 20th Century Fox on the Newman Scoring Stage).

    1. I bet you’re happy with Intrada’s release earlier this week of IN HARM’S WAY. :) I’m terribly envious of your experience on the Newman Scoring Stage, especially for a favorite of mine like BOYS FROM BRAZIL.

      1. The Newman Stage a real experience, thanks for the info on In Harms way, I did not know that Intrada had released it. I also spent “Time” in Studio A & B at the RCA “Music Center Of The World” on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood in the early 70’s. It is long gone now. it is the “Hollywood School of Video. What a loss.

  4. I cut my teeth on Goldsmith. I’m crazy about them all, but Jerry will always hold the top spot in my heart for blowing open the doors to my geekdom that Saturday afternoon in 1978 when I sat in the dark and watched “Damien — Omen II.” He gave Art class and made trash Art. I went catatonic the day I heard he died on the car radio. (Thank goodness I’d already parked.)

    My 9:

    The Boys From Brazil, Damien: Omen II, Logan’s Run, Raggedy Man, The Sand Pebbles, Seconds, Star Trek — The Motion Picture, Twilight Zone — The Movie, Under Fire

    But catch me on any other day and this list might vary slightly.

  5. Since I’m new to this site I’m late to catch up on some cool posts. And how could I resist commenting on Jerry Goldsmith scores that I love.

    Nine? Quickly come to mind….
    Blue Max, Sand Peebles, Papillon, Capricorn One, Seconds, MacArthur, Underfire, Wind and the Lion, Wild Rovers, Medicine Man, The Flim-Flam Man Man, Planet of the Apes, The Ghost and the Darkness, The Russia House, Logan’s Run, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Lonely Are the Brave… SOMEBODY STOP ME! They’re but a tip of an enormous lifetime of favs.

    Over the years I’ve come to see Goldsmith (I was and still am a huge fan) with more critical eyes and ears but I can still vividly remember hearing and falling in love with his early scores especially the exotic and epic “The Sand Peebles”, “Papillon” and “The Blue Max”. Then almost in an Alfred Newman like, but in a more modern yet still personal way, being touched by the tenderness and at times stark loneliness of works like his music for “A Girl Named Sooner”.

    I remember being seared by the Bach like organ work to the beginning of “Seconds”, jolted by a primal atonal strangeness to a “Planet of the Apes”. A book could be written on my Goldsmith encounters (I think his daughter was actually writing his biography).

    In truth – this would have been sacrilegious for me years ago – John Williams has been a more reliable and at times an even greater composer who was and is capable of writing a great score to almost anything, but in some deep part of me, that doesn’t matter. I can intellectually appreciate and often get great pleasure from a William’s score but he’s not nearly as often touched my heart the way Goldsmith at his best could.

    There are parts of some Goldsmith scores that I come close to hating but I’m taking your wise advice Jim and zipping it.

    1. It’s amazing how much great work came from this one man. Music that is just as fresh now as it was, say, 40-50 years ago. The highs are incredibly high and the lows just as low. There’s very little middle ground. And I think that’s a very good thing.

      Maybe one of these days we’ll see that Goldsmith biography. But they better hurry. I ain’t gettin’ any fresher.

  6. Pingback: Happy Birthday Film Score Click Track! | Film Score Click Track
  7. 1. A Patch of Blue
    2. Chinatown
    3. Islands in the Stream
    4. Raggedy Man
    5. The Sand Pebbles
    6. The Great Train Robbery
    7. Wild Rovers
    8. The Blue Max
    9. The Secret of NIMH

  8. My favorite Jerry Goldsmith scores are:
    1. The Final Conflict
    2. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
    3. The Secret Of NIMH
    4. Under Fire
    5. Hoosiers
    6. Executive Decision
    7. Mulan
    8. Patton
    9. Extreme Prejudice

    1. There are a few on here that I’m not familiar with, oddly enough. (Well, maybe not so odd.) Anyone who has part of the OMEN trilogy at the top is tops in my book. :)

  9. Has anyone seen the documentary “Jerry Goldsmith: 50 years of film and tv scoring”? It centred on the scoring sessions for THE RIVER WILD but it revealed both the genius and magnanimity of the man. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences specifies that a submitted score “must be the result of a creative interaction between the filmmaker(s) and the composer(s)… engaged to work directly on the motion picture”.

    As an outsider to this world I’ve often wondered about this interplay. It’s clear, though, that no matter how grand the score, if the director in particular does not approve of the work, then it won’t be in the picture- no matter the effort!

    We’re all familiar with the final product that reaches the screen. What about the countless scores that were rejected: from Bernard Herrmann’s TORN CURTAIN to Gabriel Yared’s TROY?

    1. That documentary is quite good, especially in that it showcases Goldsmith conducting a very good score, as opposed to one of his landmark scores. In other words, the care and the craft are still there even in lesser efforts. And considering it was a replacement score, I’m sure he was under the gun time-wise. His treatment of “The Water Is Wide” is simply magical.

      Most composers won’t talk about the replacement scores (and I don’t blame them). It’s an ugly side of the business. Perhaps if someone were brave enough to come out publicly about it, the practice might dry up a bit. But I doubt it.

      1. Gabriel Yared (TROY) certainly did, ad did his “replacer” (James Horner) a few years back. I was stunned how blunt and uncharitable the latter was and frankly, how little time he had to put together an alternative piece for the film (complete with End Title song). Ugly? More like BRUTAL!

  10. A lot of great scores have been named but a couple more to add “Chinatown” and a very early movie he did a western “Face of a Fugitive” he is listed in the credits on that one as Jerrald Goldsmith. Also check out the many classic TV themes he wrote. My personal favorite “The Man From Uncle”.

  11. Star Trek I
    Star Trek V
    Capricorn One
    Planet of the Apes
    Total Recall
    The Wind And The Lion
    The Burbs
    Star Trek: First Contact

  12. Lonely Are The Brave ?

    Not mentioned on any of the above lists.

    Considered, but not worthy ?

    Or, worthy but not considered ?

  13. My favorites are:
    5. LEGEND

    If I had one criticism of Jerry Goldsmith, it’s his fascination with the synthesizer. I love the scores without the synth. Scores like Runaway seem very dated to me now due to the heavy synth :(

  14. I have this thing where I choose a composer every month and try to get familiar with that composer. This month it’s Jerry Goldsmith month.

    A month ago, I would say that I was a casual fan, enjoying some of his most famous work, but now I would call myself a massive fan. He has gone from a top 20 composer to my number 1 in a month.

    I am ashamed I never got to know him before now and his music truly speaks to me. I’ve discovered some amazing music.

    I am 100% sure that Jerry Goldsmith was the best action composer there is. None of today’s composers come close. What is even more amazing is that he was an expert on what I like to call “in-between cues”, you know the suspense cues like “Hero searching an office” or “On his way to the crime scene” sort of cues that most composers manage to make a boring mess. Not Jerry, he takes those cues and make them exciting and fun to listen to. I’ve had serious trouble with scores like Alien before, but now I’m a fan. Likewise with Planet Of The Apes which is a very fun score. A year ago I couldn’t get any enjoyment out of them.

    I came back to this post because I wanted to see if there were some scores on your top 9 that I haven’t explored yet and the only one it seems, is Magic. That’s a score I will be visiting soon.

    As the month is not yet over I don’t have a definitive Top 9 yet, but here’s my current work in progress:

    1. Timeline
    2. Rudy
    3. Hoosiers
    4. Supergirl
    5. Star Trek: Insurrection
    6. Damien: Omen II
    7. Air Force One
    8. Powder
    9. The River Wild

    1. Hi Jorn, that’s an interesting way to explore new film music. I’ve done that too but have noticed that a month never seems like enough time. Enjoy further discovery of Jerry. :)

      1. A month is far from enough, but it’s enough to get started. I plane to continue my exploration of Jerry’s music after this month because there is no chance I get the time to listen to everything I want in one month.

    2. Yes, I too was (still am) a great fan of Jerry Goldsmith’s work, becoming aware of his work with TV’s CAIN’S HUNDRED, and FACE OF A FUGITIVE. But his very first works were on PLAYHOUSE 90, PERRY MASON, 4 or 5 episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and his very first movie project: BLACK PATCH. I loved RIO CONCHOS, OUR MAN FLINT, and when I didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket to see WARNING SHOT!, I went to a side door and stood in the rain with my ear to the door listening to Goldsmith’s music to that David Janssen crime drama!
      I have tried to collect any and all Goldsmith scores that have been released on CD and cannot believe the amount of film music score’s which seem to be lost. Example HOUR OF THE GUN, THE SALAMANDER, all of the action cues recorded on tape reel B that were thrown away when United Artist Studio’s shut down. Bob Burns (who’s wife worked at UA, saved reel A of the music recording sessions and stored it in his garage for over 10 years. Then (realizing what he had) took the reel of recording tape to MGM-Sony, who cleaned the tape up and released the score as THE SATAN BUG: THE ARCHIVE EDITION. Sony needs to research their music vaults and find reel B, so that the complete music score could be released on CD! Ironically, in a Goldsmith interview, he revealed that he had duplicate copies of all his recorded musical scores locked in a safety deposit box in a downtown Los Angeles bank. Now the music experts (in Hollywood) say that this isn’t so. But I would not call a dead man a liar!!! I also like those suspenseful, thought provoking, in-between moments of his scores, where the Hero is discovering a major plot device or twist and turn in the plot. No one else could compose such effective music or such exciting action music. I can imagine what he would have done with TITANIC or AVATAR!??? Movies have not been the same for me since his passing. Why don’t the record companies release the music to DAMNATION ALLEY, SHAMUS, and THE CHAIRMAN,…etc. Not just 30 minutes of music, but the entire musical score! Find the lost scores too! I know that the living God of the universe sure is happy to have Jerry composing all those Heavenly musical scores for him and the Angels to sing!!!!

      William d6141

  15. and SECONDS from frankenheimer? One of the most disturbing films with a also disturbing and enigmatic soundtrack by jerry goldsmith. Thats really a masterpiece, every second

  16. Just saw this site. I’d highly recommend the Sean Connery movies Medicine Man and The Russia House, along with Wind in the Lion (which has gotten its due here). All three are great Jerry Goldsmith scores. Russia House is tremendously atmospheric, with its jazz and electronic undertones. The main theme very strong, the “Training” track so engrossing as the main character is introduced to a network of spy games, nice use of traditional Russian instruments throughout (see “Bon Voyage” and “Katya and Barley”)–overall a wonderful feature for the soprano sax. Medicine Man is a very strong balance of orchestra and electronics, a continuation of themes in the movie, nature vs. industry. “Trees” is as fantastic a theme as any Goldsmith has composed…this score is so rhythmic and alive–“Mountain High” is a personal favorite. And then Wind in the Lion, one of the great classical orchestral scores. All Sean Connery films, all Goldsmith at his best.

    P.S. Also, the main theme from The Edge is wonderfully evocative of the wild (and the bear). You’ll never forget that bear.

  17. Papillon is probably my Goldsmith favorite, the “Main Theme” and “Gift from the Sea” especially. Chinatown is also a good one.

  18. My nine Goldsmiths:

    I have at least 50 of his scores I really like. I have been a fan of his since the early 60s and have over 300 LPs counting dups, 271 CDs, 33 45s and over 100 cassette tapes.

    1. Poltergeist
    2. Under Fire
    3. Rambo II
    4. Blue Max
    5. Legend
    6. Final Conflict
    7. Night Crossing
    8. In Harms Way
    9. Sand Pebbles
    10. Papillon and Rio Conchos

    I met him in 1989 at the concert in Springfield, Mo and chatted with him for about five mins backstage. i was doing a report on the concert and had attended the Ft. Worth one earlier, for the Goldsmith Society in England. He let me take his picture and that was on the cover of the pub. He wrote me 4 letters in the 80s. Very courteous and humble man.


  19. Ah, Jerry Goldsmith. My favourite film composer. To me, he was the most versatile composer, a true chameleon who could change and adapt to any film and create a new and exciting score. Someone who you could not identify by music cues (Hans Zimmer) or repeated riffs. A true composer’s composer. Very respected by his peers. Chinatown, The Trouble with Angels, L.A. Confidential, Planet of the Apes, Gremlins, Patton, Basic Instinct, Mulan — the list goes one and on. My favourite? Medicine Man. I can listen to this score over and over. The rainforest- inspired music is at times upbeat, poignant and sweeping. A score that was much better than the movie and one of Goldsmith’s best.

  20. Not a top 10 here but my two favourite scores in particular are

    Poltergeist which doesn’t get enough love in my opinion
    Star Trek – The Motion Picture

    Honourable mentions for me are Explorers and Innerspace. Not ones you hear of very often.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Stories
Chaplin in Pay Day
The Next Best Thing