Best Score – 1984

Official Nominations: A Passage To India. The Temple Of Doom. The Natural. The River. Under The Volcano. Purple Rain. The Muppets Take Manhattan. The Songwriter.

Maurice Jarre picked up an official win for A Passage To India – a score with a lot of different styles at play, from big band jazz and orchestra epic pieces to more subtle sitar and mario-lava-level pieces. It’s big and bold, but it’s lacking in any great hooks to pull me in and doesn’t have a lot of deep resonating emotion. Similarly trawling the depths of Eastern culture and mysticism is Temple Of Doom, the sequel/prequel to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Most of the best moments are borrowed from the first film, but there are one or two wonderful new pieces and changes to the classics to make it higher in my estimation than the official winner. John Williams was also nominated for The River this year, but it’s a bland enough score to go along with a bland film.

The Natural is a film about baseball, so I’m already not particularly interested, yet there’s something about the sport that makes it apparently the best candidate for translating to screen. There aren’t many great sports movies, but most of them are based around baseball. Randy Newman’s score is fine, moving from inspirational, oft copied ditties to era-specific pieces that I’m not so keen on. Under The Volcano always makes me think of the terrifying kids show Under The Mountain, though the two are in no way related. It and Moondial were pure nightmare fuel. Anyway, Alex North’s score has a lot of South American influence, but even in its more unusual moments it isn’t memorable.

Purple Rain unsurprisingly won the award for Best Original Song score but as I’m not a huge fan of the dearly departed star’s music, it’s not getting my vote. Joining him in that category were The Muppets with another collection of faintly riotous songs and Kris Kristofferson for Songwriter which has too much Country for my tastes.

My Winner: The Temple Of Doom

Indiana Jones & Temple Of Doom: CDs & Vinyl

My Nominations: The Temple Of DoomBeverly Hills Cop. Birdy. Body Double. The Company Of Wolves. Conan The Destroyer. Ghosbusters. Gremlins. The Karate Kid. The Killing Fields. The Last Starfighter. A Nightmare On Elm Street. Once Upon A Time In America. Police Academy. Splash. Starman. Supergirl. The Terminator.

Only my winner makes it to my list. Beverly Hills Cop gets a nod mostly for the great Axel F track and a variety of other early electronica. Peter Gabriel’s score for Birdy feels like a stark departure from his usual hits, a poignant, dreamlike collection of minimalist mood pieces. Pino Donaggio work well together once again on Body Double to make a score which apes Hitchcock and Hermann but has plenty of its own unique 80s pieces. You can’t talk about dreamlike without mentioning The Company Of Wolves – one of the first horror movies I ever saw and a score which never fails to send chills through me. Conan The Destroyer as a movie is, well, crap in comparison to Conan The Barbarian with the score being one of the major redeeming things. The score isn’t as wonderful as the first movie’s score (what is?) but it has a couple of excellent standalone themes and updates enough of the original’s tracks to remind us what a huge talent Poledouris was. Berstein’s Ghosbusters isn’t merely a bunch of ‘who ya gonna calls’ but has plenty of instrumental pieces of note, from the creepy museum intro to the madness of the ghostly caperings around New York later in the film.

This category is ripe for WTFs, as already discussed in my 1982 post. Gremlins not getting a nod this year is another of those. You have a conductor already recognized as an Academy favourite doing some of his most recognizable work, yet they pass it over. Gizmo’s theme and the main theme are both iconic, fantastic, and more deserving of a mention than most other pieces on this post. The Karate Kid must surely get a nomination too – Bill Conti another previous winner passed over. Sure I’m biased with a lot of these 80s movies as I grew up with them, but even removing yourself from that nostalgic viewpoint these films still have rip-roaring, rousing, inspirational scores – it’s not quite on the level of Rocky but it has a more youthful feel and if anything has more going on than Rocky with a great variety of styles.

Mike Oldfield’s score for The Killing Fields  score is gut-wrenching, epic, haunting, and memorable. There are too many great choices this year. The Last Starfighter may be a Star Wars clone but at least it tries to plough its own musical groove. All good slashers need a good score, or at least a great central theme – A Nightmare On Elm Street has one of the best yet most underrated. Funhouse fairground style sounds collide with child-like rhymes and simple melodies played with menace on the keys. There’s a lot of 80s rock influence there too and a touch of the industrial all meshing together in one nightmarish whole. Morricone’s Once Upon A Time In America – you already know it’s a masterpiece before you hear it. What’s surprising perhaps is how gentle and tender and melancholy it all is, eschewing the usual dramatic overpowering strings with more subtle softer moments, taking in South American, Asian, and European influences. Police Academy has, hands down, one of the best main themes in movie history and while the rest of the score doesn’t live up  to it, it still has other notable once-heard-never-forgotten arrangements.

This is truly the category that never ends. Splash is another romantic, dreamy string led soundtrack which remains beautiful without becoming cutesy. Starman is one of those rare John Carpenter movies where he didn’t provide the score, with Jack Nitzche providing the music instead. His main theme is one of the most gorgeous of the decade, complimented by other romantic and tension filled synthetic tracks. Supergirl… not the greatest film but fun in its own way and it has another great Goldsmith score even if it is a bit too similar to Star Trek. With The Terminator soundtrack Brad Fidel stamped his name on the industry making a score which merges dark techno and rock into a beast unlike anything else at the time. The main theme we all know, the beat in the original being slightly different to the more popular main theme of T2 and taking on a more synthetic and threatening tone than the industrial and emotion led follow-up. The central beat of course has become synonymous with the series and has taken on a life of its own outside of the film. I love how the beat becomes more aggressive as the track progresses, that sense of approaching danger growing, and it is balanced by pulsating chase themes and heartfelt, heart-breaking piano-led track which remain in regular rotation in my iPod.

My Winner: The Terminator

Let us know your winner in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Best Score – 1984

  1. May 10, 2023 / 7:45 pm

    My choice for Best Score of 1984 would go to Mike Oldfield for his music in “The Killing Fields”. I’ve listened to the score numerous times and find it unforgettably distinctive. The beautifully photographed scene of the Khmer Rouge’s evacuation of the city’s residents to the countryside is mirrored to a symphonic elegy that brought tears to my eyes. The camera pans up to expose the multitudes of people basically marching to their deaths while the music expands to an almost holy, church-like accompaniment. Also, the music at the end credits is a perfect example of Cambodian instruments being used to create an “at rest” sense after a brutal film.

    My other nominees for Best Score of 1984 would include:

    Charles Gross for the Jessica Lange vehicle “Country”.  Richard Robbins for the Merchant-Ivory masterpiece “The Bostonians”.    Vangelis with one of his most under-rated film scores for “The Bounty”.     Marc Isham for the Mel Gibson-Diane Keaton vehicle “Mrs. Soffle”.
  2. John Charet June 1, 2023 / 6:31 pm

    Great choice for The Terminator 🙂 Personally, I would choose Ennio Morricone’s elegiac score for Once Upon a Time in America 🙂

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