Miles-tones

Danny Elfman's Ten Greatest Soundtracks

Page 2 of 2

9. Dolores Claiborne (1995): One the more difficult to find soundtracks on this list, it's notable for the fact that the movie was good, not great, but the soundtrack is amazing. Based on a novel by Stephen King, the film's quiet, somber tones are echoed in Elfman's score. Those more used to his usual booming, thunderous style may be surprised at the subtlety here. The notes are long, soft, and mournful, with lots of string and very little percussion. Worth owning if you need rainy-day music.

8. Big Fish (2003): As sweet and sentimental as his other scores are dark and bombastic, Big Fish provided a big of an about-face for both Elfman and Burton. The film is half love story, half generational reckoning, and Elfman manages to interject some fun and wonder amidst the tender love suites and bittersweet life-lesson tunes.

7. Nightbreed (1990): An over-the-top horror film directed by Clive Barker, Nightbreed begs for an equally over-the-top score, and sweet Jesus did Elfman ever deliver. The children's choir is back, but this time they're chanting over tribal drums in a relentlessly paced cannonade that feels like the most metal thing Elfman has ever done. One of the track titles is "Meat For the Beast," if that tells you anything.

6. Beetlejuice (1988): Elfman got to stretch his legs a bit with this score, working in fun, cartoony stretches punctuated by the occasional genuinely dark, scary notes. Everyone who grew up in the '80s ought to know this theme song; it ranks alongside the score for Batman as one of Elfman's most hummable.

5. Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985): Elfman's first fully orchestrated, big-time score is, of course, the soundtrack to Tim Burton's feature film debut as director. It's grand, it's weird, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. The second track, the Raymond Scott-inspired "Breakfast Machine," has become a bit of a meme in recent years, even drawing a parody from Family Guy.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
John Seaborn Gray