The Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who famously wrote music for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and Once Upon a Time in America, has died in Rome aged 91 in the early hours of July 6. Morricone was hospitalized after having fractured his femur in a fall a few days ago.
Morricone has created over his seven decades long career some of the most iconic pieces of music for the cinema. He found fame in the late 1960s with the music he scored for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars, that revolutionized the western genre. Following his success with Leone’s film, Morricone became a prolific film composer, scoring more than 500 soundtracks, working with the greatest, including Terrence Malick, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Brian de Palma, Dario Argento. Despite being offered to move to the U.S to work in Hollywood, Morricone never left Rome.
He received an honorary Oscar in 2007 for his career, but, almost a decade later, he finally won an Oscar for the soundtrack he composed for Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight in 2016 at the age of 87.
His music had the ability of anchoring the images in a film, bringing them further depth, even though he composed most of his scores from the film’s script. His music never formed part of the background. His music was inventive and showed an incredible range.
To celebrate the maestro’s music, below are ten examples of Morricone’s best and most beautiful film soundtracks.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
The first of Sergio Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars, starred Clint Eastwood in one of his most iconic roles as the unnamed stranger. Leone’s films would certainly not have the same impact without Morricone’s whistling music, and Leone himself knew that his films’ success were in part due to the composer.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
This is probably Morricone’s most well-known piece. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was the third film in Sergio Leone’s “Dollar” trilogy. Morricone’s music punctuates the film’s most iconic sequence when the trio stare each other down. Morricone composed the music before Leone started filming, working on the themes together in pre-production. Leone’s editing matches perfectly with Morricone’s unforgettable music.
Once Upon A Time in the West (1968)
Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West is considered by many to be his masterpiece, starring Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson. The final scene with Morricone’s music is just one of the most extraordinary sequences in the history of cinema.
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1971)
Morricone’s music to Dario Argento’s giallo movie elevated the film’s creepiness and shows how inventive the composer’s music is. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage was Argento’s directorial debut.
Le Professionnel (1981)
Georges Lautner’s highly popular French action film, Le Professionnel, starring Jean-Pierre Belmondo was a box office success in France. It was apparently Belmondo himself after hearing Morricone’s Chi Mai, originally written for a 1971 film Maddalena, on the radio that requested his music become the film’s soundtrack. Both the film and the soundtrack subsequently became immensely popular in France.
The Mission (1986)
The Mission won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1986 and starred Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro. Morricone here created an elegiatic music to Roland Joffé’s historical epic film. Morricone’s music was nominated for an Oscar that year, and won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score.
The Untouchables (1987)
Morricone won a Grammy award for his score of Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables. The American crime film, starring Kevin Costner, Robert de Niro and Sean Connery, has now become a classic. With its distinctive trumpet sounds, Morricone created here a brilliant and audiaciously triumphant soundtrack full of tension.
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
This is probably one of Morricone’s most beautiful film scores that translates perfectly the nostalgic theme of Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso. Tornatore won the award for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars in 1990.
Morricone and Giuseppe Tornatore worked on many films together. Malena, which stars Monica Bellucci, is set during the Second World War in Sicily, about a boy who falls in love with a woman named Malena. The soundtrack was nominated at the Oscars.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Morricone finally won an Oscar for one of his film scores. This was the maestro’s first western score in 40 years. Morricone also composed the soundtrack to Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.