Criminally Underrated Movie Scores

Criminally Underrated Movie Scores

There are scores that everyone knows and loves, and others that manage to slip under the radar for one reason or another. So, the CineChat team decided to each pick two scores that they felt deserved a little more love. Please do let us know your underrated favourites, either in the comments or on our social media pages.

Matt’s Choices


#1 Jumanji (1995); music by James Horner

Having known Jumanji essentially all my life, watching to the point of being able to recite every moment, it’s heartbreaking to me that the music has gone largely unrecognised. James Horner’s score navigates so many heavy themes, amongst all the action and adventure, that the best example to give is the ‘End Titles’ which offers a glimpse at them all:

(0:00) The musical equivalent of a wild stampede that erupts from within the game, Horner particularly emulates the trumpeting elephants and the erratic mischievous monkeys. (0:40) One of my all-time favourite themes. Representing the innocence and promise of childhood, this beautiful horn melody surrenders to the jungle-ish shakuhachi flute. (03:20) Touches on the profound sadness that permeates the film, the fears and losses the characters face: especially Alan Parrish, trapped inside the game for 26 years, returning to find his parents gone after sacrificing everything they had trying to find him. (4:40) The sinister, alluring menace of the board game. Beneath the surface threatens a supernatural terror that we never see in the film, and therefore we can only measure through this haunting score.

#2 Johnny English (2003); music by Edward Shearmur

Another film where I can quote not just the dialogue, but the entire score as well! I absolutely had to include this as one of my choices because I have never heard any praise or discussion for the music whatsoever. The whole thing may be a parody of 007, but in my eyes, it is outstanding in its own right too. The whole score oozes with a suave feel-good coolness, with moments of genuine emotion – compelling us to root for Johnny every step of his mission, no matter how underqualified he is. Listen out for tracks performed by the string quartet Bond, plus the title song ‘A Man For All Seasons’ by Robbie Williams and Hans Zimmer, but my favourite track has to be ‘Off the Case’, which encapsulates the titular spy’s undying British patriotism in two completely different ways:

(0:00) A beautifully mournful trumpet melody as Johnny contemplates his dismissal from MI7 and the shame of failing to protect the country he loves from the perilous grip of “jumped-up Frenchman” Pascal Sauvage (listen for the suitably sinister ‘evil villain’ harpsichord twangs at the beginning). (01:05) A reinvigorated determination to put the situation right, propelled by an exhilarating burst of musical energy that quotes the main theme (composed separately by Howard Goodall – best known for his work on Mr. Bean, The Vicar of Dibley and Blackadder).

Lee’s Choices


#1 Oblivion (2013); music by M83.

Most great scores will guide you through peaks and troughs, building to crescendos before descending into moments of calm. My favourite example of this, which unfortunately isn’t an underrated score, so I can’t include it here, is Inception by Hans Zimmer. Another is Oblivion, by M83, which earns regular Spotify plays from me, and does actually sound a little similar to Inception at times. Not only is the score itself an underrated classic, but so is the movie in my opinion. Oblivion featured highly on my list of CineChat Top 10 Cruise movies and the music is just a perfect accompaniment to watching Tom Cruise speed across the Icelandic landscape on a futuristic bike. My favourite track though is the one that accompanies the closing credits and features some beautiful vocals from Susanne Sundfør.

War of the Worlds

#2 War of the Worlds (2005); music by John Williams

When it comes to music and War of the Worlds, most people automatically think of Jeff Wayne’s musical soundtrack. And rightly so, it’s a classic – even now, as I’m typing this, I have “the chances of anything coming from Mars…” playing loudly in my head! But it’s the score of the 2005 retelling of this famous story that I feel deserves a little more love. Sometimes I just love a score that isn’t exactly a nice relaxing listen, and John Williams conjures up a chilling score for War of the Worlds, capturing the dark threat of the alien invasion that threatens to overpower the human race. Mixing electronics with orchestra, and even featuring some opening narration from the one and only Morgan Freeman! I also think the movie itself is highly underrated and yes, I am aware that I have picked two Tom Cruise movies for this article! Definitely a coincidence…

Sarah’s Choices


#1 Sunshine (2007); music by John Murphy and Underworld

Sunshine is probably one of the best sci-fi films of recent(ish) years, and for me, part of the reason for this film‘s success and why it is so memorable is largely due to the score. John Murphy and Underworld‘s music completely encompasses the story and brings a futuristic yet almost ethereal feel to the film, entirely fitting with the isolated vastness of space. Each piece is so well suited to the scene: Searl’s Last Blast highlights the wonder and awe of the sun followed by the pain and heat. Pinbacker Slashes Capa brings pure horror and intensity to an already terrifying scene. And Capa’s Last Transmission evokes the emotional uplifting message and hopeful belief for the human race. However the standout piece has to be Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor). This has been used in numerous other films and tv spots since but was composed originally for this film and it is possibly one of the most haunting and emotive pieces of music I’ve ever heard. The strings, percussion and piano build so effectively into a hugely moving dramatic piece that never fails to move me.

28 Days Later

#2 28 Days Later (2002); music by John Murphy

I obviously have a bit of a thing for Danny Boyle and John Murphy. The fact that Boyle is from my home town is irrelevant as the man knows how to make a great film, and pairing his films with another of John Murphy’s haunting scores is a recipe for success. 28 Days Later is Boyle’s different take on the zombie genre and like Sunshine, a large part of what makes this film so unforgettable is the score. Other filmmakers should take note, as this is how you make a zombie film.

Again, Murphy’s score here keeps pace with the film and is entirely fitting to the individual scenes: The fast beating drums and cascading strings of Tower Block enhancing the tense atmosphere. An Ending and The End providing an almost dreamy and uplifting mood, and very similar to Capa’s Last Transmission Home from Sunshine. Taxi with its angelic and moving vocals instilling hope, followed by the tense and exciting heavy guitar riffs of The Tunnel. And then you have In Paradisum, which provides a rather angelic beautiful contrast when featured in the scene where Manchester is burning, which for me evokes such emotion as my home city. However 28 Days Later also has a standout piece and my favourite that has been used many times since in other media: In the House – In a Heartbeat. It features in the scenes of Jim’s rampage in the mansion, and effectively builds up the tension into a repetitive heavy riff with pounding drums, only to fade away to a haunting piano at the end.

Mary’s Choices

The Holiday

#1 The Holiday (2006); music by Hans Zimmer

So I should start by saying that for me a good score is one that I notice despite everything else going on onscreen. It also makes the film that much better, it is that essential element that makes a scene. The Holiday has an amazing score and most people probably don’t know that it was written by Hans Zimmer, who is mostly known for his most action-packed scores like Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy and Pirates of the Caribbean. This score is light and immensely jolly as Jack Black’s character states it “uses only the good notes” (mostly). My two absolute favourite scenes are because of the music, the first is when Arthur goes to his career appreciation night and the doors are opened to a packed room and he is so immensely moved he is almost moved to tears. The music is so emotional and it beautifully adds to the moment, the track is called ‘Gumption’. The second is the moment Cameron Diaz’ Amanda is finally able to cry because she realizes she is in love. The track is suitably called ‘Cry’. Again it is the music that really makes this scene pack a punch it has so much energy and just makes you feel good. Gumption Cry

The Young Victoria

#2 The Young Victoria (2009); music by Ilan Eshkeri

The Young Victoria’s score is so underrated, I’ve never heard it mentioned with the film let alone separately. It was written by Ilan Eshkeri and is one of the most beautiful scores I have ever heard, it is extremely romantic. Like all great movie scores, when I hear my favourite tracks I immediately see the scenes in my head. I could have picked other scores which do this just as well, but I don’t think The Young Victoria gets enough mention. It is extremely well cast, Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are magical, it is a fantastic historical biography of one of Britain’s most famous queens and every part of it shines, the score especially so. Any scene with Victoria and Albert are great to see, the chemistry is brilliant and it is made all the better due to the addition of the love theme. It appears many times in slightly different forms, but it is one of my favourite pieces of music, I find it so powerful it culminates with the track ‘Victoria and Albert’ it has real strength and emotes the power of this beautiful relationship. I highly recommend listening to this track but more importantly watching the movie because it’s a real gem. Victoria and Albert

Header graphic elements courtesy of

Leave a Comment

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top