You never see overtures at the beginnings of movies anymore, and I think that’s a real shame. A film’s musical themes are often pulled together for an overture making for a beautiful mashup, a quick taste of the movie you’re about to watch. I wish they were still used in modern films, and they add real class to the older gems. Here are a few of my personal favorites!
Ben-Hur (1959) It’s personally one of my favorite movies of all time (in my top ten favorite films to be precise.) I do believe that one of the reasons I value it so highly is because it has one of the strongest film scores I’ve ever heard. The film opens with powerful brass, followed by delicate harps, and a glorious orchestra of instruments after. It is quick to carry you into an ancient time and land with its rhythms, before settling into its sweeping themes filled with romance. And it manages to always be epic.
The Sound of Music. This is one of the best examples of an overture giving a sample of several notable themes in about four minutes tops. Lovable songs that so many of us know are given their moment to shine. I love this movie to death, but the opening credits here is actually one of my favorite parts of the movie to watch…just to hear this. ❤
The Ten Commandments. This is much like Ben-Hur’s overture, in which power and epicness and romantic themes all blend together. This overture, however, for most of its runtime, does focus on the strong brass. Which I think is magnificent. It truly captures the raw power of one of history’s greatest exoduses and most humble princes.
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. This overture is a little different because it multitasks. It plays recurring themes while ALSO scoring the film’s beginning, like the train’s arrival and Gladys glimpsing the military in the distance. I really do love the man theme, and it sounds so beautiful here.
El Cid. This is an example of a film I have not yet seen (shame, I want to!) but who’s overture I very much love! SO. MUCH. BRASS. AND. POWER. I love the more military vibe to this overture with the use of the drums. This overture is quite aggressive and fun; really draws my interest to what this story could be about.
101 Dalmatians. You will probably never hear a more energetic and unique overture like the one that begins Disney’s 101 Dalmatians (a huge personal favorite film of mine.) It makes for one of the most interesting beginning credits as well, which you can witness here if you wish. The use of the different instruments, like the xylophone, drums, cymbals, wind instruments and brass are so playful and delightful!
The Jungle Book (1969). This seems like a different one to include, but I’m doing so because this portion of the film captured my attention even as a very young child. I remember starting this VHS film and as simple scenery and text rolled by, I was COMPLETELY drawn in. That mystery, that ethnicity: it was so alluring and captivating! It says a lot when simple music can completely settle a very energetic child, like myself once was, to hold still during simple credits. That’s power.
But that’s music.