“If you scroll through all the movies I’ve worked on, you can understand how I was a specialist in westerns, love stories, political movies, action thrillers, horror movies and so on,” said Ennio Morricone. “So in other words, I’m no specialist, because I’ve done everything. I’m a specialist in music.”
The specialist and legendary maestro has passed away at the age of 91, leaving behind an incredibly prolific body of work that included over 400 scores made for movies and television as well as classic work and many journeys across the world performing his music. While it’s impossible to encapsulate such a towering career––considering he began writing his first compositions at the age of six––if you’re looking to revisit or discover some of his finest scores in remembrance, we’ve gathered our twenty favorites below.
The round-up includes some of his most iconic scores, including The Dollars Trilogy, Cinema Paradiso, The Thing, Days of Heaven, Cinema Paradiso, The Untouchables, Once Upon a Time in the West (and in America), and The Hateful Eight, for which he finally won his first competitive Academy Award for in 2015, after earning six nominations across his career and an honorary Oscar in 2007.
If we had to pick an all-time favorite piece of music for us here at The Film Stage, it would go to his score for Roland Joffé’s The Mission. Morricone’s compositions for the 1986 drama are less grandiose than some of his most famous work. Instead, it is ethereal in the truest sense of the word. Simply put, it’s too good for this world.
Showing his sheer breadth of work, we also included scores for films by Pedro Almodóvar, Gillo Pontecorvo, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Dario Argento, as well as some stellar deep cuts, notably his work on Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s Metti una Sera a Cena and Mauro Severino’s Vergogna, schifosi.
The Battle of Algiers (1966, composed with Gillo Pontecorvo)
The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971)
Cinema Paradiso (1991)
Days of Heaven (1978, composed with Leo Kottke)
The Dollars Trilogy: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Duck, You Sucker! (1971)
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970)
The Legend of 1900 (1998)
Metti una Sera a Cena (1969)
The Mission (1986)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
The Thing (1982)
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
The Untouchables (1987)
Vergogna, schifosi (1969)