We all know Jerry Goldsmith's theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Or John William's "Imperial March" from Star Wars. There are other great pieces of music written for science fiction and fantasy TV shows and movies. Some of the composers are lesser-known, while some of the productions are forgotten. If you want stirring, energizing music for writing or exercising or just imagining other worlds of adventure, here are some recommendations.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - "A Call to Adventure"
This was originally written as the opening theme, but the film instead launches straight into the action, with no time for an overture. So the filmmakers put Randy Edelman's stirring cue at the end. This piece reminds me of the theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman, both by John Williams. Its name, "Call to Adventure," is perfect, because it really does sound like you're about to start a thrilling journey. Randy Edelman also composed the scores to two other "dragon" movies—Dragonheart and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, which you've heard a dozen times in commercials and movie trailers.
Stardust - "Coronation"
Stardust is one of the few Neil Gaiman stories to make it to the big screen. As expected, the underrated film is full of magic, wonder, charm, and weirdness—and so is Ilan Eshkeri's score. "Coronation" is one of the final pieces, as our two heroes ascend the throne. It's a touching music cue of triumph and celebration. Great for your workout cool-down or on the commute home after a stressful day.
Cutthroat Island - "End Credits"
No, I'm not recommending anyone see Cutthroat Island, a dreadful pirate movie that's outdone in virtually every way by the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. Alan Debney's score, however, is outstanding. The end title time is perhaps the greatest swashbuckling music written since 1940's The Sea Hawk. After listening to the music, you might think, "There must be an awesome adventure movie behind this!" You would be wrong.
Wizards and Warriors - "Main Titles"
Another example of "terrible production, wonderful music." Wizards and Warriors was a 1983 fantasy series that starred Jeff Conaway (better known from Babylon 5, Grease, and Taxi) and Julia Duffy (from Newhart). It was a mid-season replacement that ran eight episodes and wasn't picked up for another season. Lee Holdridge wrote a nearly three-minute opening theme that's far better than anything seen on the show. If someone were to produce a fantasy show tomorrow that was fun, instead of the dark, serious Game of Thrones, this is how it would sound.
How to Train Your Dragon - "Coming Back Around"
It's hard to call How to Train Your Dragon underrated, with a successful sequel and a TV spin-off lasting five seasons. But in 2010, the original film was buried under the hype for Toy Story 3, losing just about every award to the Pixar film. One exception is John Powell's exhilarating score, which won the Annie Award for Best Music in an Animated Feature. This cue, in which Hiccup and Toothless fly victorious over a rebuilt island of Berk, evokes triumph and celebration. It's a perfect ending to their adventures, to the first movie, and to this list.
What are some of your favorite fantasy and sci-fi soundtracks? Add your melody to the comments.