When it comes to expressing emotion or setting a mood, string instruments are unmatched. Among them, the violin is perhaps the most versatile. That’s why violin music stands out so prominently in some of the most memorable film scores. It can mesmerize you and bring you to the edge of your seat in anticipation. Violin music is equally powerful when it comes to bringing a tear to your eye.
For your listening pleasure, we’ve compiled the following list of movies in which violins have a starring role in the soundtrack:
1. The Red Violin
Follow the journey of a 17th-century violin from its creation in Italy to a modern-day auction house in Montreal, and the effect it has on all who encounter it. The original score and songs were composed by John Corigliano, winner of an Oscar, Grammy, and Pulitzer Prize. The score is performed by Joshua Bell and the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The album won the 1998 Academy Award for Best Score. Listen to the score here. Get a quick snippet below.
2. Schindler’s List
This film tells the true story of businessman Oskar Schindler, who runs a factory for the Nazis in Poland during World War II. Though he joined the Nazi party to ease his way into a contract with Germany, Schindler is credited with keeping persecuted Jews from being murdered in the Nazi death camps by putting them to work in his factory. Decades after the war, he was honored by Holocaust survivors and their descendants as a “righteous gentile” for the lives he saved while putting his own safety in jeopardy. Nominated for 12 academy Awards and winning 7, including Best Picture and Best Original Score by John Williams, it features legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman playing one of the most memorable scores of the 1990s. Listen here.
3. Harry Potter (all eight films)
Composers of the series are John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, and Alexandre Desplat. The music in the films, about the boy wizard who rises to meet his destiny, evokes wonder, discovery, drama and comedy. The Harry Potter Film Concert Series has produced 900 performances in 48 countries. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra recorded The Complete Harry Potter Film Music Collection. Listen to a sampler here.
4. Jane Eyre
Based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë, the 2011 film version tells the story of an orphaned girl who has a sad and abusive childhood while being raised by relatives. The film tracks Jane’s life through adulthood as she comes into her own at a boarding school, embarks on a career, and eventually, finds love. The soundtrack was composed by Dario Marianelli and features violinist Jack Liebeck. Listen here.
5. Black Hawk Down
The 2001 film tells the story of the U.S. Military’s intervention in Somalia during a period of lawlessness after a functioning government there ceases to exist. After a Black Hawk helicopter is shot down by a faction of warring Somalis, more U.S. soldiers are sent in to rescue the crew’s survivors and collect the remains of those killed in the crash. A long, tense siege ensues. Hans Zimmer composed the score in collaboration with several other musicians. Listen to the complete soundtrack here.
6. Ladies In Lavender
Enjoy vintage performances from two of the grand dames of the stage and big screen – Judi Dench and Maggie Smith – who play a pair of sisters who live in a quiet Cornish fishing village. One day, they happen upon a young man (played by Daniel Brühl) near-death on a beach. While nursing him back to health they discover the man is a Polish violinist who survived getting swept overboard from a cruise ship. The soundtrack was composed by Nigel Hess and features Joshua Bell and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Listen here.
7. Fiddler on the Roof
It’s been 49 years since the debut of the iconic, Oscar-winning film that was adapted from the 1964 Broadway musical of the same name. With music composed by Jerry Bock, based on stories by Sholem Aleichem, it is set in a rural Russian village during the changing times of the early 20th Century. Tevye, a dairy farmer and patriarch of a Jewish family, shares his thoughts with God and wistfully dreams of life “as a rich man” while fretting over the marriage prospects for his daughters and experiencing persecution at the hands of the Russian government. Isaac Stern is the score’s star violinist in this Oscar-winning film. Listen here.
Perhaps you enjoy these films for the stories, cinematography, acting, and music. But if you just want to enjoy the music and the extraordinary violin performances they offer, there’s plenty here to choose from. And chances are, at least one of these soundtracks will end up in your playlist!