Ennio Morricone, Movie Composing Legend, Has Passed Away

Ennio Morricone attends the Bernardo Bertolucci Memorial at Teatro Argentina on December 6, 2018 in Rome, Italy.
Ennio Morricone attends the Bernardo Bertolucci Memorial at Teatro Argentina on December 6, 2018 in Rome, Italy.
Photo: Franco Origlia/Stringer (Getty Images)

Ennio Morricone, one of the most beloved movie composers of the 20th century, has died. The legendary Italian artist, who was 91, passed after suffering complications from a recent fall.


Morricone’s filmography numbers well into the hundreds, a body of work over seven decades that, much like his most famous soundtracks, speaks for itself. But while he will be best remembered for aurally shaping the spaghetti western as we know it—penning legendary scores for everything from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Fistful of Dollars, all the way up to his recent, Oscar-winning collaboration with Quentin Tarantino for The Hateful Eight—Morricone’s contributions to the horror genre are likewise iconic.

From haunting organs on giallo works like Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Spasmo, Morricone’s talent for the eclectic and weird could truly shine in horror, with some of his most experimental compositions and combinations of synth, vocals, and obscure instrumentation on display. But for the grandiose, baroque nature of much of his horror work, one of his most memorable scores in the genre is perhaps one of his most deceptively, hypnotically simple: his soundtrack for John Carpenter’s The Thing, one of few Carpenter film scores the director didn’t create himself.

Morricone famously reflected in the past that Carpenter gave him very little direction on The Thing’s soundtrack when he first saw an early cut in Rome, leading to the composer creating a wild variety of pieces, some of which were eventually released as “lost tapes” and on soundtrack albums—and some of which even managed to make it into The Hateful Eight. But what was used is forever burned into the horror genre as legend: the simple, yet dread laden recursive synth beats of Morricone’s Thing title theme. Stark, tense, and hypnotizing in equal measure, its slow-burn build is a perfect encapsulation of the unease and paranoia that drives The Thing in the first place.

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This is my favorite Morricone composition. It starts out quiet, slow, almost melancholy, then blossoms into the full majesty of the main theme. Really amazing and epic and less than three minutes long.

(Also seriously, I suspect Howard Shore was listening to a lot of Morricone’s ‘60s scores when he was working on LotR.)