Danny Elfman owes much of his work as a composer to his long-time friend Tim Burton, having scored several of his movies. That's not to say Danny Elfman isn't a musician in his own right. Prior to creating the theme for The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives, he fronted the band Oingo Boingo. Following is a list of his best soundtracks from movies and TV.
What a delightful and underrated masterpiece of animation and music this is! In Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween, accidentally discovers Christmas Town. He falls in love with its traditions and tries to become the ghoulish version of Santa Claus. Not only does Danny Elfman provide fun, scary, and touching songs for this dark film, he also sings Jack's part. "What's This?" is an especially catchy and clever song. (1993)
Tim Burton's second movie about the Dark Knight, Batman Returns is one of my favorite films of all time for three reasons: 1) Michelle Pfeiffer was glorious as the dual-personality-challenged Catwoman; 2) It was dark, creepy and funny, and 3) Danny Elfman's music made use of the champion theme, but added strings and screeches for suspense and overall eeriness.
Pee-wee Herman was at the height of his popularity when Pee-wee's Big Adventure was released in 1985. Tim Burton's film is surreal and syrupy, but so delightful. Pee-wee's Big Adventure can be fully enjoyed by children and adults, thanks to Pee-wee's child-like, but clever, humor. Danny Elfman's silly and whimsical melodies add to the enchantment.
5. 'Big Fish'
Admittedly, this isn't one of Tim Burton's best films. 2003's Big Fish certainly wasn't a big box office draw, either, not even making enough to cover its budget. But the mythical and familial themes allowed Danny Elfman a chance to try his hand at a different tone. Plus, I give Elfman considerable credit for the sheer volume of music he had to write. How else could a film so long and plodding continue except without a soothing or intense soundtrack to carry it?
Beetlejuice is an example of how perfect Tim Burton and Danny Elfman are as a team. Burton created a gothic, Dali-esque world and Elfman provided a musical backdrop, with zig-zaggy piano melodies and plenty of bass horns. It was a match made in, well, not quite heaven. But some sort of afterlife, right?
Directed by someone other than Tim Burton, namely Barry Sonnenfeld, Danny Elfman weaved his trademark urgency throughout the theme of Men in Black, with some typewriter action in the background. Though Danny Elfman had nothing to do with Will Smith's rap song (though it is catchy), he certainly crafted some out-of-this world music to go with the alien-infested Men in Black movie, as well as its sequels.
2010's Alice in Wonderland needed to be whimsical yet dark, a mood that is Danny Elfman's forte. Though Alice traveled through a world full of mischievous characters and colorful landscapes, real danger awaited her around every corner. The soundtrack captured many character stories, using soft strings for the White Queen's themes to high-pitched choral singing in Alice's theme.
10. 'Proof of Life'
Say what you will about the whole Meg-Ryan-Russell-Crowe romance killing the film, I enjoyed the film. Proof of Life gave Danny Elfman a chance to break out of the dark a little, and find some South American beats. He used a variety of instruments, like flutes and drums, to create an edgy, suspenseful soundtrack.
11. Honorable MentionFifty Shades of Grey, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, American Hustle, Epic, Oz the Great and Powerful, Frankenweenie, Silver Linings Playbook.