Film Music 101: Underscore

In film music, the underscore refers to music that specifically accompanies a scene with dialogue.

The underscore functions in much the same way as underlining a piece of text: it’s meant to emphasize a particular piece of dialogue and tell the audience: THIS is important, you should really pay attention to this scene!


A very good example of underscore can be found in Aragorn’s speech at the Black Gate in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003).

This moment takes place on the cusp of the final action climax of the trilogy: Sauron’s army is pouring out of Mordor, the Army of the West is outnumbered 100 t0 1, and the men are rightfully scared. But, as Aragorn reassures them, this is no time to break the vows they have sworn, this is the time to stand and fight!

Return of the King: Stand Men of the West!


Bond…James Bond.

Another example can be found in the first James Bond film Dr. No (1962) during a calypso party at a restaurant in Jamaica. The scene opens with the party in progress and the music continues while Bond (Sean Connery) talks with Felix Leiter (Jack Lord). In this scene, the music doesn’t so much increase the drama as it provides a contrast with the cheery mood of the crowd (they are talking about the criminal Dr. No and how to get onto his island Crab Key to investigate).

Dr. No: Calypso Party Scene

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2 thoughts on “Film Music 101: Underscore

  1. evelynfilmfan

    In pirates 2 or 3, where Keira Knightley’s character gives that speach on the boat. That is an amazing scene with a brilliant score! it’s called “What shall we die for” Love it



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