By Annie Barrett
December 14, 2006 at 12:00 PM EST

Ennio Morricone will receive 2007’s Honorary Academy Award. The Italian composer, who’s arranged scores for more than 500 films and TV series, is best known for his work on 30 or so Western films. (Says senior writer Gary Susman in explanation: “Oo ee oo ee oo, wah WAH wah. If you know the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, you know why he deserves an Oscar.”) The 78-year old saw five nominations from the Academy over his career, but never a statue. He’ll be only the second film composer to receive the honor (the other was Alex North in 1986).

You can listen to some of Morricone’s scores online, like the main theme from A Fistful of Dollars and the love song from Cinema Paradiso. Beware of the theme for The Untouchables — it’s a bit of a head-bopper, and you might get a little too into it like I just did, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I also can’t get enough of “Ecstasy of Gold” from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (starring Clint Eastwood, pictured) and (fun fact alert) apparently neither can Metallica, who have used the song to open their concerts. And even though it’s in Italian, Morricone’s official website is worth a click, just for the haunting, emerging-from-grayness portrait. Since it’s set to his own music, it almost plays like a movie. Just a photo. How does he do it? And which Morricone tune do you remember best?

addCredit(“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The Kobal Collection”)