Obviously Peter Weir‘s direction, Earl W. Wallace and William Kelley‘s screenplay and John Seale‘s cinematography, coupled with Lucas Haas and Harrison Ford‘s performances. But the most active ingredient is Maurice Jarre‘s score. That’s what really siezes and brings you in.
Jarre, who passed in 2009 at age 84, was unquestionably pantheon-level. I know that Doctor Zhivago is generally regarded as sappy and that we’re not allowed to praise it too strongly, but Jarre’s music for David lean’s 1965 film melts me down every time I hear. Not to mention his scores for Lawrence of Arabia, The Train (’64), Grand Prix (’66), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Year of Living Dangerously (’82 w/ Vangelis), Witness (’85), The Mosquito Coast (’86), Fatal Attraction (’87), Gorillas in the Mist (’88), Dead Poets Society (’89), and Ghost (’90)