Sunday, September 20, 2015

Top 11 Movie Scores of the Last 15 Years

The best script, directing, acting, and editing won't mean much without the right music backing the story. Music sets the vibe, creates the mood, and drives the momentum of a film.

Case in point: when Aaron Sorkin wrote the The Social Network, he had originally envisioned Paul Young's cover version of Love for the Common People to be the opening song. Instead, we got an amazing and haunting score from Trent Reznor that completely re-directed the film's tone.

With that said, here are some of my personal favorite movie scores from the last 15 years (2000-2015). 

11. Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Across the Stars - John Williams

WAIT, HEAR ME OUT. Look I'm not a prequel defender; I downright loathe the Star Wars prequels (especially this one). But I have to admit: John Williams, once again, made a hell of a score. It's a score that's too good for this movie. Had this been put up against a love story with great writing (and acting), it might have become as classic as the instrumentals from the original films.

10. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
Don Abandons Alice- John Murphy

It's repetitive, but each go-around adds a new layer, continuously adding to the overall intensity. And if you've seen the film, you already know that this score compliments the chaos and drama onscreen to absolute perfection.

9. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Lux Aeterna - Clint Mansell

You know a score is monumental when it's made for an indie film, and then reused in a trailer for a Lord of the Rings movie. Like Requiem for a Dream itself, every moment of this piece creates an uneasy sensation - yet you can't look away.

8. The Time Machine (2002)
Going Forward - Klaus Badelt

Chances are you forgot about this movie or never cared for it, and you wouldn't be entirely wrong to. But despite its flaws, one particular sequence grabbed me and stayed in my head ever since: the time travel scene. It pays tremendous homage to the time travel in the original 1960 film, and it manages to capture so much action and wonder in just a few minutes - without a single word.That's why in this video embed, I'm giving you the music with the scene.

7. Under the Skin (2014)
Death - Mica Levi

How mesmerizing is this piece? It manages to do so much with so little, and it creates a deep sense of discomfort that carries through the bulk of the story. I love how haunting this score is, and I really appreciate how it manages to evoke old school horror films while still adding a modern and highly disturbing twist.

6. Spider-Man (2002)
Theme from Spider-Man - Danny Elfman

The current generation of films doesn't really have an iconic superhero theme reminiscent of the John Williams Superman score, but this might be the closest thing yet. It's epic, it's memorable, and it's a huge reason why I'll always prefer this series of Spider-Man films to the next one.

5. Comet (2014)
Under the Comets - Daniel Hart

Sam Esmail is the talk of the town right now because of his hit show Fight Club Mr. Robot, but before that, he made a film called Eternal Sunshine 500 Days of Summer Comet (now available on Netflix). It's packed with awful dialogue and pretentiousness...but god damn it there's something about it that works. Maybe it's the relatable story, or maybe it's Robert Downey Jr Justin Long carrying the film on his shoulders. Whatever it is, the powerful score from Daniel Hart is elevating it to a tragically dreamlike level that stayed with me longer than the film itself.

4. X-Men First Class (2011)
Magneto - Henry Jackman

Years ago, the plan was to make X-Men Origins: Magneto. I, like many fans, hated the idea. That concept eventually evolved into X-Men: First Class, where I soon realized: maybe I wouldn't mind watching 2 hours of Michael Fassbender kicking ass . . . especially to this score. In fact as much as I love the sequel Days of Future Past, it's biggest crime is neglecting to rework this score back in. Why? WHY??

Also, there are two Marvel movies on this list, yet neither are actually from Marvel Studios. Disney/Marvel are doing everything right . . . except giving us truly iconic scores (Okay, Avengers came close).

3. Mr. Nobody (2009)
Le Temps Immobile - Pierre Van Dormael

This sci-fi character study is all about the power of choice, and it's driven by a comforting mix of pieces by Pierre Van Dormael. It was hard to pick one to showcase here, but I went with this composition because it's both reassuring and heartbreaking at the same time (much like the film itself).

2. Star Trek (2009)
Enterprising Young Men - Michael Giacchino

I saw this movie in the theaters solely because a friend gave me free tickets. But after the tense first 10 minutes (when a version of this score kicked in), I knew I was going to love this film. As the above Spider-Man theme is close to this generation's Superman, this theme might be the closest we have to being this generation's Star Wars score. 

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Peer Pressure - Jon Brion

Oh it had to be this movie. It's just the greatest film - and picking one track from Brion's perfect score was a challenge. I went with Peer Pressure because it seems to encompass the emotional range of the whole soundtrack: discovery of something beautiful, absolute bliss, addiction, attachment, and inevitable loss.

Honorable Mentions
Here are a few extra compositions I love that almost made the list... 

Pirates of the Caribbean - This franchise might've overstayed its welcome, but you can't deny the piece He's a Pirate is adventurous, exciting, and so much fun.

Tron 2 - The Daft Punk score (especially Derezzed) came real close to making my list, but to me, it just needed to be a smidge less generic. Just a smidge.

Irreversible - This will seem like a random entry, especially since pieces like Rectum (yup, that's the name) are basically just drone music. But the piece does its job: it creates a dizzying and nauseating atmosphere and it's always stuck with me.

Avengers - Like I said above, so close. It's especially epic when the Avengers finally assemble in the first movie, and this piece kicks in. just didn't have the extra punch to make the list for me.

What are some of your favorite scores from the last 15 years?

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