The 15 Greatest Original Film Scores From the Past Decade
Established musicians composing film scores is nothing new. Some of the best scores of the last 50 some odd years have come from pop stars: Dylan's score for Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Danny Elfman's whole career and Queen's legendary Flash Gordon score. With the rise of various indie studios world-wide over the last decade, we're starting to see more and more opportunities for bands to experiment with their sound by doing a feature score. What follows are 15 of the best scores from the last decade.
2011's best film (yeah, I said it) had a powerful score composed of work that, while it would fit in with the music being produced of it's time, would pair perfectly with the synth heavy scores of the '80s, much like the film it blankets.14. Grizzly Bear - Blue Valentine
Director Derek Cianfrance had originally wanted film score extraordinaire Vangelis to provide the background for his tale of heartbreak, but while completing final edits on the script he begin to fall for the work of Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear. The band agreed to work on the film and what was born was a score that conveys the sense of weight that hung over the relationship of the characters played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.13. Thomas Bangalter (of Daft Punk) - Irréversible
Irréversible is downright unwatchable at moments as the story told by directer Gasper Noe is equal parts horrifying, tragic and heartbreaking. What locks you in is Bangalter's score, whose sonic brilliance anchors you from the dizzing mess of New French Extreme that's on your screen.12. Goldfrapp - Nowhere Boy
Having an artist best known for ambient folk and synth pop score your biopic of young John Lennon is a bold choice. Lucky for director Sam Taylor-Wood, Allison Goldfrapp delivered a score that not only paired well with the contemporary tracks that made up the film, but also lent itself to the material..11. Cliff Martinez - Drive
While the soundtrack is filled with '80s pop and indie touchstones, the music to Greg Mottola's ode to indifference features the long time indie stars in Yo La Tengo taking an understated approach to the score.9. Sondre Leche - Dan in Real Life
Continuing the trend of indie films whose score is better then it's plot line. 2007's Dan in Real Life gave us two things 1) Leche's wonderful score that featured the original song "Hell No" which saw him dueting with Regina Spektor, and 2) The AV Club's ongoing sequel script of Dan In Real Life: Back 2 Life.8. Tim Delaughter - Thumbsucker
While he film suffers from being part of the deluge of adolescents coming of age kick of the mid-2000s, Mike Mills' Thumbsucker did give Polyphonic Spree front man Tim Delaughter, who took over the score after the passing of Elliott Smith, an opportunity to explore the band's trademark whimsey and layer it next to the darker melancholy turns of the film. What was produced was a lighthearted fare that reminds you of the Spree's previous work, while the starker aspects seemed to hint at Delaughter's future output.7. M83 - Oblivion
I'm 99% sure more people have listened to the score and soundtrack than have seen this movie so far. M83 is still riding the wave from their last two albums; all the film has is Tom Cruise running away from fire while wearing an exoskeleton.6. James Murphy - Greenberg
Listen it feels like James Murphy can do no wrong as there really never felt like there was a bad LCD Soundsystem track and Greenberg's score felt a bridge between the band's albums, a bridge that helped make a Noah Baumbach's film feel like it was better then it was.5. Mastadon - Jonah Hex
I tried so hard to like the movie because of excitement over this soundtrack, but not even Mastadon's southern fried sludge score could save it. The EP released of the score is highly recommended, just try not to think about Megan Fox's acting while listening.4. Nigel Godrich & Beck - Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Radiohead's producer + Beck + Canada's biggest indie bands + ready made music heavy material = one of the funnest and most addictive scores around, which just so happens to sound like every video game you played growing up mixed with every song you sort of recognized while out at the bar.3. The RZA - Kill Bill
You know what seems incredibly difficult? Scoring original music for a director whose personal use of songs in his films have become so ingrained in popular knowledge that it is almost impossible to hear any of those songs without thinking of his work. This is what RZA faced when he agreed to work on Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, and when you add in Tarantino's need to use sound effects as pop culture signifiers, it's amazing that RZA's original score shines through so brightly. Partner this with RZA's groundbreaking work on Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog and you start to understand why some consider RZA contemporaries with Mark Mothersbaugh and Danny Elfman.2. Explosions In The Sky - Friday Night Lights
It was really only a matter of time before Explosions In The Sky were asked to bring their ethereal post rock to a soundtrack, and none would seem to better fit the emotional highs of the band's work then the tale of a football team from small town Texas attempting to grab the brass ring of a championship amongst economic, racial, political and personal strife.1. Johnny Greenwood (of Radiohead) - There Will Be Blood
Even though it was disqualified for Oscar consideration due to Greenwood's use of a previous arrangement from Greenwood's previous soundtrack work on Bodysong and a work from Brahms, Greenwood's engaging score blends so perfectly with Paul Anderson's film that it has earned a spot along John Williams' best work as a recognizable and lasting score.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.