It’s been a long time since I sat down and took time actually write a list for you guys. I love movies and I love the ones with great music in them. Unfortunately, scores and soundtracks with original music go overlooked by a general audience when in reality, there are hundreds of beautiful pieces of music composed by some of the most talented minds out there, but they aren’t credited for their work unless it’s John Williams or Hans Zimmer respectively.
To be fair, none of them will be excluded just because of their names, but we will see if they make the cut at all. A modern score for me is not a score that sounds modern, but rather a score that has been created recently (we’ll give or take the last 5-10 years) which merits some respect or appreciation. I’m picking scores in films that truly help define the film or enhance an already compelling story or capture what the movie truly represents.
10. Open Spaces by Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead) – There Will Be Blood (2007)
There Will Be Blood is a masterpiece in film making and it’s stamp on film history is forever embedded, but a masterpiece doesn’t limit itself to strictly remarkable acting – even if it’s Daniel Day-Lewis – and even a great film needs some incredible music to bring you raw emotions of such a dramatic character piece. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood has collaborated with director Paul Thomas Anderson on multiple films and has produced incredible results each time, but I think he produced his best work with this award-nominated piece from the film.
9. Doors and Distance by Antonio Sanchez – Birdman (2014)
Ever since I saw Birdman opening night with two of my film fanatic friends, I was mesmerized by the kinetic nature of the film and it’s appropriately composed score that is strictly just one man on his drums. For many it may sound unimpressive or simple, but in context of the film, it provides a sensation that all the characters are feeling at the same time. It’s a transportation device that makes you want to bob and tap while you listen to it through a far more complex creative process than I think people know.
8. Cornfield Chase by Hans Zimmer – Interstellar (2014)
A film that somehow managed to give me a Ph.D. in physics within only three hours also came with a minor in the rare skill of playing the pipe organ. Hans Zimmer composes yet again for The Dark Knight and Inception director Christopher Nolan to astounding result. Played to make you feel like you were floating in space without anything, not even gravity, pulling you down, this melodic yet almost creepy score really does make you feel like you’re traveling through time and space.
5. L’Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock by Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight (2015)
It’s kind of hard to not think of Quentin Tarantino without thinking of the music for his films. Oddly enough, he didn’t start having too many original scores or themes for his films until a little later in his career when he started dabbling in the western genre, with a film that is later on this list, and you can’t have westerns of any kind without a good score to go along with it. I saw this on Christmas with a friend of mine in a 70mm screening with the overtures and everything, but it’s the score that made me not get up and pee. Damn you Ennio Morricone!
4. Flight by Hans Zimmer – Man of Steel (2013)
Most of you are aware of my love for Man of Steel. It’s origin on Superman takes a realistic, saturated take and gives us a new superman for the next generation. It was only right that they try to veer away from John Williams original score with these new films simply because the tone didn’t fit. With this Superman, we get a God-like being living among us with a conflict of right and what he feels is right for the people of earth. That’s what Flight is able to give us when he defies gravity and pushes up into the sky to become what his fathers wanted him to be.
3. Mr. Moustafa by Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Before you call director Wes Anderson a pretentious film maker who only appeals to hipsters, f**k you. Back to the score… it’s terrific. It’s playful, culturally specific, and all around fun, just like the movie it’s written for. The jumpy, quippy nature is what makes me enjoy this piece so much specifically. Unlike most of the scores I tend to like, dramatic and sweeping Lord of the Rings types of scores, this one breaks the mold entirely. It’s not sweeping and full of French horns, and instead chooses to play some piano keys, zithers and balalaikas.
2. Django’s Main Theme – Django Unchained (2012)
Easily in my top five favorites of all time (personal list obviously), I was hooked in like a sucker as soon as the classic yellow subtitles came onto the screen with the whip sounds and the shout of “Django!” at the beginning of the song. It’s magnifying. It’s weirdly traditional, but modern enough for me to jam to in the car or in my living room. It’s…DJANGO!
1. Epilogue by Justin Hurwitz – La La Land (2016)
I’m just in awe of this movie. Everything about it has captured my heart and trust me, I am not someone who ever uses the phrase “capture my heart” in conversation, so if it’s got me talking like one of the Mom’s at your book club, it must be good. The whole soundtrack is on repeat in my new home here in Southern California and it couldn’t be more fitting. Justin Hurwitz took home the Oscar this year for his work on the song “City of Stars” which I wanted to pick, but I think you got the best of everything in this track in particular.