Undefended: The Best Film Music of the Decade

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Undefended: The Best Film Music of the Decade

As the decade comes to a close, FilmFisher’s writers will be spending the next few months looking back at the cinema of the 2010s and compiling “Best of the Decade” lists in various categories. This month, they highlighted the best film music of the decade.

Timothy Lawrence

  1. TRON: Legacy (Daft Punk) – The film score that got me into film scores.
  2. Under the Skin (Mica Levi) – Enough said: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_Cc20I-maM
  3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (John Williams) – The new Star Wars films have many shortcomings. Williams’ work is not one of them.
  4. Phantom Thread (Jonny Greenwood) – I can think of no score that has set my romantic heart a-flutter more than this one.
  5. Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (various) – The soundtrack album includes advertisements so you can pretend you’re listening to the radio in 1969. That is what I have been doing for the past month while driving around the greater L.A. area.

Travis Kyker

Discounting Phantom Thread and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for variety’s sake…
  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (original score, Alexandre Desplat) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7ITGYkOAdE)
  2. Inside Llewyn Davis (soundtrack, various artists)
  3. True Grit (original score, Carter Burwell) (below)
  4. First Man (original score, Justin Hurwitz)
  5. Annihilation (original score, Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow & soundtrack, various artists)

Joel Bourgeois

  1. Cloud Atlas (2012, Tom Tykwer)
  2. Under the Skin (2013, Mica Levi)
  3. Whiplash (2014, Justin Hurwitz) – ya like jazz?
  4. A Ghost Story (2017, Daniel Hart)
  5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018, various)

Robert Brown

The hymn-inspired True Grit and hip-hop-infused Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse would have been on my list, but since they’ve already been claimed I’ll put two honorable mentions as my #5 and #4.
  1. Hans Zimmer Double Feature: Inception (2010) and Interstellar (2014).
  2. Michael Giacchino: Dawn of / War for the Planet of the Apes (2014, 2017)
  3. John Powell: The How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy (2010, 2014, 2019)
  4. Alan Silvestri: Selections from the Marvel Symphonic Universe (2010, 2012, 2018, 2019)
  5. Justin Hurwitz, et. al: La La Land (2016)

William Connor Devlin

So very hard to rank them individually, so here’s five in alphabetical order:

  1. Elle (Anne Dudley) – Manages to really work alongside Paul Verhoeven’s disturbing, multifaceted opus, choosing to stay elegiac and grounded, choosing to undermining the darkness and tragedy of the title character’s psyche. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ky02Lt0vqg)
  2. Godzilla (Alexandre Desplat) – One of the very best blockbuster scores of the decade, and another jewel for Desplat’s crown, this time showing him just as capable at dramatic bombast as his peers, if not more so. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1tqRYwZlUo)
  3. It Follows (Disasterpeace) – Captures the droning, foreboding essence of the film’s horror so very well, and it’s the best bit of synth score from this century that respectfully recalls John Carpenter’s work. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrqS96JxWVA)
  4. Jackie (Mica Levi) – Although I prefer her score to Under the Skin, for the sake of diversity, Levi’s score for this biopic is far and away one of the best the genre has ever received, both daringly different and perfectly pitched. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3otEsS5jiE)
  5. The Neon Demon (Cliff Martinez) – Forgoes recurring themes and motifs for something darkly chilly, perfectly capturing the picture in question’s exploration of beauty and artifice with plenty of dark undercurrent. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwWj7vj7syY)

Tom Upjohn

Robert, glad you included How to Train Your Dragon and Nolan’s films.

  1. The Social Network (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, 2010)
  2. Sicario (Jóhann Jóhannsson, 2015)
  3. The Tree of Life (Alexandre Desplat, 2011)
  4. Blade Runner 2049 (Hanz Zimmer, 2017)
  5. Shutter Island (various, 2010)

Joshua Gibbs

  1. Phantom Thread, Johnny Greenwood
  2. Under the Skin, Mica Levi
  3. Drive, Cliff Martinez
  4. Luz, Simon Waskow
  5. A Single Man, Abel Korzeniowski

A Single Man is technically 2009, but didn’t get a real US release until 2010.

I think Alexander Desplat deserves some special award for upholding the increasingly neglected tradition of melodically-scored films and memorable themes. Hans Zimmer is great and all, but it’s Zimmer’s fault that there’s not really a young class of composers doing work in the style of John Williams and James Horner. Also, I’m not really one for originality, but the soundtrack to Swiss Army Man kind of needs to be heard to be believed.

Jackson De Vight

  1. Inception (2010), Hans Zimmer
  2. Black Panther (2018), Kendrick Lamar et al.
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Various Artists
  4. Tangled (2010), Alan Menken
  5. Deadpool (2016), Various Artists

Josiah Dyches

  1. You Were Never Really Here (2018)
  2. Arrival (2016)
  3. Her (2013)
  4. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
  5. The Master (2012)

Remy Wilkins

When I listen to movie soundtracks outside of their movies, it’s because I’m looking for mood music when I write. Several of my selections reflect that, but I had to include a couple that I find striking within their films as well.

  1. Tree of Life : various artists : Not the “official soundtrack” by Alexandre Desplat (of which only a few seconds appear in the movie) but the music that appears in the film Tree of Life. Ranging from Brahms to Gorecki, Ottorino Respighi to Zbigniew Preisner, the soundtrack is as much a feast for the ears as the movie is a feast to the eyes.
  2. TRON Legacy : Daft Punk : A modern day The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack.
  3. Beasts of the Southern Wild : Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin : truly unique, truly beautiful, so truly fitted into the world of the movie that it’s a marvel that it stands so well on its own.
  4. Swiss Army Man : Andy Hull & Robert McDowell : I defy you not to be utterly delighted by this.
  5. (tie) Oblivion : M83 / Blade Runner 2049 : Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch : Dystopian mood music.

Royce Benson

  1. Drive
  2. La La Land
  3. The VVitch
  4. Blade Runner 2049
  5. Baby Driver


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