My Top 5 Film Scores of All Time
Movies, in my opinion, are the most accessible and important art form we have right now. An ultra-crucial part of that which people don't often consider is the music. While some ignorantly dismiss it as a mere cheap tool just meant to manipulate the audience's emotions, it's an art form like any other aspect of filmmaking, with much more capability than telling you what to feel. The following selections are not only my favorite scores, but also soundtracks that support and embellish the action onscreen.
5. Under the Skin (2014)/Composed by Mica Levi
This, quite simply, was a score unlike any I had heard before. To give some context, the film in question followed an alien (Scarlett Johansson) in disguise as a beautiful woman in Scotland, as she scoured the streets for men to pick up, for nefarious purposes. However, events led her to question her identity as she continues to learn about what it means to be a human. Ms. Levi's score adds the perfectly surreal cherry on top of this trip of a picture that creates an unsettling, otherworldly atmosphere. What more could I possibly say about it?
4. Finding Nemo (2003)/Composed by Thomas Newman
Now, I've enjoyed listening to movie scores ever since I was a little one. When it came to animated films, this legend's score for Finding Nemo stood out amongst the rest. Quiet and soulful, yet also boisterous and full of adventure, it was the perfect blend for the story of a father traveling across the ocean to rescue his son. What's more, it perfectly supported the action happening on the screen, whether Nemo was being taken by a diver, Marlin and Dory were being chased by a shark, or Nemo and Marlin were making amends at the end of the movie. I still can recall so many pieces vividly, which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of soundtracks to films of this medium.
3. Midsommar (2019)/Composed by Bobby Krlic, aka The Haxan Cloak
Now this is a tricky one for me to describe. The soundtrack to Ari Aster's hit surrealist breakup movie (as the writer/director himself put it), it was a collection of pieces that knew to at once set me on edge, put me under its spell, and manipulate how I felt about what was happening, in the most effective way possible. Some of my favorite tracks included 'Fire Temple', 'Attestupa' and 'Gassed', which encompassed this strange mixture of emotions perfectly. It added so much to the effect of watching the main character Dani's (Florence Pugh) journey as she was skillfully inducted into the story's central cult, the Hargas. This isn't a score you just listen to; it washes over you like a crashing wave.
2. The Menu (2022)/Composed by Colin Stetson
Best known for his soundtrack to the hit horror film Hereditary (2018) and his solo work as a saxophonist, this artist's outstanding score for The Menu (2022) was easily the best film score I heard last year. For those unfamiliar, the satirical dark comedy followed a young couple named Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), who attended an exclusive feast for the rich on an isolated island, wherein chef Julian Slowik's (Ralph Fiennes) courses became increasingly disturbing and surprising, dissecting both his and the guests' shortcomings under a microscope. Stetson's music perfectly lent to the progression of the evening, being by turns ethereal, menacing, adventurous. It's always a pleasure to listen to.
Eighth Grade (2018)/Composed by Anna Meredith
Of course my favorite score would also be for my favorite film. The soundtrack to actor and comedian Bo Burnham's writing/directing debut, this sonic masterpiece was full of vibrant, booming pieces that fit the picture's appropriately all-over-the-place tone, as heroine Kayla (Elsie Fisher) navigated the various ups and downs of her life. What was more, the music didn't seem to suggest what to think or feel. It merely amplified how Kayla felt internally. Having found it so relatable when I first saw the film, this element really bolstered the overall effect of the whole thing.
All of these scores, and all of these movies, are worth checking out. You can listen to the albums here:
And, you can rent or buy the films here: