Music in the movies: 10 best movie scores of 2010

The movie score is, perhaps, less prevalent than it once was. But here are 10 standout scores that accompanied 2010's movie releases...

Following on from my wrap-up of my favourite movie songs of 2010, I thought I’d look at my favourite scores of the year. Some of the films will have been available elsewhere prior to 2010, but the following list represents my favourite scores that have accompanied UK cinematic releases over the past year…

The Ghost – Alexandre Desplat

Desplat’s classical-influenced score for Roman Polanski’s rather excellent latest feature is an excellent piece of work when enjoying the pieces as individual works. There are elements that are reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann in this suspenseful and dramatic score, and whilst it’s not a great listening experience aside from the film, this represents a highlight in the composer’s long career.

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Predators – John Debney (Alan Silvestri)

Like the film itself, Debney’s score borrows heavily from the other films in the franchise by taking themes and integrating them into his own work. This is unmistakably Predator, but with a new spin on it. For me, this is a large part of why I think this is such an effective score and, in many ways, it’s better than Alan Silvestri’s scores for the original movies. I know that could be deemed as sacrilege by some, but that’s my feeling, having experienced it in the film and having the benefit of listening to it numerous times away from the film.

I’m a huge fan of Silvestri and his previous scores, but Debney’s score here takes the best part of Silvestri’s scores for Predator and Predator 2 and gives them a reboot with his own rock sensibilities, which finds him layering dark guitar parts and updated rhythms that lean more towards techno than the Latin beats favoured in the original.

The Expendables – Brian Tyler

From the opening main theme through to the closer of Mayhem And Finale, this is a score as action-packed and spectacular as the film itself, and one that would be a welcome addition to the record collections of fans of the film and film scores alike.

On the strength of this, it’s easy to see why Tyler is one of the go-to guys for action scores and is certainly a name to look out for on future projects. I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with for the intriguing Battle: Los Angeles.

The results here are really very good, with this being one of the finest scores for an action movie I have heard for quite some time, and at this point, it stands as one of my favourite scores of the year. Yes, it really is that good.

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Mother – Lee Byung-woo

Lee Byung-woo’s beautiful score for Bong Joon-Ho’s brilliant film, Mother, is used sparingly, but when it is employed, it’s highly effective, particularly in the scenes that bookend the film of Kim Hye-Ja dancing.

These delicate guitar pieces really are fantastic and the other pieces that make up the rest of the score are of the high quality that has come to be expected from the composer, who composed one of the most effective horror scores of recent times for A Tale Of Two Sisters.

Sadly, I can’t seem to find a copy of this anywhere. If anyone could help readers out in finding it, that would be smashing.

Ponyo – Joe Hisaishi

Studio Ghibli’s beautiful and heart-warming take on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid featured a beautiful score from composer Joe Hisaishi.

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Hisaishi’s work here is more operatic in tone than his previous work, but retains the elements that make his music unmistakable, and the result is a very, very, effective soundtrack. It’s a shame that the annoying song that plays out over the closing credits will be what a lot of people remember about the music of the film, rather than Hisaishi’s brilliant score.

Although originally released in its native Japan in 2008, Hisaishi’s score earns a place on this list due to its cinematic release on these shores earlier in the year.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World – Nigel Godrich

Godrich’s score is as strong and as varied as the soundtrack album to accompany the film. It’s a piece that wears its influences on its sleeve, with elements of popular videogame music creeping its way in.

This score is a work of genre-defying madness that utilises an assortment of musical styles to enhance the mood of the piece. From the aforementioned melancholic post rock to up-tempo dance pieces, this is a varied but highly effective debut score that’s an interesting break from the orchestral scores that have accompanied much of the year’s biggest pictures.

A whole lot of credit should go Godrich’s way for his work here, as he was responsible for producing the original material on the soundtrack, as well as composing the score.

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Tron Legacy – Daft Punk

Like the film itself, I have to say I was left a little underwhelmed by Daft Punk’s score here. Don’t get me wrong. It is a good score and easily one of the best, however, I couldn’t help feel a little disappointed that the French duo seemed to be largely mimicking Hans Zimmer as opposed to producing something true to themselves.

Lead track Derezzed hinted at something much more schizophrenic and interesting than what they produced. The scene in which the aforementioned track features is very entertaining and features a cameo from the band and an extremely subtle performance from Michael Sheen.

How To Train Your Dragon – John Powell

Possibly my favourite animated film of the year, How To Train Your Dragon is an exciting and emotional viewing experience that features breathtaking flight sequences and an amazing score composed by John Powell.

Powell is a composer whose work I admire, but I was surprised at just how good this score was and how well it enhanced the film. There’s not a piece that seems out of place throughout the entire score, and had it not been for some other strong efforts, this would have been my runaway winner for score of the year. It was the front runner for quite some time.

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Inception – Hans Zimmer

Zimmer’s scores have accompanied some of the biggest and best blockbusters over the years, so it was little surprise that he was the composer of choice for Christopher Nolan to score his ambitious and intelligent sci-fi epic, Inception.  Zimmer had worked previously with Nolan through his fantastic work on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, so clearly Nolan was confident he could deliver the goods.

Zimmer is accompanied here by former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr (who has also recently been a member of both Modest Mouse and The Cribs), who contributes guitar work to Zimmer’s bold orchestrations. It’s an incredibly emotive piece that can turn from morose melancholy to out and out action with ease, an astonishingly good score for an utterly amazing film.

The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Reznor’s first full length score with collaborator Atticus Ross is one of the more interesting of the year. A break from much of the traditional orchestrations that accompany many dramatic pieces of work, this is instead an extension of his latter work with Nine Inch Nails and his other side projects, as he interweaves simple and melodic piano lines with walls of distorted guitar and glitch electronic noises.

It’s a confident and assured piece of work, and perhaps most importantly, it’s hugely effective within the context of the film. It provides such an important role but never becomes oppressive or takes the focal point away from the rich dialogue.

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At the centrepiece of the score is an excellent rendition of Greig’s At The Table Of The Mountain King, which could have seemed ridiculous had it not been so well executed.

So, that completes my wrap-up of my favourite scores of 2010. Please add your favourites in the comments section below.

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