Countdown – My Top 40 Film Score Moments of the Decade (2010-2019)

TL;DR – I countdown all of my top 40 moments in cinematic music from Moana to Dunkirk to Tron and more.


As we think back to the decade that was, I have been musing about the amazing films that we have gotten to see and hear. While I was putting together my Top 100 Films of the Decade list one thing that I kept coming back to was the impact that the musical scores had on me so I decided to do a list focused just on them.

In this countdown, we will look at those musical moments that defined the decade for me. Most of these will be instrumental moments, but a couple of songs written for films also make their way into this list as well. For me, these are the moments that I think about long after the film is over, the moments I hum in my head or take me back to the cinema in those first moments I was watching the film. They show the power of the musical form to convey emotion, to tell stories, and to bring excitement.

With this list, we are going to focus on one individual song rather than the score as a whole because these are the moments that punched through for me. If there is a banner, you can click on it and get taken to our review of the film, as well as this, I have added Spotify links so you can listen to the songs yourself. It was really difficult to keep the list to just 40, so I would be really interested to hear what would be on your list, so let me know in the comments below. Well, without any further ado, let’s dive in.

40) We Are Sex Bob-Omb

Film: Scott Pilgram vs The World (2010)
Composer: Beck Hansen
Performers: Sex Bob-Omb (Michael Cera, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Beck and Brian LeBarton)
Link: Spotify

We start our list with a little bit of rock as we explore the wonderfully weird world of Scott Pilgrim. We Are Sex Bob-Omb is the title theme, but more than that, we picked it because it sets the tone for what is about to come. The film is filled with wonderful musical performances and Black Sheep was another that almost made it onto our list. But as a story of an eclectic rock band whose bass player has to fight a legion of evil exes, well nothing quite sums up just how odd that is like that opening number.    

39) Gotham’s Reckoning

Film: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Link: Spotify

The last film in Christopher Nolen’s Batman trilogy did not hit that same mark for everyone, though I quite enjoyed it. However, one area where it undoubtedly succeeds is in its musical score from Hans Zimmer (a name you will see pop up on this list more than once). It starts with strings that put you on edge pulsating like a heartbeat before the percussion ratchets up the tension. You know something is wrong and you work out just how wrong things are just as the characters on screen discover it. It ends in a crescendo of chaos, which is very much the world of The Dark Knight Rises itself.     

38) Marauders Arrive


Film: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Composer: John Powell
Link: Spotify

If there has ever been a franchise that has been defined by one musical voice it has been Star Wars, indeed the legacy of John Williams is hard to escape, even here in Solo. However, there is at least one moment when instead of linking to the past, they take the music in a new direction and that is the Train Chase sequence which is the highlight of the film. The combination of the trumpets, vocals, and high violins create this sonic tension that perfectly frames up a heist on a train that changes rotation at all times, only to be made more complicated when people come to steal what they just stole.  

37) The End?

Film: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Link: Spotify

The Sherlock movies from Guy Ritchie are these weirdly entertaining romps through time and space, and one of the best buddy-cop films in a long while. Well, its musical score from Hans sums this up as we jump from one-stringed instrument to the next as the drums beat in the background at a frenetic pace.  

36) The Dragon Warrior

Kung Fu Panda 3. Image Credit: Dreamworks.

Film: Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Link: Spotify

The last decade was the moment where Dreamworks Animation found its voice and when they did it shined in all its glory. At the core of that discovery was the Kung Fu Panda series, three films that are full of joy. That joy is on full display here in the third and maybe final film in the series. The Dragon Warrior is the culmination of a long journey for Po, and you both see it and feel it as we battle through the spirit realm we get hints of themes from the past but all framed in a new glorious light.

35) Your Father Would be Proud

Rogue One (Rouge One: A Star Wars Story). Image Credit; Disney/Lucasarts.

Film: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Link: Spotify

Our next Star Wars film on the list (and not the last mind you) Rogue One is a film full of contradictions. However, all of that coalesces in the final act where we get this mournful tome about the price you have to pay to fight evil. While it is full of sadness for what has come and what is about to come, there is just that hint of hope in the trumpets and clarinets that prepares you for the big coral moment that took my breath away. It perfectly frames that third act might might be the best Star Wars since the original trilogy.  

34) Escape Waltz

Paddington 2. Image Credit: Studio Canal.

Film: Paddington 2 (2017)
Composer: Dario Marianelli
Link: Spotify

If there is one word you could use to sum up the Paddington films, it would be charming. The characters, the story, the world, and yes the music is all charming. And while Hugh Grant’s musical is almost here for its sheer chaotic energy. We have to give it to Dario’s beautiful escape sequence set to the ticking of a clock and full of beauty.

33) Manners Maketh Man 

Kingsman. Image Credit: Marv/Fox.

Film: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2016)
Composer: Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson
Link: Spotify

A new British spy film that was not Bond but still really, really good, well sign me up. Well, there are a lot of interesting moments throughout the film from the editing to quippy back and forth. But where you really feel that energy is in the musical score and Manners Maketh Man is the perfect embodiment of that. 

32) Waiting for the Lights

Film: Tangled (2010)
Composer: Alan Menken
Link: Spotify

Like a lot of Disney films, Tangled has a lot of really great songs that I could have picked here such as Mother Knows Best, or I’ve Got a Dream. However, there is one moment in the whole film that packs more of a punch than any other and that is when Rapunzel after visiting the city gets to see the lanterns first hand for the first time in her life not knowing that they are for her. It is full of joy and sadness and a perfect musical moment.

31) No Man’s Land

Image Credit: Warner Bros

Film: Wonder Woman (2017)
Composers: Rupert Gregson-Williams (& Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL)
Link: Spotify

If there is one leitmotif (musical theme) that reverberated across the world in the last decade it was the powerful introduction of Wonder Woman in the otherwise ill-fated Batman v Superman. That musical moment by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL was obviously going to be incorporated into Rupert Gregson-Williams’ musical score for Wonder Woman however he does not just drop it in there are call it a day. The music all throughout the film gives you hints of the theme without ever bringing it to the foreground, just audibly teasing it. Then in what is probably the thematic climax of the film, the moment Diana becomes Wonder Woman, we build and build, as we go through no man’s land you keep holding your breath waiting for that moment, and they keep you in suspense until it drops in a moment of glory.

30) Clash    

Captain America: Civil War. Image Credit: Marvel/Disney.

Film: Captain America Civil War (2016)
Composer: Henry Jackman
Link: Spotify

There are moments when watching a film that you realise that this one moment that you will always remember seeing for the first time, for me one of those moments came during Captain America: Civil War. We got a taste of that in Civil War that came earlier in the film, but there is a level of frustrating hopelessness that comes to the bare in Clash as two friends go to war and things will forever be changed. This is highlighted by the falling horns that punctuate things falling apart.  

29) Crossing the Marigold Bridge

Coco. Image Credit: Pixar/Disney.

Film: Coco (2017)
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Link: Spotify

If there is a film that almost overwhelms you with its beauty, its Pixar’s Coco. The first place you see that in full relief is in the moment where the cross the marigold bridge into the land of the dead. It is a moment that takes your breath away and what helps sell it is Michael Giacchino’s musical score. It is full of beauty and melancholy, with also a little hint of xylophone because hey when you have skeletons, why not. 

28) Elisa’s Theme

The Shape of the Water

Film: The Shape of Water (2018)
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Link: Spotify

The Shape of Water from Guillermo del Toro is a very odd film from start to finish and where that is highlighted the most is in the musical score. It interlaces flutes, pianos, and several stringed instruments to create this theme with many different layers and it is a theme that perfectly encapsulated Elisa.

27) Come Back To Us

1917. Image Credit: Universal.

Film: 1917 (2019)
Composer: Thomas Newman
Link: Spotify

While a lot is being said (quite rightly) about 1917’s themes and technical achievements, for me another area where it triumphed was in its musical score. It is full of sadness, and a single cello calling out into the night will always bring a tear to my eyes. There is a sense of futility, but also of relief all captured through the music.

26) Showtime, A-holes

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Image Credit: Marvel/Disney.

Film: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Composer: Tyler Bates
Link: Spotify

The Guardians of the Galaxy films are probably better known for their excellent selection of licenced songs used to bring fun to every moment in the film. However, I want to take a moment to champion their musical scores and a no better place to do that is when we get one of the best fanfares in all of the Marvel cinematic universe. 

25) The Oil

Dunkirk. Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Film: Dunkirk (2017)
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Link: Spotify

Tension is something that is very difficult to capture on-screen, and one of the ways you can help heighten that particular emotion is with music and a fantastic example of this is Dunkirk. When you have a film that is jumping between different timelines at the climax of the film you need something to tie it all together and Hans’ score that encompasses foreboding strings, an actual ticking clock, and even some electronic distortion does just that and more.  

24) Mia & Sebastion’s Theme

La La Land. Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Film: La La Land (2016)
Composer: Justin Hurwitz
Link: Spotify

Now I have to admit that I do not love La La Land as much as a lot of my friends do, but there is one area where the film excels for me and that is in its score from Justin Hurwitz. The heart of this theme is a piano that sings to the universe as two people fall deeply in love with each other. It is used at just the right moments in the film, but then there is also a hint of the sadness that is to come and we hear all of it.

23) Mystery of Love

Call Me by Your Name

Film: Call Me By Your Name (2010)
Composer: Sufjan Stevens
Performer: Sufjan Stevens
Link: Spotify

The soundtrack to Call Me By Your Name is simply stacked as it explores across the world of classical music and beyond. However, one moment that stands out among all the others and that is the charm that is Mystery of Love. Sufjan Stevens’ hushed lyrics, religious themes, and plucked guitar offset by piano and xylophone creates a wave of warm that encompasses you. It brings you back to those first moments of new love and that is the power of music.

22) Grandmaster Jam Session 

Thor: Ragnarok. Image Credit: Marvel/Disney

Film: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh
Link: Spotify

If there is an award for best soft-reboot of a film franchise in the last decade it would go to Thor: Ragnarok that took elements of the past films but then rebuilt them and repurposed them into something new. Where we can see that on display is in the musical score that ditches the orchestral score for a pumping electronic beat that perfectly encapsulates the odd world of Sakaar run by an undying overlord that runs gladiatorial bouts for his own enjoyment. It is energetic, odd, and deeply compelling, which pretty much sums up the whole film.

21) Makutekahu 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Image Credit: Madman.

Film: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2017)
Composers: Lukasz Pawel Buda, Samuel Scott, and Conrad Wedde (Moniker)
Performers: Pepe Becker, Anna Sedcole, Phillip Collins, and Robert Oliver
Link: Spotify

First impressions can have a big impact on people and this goes with the music as well as the visuals. So in the very quirky Hunt for the Wilderpeople we get the opening titles of the expansive New Zealand bush as an almost religious hymn plays over the top. On the high notes, we get coral voices in Latin, and in the lower register, we get the response in Māori. This creates a beautiful juxtaposition as we arrive but also gives a hint as to the story that is about to come.

20) Statues    

Film: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Link: Spotify

Another film series that has been dominated by the musical work of John Williams is the world of Harry Potter, with Hedwig’s Theme being one of the most recognisable works of cinematic music out there. However, there is one moment in the last film that hits just as hard. The castle is under attack and there is fear in the air, and as they are getting ready McGonagall casts a spell to bring the status of Hogwarts alive. It is while this is happening that Alexandre’s pulsating strings play offset by chanting and with drums signalling the start of the conflict. It brings you into that moment of the lull before the storm and the damage that is about to come.

19) Casino Brawl

Black Panther. Image Credit: Disney/Marvel.

Film: Black Panther (2017)
Composer: Ludwig Goransson
Link: Spotify

Over the years, if there has been one complaint of the Marvel cinematic universe, well one other than weak villains, and that has been the haphazard response to the integration of their musical scores. There has not been as much to latch on to and make stand out. Well if that had not changed before, it certainly did with Black Panther which we hear come to the fore in the Casino Brawl. The music slowly builds and builds, incorporating more drums and horns building a pulsating rhythm as the tension in the room ratchets up. Then right at the crescendo, we are greeted with the theme for the Dora Milaje in all its glory and damn what a moment. 

18) Cornfield Chase  

Film: Interstellar (2014)
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Link: Spotify

If there is one film over the last decade that has created a confusing reaction from me it has to be Interstellar. In many ways, this is a film that is perfectly targeted right at me, but when I watched in the cinemas I bounced right off it. However, in the preceding years, I was reintroduced to its musical score and it found a place in my heart. In the Cornfield Chase, we see the start of the development of themes that would expand throughout the film. The call and response, the piano merging into an organ and more, and the pulsating build. It is beautiful and one day I will go back and give the film a second chance, for its score if nothing else.

17) Busy to Survive (두번째 동분서주)

Parasite (Gisaengchung, 기생충). Image Credit: Madman Films.

Film: Parasite (Gisaengchung, 기생충) (2019)
Composer: Jung Jaeil
Link: Spotify

It is really hard to describe Parasite as a film, especially as it is still out in cinemas at the time of writing and the nature of the film is to know as little about it as possible before going in. However, if there was something that could sum up the film it is its musical score. In Busy to Survive we get the juxtaposition of harsh string strikes with almost ethereal piano pulsating underneath. It is disorientating but yet also perfect for the film.   

18) Nai Nai

The Farewell (Bié Gàosù Tā, 別告訴她). Image Credit: A24.

Film: The Farewell (Bié Gàosù Tā, 別告訴她) (2019)
Composers: Alex Weston
Performer: Mykal Kigore
Link: Spotify

The Farewell is a film about a lie, a lie that brings a family together to hide something from their Nai Nai. The soundtrack is a haunting mix of deep sting strikes interlaced with angelic voices. It helps tell a story of a conflict between what you want and what your family wants, a conflict of your two worlds, and also the conflict of finding out what you yourself believe. But it is also a story of love and the musical score captures all of that. 

15) Manny Mothers

Mad Max Fury Road. Image Credit: Warner Brothers.

Film: Mad Max Fury Road (2015)
Composer: Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg)
Link: Spotify

Mad Max Fury Road is a film that is full of bombast, pomp, and circumstance. However, at this moment, everything is stripped away as for the first time in her life Furiosa loses all hope for a moment. This is captured in the score punctuated by a cello as it calls out into the night in fear and anguish. However, it is supported by a reverb of strings showing that not all is lost and indeed where there is an end there is also a new beginning.

14) Crossing Mars

The Martian. Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Film: The Martian (2015)
Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams
Link: Spotify

One of the films that I have adored in the last decade is The Martian, which has almost a clinical or possibly scientific feel to the orchestrations. You hear it in Science the S*** Out of This and also in Crossing Mars. It uses single plucks of an electric guitar in the foreground as strings sing underneath. This is augmented by electronic sounds in places and roaring brass section in others. It really captures Mars in a new light that is very different from Holst’s masterpiece that influences the sound of many that came before it.

13) Par-tay for the Course  

Star Trek Beyond. Image Credit: Paramount.

Film: Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Link: Spotify

One composer’s work I have found in the last decade that becomes an instant plus when I know they are working on a film is Michael Giacchino. His musical scores, as well as having the most amusing titles out there, also have a lyrical quality to them that perfectly sets the scene. We see this encapsulated in Star Trek Beyond where in the score Par-tay for the Course we’ve reached the end of some really trying times for the crew. Here they are coming together to reminisce about the past but also be hopeful for the future and you can hear that in the music. It also helps that we get hints of the main Kelvin Star Trek theme which might Michael’s best musical track to date.

12) Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

CAT in Skyfall. Image Credit: MGM.

Film: Skyfall (2012)
Composer: Thomas Newman
Link: Spotify

Being in charge of the music for a new Bond film must one of the greatest joys but also one of the biggest challenges in musical score creation. There is so much legacy at play here, but then because of the multitude of musical authors and musical styles that have been used throughout its history, there is a wide playground to find your mark in. We see that being highlighted in Skyfall, the best of the recent batch of Bond films. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, has to do a lot of heavy lifting, it has to set the mood of the film, set the place, it also has to accompany an action scene, and look to the past and the future. We keep getting little hints of the Bond theme throughout but it keeps pulling back as the percussion lets lose. So when that moment finally does hit it is all the better.

11) I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)

Moana. Image Credit: Disney.

Film: Moana (2016)
Composers: Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa’I & Lin-Manuel Miranda
Performer: Rachel House & Auli’I Cravalho
Link: Spotify

I love the film Moana, indeed it might be my favourite film from the Disney animation studios. This is a film with so many great moments that it is hard to know which one to pick but if there is one that stands out among all the others is it is I Am Moana which might just outpace You’re Welcome. It is at the moment when Moana is at her lowest, and it is this moment when she gets some help from the one place she truly needs it. It is a beautiful and uplifting song about someone finding themselves from the depth of grief. It is here for the first time that Moana realises who she truly is to herself, not who she is to others and I am here for it.

10) Once There Were Dragons

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Film: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)
Composer: John Powell
Link: Spotify

Now, if you read our Top 100 Films of the Decade list, then you knew that John Powell’s score was going to be here somewhere, but the question is: which musical theme to pick. It was not an easy choice to make and in the end, I kind of cheated. Not only is Once There Were Dragons the crowning moment of the third film, it also brings the whole trilogy together in one moment. Among the new music, it brings with all the wonderful choral moments as it progresses it also incorporates many of the main themes from all the films. It was the perfect emotional moment in the film and it always brings a tear to my eye when ever I hear it. 

9) Dream is Collapsing/Time

Film: Inception (2010)
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Link: Spotify

So yes, Hans Zimmer’s work has appeared a lot in this list (six times to be exact), however, I don’t think you can talk about the last decade without reflecting on who was probably its most influential composer. Indeed, his legacy extends even further than the six on this list. Well, there is no better place to see that in the oft-copied but never outdone score for Inception.     

In the film, Dream is Collapsing and Time almost exists as a call and response and work to bookend the film. Dream is a brass lover’s dream as horns blare underneath some falling strings all highlighting the coming collapse and failure, indeed it would be the low point for the characters in the film. In response to this at the end of the film, we get Time. No longer is the world about to fall apart, no longer is anyone on the run, it is the musical realisation that for the first time in a long time we are in a state of peace, a state of joy. The strings build and build as we see each of the characters go through customs, building in anticipation because for the first time Cobb is about to see his children, the focus of his hunt for so long. So when the brass and electric guitar come in we feel the swell of joy as well. It is triumph and defeat, two sides of the same story.

8) Assemble

Film: The Avengers (2012)
Composer: Alan Silvestri
Link: Spotify

Now if Hans Zimmer is one of the most influential composers of the last decade, the most influential trend in films has been the comic book film and more specifically those with an overarching cinematic universe. Many have tried to copy the Marvel success but few have succeeded but while we look back at the unsalable juggernaut it is funny to remember a time when we didn’t know if they would be able to pull it off, and there was one moment that sealed the deal. 

It had all lead to this point, many Marvel films, many different heroes, but for the first time, they were all in the same film. Could they actually pull it off, well as the fight rages across New York and all the Avengers come together finally as one big team we get Alan Silvestri’s Avengers theme. A theme that is hopeful, triumphant, and a moment that a team came together. I don’t know if the Marvel films will ever run out of steam but I think that moment in cinematic history will live on for years to come.

7) Rey’s Theme 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Image Credit: Disney.

Film: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Composer: John Williams
Link: Spotify

We have mentioned the man, and well more likely at this point a force of nature, before but even in the last decade John Williams was still at the top of his game with work that is both revolutionary yet also familiar. Now, while there was a lot we could have picked, you can’t go past the joy that is Star Wars.

 Of all the themes in the new Star Wars films, for me the stand out is Rey’s Theme first heard in the first of the new trilogy The Force Awakens. Indeed, we get to hear her theme, before we even really get to know who she is, so it works as both an introduction but also a statement of intent. The opening also shows how John Williams likes to build a rich sound with flutes, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, and bassoon all providing that woodwind warmth, and then it just builds and builds. Of all of his works, this is one of the more optimistic, and this is even before we get to the main refrain that soars.

6) The Landing    

First Man. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.
First Man. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Film: First Man (2018)
Composer: Justin Hurwitz
Link: Spotify

Sometimes there are films that for whatever reason fail to connect to an audience irrespective of their quality and a couple of years ago one of those films was First Man. This is a real shame because it is a film that explores what drives us to go further and to seek something greater than we have known.

There is no greater moment in the film that when the lander is making its final approach to the Moon, and even though you know intellectually that they make it, it is history after all. In your heart you find yourself full of tension as the lander comes precariously close to sharp outcroppings. Why this is the case is both the spectacular cinematography and Justin Hurwitz’s score. It starts with strings that rise and fall, almost like they are breathing in and out, then the drums start pulsating underneath. This creates almost a biological reaction as you pulled into the world and into that moment where the slightest mistake is going to be a fatal one. This is all even before we reach the crescendo when the main theme plays in all its glory and let go of that breath you didn’t realise that you were holding in.

5) End of Line/Derezzed/Fall

Tron:Legacy. Image Credit: Disney.

Film: Tron: Legacy (2010)
Composer: Daft Punk
Link: Spotify

The start of the decade heralded some really great films and for me, the peak of that wonderful period was a film about getting stuck in a computer and having your whole world turned upside down. There are only a few films that I will get up on that hill to die for and this is one of them. The musical score for the film was made by a team headed by Daft Punk and it is one of the best instrumental scores ever made.

Where we really see this glory come to the foreground is towards the end of the second act when Sam makes his way through the city to the End of Line club where we get the aptly titled End of Line and also a cameo for the music makers themselves. To begin with we have a relatively mellow club track with a pulsating rhythm and drums underneath as Sam has entered a place of safety. Fun fact that there are a lot of samples of old video games including Commander Keen dropped throughout this song. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished and Zuse turns on Sam bringing the more up-tempo Derezzed into play. The electronics rise and fall in quick succession, the drums are louder, the perfect music for a kick-ass action sequence. Then the moment Flynn arrives, the mood changes again and Fall starts. Now the electronic bass drum is smashing you in the face and as soon as the elevator is damaged we get assaulted with strings falling in a crescendo while trumpets blare and whine builds and builds as the inevitable crash at the bottom draws near.  It is an amazing couple of minutes of cinema.

4)  Spider-Team Mission

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Image Credit: Sony/Marvel

Film: Spider-Man Into the Spider-verse (2018)
Composer: Daniel Pemberton
Link: Spotify

One of the great finds in the last decade was a film that was just bounding in joy from start to finish. Spider-Man Into the Spider-verse is one of those rare films that is influential in almost every facet of its production, and of course, you can see that in no better place than its musical score by the fantastic Daniel Pemberton.

There are many musical moments across the film that stand out, like Spider-Man Science and it bubbly odd energy, the power of The Prowler that brings new meaning to the word menace, and the sheer joy of Are You Ready to Swing? However, today I want to focus on Miles Morales Returns. This is the moment where Miles goes form being someone who has superpowers to someone who is a superhero and that mostly comes from him finally finding the courage to believe in himself. We hear the crescendo of Miles’ theme that has been slowly building across the film and now is in its full glory. Electronics are screaming to the skies, the records are being scratched, and we stop for a cartoon interlude and then get right back to it. There is so much power in the music as it builds to its massive peak that it almost takes your breath away. Oh and to be fair, I should probably use this point to say that Chris Pine did a full Spidey Bells and it is the best

3) Chapter Doof

Mad Max Fury Road. Image Credit: Warner Brothers.

Film: Mad Max Fury Road (2015)
Composer: Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg)
Link: Spotify

We have already talked about Mad Max Fury Road a bit in this list, but I was not able to separate the diverse nature of the different songs and well it’s my list so we are getting two songs from the same film in here (spoiler alert the next entry is a repeat as well). But this is tonally very different from Manny Mothers.

Chapter Doof is named after the Doof Warrior, which is the name for the blind guitarist that swings on bungee cords on top of a giant musical chariot, and oh he shoots flames out of his guitar. This is a score with not a single ounce of subtlety, it is bombast at its finest as it blares out at you. The drums blare, the horns blare, the strings blare, it is a cacophony of noise, and I love it. It is a musical score that perfectly captures the feeling and tone of a massive car chase across the desert that includes heavy trucks, cars surrounded with spikes, cars with people on poles that jump from one side to the next. Just when you think it is going to be completely overwhelming the powerful we get the Valhalla interlude as warboy is witnessed. It is a cinematic beauty and one that I will always remember.

2) Adagio for Tron

Tron: Legacy. Image Credit: Disney.

Film: Tron: Legacy (2010)
Composer: Daft Punk
Link: Spotify

Much like the previous entry, I struggled to contain my enjoyment of Tron: Legacy’s wonderful soundtrack. There is the electronic pulsing of The Game Has Changed, the pulsating strings of Outlands, and the warmth of Finale. However, if there is one musical queue that stands out from all the others it has to be the Adagio for Tron.

Now to be fair, I am a sucker for a good adagio, a musical piece meant to be played slowly and with power. As well as this, my favourite musical instrument is the cello, so in many ways, this is a perfect combination of my loves. However, it is more than that, it is a beautiful work of art explores the emotion of betrayal and the loss that comes with war. The adagio is used to chart the rise of the isomorphic algorithms or isos. They came from the wilderness, full of heart, but were seen as a threat from the power structures in the grid. This is a musical accompaniment for the genocide of a race of beings and it does not shirk that responsibility away. It is full of pain, full of sadness, full of potential cut short, and full of lost hope. It is the moment of real in amongst all the fantasy and it has stayed with me from the moment I heard it until today and more.

1) Kangaru

Arrival - Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Film: Arrival (2016)
Composer: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Link: Spotify

Well, we have reached the end of the list and more than ever we have left the best to last with a musical soundtrack unlike something I have ever heard before or since. It is a musical score that is very different from what had come before and it had the difficult task of conveying the story of a race of being that talk through time and does it in a heartbeat. There are so many moments from the soundtrack that I want to talk about, the oddness of Rise, the off-putting nature of Arrival, and the rise and fall of First Encounter. However, if there is one moment that captures the film it is the chaotic energy of Kangaru.  

Kangaru comes from an urban legend mentioned in the film about how the colonists to Australia misunderstood and got the name of the bouncing marsupial wrong. In its musical form, it is composed of a melody of different voices crying out into the night. They create the undercurrent of the song like an acapella version of drums creating the groundwork of everything to come. Soon more voices join the fray, high voices for the strings rising and falling, a small soprano interjecting with water, and then the instruments join. It builds and builds, rolling over you like waves in an ocean, crashing onto the beach behind you and just when it feels like it is going to overwhelm you, like Louise in the film, it starts to pair back to the original voices that were providing the strength for it all from the start. It is one of the great sadnesses from the last decade that we won’t be hearing any more of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work as we lost the wonderful Icelandic composer far too early. However, while that sadness can never be overcome, I am and always will be grateful for the scores we did get here, and I that his legacy will never be forgotten.

So that is my list of the Top 40 Musical Scores of the Last Decade, if you want you can listen to a whole Spotify list of the Top 40 HERE. Are there any song/musical moments here that I have missed that you would have added to your list? Well, let me know what they are in the comments below because I always love listing to wonderful cinematic scores.        

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