2010s in Review: The Best Film Music

Like cinematography, it seemed like there was more great film music than ever this decade. That made picking these Top 5’s harder than usual. I already wrote at length about how great Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar score was, so I’m setting that into the hall of fame so I could write about these five instead.

TOP 5 SCORES

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The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
The legendary composer finally won a much-overdue Oscar for his dark, dingy score for Tarantino’s ugliest film. It fits perfectly.

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If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell
While his most popular piece remains his theme for Succession, Britell’s most beautiful work remains his breathtaking score for Barry Jenkins’ follow-up feature. It’s gorgeous on its own, but combined with James Laxton’s sumptuous cinematography, it’s enough to make you cry.

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Phantom Thread – Jonny Greenwood
Perhaps even more mysterious and memorable than his There Will Be Blood score, it took on a life of its own, with “House of Woodcock” becoming a meme for Film Twitter. It’s a deeply romantic piece of music that you can get lost in.

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The Social Network – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
You know the story by now. The mind behind Nine Inch Nails and his longtime producer collaborated on their first score for David Fincher’s masterpiece, and they’ve been on a roll ever since. It’s the only score from this decade that I can hear a few notes of and instantly know which track it is.

Shane Carruth – Upstream Color
Upstream Color – Shane Carruth
An underrated score for an underrated film, Carruth’s lush soundscapes take you some place you’ve never been before.

TOP 5 SOUNDTRACKS

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Baby Driver
Seeing the world premiere of this at SXSW was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. From the opening scene, scored to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms,” we knew we were in for something different. It’s not a musical, but a film driven by music (a lot of it). By the next day, someone had already made a Spotify playlist, and I listened to it for the rest of the weekend, walking around Austin. By the time it was officially released, I’d heard it all, but it became the perfect thing to put on during long drives, especially in Atlanta, where the film was set and filmed.

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Drive
For a brief moment in time, there was absolutely nothing cooler than this. Cliff Martinez’s synth-heavy score, plus underground electronic gems like “Nightcall” and “Tick of the Clock” made this an essential night driving mix.

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Guardians of the Galaxy
So entertaining and relistenable that I actually bought it on cassette, this carefully selected mix of ’60s and ’70s hits lives up to its subtitle: Awesome Mix.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Official Soundtrack)
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
It’s pretty remarkable how much mileage this trio gets out of an album that’s essentially a collection of lists – including the Macklemore parody “Equal Rights,” the catchphrase generator “Turn Up the Beef” and the literal “Things in My Jeep.” This soundtrack is just as uproarious divorced from the hilarious film it’s attached to, a truly impressive comedic achievement.

Shutter Island: Music from the Motion Picture
Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson collaborated once again, but instead of doo-wop or rock classics, they chose contemporary classical music, adding to the unease of the film. It’s one of the most unconventional soundtracks ever compiled, providing one of the most unique listens of the decade.

TOP 5 SONGS

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“Mystery of Love” – Call Me by Your Name
This Oscar-nominated theme captures the ache of the end of a relationship with your first love. Few people are better at writing about broken hearts than Sufjan.

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“Hearts Beat Loud” – Hearts Beat Loud
A shot of pure joy, too few people have heard this song or seen this film. It captures the rush you get when you collaborate on something an duo that together you nailed it.

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“Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street
It’s a straight-up travesty this gem wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar or a Grammy. Like the film it’s from, it’s an absolute delight that’s impossible not to enjoy.

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“Skyfall” – Skyfall
Of the four Daniel Craig 007 films, this is the only one deliver a great theme song. Perhaps that makes it stand out a bit more, but Adele really was the perfect choice for the biggest Bond ever. As a song, it doesn’t really mean anything, but as a Shirley Bassey throwback with modern flare, nothing could be better.

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“Shallow” – A Star Is Born
The rare Oscar-winning song to cross over into the mainstream, their instant classic duet was the perfect marriage of country, rock and pop. It’s not as much of a tear-jerker as “I’ll Never Love Again” or dead-on parody of stupid Top 40 songs like “Hair Body Face” or “Why Did You Do That?” but it is the ultimate anthem from a spectacular soundtrack.

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