Best Film Scores Century To Date

The folks over at The Playlist posted their collected best film scores century to date and as always it’s pretty spot on. We did think of a few that seemed to be missing, though, so we wanted to highlight some often underrated but pretty spectacular recent film scores.

“Norwegian Wood” (2010) – Jonny Greenwood

By no means is Jonny Greenwood underrepresented on The Playlist’s list (see his #2 spot for “There Will Be Blood”) but, for our money one, of his best and most underrated is his fabulous score for the 2010 adaptation of this early Murakami hit.

Not only does this score have the dark, foreboding tones of Greenwood’s TWBB work (and others), but it has these infused into a sound that’s overwhelmingly and heartbreakingly romantic. There’s a definite Bernard Herrmann influence at work here as well, recalling classics like “Vertigo” and “North by Northwest.”

Perhaps this score is a little more slept on given that the film isn’t quite as well known, but it’s a perfect recasting of classic influences in a tragic and wrenching mode.

“Contagion” (2011) – Cliff Martinez

Cliff Martinez, constant collaborate of Steven Soderberg (among others), has more than established himself as one for the ages. While his “Solaris” score makes an appearance on the list, his “Contagion” score deserves recognition as well. With it’s slinky bass lines and it’s bubbling synths, it would be hard to deny that — if not influenced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s work (who, by the way, have a new song) — it’s at least within the same camp.

But Martinez pushes the sound in a different direction here, taking the more driving sections of a score like that of “The Social Network” and making it a thread that pulls together the various storylines of “Contagion.” Like the disease itself, the score bubbles just under the surface of the film, reminding us of the dark pulsing danger that’s gaining momentum. It’s ominous and entrancing, all without being overwhelming. It’s also some of Martinez’s best work.

“The Revenant” (2015) – Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, Bryce Dessner

Ryuichi Sakamoto, one of the most interesting and challenging composers working, also apparently can be one of the best film score composers when he decides to. His score for Inarritu’s “The Revenant,” composed with help from Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner of the National fame, is jaw dropping in its beauty and simplicity, much like Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography. The two are a perfect complement for each other — both give the impression of being natural grace while also being relentlessly unforgiving. Sakamoto leaves so much space in some sections it seems it could swallow you up. And then the haunting melody works its way back. Somehow, the whole piece seems harrowing and sorrowful, yet outlined in a sliver of quiet awe. If the film’s story left you wanting more (or if Leo’s acting left you wanting less) look to the score for the awful and awesome wonder of nature that the film seemed intent on concocting.

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