2018 has been a wonderful year for film scores, and so when I began this list it was very tough deciding which albums would make the “Top Ten Film Scores Of 2018” and which would sadly not. The sheer amount of fantastic music we lucky fans have received this year is mind-blowing, but unfortunately there could only be one winner.
This list is just a bit of fun, and bear in mind that this is my opinion. It’s not wrong or unfair, it’s a list of the top ten film scores created in 2018 that I personally enjoyed the most. Music is an entirely subjective matter, and just because I do or don’t think a particular score is great doesn’t mean it is or indeed isn’t. It’s just what I think.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
10. Incredibles 2 by Michael Giacchino
While not quite as great as the iconic score to the first film, Michael Giacchino’s Incredibles 2 makes for a very enjoyable listen. The unique action/jazz blend makes a welcome return, and the new themes for characters Elastigirl and Screenslaver are simply sublime. The score does rely a tad heavily on the original Incredibles theme and I do feel that the action music wasn’t quite as good as the first film’s, but overall the pros outweigh the cons and so Incredibles 2 earns its rightful place in my top ten.
9. The Nutcracker & The Four Realms by James Newton Howard
James Newton Howard recreated a classic with this score, composing a masterful mixture of modern orchestra and the world-famous classical Nutcracker music by Tchaikovsky. Howard uses the themes from the iconic ballet just enough to give them a solid presence, but at the same time still allowing his own new compositions to take centre stage and truly shine. The action was perhaps the weaker part of the score, but that’s more of a nitpick than a true negative for an otherwise delightful album.
8. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom by Michael Giacchino
The score to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is legions better than its predecessor. Michael Giacchino introduces a whole host of great new thematic content for the sequel, the main one of which being easily one of his greatest compositions. The music overall hits a great many highs, having pretty superb action moments as well as some truly scary bits that actually make your hair stand on end. Where Fallen Kingdom unfortunately falters is with its use of the original Jurassic Park theme, as that iconic piece massively overshadows everything Giacchino has composed here, and so honestly part of me just wants him to do away with it completely and just let his new music shine.
7. Black Panther by Ludwig Goransson
Black Panther is a truly unique superhero score (we’ve had a lot of those this year), being an excellent blend of traditional superhero and vocal African – something that has never been done before. The main theme for central character T’Challa is upbeat and heroic, and it clashes well with the more hip-hop based yet still unnerving piece for villain Killmonger. I did find that the score leaned a bit too heavily on the more vocal side of things at times when it should have been going full superhero (the action cues near the finale, for example) but all-in Ludwig Goransson composed something amazing with Black Panther, and its place on my list is well deserved.
6. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald by James Newton Howard
James Newton Howard gets a second entry on my list this year with his second Fantastic Beasts score. The first introduced some marvelous themes for the characters as well as having some truly great action setpieces, and while the second didn’t quite hit the same highs it more than earned a spot on the list. Howard spoils us with even more new themes, and that combined with his near masterful use of orchestra makes the action and more emotional sides of the album simply a joy to listen to.
5. Aquaman by Rupert Gregson-Williams
Unique superhero scores were something of a trend this year, and Aquaman was no exception. Rupert Gregson-Williams composed a pretty fantastic main theme for the titular character; one that was heroic, dramatic, graceful and inspirational all at the same time. The score had a bit of an 80s vibe to it too, with a very interesting mixture of synth and brass that forms the backbone of much of the music. The action was sublime, villain theme was good and all-in Aquaman was a welcome breath of fresh (sea?) air in the superhero genre.
4. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse by Daniel Pemberton
Yes, another one. It’s not my fault everybody’s pulling out the musical stops with superhero scores this year. Daniel Pemberton’s Into The Spider-Verse is another wonderful genre blending soundtrack; combining upbeat hip-hop and traditional orchestra into some honestly pretty fantastic music. The theme for main character Miles Morales is heroic but grounded, expertly capturing who he is as a person while at the same time providing the score with a great thematic backbone. Once again the action music is glorious, with the hip-hop beats adding a highly enjoyable uniqueness to the overall score. The album also builds up both thematically and stylistically to the final track (linked above) which does a great job of showcasing Pemberton’s magnificent score in all its superhero/hip-hop glory.
3. First Man by Justin Hurwitz
Justin Hurwitz’ score to First Man is pretty spectacular. The way he perfectly captures the mysterious and suspenseful nature of space through his excellent use of orchestra (and rather interestingly, a theramin) is superb, and at points you really feel just how awed and at the same time terrified the astronauts must have been as they rocketed towards the Moon. The Landing (linked above) is by far the standout track of the score, as Hurwitz throws everything at it to make it the most dramatic, grandiose and indeed epic piece of music possible to accompany one of humanity’s greatest feats.
2. Solo: A Star Wars Story by John Powell
John Powell, you’ve done it again. The composer famous for the mind-blowing scores for the How To Train Your Dragon film series does an incredible job here; bringing his near masterful skills with orchestral action music and combining them with a great many of John Williams’ iconic themes from his legendary Star Wars scores to make an album that very nearly rivals Williams’ own work on the series. Reminiscence Therapy (linked above) is an excellent showcase of why Solo is frankly an astounding work of art, and it instantly shows why the score is ranked so high on this list.
1. Ready Player One by Alan Silvestri
You weren’t expecting that, were you?
Now I must admit, I love Alan Silvestri. Back To The Future (1985) is by far my favourite score of all time, as the action music is truly masterful and the main theme is beyond iconic (after all, everybody knows that theme). Ready Player One harkens back to those good old days by essentially being an 80s action adventure score. The main theme is fantastic, being a pretty great throwback to the orchestral and thematic styles of that era, and that combined with some near Back To The Future-levels of amazing and edge-of-your-seat action music makes Ready Player One the standout score of 2018 for me.
According to my phone, I’ve played the main theme 465 times this year.