To kick off the undoubtedly wonderful year that 2020 is sure to be, I thought I’d take a long look back at the passing decade of film music and reflect on some of the more interesting releases in another thrilling, tense and mindblowingly epic Top Ten competition. As I always say with this kind of thing, it’s all just a bit of run really and is very much just my own opinion, so please refrain from being too upset if you don’t find your favourite score of the decade on here. Music is a subjective art after all, and we are all allowed to like different things. Speaking of which, do post your favourite albums of the 2010s in the comments at the bottom of the page.
So, without further ado – strap yourselves in folks, ‘cos this is going to be a fun (and undoubtedly controversial) one.
10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
by Andrew Lockington
In terms of rousing action adventure score, Andrew Lockington has it pretty much nailed with his orchestral work for Journey 2. His memorable and very heroic main theme from the first movie returns in glorious form alongside a brand new adventure motif for the Mysterious Island itself, and together they make for some truly dazzling thematic performances that recur across the album. This combined with Lockington basically giving the score his all with some killer action setpieces and many an emotional moment rightfully earns Journey 2 a place as one of the best film scores of the decade.
9. Star Trek Into Darkness
by Michael Giacchino
Michael Giacchino did an absolutely fantastic job with resurrecting the soundtrack side of Star Trek in all the Kelvin movies, but it is Into Darkness where his compositional talents really shines. The interweaving of the original Alexander Courage Trek theme and Giacchino’s own catchy theme for the rebooted franchise is of particular note, and an extraordinary feat just on its own. The composer also introduces new (and great) motifs for both the film’s villains, and you should look no further than the score’s Deluxe Edition to find concert arrangements for all themes (Odes To Harrison and Vengeance), many a spectacular action cue (Warp Core Values, The San Fran Hustle) and an all-encompassing, all-enjoyable end credits suite (End Credits) to persuade you that Giacchino’s Into Darkness is well worthy of this list.
8. Man Of Steel
by Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer had an impossible task with Man Of Steel, as John Williams had already established a beyond iconic score for the titular character more than thirty years earlier that simply couldn’t possibly be replaced or improved upon. Zimmer however responded to this by going in completely the opposite compositional direction to Williams, utilising hopeful atmosphere and soaring soundscapes to musically establish the new Man Of Steel, and not only did this work, it worked superbly well. The composer created a breathtaking new sound for the superhero that more than met the character’s absurdly high (heroic) bar, with cues like Look To The Stars, Terraforming and particularly Flight proving beyond any doubt that Hans Zimmer was absolutely the man to breathe new life into the sound for Superman.
by Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese
Oblivion is quite simply the absolute epitome of wonder and beauty in music. Composers Anthony Gonzalez (of M83) and Joseph Trapanese were a match made in heaven, gifting us with just over an hour of pure electronic/orchestral euphoria. At times (well, most times) the score is absolutely breathtaking, with the awe-inspiring main theme usually taking centre stage together with the frankly electrifying musical style to deliver these wondrous, incredibly atmospheric and deeply engrossing cues. It’s rather difficult to choose a favourite, but I’m Sending You Away has the best rendition of the main theme as well as quite simply being one of the most epic pieces of music composed this decade. If you’re looking for a happily lengthy and astonishingly good reason why Oblivion is on this list, then simply sit back and listen.
by Steven Price
Steven Price’s score for Gravity is frankly out of this world. It’s beautiful, it’s sad, it’s terrifying, and it’s epic. The composer expertly captures the feeling of the complete isolation of outer space that the movie gets across so well, and that’s just the more ambient cues. The more action-oriented side of the score is downright petrifying at points, and you can truly feel the magnitude of the film’s events and the toll they have on the main character. The main theme is subtly introduced near the start of the album and then seeded rather masterfully throughout, then culminating in one of the most epic and satisfying musical conclusions to a film score that I have honestly ever heard. The final three cues in particular are breathtaking, and Shenzou remains one of my favourite pieces of music of all time.
5. Ready Player One
by Alan Silvestri
Ready Player One marked a triumphant return to the era of classic action adventure scores, with a heroic and memorable main theme intertwined with over an hour of upbeat action music that simply just isn’t afraid to go all out with the dramatic, frequently over-the-top and heroic musical flair. This is the sort of score that’s really missing from the modern world of film music, and of course it would be Alan Silvestri that ended up bringing it back. For an album of wondrous, epic and frankly phenomenal-sounding adventure harkening back to a fantastic era of film score, look no further than Ready Player One.
4. How To Train Your Dragon
by John Powell
Speaking of loud, rousing action score that just doesn’t hold back, this would be an unfortunate best of the decade list indeed if it didn’t include John Powell’s absolutely breathtaking score for the first How To Train Your Dragon. The composer has always been good with scoring big, loud and heroic (see Hancock), but his work for this album just takes it to another level entirely – like it’s actually silly just how good this particular score is. Probably one of my favourite aspects is Powell’s fantastic integration of bagpipes into the music, as much like Hans Zimmer’s organ with Interstellar you wouldn’t really expect it to work, but not only does it, it also blows your mind with just how utterly, astonishingly brilliant it is. If you haven’t already, go and listen to Test Drive and the above Coming Back Around right now, and dare to tell me that this score isn’t easily one of the best soundtracks of the decade.
3. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
by John Williams
Well it wouldn’t be much of a “best of” list without John Williams, would it?
The Force Awakens serves as a pretty fantastic thematic and stylistic bridge between the original and sequel Star Wars trilogies, bringing back several beloved motifs from the former and introducing a considerable number of highly enjoyable ones with the latter. The action music is superb as always with John Williams, and the way that he expertly weaves all the old and new themes through the orchestra is a remarkable feat that has and continues to amaze me. Overall, it’s a truly magnificent score, and one I find well worthy of the Star Wars franchise and this list.
2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
by Howard Shore
Howard Shore’s much-anticipated return to the music of Middle Earth proved very much worth the wait with An Unexpected Journey, with the composer (much like with The Lord Of The Rings) creating a highly thematic and greatly enjoyable musical tapestry that expertly sets the tone and atmosphere of the fantastical world ahead. Shore composed incredible new themes for this and indeed the rest of the trilogy as well as returning now iconic ones from LOTR in musical moments that frankly almost bring a tear to your eye. The bold, rousing main “Misty Mountains” theme then ties everything neatly together, seeding this grandiose, adventurous tone throughout the score that essentially ties the bow on the second best score of the decade.
1. The Amazing Spider-Man
by James Horner
The Amazing Spider-Man was the movie that got me into film music. It was the first time that I really noticed what was playing in the background alongside my favourite superhero, and I can still remember sitting in the cinema and absolutely loving every second of the gloriously heroic rendition of the main theme that played over the final swing and end credits (linked above). Those two minutes alone prompted me to then head down to the local HMV and buy my first film soundtrack CD, an action that essentially then kickstarted my love and adoration for all things soundtrack.
Overall, words cannot truly express just how much I love James Horner’s score for this. The main theme is rich, versatile, memorable and one of the greatest superhero themes ever composed. The love theme is tear-jerkingly beautiful. The action scoring is superb and at times breathtakingly epic. Saving New York literally gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. For me, The Amazing Spider-Man is not only Horner’s finest work, but one of the best superhero scores of all time. Hell, it might even be the best.
Some (probably many) film score fans might find those last few statements rather controversial, but for me they honestly couldn’t be more true. The Amazing Spider-Man is easily my Score Of The Decade.