2022 is now very nearly behind us, and as we look forward to 2023 we must also now take time to reflect in the form of a yearly soundtrack tradition; ten scores will now battle it out in another action-packed, bloodthirsty tournament where literally anything could happen, all to find out which of them truly is… the Best Film Score Of 2022. Read on!
Years always seem to go by so fast, and 2022 has been no exception. While it has certainly been a year of ups and downs overall, what absolutely has not disappointed for certain is the level of quality film, television and game music that has released throughout it. Happily too, there’s been an awful lot of it (from Sarah Schachner’s quietly breathtaking score for Prey to the triumphant return of the Top Gun Anthem, to name but two), and so now is the time of year once again where we must decide which was of course the best. Before we begin, I will say as per usual with these lists that it’s all just a bit of fun really, and just because I think a particular score is the best thing ever, doesn’t mean you have to as well. In fact, feel free to post your top ten film, television or game scores of the year in the comments section, I really would love to see them and compare! So then, without further ado, this year’s Honourable Mention award goes to –
By Hesham Nazih
We simply cannot let this year bow out without talking about Hesham Nazih’s stunning score for Disney+ series Moon Knight. It’s very deservedly this year’s Honourable Mention, being awash with intricately-crafted themes (a rather heroic main theme for Marc Spector and a counterpointingly malevolent motif for Arthur Harrow to name but two) many an exciting action setpiece (see “Moonlight Fight”) and delicate orchestral moment (“Weight Of Hearts”) which altogether not only utilise the main themes to excellent levels, but are also then all bound together by Nazih’s exquisitely-crafted stylistic blend of of traditional orchestra, Egyptian instrumentation and Middle Eastern-esque vocals. Altogether, this makes his Moon Knight work not only decidedly unique amongst the ever-growing list of superhero scores nowadays, but a particularly enjoyable soundtrack experience to boot.
By Michael Giacchino
Michael Giacchino’s Lightyear score is an absolute delight from start to finish. I worried slightly that since the composer has delivered so many scores in a very short space of time this year that one or two might have suffered in quality as a result, but I’m very happy to say that Lightyear doesn’t have this issue at all. As per usual with Giacchino the themes are the absolute stars of the show here, with Buzz’s emphatically grandiose, marching four-note motif leading the charge in salute-worthy style (“Infinite MOEtion”) against the similarly memorable, villainous theme for Emperor Zurg (“Zurg Awakens”). It’s not all thunderous highs however as the score is equal parts heroic and dramatic as it is slow and gentle, with the quietly sorrowful themes for the years lost to Buzz’s hyperspace travels and the fall of the Galactic Ranger Corps also being of particular highlight, especially in the all-encompassing and standout cue “One Suite Buzz”. If that suite doesn’t convince you that this Giacchino score is well worthy of this year’s list, nothing will.
9. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
By Ludwig Göransson
Ludwig Göransson’s score for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has some serious style to it. The composer has, much like with the first film’s score, clearly done a great deal of musical research here, with the exquisite, African-esque instrumentation for Wakanda reprising alongside a newer, apparently Mayan-inspired sound for the Talokan people which also takes a main position here on the sequel soundtrack stage. That combined with several excellent new themes (including the standout Shuri’s theme – see the triumphant “Wakanda Forever” or action-centric “Yibambe!”) really helps to stand this superhero score out from the crowd, and while I do wish that the main themes had been utilised just a little bit more across the album (especially those from the first film), that doesn’t stop Göransson’s score here from being pretty damned enjoyable all the way through.
8. Jurassic World Dominion
By Michael Giacchino
Michael Giacchino had one hell of a thematic task for his score for Jurassic World Dominion, bringing together the thematic worlds of both the Park and World franchises and integrating them in such a way as to be enjoyable and entertaining, but not overwhelming. Admittedly it goes get a little “thematic overload” at times, but for the most part Giacchino’s work here closes the musical book on the iconic dinosaur franchise in the best way possible, bringing pretty much all of the established Giacchino and most of Williams’ thematic material together and resulting in an expansive orchestral tapestry that manages to stay entertaining pretty much throughout its entire two hour runtime. Standout moments include the spectacularly propulsive action setpieces “In Contempt Of Delacourt” and “Da Plane And Da Cycle”, as well as the excellently conclusive and surprisingly solemn end credits cue “Suite, Suite Dino Revenge”, with the action cues in particular helping to cement this score as certainly worthy of this year’s list (and damned nearly getting on 2022’s “Cue Of The Year Award” list to boot).
7. Prey (2022)
By Sarah Schachner
The first of two superb reboot soundtracks on this year’s top ten list, Prey does something rather surprising in that it doesn’t really utilise Alan Silvestri’s iconic Predator theme all that much, but still manages to be pretty damned fantastic anyway. Schachner’s use of said theme is limited to the rather stylistically intriguing, cello-based “Predator Instinct”, but the true star of the show here is Naru’s theme (for the main character). “Naru’s Way” for instance pretty perfectly captures both the adventurousness of the main character and the stunningly beautiful landscapes of the Great Plains of North America – where the film is set. It’s a simply gorgeous piece of music overall, and one that happily takes excellent advantage of Schachner’s stylistic blend of heavy strings-focus with tribal percussion and woodwinds mixed inbetween. The use of the theme across the album then only serves to further enhance this orchestral beauty, with its playthroughs in emphatic action mode in “Brave Girl” and almost triumphantly warrior-like in “The Hunter” being particularly standout, and overall easily cementing Schachner’s score here as one of the very best of the year.
6. Hellraiser (2022)
By Ben Lovett
It’s always an incredibly difficult feat to re-capture the old magic of an iconic film score gone past, but composer Ben Lovett somehow managed it with this year’s Hellraiser reboot. Lovett not only brought back each and every one of Christopher Young’s frankly fantastic original themes, he also brought a fresh new sound to the franchise too in successfully blending more modernised instrumentation with that epic choral Hellraiser sound that we all know and love, and the resulting music is simply sublime. Young’s themes are seeded right from the get-go as well (not just appearing for glorified cameos, an issue which has plagued more than a few reboot soundtracks over the years) building emphatically throughout the album’s runtime and making for some pretty spectacular cues in the back half – see “Such Sights To Show You”, “Cenobite Invasion” and particularly “Apotheosis” for excellent evidence of this – which overall more than cements this score as one of the very best of the year.
5. Avatar: The Way Of Water
By Simon Franglen
Simon Franglen had a doubly difficult task to undertake with scoring Avatar: The Way Of Water. Not only did he have to live up to the high stylistic and thematic heights set by the score for the first Avatar, but he also had to uphold the music legacy of the late great James Horner, who composed the score for the 2009 film. I’m very pleased to say though that Franglen has rather amazingly managed to achieve both goals (at least for me), elevating his Way Of Water score to tremendously enjoyable levels as a result; themes from the first score, danger motif, action piano riffs, two-note percussive hits – they’re all here (see “Na’vi Attack” or “Knife Fight” for some of the very best), and those combined with some pretty spectacular new compositions of Franglen’s own (see “Leaving Home” or “The Way Of Water”) added to the mix makes this sequel score a truly remarkable piece of work overall, and one that of course very much belongs on the top ten list.
4. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness
By Danny Elfman
I’ll admit I was really pleasantly surprised with this score, even with its lack of Michael Giacchino. Danny Elfman hasn’t been on form in the superhero genre for a number of years now (at least in my opinion) but he’s made one hell of a comeback with Multiverse Of Madness, in both his excellent use of new themes and darkly gothic compositional style which overall just fit this film like a glove. Standout tracks include main title pieces Multiverse Of Madness and Main Titles (obviously) as well as superb action setpieces like Battle Time and Gargantos. It is a bit of a shame yes that Elfman opted not to use Giacchino’s established motif for the character in a particularly meaningful way (glorified cameos do not count), but if you can forgive that like I have, what we do get instead here is a tightly woven, highly entertaining and unusually dark superhero score that honestly is pretty fantastic overall.
3. Top Gun: Maverick
By Lorne Balfe, Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga and
Ah, the Top Gun Anthem. It’s my absolute favourite piece of music from composer Harold Faltermeyer, and is honestly one of my favourite movie themes just in general. As such, you can imagine how utterly ecstatic I was to hear that the composer would return for the sequel score here, even more so once I’d actually heard it and discovered just how amazing his, Hans Zimmer, Lady Gaga and Lorne Balfe’s music for this long-awaited Top Gun sequel is. Everything from the grandiosely epic action setpieces (see “Darkstar” or “The Man, The Legend/Touchdown”) to the more quietly emotional moments (“You’re Where You Belong” or “Penny Returns” for example) and the excellent use of the iconic main theme throughout (see standout cue “Top Gun Anthem” of course for an absolute highlight) altogether display what an astonishingly superb score Top Gun: Maverick is, and why it naturally deserves third place with the top scores of the year here.
2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power
By Bear McCreary
Now I might have cheated just a little bit on this one, as it isn’t technically a film score. In fairness though Bear McCreary’s Rings Of Power score is just that good, it might as well be. So good in fact that as I wrote this year’s Top Ten, I had this particular work pencilled in as the Honourable Mention for sure until I thought to myself if this was a film score though, what position on the list would it have? The answer? Second place, without a shadow of a doubt. McCreary’s score here is so unbelievably fantastic that it was too honourable for the Honourable Mention, too honourable even for most of the scores on this list, so here we are. From the emphatically grand, serenely heroic theme for Galadriel to the moodily malevolent motif for Sauron, the more upbeat, reassuring theme for Elrond and the bombastically badass piece for the mighty Númenor, and all the incredible action music weaved inbetween, The Rings Of Power is simply a phenomenon from start to finish. The composer spent almost a year painstakingly crafting each of the score’s themes and weaving them impeccably together throughout the happily lengthy score released, and you can frankly hear just how much work has gone into it as a result. Not quite perfect, but overall so brilliant that it simply had to have a place on the top ten list. I’m not even sorry.
1. The Batman
By Michael Giacchino
Yep, Giacchino takes the top spot, unsurprisingly really considering that the composer has released a whopping six film scores this year. His work for The Batman here though is well deserving of the crown, as it does the one thing that so many other superhero scores have failed to do over the years; it just gets its main character. The main theme, even being as simple as it is with only four recurring notes, pretty much perfectly captures the oncoming, unstoppable force of nature that the Caped Crusader is, as well as the terrible fear of him the criminals of Gotham City must feel as a result. It’s just an utterly perfect theme for Batman, beaten only to the top spot by Danny Elfman’s iconic 1989 piece. This fantastic motif then works hand-in-hand with the malevolent countermotif for the Riddler and the quietly sultry piece for Catwoman, with this gorgeous thematic trifecta then working in near-perfect harmony throughout the two hour score, and delivering some absolutely sublime standout cues all across it as a result. “Can’t Fight City Halloween”, “Highway To The Anger Zone”, “A Bat In The Rafters” to name but a few – they’re all just brilliant because of Giacchino’s exquisite main themes and meticulously crafted orchestral style, with ending suites “The Batman”, “The Riddler” and “Catwoman” then being the absolute pinnacle of this. So sit back, listen and enjoy, because the Dark Knight reigns supreme for this year’s Top Ten list.
And that’s all, folks! Hope you all have a wonderful remainder of your holidays, and I’ll see you next year.