Seasoned veterans, bona fide rock stars (ahem, Trent Reznor) and ambitious fresh faces have all turned out in droves to score the last 12 years’ worth of film, but a few composers have flown far ahead of the pack to deliver some of the most profound compositions in recent musical history. Here are five of the top original film scores to grace cinemas since 2000.
5. “Under the Tuscan Sun” (2003) – Christophe Beck. It is difficult to describe the score to the 2003 drama “Under the Tuscan Sun” as anything but sumptuous. It captures every sunny, delicious and poetic moment of the film with dazzling precision. There is romance in the trills of each ballad, and anticipation marks the more upbeat tunes. Somehow, Christophe Beck is capable of making even the most balanced moviegoer feel oddly nostalgic for something they have never had. There is beauty in the most heartbreaking parts of this film, and those who cannot understand why need look no further than its score.
Best Tracks: “Bramasole,” “Roma.”
4. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004) – John Williams. John Williams’ score for the first Harry Potter film, back in 2001, brought to life what is now one of the most easily recognized tunes of film history, “Hedwig’s Theme.” Those few notes, so intrinsically woven into the headspace of fans around the world, comprise a classic in their own right, but with the soundtrack to the third film in the franchise, Williams manages to fray the edges of his classic composition to better fit the dark world created by film director Alfonso Cuaron. As a collective body of work, the score for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is without argument the best in the franchise, incorporating enough of the elements of earlier films to feel familiar, while at once also alerting audiences to some vague, inevitably impending doom.
Best Track: “Lumos! (Hedwig’s Theme)”
3. “Amélie” (2001) – Yann Tiersen. There’s no need to be fluent in French to understand why Amélie is one of the most talked about films: Its score is one of the most revered of all time. It’s a classic in every sense; the shots of Paris are breathtaking, the character of Amélie is intriguing and the music is so inherently French that it hurts. Yann Tiersen weaves a wonderful blend of accordion and harpsichord into more traditional guitar and mandolin to create a whimsical, wide-eyed soundtrack that’s as deceptively pure as the film itself.
Best Tracks: “La Valse d’Amélie,” “La Valse des monstres,” “Les Jours Tristes”
2. “Requiem for a Dream” (2000) – Clint Mansell. If the world is going to end in a few weeks, this is probably the soundtrack that should be playing that day. It would depict perfectly the destruction and chaos of the Armageddon, or at the very least it would make a great distraction. Soaring orchestral arrangements and disturbingly dark chord progressions lend themselves to the off-kilter feel of this Clint Mansell-penned score. It is no less dynamic than the film itself and is one of those rare soundtracks that stand alone as albums unto themselves.
Best Track: “Lux Aeterna”
1. “Inception” (2010) – Hans Zimmer. The wonder behind Hans Zimmer’s compositions for the 2010 blockbuster “Inception” lays in the fact that the music is entirely integral to the audience’s understanding of the film’s plot. Zimmer manages to create drama when it’s needed and to get adrenaline pumping at the right time, but he also manages to manipulate Edith Piaf’s classic song “Je Ne Regrette Rien” and to make it explicitly clear when time is slowing down or speeding up. The “Inception” score is a vivid representation of the locations and characters brought to life in the film, and that haunting note of regret that swims through each track to the next is unforgettable.
Best Tracks: “Mombasa,” “Dream is Collapsing,” “Time”
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