My Top 10 Movie Scores of 2015

Yes…I realize it’s almost October and I’m rambling on about movies from 2015, but keep in mind that so many movies from 2015 aren’t released to the public until the new year (2016) and I want to ensure that I have seen everything I need to see to make sure that my list is legitimate.  Sure, I didn’t see every movie of 2015, but I did see A LOT.  Enough of this ranting on business, let’s get to the scores!

10. Remember – Music by Mychael Danna

A movie that I assume many did not see, Remember was incredible.  It was released in Canada in 2015, and I am not sure how well the release did in the United States in 2016, but I highly recommend this movie.  The score was haunting with elements of horror and whimsicality.  The score truly emphasizes pain and fear truly portraying what the main character, Zev, is going through seeking revenge on the Nazi who murdered his family so long ago.  Parts of the score are very ambient; more of an effect really, but the essence of terror and horrible memories remains.  There is a lot of emphasis on the sly and cunning woodwinds like the clarinet and oboe, which I love!  If something defines this score, it is the fact that it is able to combine so much fear with an overwhelming amount of pain.  Beautifully done.

9. Sicario – Music by Johann Johannsson

This was a score that I never noticed too much during the actual movie, but after listening to it later, it is definitely worth noting.  While simple, it creates the emotion of fear and extreme tension with a slow build up of percussion and slow crescendo of low brass.  Listening to it now makes me think of an alien invasion – pure terror.  It may not be as catchy and upbeat or even as sad as some of the other scores, but this one is on the list for it’s great portrayal of panic, anxiety, and horror.  Fast paced cellos mixed with sporadic and unstable trumpets definitely induces unease, and that’s what makes this score so great.  Funny how Johannsson was my #1 pick last year; I’m glad to see him at least make the list.

8. Bridge of Spies – Music by Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman has such a distinct style, and depending on the feel he is going for, I can usually tell he is the composer of a movie within the first few notes.  He is very whimsical and euphoric mixed with oddly fast paced beats, which fits very well when he scores Pixar films.  This time he was paired up with Spielberg (who normally almost ALWAYS works with John Williams), which was a change.  His trademark sound can be heard whenever you hear notes dancing and what feels like sprinkling across the score.  The score has moments that scream patriotism and ‘doing the right thing’ with brass, but then for a more creepy feel to describe the Soviet Union, he uses a low male chorus to pull you into the depths of the USSR.  Newman’s signature sprinkling of notes is done with percussion and electronic effects in several songs that definitely combined with fast paced strings – you kind of feel like solving a mystery while listening!

7. Room – Music by Stephen Rennicks

This score is another one that emits a lot of pain (I love the ‘hauntingly beautiful’ scores I guess!) but it always ends up slightly happy.  It definitely dips up and down over and over again to show that something truly horrible can end up okay.  It often sounds simple and childlike and then grows into something more intense.  I am really glad that a few of the composers on my list this year are ones that I had never heard of (Danna and Rennicks) – it goes to show that you certainly don’t always need a Williams or a Desplat in order to make the movie shine.  The score to Room is rather waltz-like – 3/4 time can be so happily eerie.

6. The Danish Girl – Music by Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Desplat is one of my all time favourite composers.  He nails emotion SPOT ON; in the most whimsical and creepy ways.  The subject matter of this movie is incredibly emotional and painful; however, there are moments of joy and Deplat uses his signature whimsicality with woodwinds combined with fast strings to describe them.  One thing I found amazing about this score was the ability Desplat had to actually portray changes and transformation.  While there is not obvious style of music to portray the subject matter, somehow when you hear it, you know exactly what is happening to Lily.  There are intense moments with strings and fast paced piano that describe someone trapped in their own private hell.  There is so much agony while alleviation is just around the corner.  This is what makes Desplat so damn incredible.  His ability to capture literally any emotion is astounding.  Wait, and this wasn’t nominated for an Oscar?  Dammit Academy!

5. Chappie – Music by Hans Zimmer

Does anyone else remember this movie?  It seems like no one does, but I’ll tell you something: Hans Zimmer NAILED this one.  Electronic synthy vibes mixed with orchestral genius – that is Hans Zimmer.  It’s scary at times and then incredibly sad – the kind of sadness where someone doesn’t belong in society.  It has that 80s vibe that is incredibly reminiscent of Brad Fiedel’s 1984 score to The Terminator.  It suits the movie very well and really gives you a sense of exactly what is happening to Chappie.  This score can take you to an incredibly lonely and childlike state to a very intense almost war-torn feeling.  A sad melody mixed with intense synth and hard bass…honestly, it worked so well.  This needs to be heard by more people.

4. Trumbo – Music by Theodore Shapiro

Jazzy, mysterious, and hard hitting.  It suits the era of the movie to a tea.  Muted trumpets, piano, and upright bass take you to the 50s, while the strings take you to the movies.  This score is carried by its interesting use of piano in the sense that the piano is played in a quirky way sometimes soft, and sometimes purposely very hard.  It’s 50s cool in a jazz cafe kind of way.  Although it can be more ‘score-esque’ and be serious at times, it still remains true to its 50s jazz roots.  While this score can be more serious in tone at times to describe the main point of the movie, the cool jazzy feel of the score remains throughout.  It’s a great combination of instruments – truly a unique score.

3. The Hateful Eight – Music by Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone sure knows how to set the tone in a film RIGHT AWAY.  This score is overly dramatic, but in the best way possible.  Right from the second the film starts, there is a suspensful tone that is reminiscent of the 1970s with a powerful and overbearing bassoon mixed with pizzicato strings.  The bassoon can be a strong and spooky instrument, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done better than in The Hateful Eight score.  Morricone is 87, yet still manages to pump out this incredible piece of music.  The score does use a similar theme throughout, but sometimes it is quiet and unnerving, while at other times it is tyrannical and downright scary.  It is a very unique score that has one of the best themes in recent years.  I was so happy that Morricone won the Oscar for Best Score because he somehow had never won one before!

2. Inside Out – Music by Michael Giacchino

This movie is about personified emotions, and what better way to make them come to life than with the power of music.  This is a wonderful score that goes from incredibly happy, to silly, to super sad.  Each emotion is defined so well with various melodies and instruments.  The character of Sadness is represented by a slow paced tuba, while Joy is represented by pizzicato strings, acoustic guitar, and various other instruments with a fast-paced melody.  The score overall is incredibly whimsical, but can take you to some dark places as the movie itself does just that.  It is a score that makes you want to work harder and get up and move!  Incredibly jazzy at times with the baritone sax, or a little euphoric at times with the use of the vibraphone, it’s overall just a solid score.  There are various melodies and themes that are used throughout the film that can seriously lift your spirits.  Not sure how this wasn’t recognized at the Oscars this year, but it definitely deserved to be.  Don’t discount it because it’s a ‘Pixar’ score – this score is seriously disturbed at times and then incredibly goofy because it’s representing a teenager’s emotions.  Seriously worth a listen, one of the best of the year.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Music by John Williams

I had to make this my number one score…I just had to.  I like it too much and the genius of John Williams is too much for me to handle combined with ridiculous amounts of fangirling.  John Williams is 84 now and is STILL at the top of his game.  He is known for character themes, and he has brought us some excellent new ones in this new installment of the series.  Rey and Kylo Ren’s themes are definitely the strongest for me, but there are some other great ones in here that represent other characters or groups.  John William’s style IS Star Wars so no matter what he does, the entire score just is Star Wars.  You can pick out various John Williams signature styles throughout the movie and it will remind you of another amazing Williams score (Home Alone, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, etc.).  His ability to use the strings, brass, and the woodwinds is incredible.  Some composers seem to favour one over the other, or they have signature sounds with certain instruments.  Not Williams – he’ll use a bass clarinet in a way that only he can and then do the same thing with a trumpet.  For fan service and just for the sake of the series, Williams throws in a couple old themes here and there when something old is referenced (ie. the Millenium Falcon), but in general, the score is mostly new themes, and they happen to be damn good.  Kylo Ren’s theme at first listen is ‘not as good as Vader’s theme’, but after you listen to it, it doesn’t have to be as good.  Nothing will top Darth Vader, and Williams isn’t trying to do that because Kylo Ren himself will never be Darth Vader.  After listening to Kylo Ren’s theme several times now, it is actually really epic and it doesn’t have to be better or comparable to Darth Vader’s theme because it isn’t.  John Williams is so good that his music actually changes the entire dynamic of the movie.  This score does not disappoint, and I recommend that you take a listen to ‘The Jedi Steps and Finale’ because it’s just a wonderful piece of music and if you’ve ever watched a Star Wars movie before, you know that John Williams highlights all the themes of that particular film in the end credits.  Listen to all of the Star Wars scores though, because all of them (even the prequels) are fantastic due to the genius that is John Williams.

So those are my favourite scores of 2015!  What were yours?  🙂

Image Credit: http://www.starwarspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/john-williams-the-force-awakens-news.png

 

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