Here at Filmoria we don’t just appreciate a movie for its story and performances, one of the fundamentals of a well-rounded cinematic experience is a score that proves to be resounding and drive the events unfolding. Thankfully, there’s plenty of those around, whether recent or from classic films of the past, and we have our own personal favourites that we simply cannot stop listening to.
Check out what the team are listening to for unhealthy amounts of time and let us know what movie scores you’re obsessing over.
1. The Neon Demon (2016) – Cliff Martinez
The synth-pop superiority that helped to create the fantastical feel of Drive. The terrifying electronica that amplified the hellish aesthetic and actions of Only God Forgives. Now the sense of dread that is instilled within the dazzling frames of The Neon Demon. Three films in.
The creative partnership of director Nicolas Winding Refn and Cliff Martinez is truly intrinsic, as the genre pulp of one’s singular and stripped back narrative structure is accentuated by the pulse-pounding power and punch of a composer at the top of his game. The twinkly quality of its opening musical salvo of the same title, which is scattered throughout the film. The sensual, superficial hard-rock of Sweet Tempest’s “Mine” as the words ‘I won’t back down, I’ve got my crown’ epitomize the frightfully shallow and sexualised world in which Refn’s characters inhabit. To the intoxicating piece “The Demon Dance” that anchors a dizzying, drenched-in-red club sequence as the effect of strobe lights dominate Refn’s bewitching direction.
As a standalone, it’s a soundtrack that you can completely lose yourself in. With the aid of The Neon Demon‘s visuals however, it’s a startling and stunning example of just how integral a score can be in complimenting a distinct cinematic vision.
2. Sicario (2015) – Jóhann Jóhannson
Primitive and progressive in tonal construction, Jóhann Jóhannson’s arresting score for Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 crime drama Sicario is quite frankly a masterpiece. A violent assortment of brass, strings and drums which groan with nightmarish proficiency; heightening the feverish atmosphere as Emily Blunt’s FBI operative Kate Macer burrows herself deeper into moral descent. She is assigned to an extraction mission in Mexico which involves the removal of a notorious drugs baron currently infecting state lines. However as the narrative progresses and secrets begin to reveal, an overwhelming ugliness consumes their policing practices.
When paired with Villeneuve’s and cinematographer Roger Deakins’ imagery, the score attacks and suffocates, but when removed and consumed individually, it becomes a seriously haunting and alarming arrangement. Somehow even without the creative support of the film, Jóhannson’s composition is able to evoke the same level of dread and despair as you felt whilst watching.
The slowly escalating and sobering beats of “Night Vision” and “Tunnel Music” crank up tension like clockwork. With each passing thud of ambient skins comes a heightened sense of unease and nausea. By the time these tracks exit, you’ll finally exhale that breath you’ve been so desperately holding in. It is fair to say that Sicario is far from a pleasant listen, but my word is it an unforgettable one…
3. Man of Steel (2013) – Hans Zimmer
While 2013’s Man of Steel may not have captured the hearts of comic book fans hoping for an extension of the Nolan-esque world built with the director’s Batman trilogy, it’s undeniable that Hans Zimmer’s score for the return of Superman doesn’t strike the most exceptional of chords.
Here we have a score that elevates scenes from destructive Kryptonian attacks to the most iconic of moments for this new-age retelling of one of the most notable figures in pop culture history. Zimmer revels in his freedom, bringing us a new theme in “Flight”, leaving us in awe as we first witness Supes utilise his power of flight, while “Terraforming” elevates the score with a powerful setting for Superman’s fight against the world machine.
Emotive, striking and the best kind of orchestral, Zimmer’s expertise shine through in what is arguably one of his best recent scores in years. If you’re lucky enough to own the extended version of the soundtrack then “Man of Steel (Hans’ Original Sketchbook)” is 28 minutes of masterful composition.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – Henry Jackman
Much has been made of Marvel’s reluctance to innovate in its soundtracks. Yet Antony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, typical to form, was eager to buck the trend at its 2014 release. Taking influence from 1970s political thrillers, the temptation to give into nostalgia was clearly too great at times – the film’s soundtrack brilliantly indulges itself with a montage set to Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man. Yet Captain America: The Winter Soldier also uses its soundtrack to ground itself in the here and now – and no track encapsulates this better than the Winter Soldier’s theme.
For a film named after him, Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier – or, as he’s better-known now, Bucky Barnes – has very few lines. He’s a character predicated on silent threat, with the majority of his emotions – or lack thereof – played out from behind a mask. Yet the sharp, mechanical edge of his theme builds the intensity of his character; where other Marvel antagonists rely on grand monologues, the Winter Soldier’s danger comes from the sound of a metal hand meeting tarmac, the vibrations of his arm recalibrating itself – and a soundtrack that plays between paced, dangerous lows and jarring, invasive highs.
5. Inside Out (2015) – Michael Giacchino
Rather fittingly given the film’s subject matter, the Inside Out soundtrack is one which stirs up a range of emotions every time I listen to it, and indeed I find myself reaching for this soundtrack on an almost daily basis, well over a year after it first graced our screens. This was a film I adored completely, and it featured a soundtrack from the unstoppable Michael Giacchino, which I believe was vastly overlooked when it came to last year’s academy awards.
Giacchino seems to be the man who can turn his hand to anything, and I didn’t think he could improve on his glorious work on previous Pixar classic Up, but Inside Out proved me wrong! It has a wonderful ambient quality to it in places which makes it perfect background productivity music, and it’s one of those soundtracks which tells a story so well. There is very distinct mood shifts and changes in the music making it very easy to put the pictures to the sounds, even when listening to the soundtrack on its own. There is unparalleled joy and sadness to be found in listening to it; from the upbeat “Imagination Land” to the utterly heartbreaking “Rainbow Flyer” (because I’m still not over Bing Bong!), this is a soundtrack to match all of your moods!
6. Childhood Of A Leader (2016) – Scott Walker
There’s a moment late on in Brady Corbet’s staggering debut Childhood of a Leader where, during a fascist political rally, the camera is suddenly passed through a horde as if a crowd-surfer. Faces are illuminated then suddenly bathed in an ambiguous out-of-focus fog. It’s a moment that baffles and bewilders. The previous two hours follows suit. Corbet plays the film with deliberate and meticulous ambiguity which when paired with Scott Walker’s icy, guttural score; conjure up something at once macabre, at once seductive.
It’s not a score with which to relax. That final sequence, in itself panic inducing, is ramped up by tribal like drums and horns seemingly ready to soundtrack the coming apocalypse. That ambiguity Corbet plays with nightmarish precision is brought to a destructive, horrifying coda by Walker, who lends his avant-garde iconism with such aplomb.
It works as something almost more than simply being a score, its reactionary and strange, seductive yet off-putting, modern yet archaic. It’s a paradox, juxtaposing itself at every moment. During moments of calm, Walker induces panic, during moments of chaos, he leave sparse spaces of silence, which come to a crashing close to the tune of an orchestra tearing at their instruments.