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ScoreKeeper's Top Ten Best Film Scores of 2009!!!!

Greetings! ScoreKeeper here chiseling my way through concrete collections of copious film music compilations in search of ten worthy opuses to adorn my list crowning the best scores of 2009. I have to admit that it was unusually difficult this year to amass a list of film scores I felt passionately enough about to cultivate my favorite ten. I don't think 2009 will be remembered as a particularly banner year for film music. Amidst all the fluff and blubber there does exist a couple handfuls of gems which will forever rank among my perennial favorites; however, the numbers are not nearly prolific enough to remedy the current pedestrian pandemic afflicting film music today. The scores that made my list this year, and the few that barely missed, are certainly representative of my enduring hope, passion, and enthusiasm for this amazing craft and I'm honored to spotlight them here. I'm a little late to the party so let's get to it! T-minus ten and counting…

10. UNDER THE MOUNTAIN (2009) by Victoria Kelly – If you are not yet familiar with Movie Score Media, you certainly should be. A relative newcomer to the high-risk low-stakes game of film music recordings, MSM has quietly risen through the ranks of soundtrack labels to become one of the elite global giants of the industry. Movie Score Media is the Independent Film Channel or college radio station of film music. You may not have ever heard of the films they release scores from nor the composer who penned them; however, one after another, each release is a treasure to adore and cherish. In 2009 I was introduced, through Movie Score Media, to two new composers whose jaw-dropping work departed upon me the resolute conviction that superior film music can often arise from unexpected origins. The first of the pair is Victoria Kelly. New Zealand native Victoria Kelly's score for UNDER THE MOUNTAIN is an eclectic meld of subterranean adventure, harrowing defeatism, beguiling beauty, and sensual tenderness all expressed with acrobatic ease through inventive orchestration. This is a dark score founded upon the rich traditions of the Golden Age of film music where masterful composers such as Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Franz Waxman, or Miklós Rózsa, would dare audiences into their world and deliver a cinematic joie de vivre brimming with skilled artistry and superior intellect. With the rampant proliferation of one-trick pony film scores and their rapid devolution into vapid additions to the scrapheap, Kelly offers a robust musical centerpiece displaying an enormous degree of compositional prowess and fortitude. The score for UNDER THE MOUNTAIN was released on CD by Movie Score Media (MMS09029) and is available for purchase at Sreen Archives Entertainment. It is also available as a digital download via iTunes.

9. THE INFORMANT! (2009) by Marvin Hamlisch – There's no denying my penchant for dramatic scoring. If you wrench my heart with your music, you will stake a tiny claim upon it. Likewise, if you tickle my funny bone, you will conceivably achieve a similar result. To understand the sheer brilliance of Marvin Hamlisch's score for THE INFORMANT!, one must deconstruct the two major aspects of it which make it successful. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the music itself. Like colorful square fabric swaths, each telling a different part of the story, Hamlisch stitches together a massive musical quilt stuffing it with lounge piano, baritone saxophone, flutes, whistlers, kazoos, and a Hammond organ jacked into a Leslie rotating speaker. Hamlisch binds the disparate musical pastiches together by keeping them all stupidly simple. A pair of two distinct "happy-go-lucky" themes, representative of the bipolar mind of the main character, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), is interspersed with shadowy retro spy music mortared with heaping ladles of unapologetic lounge piano. To describe it seems ludicrous. To listen is bliss. If you were to only ever hear the score divorced from its narrative companion, you would certainly never realize the full potential of its genius. It's not solely the music, but the narrative context within the film that ultimately earns its commendation. There's a slightly disconcerting gawkiness which grips you upon first experiencing the jocular tone of the music which dutifully reveals aspects of the character not immediately expressed in the narrative. So many modern film scores refuse to function beyond the obvious. Music is a unique ingredient allowing filmmakers to convey various aspects of their story not clearly defined by other means. Hamlisch's score for THE INFORMANT! is a quintessential model for the functionality of independent layers of "read-between-the-lines" film music. To read my interview with Marvin Hamlisch click here. The score for THE INFORMANT! was released by New Line Records as a CD-R and is available through It is also available as a digital download via iTunes.

8. THE STONING OF SORAYA M. (2008) by John Debney – When I interviewed John Debney about his score for THE STONING OF SORAYA M. back in July, one of the aspects that I touched on was his ability to create an astonishingly refreshing ethnic score while employing almost every ethnic cliché in the book. He admitted it was a daunting challenge to harvest oft heard ethnic ingredients into music which transcends the stereotypical stigmas attached to them. "Impossible" is the word I might have chosen. The fact that the film is based on true accounts helps his efforts. The story, based on the book by Freidoune Sahebjam, chronicles the plight of Soraya M. who, in the mid-1980's, was wrongfully accused of adultery by her husband, buried in the ground up to her waist, and subsequently stoned to death. Deep Iranian roots paired with a usurping clash of cultural classicism by modern western influence warrant Debney's approach; however, his success is not predicated merely on the affirmation of the narrative. Debney's gnawingly tender score for THE STONING OF SORAYA M. is an allegorical exercise revealing the synergistic forces between creativity and craftsmanship and their collective power to impenetrate triteness. The whole music, in this case, far surpasses the sum of its parts. In this score you'll hear a litany of Middle Eastern percussion, arhythmic solo cello and violin passages, a wailing female vocalise, and several other wind and string instruments indicative of the region. These instruments and sounds are so familiar to the casual cinematic enthusiast that they are no longer regarded as exotic. Despite the exhaustive use of these elements in other cinematic works by other composers, Debney commits courageously to them and skillfully combines these ingredients to create one of the most beautiful and haunting scores of the year. It is neither pretentious nor condescending; in fact, it's the blatant honesty expressed in the music which makes it so affective. Debney exhibits a genuine gift in expressing heaps of emotion upon his audience without ever coming across as being maladroit or heavy-handed. It's a paramount skill that most composers desperately lust for but ultimately lack the courage to pursue. The score for THE STONING OF SORAYA M. was released as a limited edition CD (1000 copies) by Varèse Sarabande (302 064 201 2) and is currently out-of-print. Copies are available through It is also available as a digital download via iTunes.

7. THE RED CANVAS (2009) by James Peterson – Throughout the year, my acutely tuned radar is engaged in a persistent hunt for exceptional new film music. I'm steadfastly diligent in my investigations into the annual contributions of all the titanic names in the industry. Yet it's becoming fairly predictable now that these sources are not always reliable for turning up the well-crafted film scores I crave. So why should it continue to surprise me when a composer eclipses my radar and appears from seemingly nowhere to drop a musical atomic bomb square between my ears? James Peterson's raucous yet delicately balanced score for THE RED CANVAS is like a dozen hypodermic shots of vitamin B injected straight into your bloodstream. The rush of awe that sweeps through you upon your maiden listen is both immediate and impressive. Demonstrating his near-masterful command of the orchestra, Peterson's compositional and aural-narrative skills are freakishly apparent with each advancing measure. From the stomp-and-awe avalanche of "Grease Monkey Brawl" to the heart-wrenchingly fragile string ensemble scoring of "Maria Cries," the musical journey I experience while listening is truly one of those inimitable adventures I relish. The word "craft" is so casually tossed about like a shuttlecock the utter weight and implication of its meaning is inadvertently lost. I would like to rejuvenate and revitalize this word using James Peterson's score for THE RED CANVAS as an exemplar of the consequence of craft. The score for THE RED CANVAS was released on CD by Movie Score Media (MMS09025) and is available for purchase at Sreen Archives Entertainment. It is also available as a digital download via iTunes.

6. TRICK 'R TREAT (2008) by Douglas Pipes – I first saw TRICK 'R TREAT in December of 2007 and was immediately beguiled by its hex. When the film was shelved for two years I was left stranded wanting to share my enthusiasm for a film and a score that nobody could watch nor hear. Finally in October of 2009, the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray. I briskly dusted off my stockpiled memories and recharged my admiration for what stands to be the epitome of cinematic Halloween treats. Douglas Pipes is one of the few talents to hit the scoring scene in recent years who supercharged my passion for film music with one solitary splendiferous score. In 2006, his music for MONSTER HOUSE, which I enthusiastically reviewed and placed in my top ten list that year, was another bomb dropped by a stealthy composer of whom I had no prior knowledge. With lofty expectations I waited with baited ears for his next film score to hit theaters. Like a well-composed melody, Pipes' score for TRICK 'R TREAT is the perfect consequent phrase to the antecedence of MONSTER HOUSE. The later of the two masterworks casts an impressive net over Halloween and manages to snare a comprehensive cornucopia of colors, tones, sights, emotions, and flavors embodying and emboldening the very nucleus of Halloween. Pipes' nuanced execution of the score is evident in his near constant manipulation and development of the "Trick or treat, Smell my feet" rhyme children gleefully chant annually in October. Its ubiquity is skillfully masked by Pipes who refrains from stating it in its purest expositional form anywhere in the score. You feel its unremitting presence within the context of the film without ever being subjugated by it. This is one of the many facets of Pipes' masterful scoring skills which separates him from the humdrum Hollywood rank-and-file. My ears eagerly await his next endeavor. The score for TRICK 'R TREAT was released on CD by La-La Land Records (LLLCD 1103) and is available for purchase at Sreen Archives Entertainment. It is also available as a digital download via iTunes.

5. FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009) by Alexandre Desplat – It was an unfathomably busy year for two-time Academy Award® nominee Alexandre Desplat who composed music for seven films released in 2009. In addition to FANTASTIC MR. FOX, Desplat scribed scores for CHÉRI, COCO AVANT CHANEL, UN PROPHÉTE, L'ARMÉE DU CRIME, JULIE & JULIA, and THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON. All of these scores deserve attention and accolade for their exceptional quality and skill; however, one particularly odd little score stood out from its mellifluous brethren. In truth, Desplat's music for FANTASTIC MR. FOX is an underdog woefully outnumbered by its competition. The year was chock-full of bloated orchestral scores each dueling the other to become louder, faster, muddier, and noisier than the one preceding it. Always the engine and never the caboose, Desplat wove together the muted plunk-plunk of a couple notes on the banjo in counterpoint with a twang of Jew's harp and a meek toot on the recorder. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying it a bit, but the fact remains that the score for FANTASTIC MR. FOX is one of the smallest and simplest I've come across in recent memory. Desplat's hillbilly-infused homage to Morricone is playfully sarcastic, juvenile, rudimentary, and callow. Yet, he managed a coup of the status quo by accomplishing a feat not routinely achieved by other composers...a flawless marriage between film and music. Sporting an oeuvre most composers would eat mud to duplicate, Alexandre Desplat continues to rise through the ranks as one the premiere global trendsetters of the film music industry. Although my own personal tastes rank him a step or two behind his widespread popularity, his impeccable mastery of FANTASTIC MR. FOX will single-handedly crown him as one of the elite composers working in cinema today. The score for FANTASTIC MR. FOX was released on CD by Abkco (1877102562) and is available for purchase at It is also available as a digital download via iTunes.

4. PONYO (2008) by Joe Hisaishi – If I were to ask who the greatest director/composer collaborative relationship working in cinema today is, one might proffer the tandems Spielberg and Williams, Burton and Elfman, or perhaps even Abrams and Giacchino. All of them are worthy contenders; however, I would be adamant the conversation include Hayao Miyazaki and Joe Hisaishi. Released as PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA in Japan in July 2008, Hayao Miyazaki's most recent masterwork was introduced to American audiences as PONYO in August 2009. The buzz was that this was the most accessible film Miyazaki had ever produced. With my son in tow, I went to see it opening day expecting to gaze upon a cute little Miyazaki film intended for smaller children. Whoa! Was I misinformed. I was absolutely spellbound over the magnitude of beauty, depth of emotion, and charming simplicity of what I consider to be Miyazaki's most alluring film to date. PONYO is defiantly unique from other Miyazaki films. Although it wafts his familiar narrative and visual styles, the story itself is less abstract or surreal than earlier efforts. Spearheading my bounding fervor for PONYO is an utterly sublime and imposing score by Joe Hisaishi. It is indeed true that the film is a more palatable cinematic experience catered to younger audiences. What separates it from other Miyazaki works is the Herculean effort by Hisaishi to elevate all of the various physical, visual, and emotional components of the story into a massive euphoric avalanche of artistic bliss. This is simply the most prodigious score Hisaishi has ever composed for a Miyazaki film. More akin to a Straussian tone poem or Wagnerian opera than your typical film score, Hisaishi liberates any semblance of restraint and releases upon a mesmerized audience rich, dynamic, and expertly balanced music crowned with an infectious theme. With paintbrush in hand, he portrays a picturesque topography bathed in the surging bubbles of watery-textured orchestrations while superlatively expressing the tender emotions of the little fish child from the blue sea. I know I shouldn't be surprised. These two gentleman are unrivaled masters of their craft. Yeah, my vote goes to Miyazaki and Hisaishi. The score for PONYO was released on CD by Tokuma Japan Communications (TKCA-73340) and is available for purchase at It is not currently available on iTunes in the United States.

3. DRAG ME TO HELL (2009) by Christopher Young – Surrounded by a hoard of grotesquely wholesome film scores, Christopher Young's mutinous music for DRAG ME TO HELL is an unadulterated celebration of the jollification of evil. No one invites demonic wickedness to the party quite like the poisoned pencil of Chris Young. One of the most underrated composers in the industry, Young's acute narrative sensibilities are the perfect compliment to Sam Raimi's eclectic amalgam of horror and comedy. From the opening gypsy-esque violin solo to the cacophonic choral uprising of hell's demons upon the earth, Young referees the sinfully playful struggle of evil vs. good with an impartial ear (although, is it just me or do you get the tiny suspicion he's rooting for evil?). Not since Jerry Goldsmith's score for THE OMEN (1976) has the landscape of Hades been painted with such vivid realism you get the sneaking suspicion you've visited its fiery shores a time or two before. If Raimi was the inventor, Young was his pitchman. A horror mahatma, Chris Young fervently sold Raimi's story and helped deliver one of the purest cinematic joyrides of 2009. I remember sitting in the theater fidgeting in my seat grinning from ear to ear through the entire duration of the movie. I hope Christopher Young is a man who believes in the power of prayer. When you author the fire and brimstone themes of the underworld as effectively as he did in DRAG ME TO HELL, you may have some explaining to do upon your arrival at the pearly gates. Eternal damnation is no reward for genius. Or is it? The score for DRAG ME TO HELL was released on CD by Lakeshore Records (LKS 34091) and is available for purchase at It is also available as a digital download via iTunes.

2. UP (2009) by Michael Giacchino – Simply put, UP is a masterpiece. Michael Giacchino is undeniably one of the trailblazing storytellers working in film music today and he's proven it again with another surefire classic. UP presents itself with a unique array of daunting narrative challenges. For starters, there is the massively inconvenient death of Ellie, Carl's wife, at the conclusion of a lengthy life montage relying solely on Giacchino's music to advance the narrative. How does one put to rest the emotional weight of a short film embedded in the frame of a larger picture? How does a composer pick up those pieces and gain enough momentum to restart the narrative engine after such a tragic distraction? How does one musically express the rejuvenated soul of a degenerating body and whisk them away in tandem on magical adventures half-way around the world? What pieces of the musical puzzle remain to effectively portray a frenetic bird on the verge of extinction, an endearingly annoying young Wilderness Explorer, a pack of embattled talking dogs, and a Zeppelin pilot gone stark raving mad? There is only one person I know who can unequivocally answer all these boggling questions. Instead of trying to explain it verbally, he just wrote the perfect music to capture it all. That's the true mark of a great storyteller. The score for UP was not ever released on CD by Disney (booo!). However, it is available as a digital download via iTunes.

1. CORALINE (2009) by Bruno Coulais – I first saw CORALINE on January 25, 2009. Who would have guessed that a mere few weeks after publishing my article announcing my top ten favorite film scores of 2008, that I would already be experiencing my favorite film score of 2009. I was so enamored by Bruno Coulais' multifarious music for CORALINE that I immediately raced home to write about it. No matter how marvelous it was, I wouldn't have expected a score heard in January to maintain its luster long enough to endure the onslaught of memorable scores released after it. The bottom line is it wasn't even close. Every year I hope to discover at least one score which transcends the very passion it fuels. When a score reaches this level it exists far beyond the spectrum of mere enjoyment. It becomes a seminal component within the fabric of your spirit. It changes the way you think, the way you feel, the way you hear, see, or touch. It becomes the answer to its own question and forces you to reevaluate the intentions of your passion. In January of 2009, I was introduced to a score which affected me this way. CORALINE by Bruno Coulais is my absolute favorite film score of 2009. The score for CORALINE was released on CD by Koch Records (KOC-CD-4741) and is available for purchase at It is also available as a digital download via iTunes.


Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 12, 2010, 8:54 p.m. CST

    What, no Holmes or Trek?

    by davidwebb

    Also, first.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:01 p.m. CST

    "Hamlisch binds the disparaging musical pastiches together"

    by manifestchaos


  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:02 p.m. CST

    Also: I love soundtracks but this list is full of

    by manifestchaos

    ...silly-looking movies I haven't heard of and/or can't be arsed to see. So I'm not about to check out their music.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:05 p.m. CST


    by suspect999

    Which I hear is better than 1st

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:10 p.m. CST

    Coraline, Up!, Ponyo and Giacchino =

    by Jaka

    Yes, yes, yes and yes! Great list. Haven't seen them all and didn't love some of them as much as you, but I completely agree with you about the ones I did see. Interesting how much animation is in your list as I also loved Fantastic Mr. Fox. I wonder if it's because composers have more freedom to play with emotion or just go off on whimsical tangents without as much regard for "playing over the actors"? Totally agree with you about the greatness of Giacchino as well. I just watched Lost from the beginning through the end of season five (finished today, actually) and I was really amazed by the impact of the music, and how much it has to do with how you "feel" the story. He's doing some great stuff lately.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:10 p.m. CST

    No love for Moon?

    by Grammaton Cleric

    Clint Mansell's minimalist score for Moon is far and away my top for 09.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:13 p.m. CST

    ...manifestchaos, yeah...stoning women is silly.

    by FlickaPoo

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:15 p.m. CST

    Trick 'r' Treat

    by rabidfnark

    So good to see that on a list. The most fun I've had on Halloween since I was a kid! Glad they finally did SOMETHING with it this year (though its release should have been bigger to say the least) And yeah, the soundtrack was great.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:23 p.m. CST

    Sorry but without Moon I can't take this list seriously...

    by RedJester

    So no, I won't be checking out any of these scores. Thanks but no thanks

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:29 p.m. CST


    by jimbojones123

    Throws Coroline over the top!

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:31 p.m. CST

    I thought Half Blood Prince was the score of the year

    by Mahaloth


  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:33 p.m. CST

    Will television music love be forthcoming, or...

    by adg1034

    ...will I have to be the one to get up on my soapbox and sing the virtues of one Bear McCreary? Whatever else you may have thought about its final season, its music remained as stunning as always, and his work on Caprica shouldn't be overlooked, either. Nobody, and I mean nobody, writes TV music like this.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:34 p.m. CST

    Mahaloth. Ooooo look out!

    by Jaka

    You might get some hate for that. Not from me, though. My opinion of the Harry Potter scores, other than Williams main theme, is that they're meant to blend into the story and not be noticed. Everything about those films seems to be designed upon similar lines. And I'm not meaning any of this as an insult. I just get the feeling that they try very hard to make everything feel as if it's always been that way and that's the way it's supposed to be. Glad you dug it, though. Makes me want to watch it again and listen to the score.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:34 p.m. CST

    Definitely Moon and Avatar

    by bullet3

    It has definitely been a bad year for movie scores, but I'd give the award to moon and avatar. I was surprised neither made your top ten. Moon has just an awesome minimalist groove, and Avatar is a great return to classical epic scores that have really been dying out as of late.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:36 p.m. CST

    I agree with UP..that is all.

    by Director91

    No really, that's all.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:36 p.m. CST

    Avatar Soundtrack?

    by Orionsangels

    I thought it was awesome.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:36 p.m. CST

    Oh yea, if we're counting tv, bsg is #1 of the year

    by bullet3

    I almost forgot bsg was last year, but I would actually say it had a better score than any of the movies in 2009. Mcreary really nailed it.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:38 p.m. CST

    I'll wait for Flickapoo to explain Avatar

    by Jaka

    Don't wanna steal the guys thunder. Heh.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:40 p.m. CST

    I agree with BSG, Bullet3...

    by Fah-Cue

    I whole-heartedly agree.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:45 p.m. CST

    As much as I generally loathe Zimmer...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    ...his scores to Angels & Demons and Sherlock Holmes were some of the best I heard last year (which admittedly isn't saying much).<br><br>You music SUUUUUUUUUCKS these days. No Goldsmith, no Barry, no Poledouris, no Bernstein, Williams all-but-retired...if it weren't for Desplat and Giacchino (his music for Lost beats the pants off most feature film scores these days), there'd be virtually NOTHING worth listening to outsode of the films themselves. When I was a kid, I got turned onto the joys of film music by iconic scores like Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Superman, Star Wars, Gremlins, Conan, Elfman's Batman, ect. What do kids these days have? The buzzing synths and tuneless, screeching violins of The Dark Knight? Ramen Noodles' rock noodling for Iron Man? Of course, it doesn't help when a genuinely great score like Up doesn't even get a CD RELEASE. Yeah, kids these days only download shit to their Ipods (which is another rant in and of itself), but it's just sad. I probably bought over 50 movie soundtracks in 2009, and barely ten of them were for movies released IN 2009. This years looks equally bleak. Yeah, a new Burton/Elfman collaboration is always a pleasure to look forward to, but, Williams score (aside from Indy 4, he hasn't scored a movie since ***2005***), loads of crappy Ramijn Gregson-Jablonsky Media Ventures GARBAGE, and a startling lack of MELODY. When was the last time you exited a theater humming the movie's main theme?

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:47 p.m. CST

    Up and Moon were my faves.

    by KingNineReturns

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:47 p.m. CST

    And the Avatar score is HORRIBLE

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Horner took a YEAR to cobble together a bunch of ethnic noodling, Moaning Woman vocal wailing, the motherfucking DANGER MOTIF up the ass, and the Glory/Prokofiev theme with a few notes switched around? Fuck YOU, you plagarizing hack!

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:51 p.m. CST

    Serious Man and Synecdoche both 2009

    by awepittance

    had very haunting and memorable scores, i liked most of the movies in his post but the scores for them weren't too memorable to me.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:53 p.m. CST

    no one has bashed DRAG ME TO HELL yet?

    by frank cotton

    shocking! i liked it, and i'm sure the score had a lot to do with that

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:57 p.m. CST

    Cute list, now here's THE REAL POOP!

    by The_Genteel_Gentile

    01. Coraline (Bruno Coulais) <p> 02. Moon (Clint Mansell) <p> 03. Up (Michael Giacchino) <p> 04. The Stoning Of Soraya M. (John Debney) <p> 05. Outlander (Geoff Zanelli) <p> 06. The Road (Nick Cave & Warren Ellis) <p> 07. Last House On The Left (John Murphy) <p> 08. Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimemr) <p> 09. Star Trek (Michael Giacchino) <p> 10. Coco Avant Chanel (Alexandre Desplat) <p> 11. Brothers (Thomas Newman) <p> 12. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (Mark Mothersbaugh) <p> 13. Avatar (James Horner) <p> 14. Astro Boy (John Ottman) <p> 15. Angels & Demons (Hans Zimmer) <p> trust.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:58 p.m. CST

    Im a nontrekker

    by crimsoncinder

    And I believe Star Trek needs to be on this list. That score moved me.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:58 p.m. CST

    Thumbs down on Avatar

    by Badger23

    Horner hasn't had an original idea in many a year. It's a shame Cameron didn't go with a daring and creative composer choice.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 9:59 p.m. CST

    Didn't think the Avatar score was horrible, but...

    by Jaka is basically a combination rehash or Legends of the Fall and Braveheart (as pointed out by the poster known as Flickapoo.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10 p.m. CST

    Can't bash Drag Me To Hell...

    by Jaka

    ...because I haven't seen it. Not a follower of the overrated Raimi.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:01 p.m. CST

    Avatar score was a horrible lazy mess...

    by odo19

    Horner once again proving that his talent left him long ago and he doesn't have any more tricks up his sleeve. He had over a year to work on it and it was still a mediocre rip off of his also terrible Troy score. He should be ashamed of himself.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:01 p.m. CST

    * )

    by Jaka


  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:04 p.m. CST

    However uninspired and derivative, Avatar WAS effective.

    by The_Genteel_Gentile

    Got to admit that. It worked.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:05 p.m. CST

    Also no Sherlock? That and Moon were probably my...

    by odo19

    favorite scores from this year. Then again I haven't heard some of the others on your list and they could be better I suppose.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:07 p.m. CST

    2 of my picks...

    by CrazyKanuck

    I would've included Star Trek, and Hans Zimmer's Sherlock Holmes. (I'm yet to hear John Ottman's Astro Boy, but I've heard it's very good.)

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:24 p.m. CST

    "It worked"

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    THE laziest way to defend a lousy, unimaginative score. Banging two trash can lids together would also "work", but that doesn't make it GOOD.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:29 p.m. CST

    Thank God, No Avatar!

    by RockMSockM

    Glad to see Avatar NOT showing up on at least one "best of" list. You listening, WGA? Original screenplay? Really??

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:33 p.m. CST

    Star Trek score was repetitive

    by RogueScribner

    Playing the same theme over and over again does not equal a good film score.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:34 p.m. CST

    Sherlock deserves to be on this list

    by waites

    This has to be one of the best scores in recent memory. Shame on you for not giving it a mention.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:40 p.m. CST

    You can knock the Avatar score for originality if you want

    by bullet3

    But if you subsequently praise the Star Trek score you have no credibility in my eyes. Horner may reuse a lot of material, but at least he knows how to inject some wonder and scope into the music. The Star Trek score is just noise, barely any memorable melodies, completely forgettable and totally owned by Horner's own Star Trek 2 and 3 scores.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 10:58 p.m. CST

    Giacchino's Trek score doesn't have memorable melodies?

    by Tall_Boy66

    If you're talking moving music, the Kirk's birth music is tragic and great, and the Giacchino's Star Trek theme (which plays in the film's opening seconds and becomes the movie's de-facto theme) is something I've been whistling since I've seen it. Horner does have his great scores, Aliens and Star Trek 2 among them, but his Avatar score doesn't have the emotional depth that Giacchino's Trek work.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:01 p.m. CST

    Moon, With A Bullet

    by FreeBeer

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:04 p.m. CST

    We'll have to agree to disagree

    by bullet3

    I'm not a fan of his main theme, it just doesn't capture the epic, adventurous spirit of space exploration like I think it should. I will say, considering how terrible the year has been score wise, star trek's is almost passable.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:05 p.m. CST

    what about half blood prince??

    by afterhourss

    Nicholas Cooper's score for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was astounding and was monumental in giving the film most of its gravitas and mystery. One of the year's best in my opinion, oscar nomination worthy.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:10 p.m. CST

    No Sherlock?

    by LostBoyGoonie

    I REALLY liked Zimmer's score for Sherlock Holmes.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:15 p.m. CST

    No Trek or Holmes = List Invalid

    by TheMarineBiologist

    I'm sorry, but I can't take you or your list seriously if you don't have those two soundtracks on there.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:23 p.m. CST

    Wow, there are people who LIKE the post-Williams Potter scores?

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Patrick Doyle's Goblet Of Fire score was fine (the lovely "Harry In Winter" track was a stand-out), but the last two Nicolas Hooper scores were DREADFUL. Get Williams back for the last two movies...!

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:25 p.m. CST

    Don't overlook McCreary's "Terminator: TSCC" work.

    by ScoobySnack

    I've listened to his soundtrack for the series over and over, and it's awesome. "Sarah >?<p>Connor's Theme" takes it as the most moving piece of score I've heard in the last year. Who ever thought that McCreary could add something memorable to Brad Fiedel's work? I certainly didn't. </p> <p>That said, my favorite soundtracks of the year are District 9 and Star Trek, neither of which made this list. And someone please explain all the love for Up. It was cute and sweet, but not this *amazing* film that everyone makes it out to be. Certainly the score wasn't all that memorable, either.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:29 p.m. CST

    re: Up

    by TheMarineBiologist

    The score, though not memorable, brought me to TEARS. That is why it makes it to every list, Scooby.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:32 p.m. CST


    by blackwood

    My personal favourite this year. Clint Mansell. Who also did The Wrestler. Thank you, IMDB!<p>I also really dug the Holmes score.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:32 p.m. CST

    Giacchino = MEH

    by lalalandlovechild

    Sorry, but MG is the most hugely overrated composer working today. The music was the weakest link in Trek and Chris Beck has already written everything in UP a dozen times over - he just gets stuck putting it in stupid comedies.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:49 p.m. CST

    James Horner's AVATAR score wasn't good

    by YackBacker

    The fact that it's James Horner, which means it was plagiarized (and self-plagiarized too) is besides the point. Even if it was an original work, it's not good. His scores were much better over a decade ago. He has run out of steam.

  • Jan. 12, 2010, 11:53 p.m. CST

    I've seen Avatar twice

    by Rectal Blowout

    <P> There were a few scenes where the music worked. But overall, WOW! It was highly disappointing. Nothing to remember. No theme, no hooks, nothing to label "Hey that's the music of Avatar." A lot of movies have their own distinctive music. BTTF, Pan's Labyrinth, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Jaws, The Exorcist, Somewhere in Time, Titanic, The Godfather, LOTR, 2001, King Kong, The Wizard of Oz, ..etc. </P> <P> Avatar needs a strong theme. A movie this huge without a memorable theme, that's not good. JC needs to seriously reconsider the score. Sorry Horner the mushy song in the credits didn't work this time like in Titanic. </P>

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 12:04 a.m. CST

    LIES, lalalandlovechild

    by TheMarineBiologist

    Giacchino was one of my favorite composers this year. His work with LOST is still the most fascinating thing on television.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 12:08 a.m. CST

    lalalandlovechild, you're on crack

    by MattmanReturns

    He added an instantly iconic theme to Trek. That's no easy task.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 12:11 a.m. CST

    The Red Canvas

    by m_prevette

    Hands down is THE SCORE OF THE YEAR. Brutal and beautiful - if someone had said " this is really a lost Rosza score" you'd believe it. It's freaking brilliant. The 10+ minute "Ballet For Brawlers" is THE BEST track of the year - stunning. Just stunning. BUY THIS CD

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 12:53 a.m. CST

    AVATAR had too much GLORY in it

    by JumpinJehosaphat

    It was too derivative of Horner's earlier work to be considered amongst the best of the year.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:12 a.m. CST


    by The Real MiraJeff

    Scorekeeper, no A Single Man? Have you seen it yet? Brilliant score. Surprised Star Trek isn't here. And what'd you think of Beltrami's work in The Hurt Locker. I loved what QT used for Basterds but those were all old tracks, right?

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:15 a.m. CST

    Avatar had too much Glory, Titanic, Willow

    by MattmanReturns

    and every other score Horner has ever done. Hacky McHackHack.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:30 a.m. CST

    Which is sad, MattmanReturns

    by JumpinJehosaphat

    I really used to like him a lot more. He really had gone all derivative, hasn't he? I mean, sure he's sort of a one trick pony anymore, but I still like that trick. It's just... if John Williams can churn out reinventions of himself, then why can't Horner?

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:31 a.m. CST


    by afterhourss

    williams scores for harry potter seem very by-the-numbers now that the films are moving into a different direction. nicholas hooper on the other hand is effectively dark, conjuring a gothic atmosphere of magic and myths. He fills the scenes up. i think david yates and hooper have developed a terrific chemistry that the forthcoming two films will greatly benefit from.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:33 a.m. CST

    aw crap!

    by afterhourss

    hooper aint scoring the deathly hallows :S

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:53 a.m. CST

    JumpinJehosaphat, totally agree

    by MattmanReturns

    He was great for a while there. I mean, Wrath of Kahn, Willow, and Rocketeer are amazing scores. But then he just started copying his own stuff over and over. Even the romance theme in Avatar is way too similar to Titanic.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:55 a.m. CST

    Williams' Potter scores are not 'by-the-numbers'

    by MattmanReturns

    How can you think that after listening to Prisoner of Azkaban? That score is just filled to the brim with elegant, original themes.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:56 a.m. CST

    And Nicolas Hooper's Potter scores are sleep inducing

    by MattmanReturns

    Not one tune worthy of note (pun intended).

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:59 a.m. CST

    By the way, Williams invented the iconic Potter theme

    by MattmanReturns

    Just thought I'd point that out.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 2:39 a.m. CST

    Good list, but I really think Mike Patton's work on Crank 2 dese

    by s0nicdeathmonkey

    It's really great inventive stuff. He even wrote extended cues for the record.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 2:41 a.m. CST

    I feel as though I'm taking crazy pills...

    by TheMarineBiologist

    How am I the only person that does not get good feelings from these Harry Potter movies/scores. They are not good: the movie itself is always passable and the score is always forgettable (save Williams' original score from Sorcerer's Stone).<p> Those of us that grew up with the books have a slight disconnect with these movies... there is no aspect (movie or score) that has shown that it could at all live up to our adoration of the books. However, what do they care? They know that the fans are going to spend our money on tickets to go see the latest rendition, so they know we are a confirmed sale. Instead, they focus on those that don't care too much for the books or are illiterate.<p> You know what I say is true.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 3:18 a.m. CST

    Pretty good picks actually...

    by quantize

    surprised ScoreKeeper actually has a bit of taste..The Informant in particular was a really nice piece of work.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 3:36 a.m. CST

    Holmes should be on there

    by criticalbliss

    Brilliant, odd score. Perfect for Sherlocke's obsessive mindset.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 3:39 a.m. CST

    The music was the weakest element of Trek

    by criticalbliss

    First time I've been let down by a normally reliable composer.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 4:19 a.m. CST

    Trek was tedious, Avatar was Horner leftovers

    by judderman

    Holmes was typical Zimmer bombast with a few nice Irish folk themes, and Potter was not notable. But Moon? Moon should definitely be on this list.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 4:37 a.m. CST


    by RedManley

    Where is it? This list blows.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 4:40 a.m. CST


    by Dimpy

    Great title track with amazing vocals, but rest of album so-so. Should have made the top ten though. Totally agree with UP - the piano at the end of the montage always leaves me a tear-stained wreck.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 6:35 a.m. CST

    Seriously, no Holmes?

    by dexter cornell

    Then this list does not pertain to me. That the was one of the best and most fitting scores I have heard in a long time.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 6:36 a.m. CST

    I expected Avatar someplace

    by darrenspool

    It's great

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 7 a.m. CST

    Wow (judderman)

    by Dharma4

    This is a terrible, terrible list. Really. CORALINE at number one...? Trek, Avatar at least deserved spots #9 and 10 AT LEAST. PS And AVATAR wasn't Horner's leftover. Yeah, it had similar motifs, as does the rest of his work but it was still spectacular.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 7 a.m. CST

    OH yeah

    by Dharma4

    MOON, too. Forgot. That was an excellent score, deserved a spot.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 7:14 a.m. CST

    'A Single Man' Score

    by kershner

    By Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi is easily one of the best soundtracks of the year. Check it:

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 7:17 a.m. CST

    The Real MiraJeff

    by kershner

    I'm happy to see I'm not alone on this

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 7:23 a.m. CST


    by kwisatzhaderach

    Not one of Horner's best but still effective. Like the 'Becoming one of the People' track, epic. Cool, old-school epic score that nobody seems to do anymore. <p> The Trek score was crap.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 7:34 a.m. CST

    Bless you, s0nicdeathmonkey.

    by Darkman

    People can say what they want about the film, but Mike Patton's score is hella fun. The main theme is so hummable, it's crazy.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 7:40 a.m. CST

    Shocked that Star Trek is not on the list

    by JettL93

    Perhaps i'm biased because i'm so closley involved with the film, but I can vividly rmember when we were all brought into the room to hear the scrore for the first time, there was just this sense that the film was complete, i can rmember JJ looking at me and with but a word knowing we had greateness on our hands

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 8:50 a.m. CST

    No Moon?

    by Series7

    Don't remember the scores for Up/Coraline/Ponyo. I guess you liked that Ponyo Ponyo remix song at the end?

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 8:55 a.m. CST

    I think

    by Series7

    The Princess and the Frog score is probably the only one I'll remember from this year outside of Moon.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 8:58 a.m. CST

    Also Michael Giacchino

    by Series7

    Like he's good and all, but his shit just never resonates with me. Like it always fits the movie, he's aiming for John Williams style but his shit comes off as just good variations of already done themes. I think Speed Racer is the only film he's scored that stuck with me.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 9:18 a.m. CST


    by m_prevette

    It's gone past funny and into bizarre. Just stop. Zimmer's Holmes was inventive, and very fitting the film, while his Angels & Demons was wonderful. Trek should be top 10 yes, it's a great score that works better in the film than on CD - Giacchino has hinted that Varese is working on a second CD from the movie...we can cross our fingers. But hands down, nothing touches The Red Canvas for sheer brilliance.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 9:45 a.m. CST

    m_prevette - Star Trek Score was bizarre?

    by JettL93

    I'll agree that some of it was lighthearted or "funny" as you described it but i never felt that the score went into bizarre territoty. I'm afraid i have to dissagree with you on that one

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 10:22 a.m. CST

    I'd never heard of THE RED CANVAS...

    by doctorfreudstein I have to own it after sampling a track on You Tube. Thanks for the heads-up, Scorekeeper.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 10:45 a.m. CST

    Clint Mansell Gets the Shaft Yet Again...

    by gaston213

    While i admit that Moon was not as great as the OST for The Fountain, it was still pretty damn good. Was really surprised you left it off your list. I also loved Holmes as well.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 10:52 a.m. CST


    by ScoreKeeper

    I don't normally comment beyond my list of ten but I'm enjoying the discussion generated in the talkbacks and would like to add that yes, MOON by Mansell is an incredible score. If my list stretched to twelve it would certainly be on it. Another score that pained me to omit was RED CLIFF by Taro Iwashiro. And if my list went to fifteen you'd find STAR TREK by Giacchino.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 11:22 a.m. CST

    Top 20

    by SagaciousPenguin

    Oh, ScoreKeeper, you KNOW you want to give us a Top 20 :) Don't resist the urge!

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 11:24 a.m. CST

    MOON #1

    by higgo77

    Clint Mansell's score for Moon was hands down the best soundtrack this year. I was also fond of Karen O's effort on Where The Wild Things Are

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 12:17 p.m. CST

    re: Epilogue

    by TheMarineBiologist

    Still no Holmes, ScoreKeeper? I mean, you now have an opportunity to set the record straight and address the MANY individuals above that asked about Zimmer's Sherlock Holmes score, and you chose not to?<p> That's more glaring than not putting it in your list to begin with.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:11 p.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    "What, no Holmes or Trek?"<br><br>Thank good for small mercies.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 1:39 p.m. CST

    I salute ALL you lovers of the MOON OST

    by taxman2001

    Not only was it the best soundtrack of the last year but also of the last TEN years. But obviously that does not mean anything on here. Aster all what the real fans like counts for nothing nowadays. Just ask the studios if you don't believe me...

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 3:09 p.m. CST

    The Brothers Bloom??

    by Jimmy_Saunders

    Or is that counted as 2008?

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 3:49 p.m. CST

    nice list Scorekeeper!

    by MacTard420

    i'll have to check out some of these films. Has anyone seen Sin Nombre? I thought the music was solid in that.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 4:54 p.m. CST

    Avatar's score is terrible

    by AsimovLives

    And the least said about the song, the better.

  • Jan. 13, 2010, 4:54 p.m. CST

    Moon's score was amazing

    by AsimovLives

  • Jan. 14, 2010, 1:25 p.m. CST

    John Ottman's Astro Boy score was epic

    by FeralAngel

    Yep, pumping that movie again. Can't help it, it's that good, and I have the CD of the soundtrack and it's freaking kickbutt awesome. I heard it playing at my teenage nephew's house and had to have a copy of my own. The main theme dips and soars and stirs the blood. It's reminiscent of what John Williams used to do before he condescended to score the Harry Potter films (hated the music for those films). Too bad for you if you miss it - the score AND the film. The DVD/Blu-Ray comes out in March and I am THERE.

  • Jan. 14, 2010, 3:38 p.m. CST

    Moon shines

    by Boxcutter

    Good score- it lifts and complements what is a slight, but deeply felt film. I had a problem with the sappy piano motif over some scenes, as if we had to be TOLD how to feel, but collectively there's no denying its gently growing power. Don't really like ordered lists, so it's in the top 20 with most of these, plus Holmes, Trek. Worst score: Up In The Air. Twee, facile, inauthentic. Contributed to the overall disappointment of that experience.

  • Jan. 15, 2010, 6:53 p.m. CST

    I didn't realize that ScoreKeeper had interviewed Zimmer...

    by TheMarineBiologist

    Now you just appear to be a giant douche.