Originally written by Sarah Bea Milner for Screen Rant
The 2010s have been a generous decade for fantastic theatrical releases, and it should be no surprise to anyone that these films also produced some truly unforgettable movie soundtracks. From the original scores of Star Wars: the Force Awakens and Skyfall, to the lively "mixtapes" from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, the last decade has been a period of innovation and excitement for movie soundtracks; in the span of 2010 - 2019, titans of the industry made triumphant returns, while new approaches to compiling soundtracks shook the industry to its core.
The past decade was a particularly significant period for John Williams, the composer juggernaut behind so many countless, timeless movie scores. After a brief hiatus from the industry, Williams returned to composing film scores at the beginning of the decade to work with his long-time collaborator Stephen Spielberg on the films The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. Williams' score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens earned him his 50th Academy Award nomination in 2016.
Conversely, some of the best movie soundtracks of the decade contain none of their film's score: movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Fault in Our Stars have official soundtracks that are essentially compilation albums based on the songs used in each respective film. These are highly-listenable albums of carefully-curated tracks that, despite not being written for the films, capture the films's energy and tone.
15. The Social Network (2010)
The Social Network just squeaked onto this list, being released at the beginning of the decade in September 2010. The critically-acclaimed film was directed by David Fincher and was written by witty-banter expert Aaron Sorkin. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. The film, which is an adaptation of the book The Accidental Billionaires, explores the creation of Facebook and Zuckerberg's falling-out with co-founders Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).
The Social Network's scored was composed by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross. The majority of the music that appears in the film was released as an official soundtrack on Reznor's label The Null Corporation. The dark-ambient and industrial score drew a significant amount of critical praise, and won nine major awards including the Academy Award for Best Original Score. Like Reznor and Ross's previous collaborations, much of The Social Network's score is experimental. The sound is heavily-electronic, and it alternates between being eerily calm and frenzied. It is an exciting, innovative score that transcends the film it was written for.
14. The Fault In Our Stars (2014)
Back in 2014, the Huffington Post predicted that The Fault In Our Stars soundtrack "might be this generation's 'Breakfast Club'." High praise indeed for this album which comprises the music used in the romantic comedy-drama film. The Fault In Our Stars is an adaptation of the 2012 novel by the same name, penned by John Green. The novel and the film follow the tragic love story of two teenagers battling cancer and struggling to find meaning in an unfair world.
The songs that appear in the film are a collection of tracks that would appeal to the film's young adult characters. The songs range from sombre singer-songwriter piano ballads to upbeat alt-rock numbers. The title track off of The Fault In Our Stars soundtrack is Charlie XCX's "Boom Clap," which would go on to top the Mainstream Top 40 list. "Boom Clap" was certified Gold in the United States, selling over 500 000 copies. The film soundtrack also featured notable artists like Ed Sheeran and Birdy.
13. La La Land (2016)
The critically-adored timeless musical La La Land boasts award-winning writing, acting, and direction; yet, anyone who sees the film would agree that the film's music makes the movie. La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, is an ode to the classic Hollywood musicals that once dominated the industry. The film follows the story of two struggling artists in Hollywood: Mia Dolan, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian Wilder, a struggling jazz pianist.
La La Land's official soundtrack album features parts of the score and musical numbers performed by the film's cast. The songs and score to the film were composed and orchestrated by Justin Hurwitz, whose work earned the film two of its academy awards: Best Original Score and Best Original Song for "City of Stars." The film's soundtrack was highly successful, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard 200 charts.
12. Arrival (2016)
The 2016 science fiction film Arrival is a thoroughly groundbreaking film, and is complemented by a similarly unique score. Arrival is one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade, and for good reason: its tight story completely defies expectations, and the special effects used in the film are stunning. Arrival's original score, composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson, received multiple award nominations, including the Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score (it was deemed ineligible for an Academy Award nomination because the film includes Max Richter's pre-existing piece "On the Nature of Daylight"). The late composer's score utilized vocal and piano loops, mixed with electronic elements, to evoke the awe, wonder, and excitement felt by the characters onscreen. It's soothing, it's riveting, and it's fantastic.
11. Skyfall (2012)
James Bond films have resulted in some truly fantastic theme songs, and Skyfall is no exception; however, the critically-acclaimed soundtrack for Skyfall actually doesn't contain Adele's theme. Instead, the soundtrack focuses on the film's spectacular score, which manages to be both ambient and gripping. The score for the film was composed by another industry titan, Thomas Newman, and it is one of only two Bond scores to be nominated for an Oscar (the other is The Spy Who Loved Me).
10. Searching For Sugarman (2012)
Has there ever been a case like Searching For Sugar Man? The Swedish–British–Finnish documentary explores the South African icon Sixto Rodriguez, a folk-musician from Detroit completely unaware of his stardom across the pond. The Academy-Award-winning music documentary chronicles the efforts of two South African fans of Rodriguez's music to discover what happened to the musician, at the time believed to be dead. The soundtrack to the documentary is, appropriately, a compilation of songs from the artist's two studio albums from the early 70s. It's a genuinely good album that reflects the time period the songs were recorded, while still sounding fresh to contemporary ears.
9. The Greatest Showman (2017)
The Greatest Showman is not one of the greatest films of 2017, but the soundtrack sure was: thanks in no small part to an excellent performance by Hugh Jackman, the musical numbers carry The Greatest Showman, which is an otherwise mediocre film. The original song "This Is Me" won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
The Greatest Showman's infuriatingly catchy soundtrack found success in its own right. Not only did it win a Grammy for "Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media," but it topped record sales charts across the world. The Greatest Showman was not only one of the best-selling soundtracks in 2018, it was also one of the best-selling albums.
8. A Star Is Born (2018)
A Star is Born is a classic romance story, hence why the 1937 film was remade twice before: in 1954 and again in 1976. Even though the story has been filmed numerous times, the story changes slightly with each new iteration, and the music gets introduced. The 2018 version of the film features country music written by Lukas Nelson and performed by the film's leads Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. The soundtrack is a collection of rich, deep, fully-realized songs. Cooper holds his own, but the real star — just as in the film itself — is Gaga, whose powerful voice deliveries goosebumps throughout. It's no wonder that "Shallow" became such a breakout hit.
7. Black Panther (2018)
Another film from 2018 offers a very different kind of soundtrack: the Black Panther official soundtrack is a collection of songs used in, or inspired by, the film, curated by Kendrick Lamar. The soundtrack, titled Black Panther: The Album, is a refreshing change from the typical film soundtrack, offering listeners rapping by some of the industry's best. Lamar collaborated with Black Panther's composer Ludwig Göransson for the original tracks; as a result the entire album manages to offer a distinct property that feels spiritually in-sync with the film.
6. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The directors responsible for 2000's bluegrass-reviving film O Brother, Where Art Thou? once again return to folk music as the subject matter for Inside Llewyn Davis, a film depicting life for folk musicians during the 1960s folk music revival. The film was written, directed, and produced by the Coen brothers. It depicts the experiences of fictional struggling artist Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac in his breakthrough role. Isaac performs beautifully throughout the film, both with his nuanced acting and his haunting, gentle, full-bodied singing. The soundtrack was produced by T Bone Burnett and is full of gorgeous traditional and original folk tracks that feel transplanted from the '60s.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
As previously stated, the iconic score composer John Williams made a triumphant return to the industry during this past decade; Williams' score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was met with wide-spread acclaim. It won him his 50th Academy Award nomination. Although he lost to The Hateful Eight's score composer Ennio Morricone, the fact that Williams was able to so seamlessly weave together elements of the franchise's most iconic musical themes into the 5 new themes he composed for this film is remarkable. The score was recorded beautifully, and it's no wonder the soundtrack performed well commercially, despite being a score-only album.
4. Moana (2016)
Disney's animated film Moana may not seem like an obvious choice for this list, which contains so many musicals and action/adventure films; however, the soundtrack for Moana is something special. The songs were all written by Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Disney alumni Mark Alan Mancina (Tarzan, Brother Bear) and Pacific singer-songwriter Opetaia Foa'i. The lyrics are a mix of English, Samoan, Tokelauan, and Tuvalu. The soundtrack is a unique fusion of the toe-tapping energy of Broadway and the spirit of South Pacific culture. Tracks like "How Far I'll Go" and "You're Welcome" are highly-listenable and infectious. The deluxe version of the soundtrack even includes the score, composed by Mancina, on Disc 2.
3. The Hateful Eight (2015)
Director Quentin Tarantino is known for his effective use of music in his films; however, The Hateful Eight broke new ground for the veteran filmmaker, as it is his first film to feature a completely original score. The score was composed by Ennio Morricone, whose music Tarantino used for his previous films Kill Bill, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained. Morricone is another veteran of the industry, having composed over 400 film scores over 7 decades in the business. He is perhaps best known for his work with Sergio Leone. The score for The Hateful Eight reflects the combined experience of the two artists; it reverberates with a timeless energy that is simultaneously gripping and uncomfortably familiar. The score perfectly captures the tone of Tarantino's film, a western that is somehow both intimate and nauseatingly-epic, unassuming yet grandiose, all at the same time.
2. Tron: Legacy (2010)
Before the release of Tron: Legacy in 2010, French electronic duo Daft Punk had already let it be known they were big fans of the original Tron (1982). Tron: Legacy takes place 27 years after the original, and much of the action takes place in the computerized world of the Tron system. The film's score is a perfect mix of orchestral and electronic music that fully captures the spirit of the film, which marries live action sequences with the vibrant energy of CGI. The soundtrack has aged extremely well. Its ambient hums and droning wails melt into the score's more traditional orchestral dynamics, and together, they ebb and flow, driving the emotional weight of the film.
1. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
The number one slot on this list isn't filled by a film with a critically-adored original score; instead, the top film soundtrack of the decade is the one that dominated the Billboard charts. The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 sold over 2 million copies in 2014, and held the number 1 slot on the Billboard's Top Soundtracks chart for 11 consecutive weeks. It was the first soundtrack of previously-released material to ever reach the top of the chart, and in its own way, redefined the genre. Part of what makes Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 work so well as a soundtrack is that the musical selection works so well with the film. This isn't just an assortment of music chosen to accompany the action onscreen: it's Peter Quill's mixtape. The same collection of songs has had a profound impact on the character. It is literally the soundtrack to his life.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
The Suicide Squad (2016)
Les Misérables (2012)
You can listen to new music from the legend John Williams in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, now playing at Regal.