Dec 132013

For those who read An Online Universe regularly, you all know how much music in film means to me. A brilliant score or soundtrack is enough to elevate a good film to great, and a great film to a whole new level of awesome. I wanted to share my 5 favourite original scores of the year. These are all films I saw for the first time at the cinema in 2013, although their release dates may be different in various countries. My top 10 original scores after the jump.

10. Spring Breakers (Cliff Martinez & Skrillex)

If this score had a colour, it would be fluro pink. A vibrant and energetic score which pulsates through the wild film.


9. 12 Years A Slave (Hans Zimmer)

I often find Hans Zimmer scores can be a bit…much, pushing the audience too hard to feel a certain way. This score is not like that. It sets the tone of the film, without being manipulative; an accompaniment which matches the setting and time. There is so much sadness in these notes. I also adored Zimmer’s score for Rush, but of the two I think this is the more accomplished score.


8. The Place Beyond The Pines (Mike Patton)

Patton’s score quietly underscores this film, helping set the rather ominous and sad tone throughout. It’s not a score that jumps out and demands attention, but rather lurks in the shadows. You feel it’s presence, you just don’t always know what it is.


7. Stoker (Clint Mansell)

‘Moody’ would be the word I would use to describe this score. Mansell’s music is creepy & atmospheric, with an ominous tone running through it. Coupled with the interesting camerawork and eerie lighting, Stoker  had an extremely Gothic, macabre vibe.


6. Prisoners (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

This is a very sad, angry and bleak film. There is much darkness in the characters, the cold setting and Jóhannsson’s intense score. This is another score like Patton’s from The Place Beyond The Pines, that lurked rather than announcing itself. It was always there, simmering beneath the surface, reflecting the often just-held-back emotions of the characters. When I left the cinema it was the haunting tones of the score which remained with me, leaving me with a feeling of uneasiness.


5. Only God Forgives (Cliff Martinez)

The second entry on my list from Cliff Martinez, is a chilling, pulsating score for the Thailand-set Only God Forgives. It’s atmospheric, beautiful, tense and has an otherworldly, spiritual feel about it. This score (even outside of the film) sets my heart-rate soaring.


4. Gravity (Steven Price)

It’s so common for science fiction/space films to have overbearing films which practically scream at you what to feel at any given moment. Gravity‘s score by Steven Price is not like that at all. It perfectly accompanies the drama on-screen, without overwhelming it. In space the silence is endless, and Price’s fantastically intense score was utilised wonderfully.


3. The Best Offer (Ennio Morricone)

The lush sounds of Morricone’s score mirrored the extravagant. thrilling and lavish world portrayed in The Best Offer. From serene classical jaunts that evoke wealth and opulence, to breath-taking moments of pure intensity, this score is astonishing.


2. Nebraska (Mark Orton)

This score is both everywhere and nowhere, America. This is the mountains and the corn, the road and the fields. Orton’s largely guitar-based score is an homage to the frontier and the endlessness of the road. It is always present, but never intrusive. Reflecting its surroundings and the lines on the faces of the characters it accompanies, this score is simply beautiful.


1. Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil)

As it stands now (December 13), this is my favourite cinema release of the year. It’s no surprise (considering my love of music), that the film contains my favourite score. Cloud Atlas is a layered film with incredible depth, and this score weaves the layers together, binding and connecting the stories, helping the audience bring it all together. It’s powerful, rousing and emotional and I adore listening to it outside of the film.



Films I have not seen, but which have received praise for their scores: All Is Lost, Saving Mr Banks, Her, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.

What do you think of my picks? What are your favourites?


By Sam McCosh