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15 of the best film scores from the last 20 years

The last 20 years have really revolutionized film scores as we know it.

With epic soundtracks like Howard Shore’s from Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and the quirky and adventurous score by Alexandre Desplat from Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, there have been so many incredible films with even better scores.

Check out 15 of the best film scores from the last 20 years below.

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – Howard Shore – 2001

It would be silly to not start the list with a classic Lord of The Rings tune many can recognize. “The Fellowship” has a strong trumpet lead throughout its slow build that journeys you to an empowering climax. This classic track has become a staple to fans of the series, along with the rest of the soundtrack.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – John Williams – 2001

We wouldn’t expect anything less from John Williams, and like his other hit films, he created an anthem with “Hedwig’s Theme.” The classic tune has a consistent build and uses a celesta and a french horn to lead the orchestra. This film score is filled with classic staples to the Harry Potter franchise.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Klaus Badelt & Hans Zimmer – 2003

You can’t help but hum this fun melody when thinking of Pirates of the Caribbean. Percussion leads the orchestra into battle with a booming bass throughout the melody, readying you for an adventurous movie. This is another classic film score that has earned its spot on our list.

There Will Be Blood – Jonny Greenwood – 2007

Orchestrated by Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, this intense soundtrack plays with the use of dissonance and sounds, rather sinister, booming instrumentals.

Wall-E – Thomas Newman – 2008

Wall-E is a light-hearted, explorative film that chimes curiosity, and the soundtrack compliments the film perfectly. Thomas Newman used a variety of odd instruments, from an aeolian windharp to a valiha to create a wondrous emotion.

The Dark Knight – Hanz Zimmer & James Newton Howard – 2008

Batman has had a notorious wrap for amazing film scores, and when the Dark Knight came out it did not disappoint. “Why so serious?” has eerie sounding sirens coming from the distance, and introduces you to a set of violins setting the tone. The track mixes classical music with action and electronics, making for a very cool sound.

Up – Michael Giacchino – 2009

Another modern day Disney classic on the list, Up has a fun tune that’s recognizable to the ear. The themed track, “Married Away,” has trumpets that lead the orchestra and warms the hearts of listeners as it plays the melody. Up did not disappoint, and even won an Academy Award for best original score.

Tron: Legacy – Daft Punk & Joseph Trapanese – 2010

Daft Punk helped to create the score for Tron: Legacy, adding electronics to classical music and creating a very unique sound to the film. A french horn leads the orchestra into an empowering climax with electrics in the attached track.

The Social Network – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – 2010

“Hand Covers Bruises” from The Social Network soundtrack has a slow playing piano that crescendos with an eerie underlaying ambience that cuts in and out. The track is mysterious and fits right in with the film, among other songs in the score.

Gravity – Steven Price – 2013

Gravity is an award winning film with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock that has a spacey soundtrack and fits perfectly throughout the film. This track has an airy tone that emerges you into an encapsulating climax after a long crescendo.

Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat – 2014

This staple Wes Anderson film is filled with adventure and curiosity. “Mr. Moustafa” by Alexandre Desplat uses a piano lead and has a recognizable melody that’s hard to get out of your head.

The Shape of Water – Alexandre Desplat – 2017

The film score for the award winning film The Shape of Water used flutes instead of a full orchestra to help capture the tinkly water theme, making for a very unique sound.

La La Land – Justin Hurwitz – 2016

La La Land has a beautiful score that fantasizes Hollywood and music. The use of piano throughout the film score has become a staple to the movie and memorable to fans. The attached track begins with a fairytale-like tune and brings in a fun jive that combines both tones at the climax.

Jackie – Mica Levi – 2016

Mica Levi has had a different approach to film scoring and this can be seen through the film Jackie. The soundtrack to the film is very unconventional, morbid, and felt, creating a different aura, compared to La La Land that was released in the same year.

Black Panther – Ludwig Göransson – 2018

The Black Panther soundtrack is very empowering, as it emerges music styles from other cultures with a classic orchestra. This film was multicultural throughout all aspects of the production.

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