• J.R. Zbornak

You Can't Stop The Music: Favorite Scores of the 2010s

The 2010s were a great decade for film, and with great films comes great music. We saw legendary composers such as John Williams maintain their legacies, we saw Hans Zimmer define an era, we said hello to fresh faces like Ludwig Göransson, and sadly said goodbye to James Horner. Whether a legend or a legend in the making, the 2010s were filled to the brim with great music, to the point where any cinephile or fans of film scores would feel happily spoiled. As we enter the 2020s, which should also supply us with great music, let's take a look at the 2010s and my personal favorite scores from each year of the decade.


2010: How To Train Your Dragon by John Powell

Beginning the decade is an epic score for an epic film. Taking place on the Isle of Berk, John Powell scores the story of a young boy and his friendship with a fierce dragon to borderline perfection. Combining heroic brass and loud percussion, Powell gives the score a blast of Scottish and Irish flair. Never have penny whistles and bagpipes sounded so fantastic. Whether it's a heroic theme for the Vikings, or a sweeping romantic sound for Hiccup & Astrid, How To Train Your Dragon more than earned its Oscar nomination. It doesn't hurt that Powell brought the same level of epicness for the next two installments of the trilogy.


Honorable Mentions:

Inception (Hans Zimmer)

The King's Speech (Alexandre Desplat)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 1 (Alexandre Desplat)

Toy Story 3 (Randy Newman)

Tron: Legacy (Daft Punk)


2011: X-Men: First Class by Henry Jackman

The X-Men franchise has had a diverse set of composers in terms of style, with each of them leaving their personal stamp behind. When it came time to give the franchise a fresh sound, Matthew Vaughn turned to his frequent collaborator, Henry Jackman. Jackman supplied the film with the typical heroic fanfares we come to expect but also infuses it with a James Bond-style that makes its 1960s setting all the more convincing. The score shines brightest with its theme for Magneto, as it grows more sinister as the film goes on, finally culminating in the end credits. While Jackman never returned to the X-Men franchise, there will hopefully be an opportunity for him to score the X-Men once again in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. An X-Men fan can dream.


Honorable Mentions:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2 (Alexandre Desplat)

Super 8 (Michael Giacchino)

The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)

Captain America: The First Avenger (Alan Silvestri)

Thor (Patrick Doyle)


2012: The Avengers by Alan Silvestri

It's hard to imagine that a movie like The Avengers managed to happen. Seeing some of Marvel's greatest heroes come together to save the world still has a certain charm to it just as it did back in 2012. Not only did Joss Whedon accomplish the impossible, Alan Silvestri gave the iconic super-team the music they always deserved. Being his second ride in the MCU, Silvestri brings the same old-fashioned swashbuckling sound he brought to Captain America: The First Avenger, while also modernizing it. It also helps that he gives most of the individual major players, such as Captain America, Black Widow, Iron Man, and Loki, their individual themes. And of course, who can forget that main theme, which is arguably the most iconic piece of film music of the decade. Bringing back the same energy for Infinity War and Endgame, now everyone knows when you hear those 8 mortal notes that some pretty epic shit is about to go down.


Honorable Mentions:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Howard Shore)

Skyfall (Thomas Newman)

Argo (Alexandre Desplat)

Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, & Reinhold Heil)

John Carter (Michael Giacchino)


2013: Man of Steel by Hans Zimmer

I promise this is the last superhero movie on the list. 2013 was a great year for Hans Zimmer, with his scores for The Lone Ranger, Rush, and 12 Years A Slave being major heavyweights in his career. What makes Zimmer's score for Man of Steel so fantastic is that while it sounds nothing like John Williams' score for Richard Donner's 1978 classic, it still maintains the same epic and high flying heart. While some have deemed Zimmer's score repetitive, the music is built entirely on themes, with the themes for Krypton, General Zod, and Superman gracing our ears. Never has it been easier to believe a man can fly.


Honorable Mentions:

Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)

Monsters University (Randy Newman)

The Lone Ranger (Hans Zimmer)

Her (Arcade Fire & Owen Pallett)

Iron Man 3 (Brian Tyler)


2014: Interstellar by Hans Zimmer

Another year, another amazing Hans Zimmer score to grace our musical taste buds. Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan have always made a great team, between The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Dunkirk, but Interstellar to me is the best collaboration between the two. Space has never sounded so close and so tangible, with Zimmer's ambient and often chilling music teleports you to the cosmos in ways only John Williams and Michael Giacchino have accomplished. It's hard to listen to this score without being tempted to close your eyes and imagine yourself floating amongst the stars. While it didn't win Zimmer the Oscar, I think it's hard to argue that this isn't Zimmer's magnum opus.


Honorable Mentions:

The Theory of Everything (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)

Guardians of the Galaxy (Tyler Bates)

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (John Powell)

The Monuments Men (Alexandre Desplat)


2015: Star Wars: The Force Awakens by John Williams

When the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy was first announced, many wondered if John Williams would return to the franchise. Thankfully, in 2013, Williams was confirmed to come back. Not only that John Williams references older material from the Original Trilogy, he creates new iconic themes for a new generation, His themes for Kylo Ren, Poe Dameron, Finn, and The Resistance sound more than a part of the fabric of the universe, but it's his theme for Rey that makes the score. This may be a hot take of sorts, but I believe that Rey's Theme is the single greatest piece of music John Williams has ever made. It helps that her theme is the main reason he came back for The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. Winning Williams a Grammy, a Saturn Award, and earning him his record-breaking 50th Oscar nomination, The Force Awakens was a brilliant reminder that nobody does it better than John Williams.


Honorable Mentions:

Jurassic World (Michael Giacchino)

Bridge of Spies (Thomas Newman)

The Danish Girl (Alexandre Desplat)

Inside Out (Michael Giacchino)

Mad Max: Fury Road (Junkie XL)


2016: La La Land by Justin Hurwitz

As of writing this, this is the only choice on this list that won the Academy Award for Best Original Score. Justin Hurwitz and Damian Chazelle made a great team on Whiplash and continued their partnership on First Man, but La La Land is on another level of greatness. While including instrumental versions of the film's show-stopping tunes, the love theme for Mia and Sebastian is what gives the score an extra boost of wonder. It hearkens back to the classic musical scores of old but doesn't lose its modern sensibilities. No matter what track you find yourself listening to, the score manages to be just as phenomenal and just as catchy as the songs.


Honorable Mentions:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Michael Giacchino)

Doctor Strange (Michael Giacchino)

The BFG (John Williams)

The Light Between Oceans (Alexandre Desplat)

Star Trek Beyond (Michael Giacchino)


2017: Coco by Michael Giacchino

Micheal Giacchino's name has appeared quite often on this list, and for good reason. Giacchino manages to provide every movie he scores with an extra amount of energy, and Coco is no exception. What makes Coco such an amazing score is its authenticity, being incredibly and unabashedly Mexican. Giacchino pays great respect to the music and sound of Mexican cultures, while also infusing it with his own personal sensibilities that made his scores for other Pixar movies so iconic. Whether it's a heartwarming theme for Mama Coco, a childlike one for Miguel, a frantic one for Hector, or a surprisingly heroic theme for Pepita, Michael Giacchino never lets go of the energy and never lets us forget where the music comes from; the heart.


Honorable Mentions:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (John Williams)

Dunkirk (Hans Zimmer)

Cars 3 (Randy Newman)

The Post (John Williams)

The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat)


2018: Solo: A Star Wars Story by John Powell (Han Solo Theme by John Williams)

Despite being one of the most iconic and beloved characters of the Star Wars saga, Han Solo never had music to call his own. The closest he got was a love theme he shared with Princess Leia (who got her own theme in A New Hope). Despite this, John Williams finally gave Han his own theme, in the form of The Adventures of Han, which represents Alden Ehrenreich's version of the iconic smuggler to a tee. His longing for something greater, his lust for adventure, and thrill-seeking attitude are all represented in a glorious 3-minute track. While Williams' theme is fantastic, this score belongs to John Powell. Bringing back the same high octane sound from the How To Train Your Dragon Trilogy, Powell combines Williams' themes as well as his new ones perfectly. The themes for Han & Qi'ra, L3-37, Tobias Beckett, and Enfys Nest immediately skyrocketed to some of the best music the franchise has ever had. It also helps to hear The Asteroid Field in a Star Wars movie again. After creating not only my favorite score of the franchise, Powell also crafted my favorite film score of all-time. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't listening to it as we speak.


Honorable Mentions:

Avengers: Infinity War (Alan Silvestri)

Black Panther (Ludwig Göransson)

Mary Poppins Returns (Marc Shaiman)

First Man (Justin Hurwitz)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Michael Giacchino)


2019: Marriage Story by Randy Newman

To conclude the decade is a flawless score for an amazing picture. Randy Newman is not only one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all-time, but also one of the greatest film composers of all-time, lending his talents to many great films such as Ragtime, Avalon, and Pleasantville. Yet, Newman is known by many for his work with Pixar, mainly the Toy Story franchise. Despite his great work with Pixar, he became pigeonholed to doing only animation. However, enter Noah Baumbach, who supplied Randy Newman with his first live-action feature in nearly a decade with The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected). With Marriage Story, Baumbach and Newman reunite, with Newman's first live-action film with a full orchestra since Leatherheads in 2008. Marriage Story may be the story of a bittersweet divorce, but it's scored to one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, and emotional scores I have heard for a drama in a long time. The two main themes, What I Love About Nicole and What I Love About Charlie accompany a beautiful montage, aided by voice-over from Scarlet Johansson and Adam Driver. While some have dismissed the score as "overly bouncy", Randy Newman was finally given the opportunity to show the industry that he's still got it. Delivering his best score since Monsters, Inc., Randy Newman definitely ended a kick-ass decade of film scores in the best way possible.


Honorable Mentions:

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)

Avengers: Endgame (Alan Silvestri)

Knives Out (Nathan Johnson)

1917 (Thomas Newman)

Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)

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