As time progresses and music evolves, it's hard to define today's orchestral music in classical terms. Perhaps, today's original film scores are tomorrow's classical works. In that case, I've compiled a list of what I consider to be the Best Original Film Soundtracks since 1998. If that's not enough, checkout the best original films scores of 2010.
This is without a doubt, the album that started it all... my obsession with original film scores. Thomas Newman, a Hollywood heavyweight composer, has composed music for many movies, including Wall-E, American Beauty, Finding Nemo, and The Green Mile. Newman has a unique style of writing, and once you are familiar with it, it's easy to recognize. He composes in themes and reintroduces them in new ways - sometimes lighter, sometimes deeper. Because Meet Joe Black is about death, the soundtrack is somber and reflective, with lyrical melodies and lush symphonic orchestrations.
Tan Dun's impressive work effortlessly combines the music of the West with the music of the East. With the help of Yo-Yo Ma, Dun paints a vivid picture with a minimal sound. From the heart-pounding drums to the solo cello, his score (though not as flashy as the movie) is a subtle work of art.
This blockbuster movie of 2005, based on the novel by C.S. Lewis, boasts a fantastic soundtrack. Each song masterfully depicts the movie's drama, so even without the picture, the score stands solidly. Gregson-Williams fans agree that this is one of his greatest triumphs. The works on the Chronicles of Narnia soundtrack are rather eclectic - it's a mix of modern and classical with a dash of folk. And like the movie, it both inspires hope and ignites your imagination.
American Beauty, the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1999, has an amazing score. Composed by Thomas Newman, the music brings out the emotional subtleties words alone cannot do. Tastefully written, Newman's musical intuition to stay away from overly powerful, somewhat cliché musical themes adds to the movie's inherent beauty. The music of American Beauty is more of a framework, a hollow shell accented with "mile markers", which allows the listener to fill in the gaps with their own emotions and feelings.
Like the music of John Williams' Star Wars, Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings is instantly recognizable. Its music evokes many of the movies' most memorable scenes - from the great battles to the even greater victories. And with over nine hours of content to cover, a lack of musical variety is not an issue here! Shore effortlessly captures the action, emotion, and atmosphere of the movie and translates them to notes on a page. The trilogy features several artists, but one in particular I am quite fond of... Renee Fleming. Fleming lent her beautiful voice and recorded a few tracks for Shore. I find that I listen to these the most.
This album is starkly different from the other albums on this list. Rahman's Slumdog Millionaire, winner of the 2009 Golden Globe for Best Original Score from a Motion Picture, is definitely a youthful soundtrack fusing hip-hop and the typical Bollywood soundtrack into a modern day upbeat masterpiece.
Youth, joy, and wreckless abandon are the themes of this fantastic soundtrack. Kaczmarek, a polish composer, envisioned the meaning of Peter Pan and transformed it to music. Childrens chorus, solo piano, strings, and other energetic orchestrations take the listener exactly where they want to go - Neverland.
Star Wars. Almost anyone can name the movie upon hearing the movie's main theme and many can sing the theme if asked. The soundtrack to Episode III is nothing short of spectacular. Williams, whose music for Harry Potter and the Prisoner Of Azkaban was nominated for a Grammy for Best Score in 2005, is another Hollywood heavyweight composer. The music for Episode III is, perhaps, the darkest of the six Star Wars films. However, he doesn't lose the qualities which made us fall in love with his music in the first place.
Thomas Newman's third entry on the list - his score for Finding Nemo. Gracious in design and impeccable in execution, Newman's music is heartfelt and sincere. In a cold, vast ocean, his music adds warmth and emotional richness that computer animated characters and vivid graphics cannot fully express.
This delightful French film has a soundtrack that is rather unique. Its french flair and instrumentation are far from cliché. Employing a variety of instruments from accordion to solo piano, this score encompasses the film's fluttery charm and nature. How refreshing!