It doesn’t matter if you’re watching movies at home like a lot of the world was in 2020, or getting the rare chance to see something in the cinema — music is always important. And before we get into the list, we have to give one big shoutout to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross who managed to place twice on our Top 5. In one year, what an achievement!
Here are our picks for the Top 5 Best Original Scores and/or Soundtracks in Movies for 2020.
5.) Da 5 Bloods by Terence Blanchard
I wouldn’t say I liked Da 5 Bloods original score by Terence Blanchard while watching the film. But when I listened to it as I was writing my film review, I could appreciate it a lot more. I’d stand my more criticisms of the mixing and use of the film’s score, but the music itself is standout. Hell, maybe it was so memorable because it’s so overbearing in the film at times.
It’s a very American score, and in many ways, it sounds like the type of thing you’d have heard more in the ’90s, early 2000’s war or dramatic movie. You can hear inspirations of John Williams here; it sounds like Born on the Fourth of July or JFK. ‘What the Mission Is About’ is a perfect example of this. An intense horn-based symphony that screams “war film.”
Terence Blanchard and director Spike Lee have formed a strong friendship across their 20+ years, and it shows in how much Lee trusts Blanchards music to carry a scene at times. Da 5 Bloods is sure to get Blanchard a follow up Oscar-nom following BlacKkKlansman, and it’ll be well deserved.
– Dylan Blight
4.) Little Women by Alexandre Desplat
It can’t be an easy task to try to score the seventh adaptation of a beloved novel, especially on that has been scored quite well in the past. Of course, Alexandre Desplat was well up to the challenge and delivers a score to rival all the other iterations.
Greta Gerwig has been quoted that she requested the music to be “a mix of Mozart meeting Bowie” and Desplat delivered, the score fitting in with the period of the film yet feeling modern, much like Gerwig’s interpretation of the source material. The title theme “Little Women” is a wonderful example of this and the score helped make the film shine.
– Ashley Hobley
3.) Soul by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross & Jon Batiste
It still blows my mind that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the composers behind the scores for films like The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the TV series Watchmen, worked on a Pixar film. They do a fantastic job though, providing a new-age, electronic score to accompany the sections of the film set in the Great Beyond and Great Before which complements those sections perfectly. They also provide the track “Epiphany” which enhances the scene it accompanies greatly and is one of my favourite track of the year.
Jon Batiste may not have the same name recognition as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, but in a movie that is centred around jazz music, he is pivotal. His work makes the film sound truly authentic for a man who believes music is his purpose.
– Ashley Hobley
2.) Tenet by Ludwig Gorransson
Christopher Nolan has had a rather famous working relationship with Hanz Zimmer; the Dark Knight Trilogy music is instrumental in why people love those movies so much. However, when it came to Tenet, he had a new face work with him on the film’s music is Ludwig Göransson. He’s been making quite a name for himself over the last few years, including getting an Oscar to win. And Göransson’s style fits in perfectly for the soundscape Nolan likes to present in his films.
You have everything you’d want from Nolan films music here. On ‘747’ there’s the loud bass and build of tension that eventually tumbles over into a rather doomy soundscape. One of my favourite pieces is ‘Trucks in Place’ which follows in ‘747’s gloomy electronic vibes. It’s captivating and when used in the film itself, both of these tracks two of the films major action sequences perfectly. I can’t fail to mention ‘The Plan’ which samples ‘Trucks in Place’ for a hell of a Travis Scott song that accompanied the last trailer before the film’s release, and the credits.
Ludwig Göransson has kept his rather original sound here while using the big HORNS that Nolan loves. It’s an excellent soundtrack for Tenet and another fantastic piece of work from Göransson.
– Dylan Blight
1.) Mank by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
In 2010 David Fincher invited Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to provide The Social Network’s original score. Even since then, he’s had them score all of his films. These films usually have a modern setting, rustic feel, grimy edges. The Nine Inch Nail musicians fit well within all of those films. However, as the years have passed the team of Reznor and Ross have grown and stretched their genre legs. Still, I wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Fincher wasn’t having them work on Mank; of course, he did, and they did a phenomenal job.
It’s an odd collection of styles for the duo, but they pass them all with flying colours. You have these period-specific pieces like ‘Welcome to Victorville’ that invokes the 1940’s Hollywood era. Then songs like ‘Once More Unto the Breach’ are jazz-inspired uplifting numbers ready to have you tapping your toe away. There are more cinematic songs here as well, like “San Simeon Waltz.”
All of the music comes together in an essential way for Mank. A film that’s very much trying to inspire the 40/50’s era of Hollywood the movie is based in, and the feeling you’d get watching movies from that era. Reznor and Ross are vital in Mank’s production, and they created the best original score of 2020.
– Dylan Blight
This Top 5 list was compiled by Dylan Blight and Ashley Hobley.