- Logan – Marco Beltrami
In his most experimental and compelling score yet, Marco Beltrami breathes new life and darkness into the superhero genre with his Western-influenced and minimalist music for Logan. Beltrami brings in instrumentation yet to have touched a superhero movie. With this combination, there is a constant sense of delicacy, horror, excitement and emotional resonance. Beltrami brings his riskiest A-game to this score, and it’s a wonder to listen to. The music’s daring to be different and succeeding puts it at the top of this list.
- War for the Planet of the Apes – Michael Giacchino
When the 20th Century Fox logo appears on the screen, a new version of the theme plays. The familiar snares are replaced with tribal instrumentation. It was then I knew that this score was going to be something special. Turns out, it was. Michael Giacchino’s score fits the film like a glove, with his melodies hitting on every emotion and being completely based in character. This score is a triumph for Giacchino, and sets a new high bar for his already impressive repertoire.
- It – Benjamin Wallfisch
How do you make something that sounds innocent and childlike on the surface also sound so horrifying? Benjamin Wallfisch answers that question with his stunning composition for this blockbuster adaptation of the Stephen King novel. It’s a score that is as musically harmonious as it is fitfully frightening, mixing in emotive orchestral elements with jarring strings and demented carnival sounds.
- The Shape of Water – Alexandre Desplat
Sometimes, it feels just right to hear music that brings to mind good old-fashioned romance. These days, you can’t get anyone more qualified for that than Alexandre Desplat, whose scores for period dramas like The Danish Girl and The King’s Speech show that he is capable of taking you back to the days of Casablanca or even Gone With The Wind. This particular score sees some of his best piano work yet.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi – John Williams
The legendary composer expands on the themes he introduced in The Force Awakens while paying homage to what he created before. What is particularly striking about The Last Jedi’s score is just how thematic, thrilling and fresh it still all feels. A new theme in particular is reminiscent to the “Cantina Band” theme from A New Hope that is equally as funky. There’s no doubt that John Williams’ creativity expands beyond a galaxy far, far away.
- Blade Runner 2049 – Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch
The best word to describe this collaboration between veteran Hans Zimmer and protégé Benjamin Wallfisch would be “atmospheric.” Paying homage to the original soundscape by Vangelis while also feeling fresh and exciting. While not very melodic, the music succeeds on sheer impact, overloading our senses and bringing out the best of both mentor and mentee.
- Dunkirk – Hans Zimmer
Composers have had different approaches to films surrounding the events of World War II. With Saving Private Ryan, it was minimal. With Fury, it was driving orchestral elements. With Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer digs more into playing with the concept of time, with the percussive elements working like a ticking clock, playing with the film’s concept of time and suspense. So much of it feels not like a typical patriotic war score, but something suited for a thriller. Regardless, it is thrilling and suits the film perfectly, proving that Zimmer does some of his most interesting work with Christopher Nolan.
- Good Time – Oneohtrix Point Never
In regards to music, smaller films tend to lean into the electronic soundscape. Some do this phenomenally, and I’m happy to say that Good Time’s music by Daniel Lopatin a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never lands squarely in that category. The whole of the score plays on elements of nostalgia while also being incredibly spine tingling. The score recalls some of the most effective and experimental sci-fi and horror films. The music of Good Time moves like a throbbing heartbeat. It is all adrenaline-fueled and wonderfully listenable.
- Get Out – Michael Abels
It’s odd, scary, melodic, atmospheric, everything that constitutes a great horror score. The music for Get Out makes me incredibly excited for what Michael Abels can bring in the future.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Carter Burwell
Carter Burwell can capture the spirit of Americana like no one else, especially considering his work with the Coen Brothers. Reteaming with Martin McDonagh, the score for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri brings in more of what he is known for: complex string arrangements and minimalist yet captivating melodies.| Bill Loellke