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Empire Readers’ Ten Best Soundtracks Of The Teens

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Empire’s celebration of movie music kicked off a month ago with the ivory tinklers of the silent era. Since then, it’s taken in the heyday of MGM and RKO, the might of Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone and John Barry, the highs of Johns, Williams and Carpenter, and fanfared its way to the modern symphonies of Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore and Clint Mansell. There’s been exclusive interviews, playlists, makings-of, and behind-the-scenes looks at some of the greatest movie scores ever committed to vinyl, CD or MP3. Heck, we’ve even learnt how to spell ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ along the way. But all good parties must come to an end. Before we start fishing treble clefs from martini glasses and trying to coax Jaws’ scary two-note motif from the swimming pool, we asked Empire readers to take us out with a bang – and you did, and then some. Here are the ten soundtracks that have been wearing out your iPods since 2010.



Cloud Atlas
Composer: Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek
A current J. J. Abrams favourite, Cloud Atlas's terrific score is another feather in co-director Tom Tykwer's cap. He and his old Run Lola Run / Perfume pals Klimek and Heil collaborated to unite the movie's wildly diverse settings with beautifully fragile motifs, composing more than two hours of original music, including the crucial Cloud Atlas Sextet, and bagging a Golden Globe nod for their troubles. The results are, as J.J. enthuses, "pretty cool".


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Composer: Howard Shore
An unexpected entry perhaps, if only because Howard Shore's score rarely strays far from the path he forged on his ace troika of Rings' soundtracks. Opinions were also split on Neil Finn's folky closer, Song Of The Lonely Mountain, but with the London Philharmonic back in the studio and some rousing cues ('Out Of The Frying Pan' is a standout) to speed Bilbo and co. on their way, there were plenty of Middle-earth melodies to enjoy. We're keeping fingers crossed for a departure or two in Part 2. Skrillex's 'The Desolation Of Smaug', anyone?


Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Composer: Various Artists
A peach of an Edgar Wright score that honoured the musical influences of Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic book, created three authentic-sounding (and actually pretty darn ace) fictional bands, and fused it all with Wright's own indie and glam-rock sensibilities into a musical highpoint of 2010. Sure, it helped having Beck and Metric write the music, but there wasn't a beat out of place on the soundtrack – or in the movie. Scott Pilgrim would love it, in that nervy, shy way of his.


Django Unchained
Composer: Various Artists
Though Quentin Tarantino's Southern featured work from the great Ennio Morricone, that didn't spare him the sharp end of the Italian composer's critical appraisal. Morricone has subsequently stepped back from his description of QT's musical choices as "incoherent", offering a happy ending to a sad chapter that threatened to distract from a typically terrific selection of tunes, both antique (Luis Bacalov's 'Django', Morricone's 'Un Monumento') and urban (Rick Ross's '100 Black Coffins', RZA's 'Ode To Django'). No-one knows dusty, blood-soaked musical landscapes like Morricone, but he may not have come across one quite like Django's. This was literally off the chain.


Skyfall
Composer: Thomas Newman
The Cruuuumble Song may have taken the Oscar and most the plaudits – justly so because Adele and Paul Epworth's track is the best Bond title theme since Gladys Knight's 'Licence To Kill' – but Empire readers, a discerning bunch, recognise that there's more to this soundtrack than one hit single. Thomas Newman's score kicks off with a brassy Istanbul chase, tips a cap in John Barry's direction with 'Severine' and then plumbs moody depths in lockstep with the film's troubled hero. Sadly, there's no cue called '007 Sleeps With A Beautiful Woman And Then Looks Gloomy For A Bit, The Bastard'.


The Dark Knight Rises
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer's reinvention of the modern action score has been a Taser jolt through cinema, with few recent blockbuster cues free from the sturm und drang of his thunderous influence. But as Carly Simon once sang, nobody does it better, and, frankly, most of the imitators strain to do it half as good as the German managed on the concluding part of Christopher Nolan's Batventure. Here he showed one he's always a step ahead, working without James Newton Howard for the first time in the trilogy, but maintaining its lofty standards. Bane's freaky chanting motif, the sound of a thousand Gregorian nutters on the rampage, proves once again that Zimmer is a storyteller as well as a composer.


Tron: Legacy
Composer: Daft Punk
The future shock of Tron World has twice lent itself to groundbreaking electronic artists. American synth pioneer Wendy Carlos scored the 1982 original, and second time out it was the turn of French robot-headed funsters Daft Punk to turn the synthesisers up REALLY, REALLY LOUD and electrify the boys and girls. In fact, the pair went a step further than Carlos and popped up in the End Of The Line's DJ booth in a cameo that would breach of most clubs' 'No Helmets' policy. If you've recently joined a Facebook group called 'Random Access Memories WTF?', the still-blistering Derezzed will help restore your faith in the duo.


The Social Network
Composer: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
About 140% bleepier than the True Grit score, long-time Nine Inch Nail collaborators Reznor and Ross's first score was as innovative, quirky and ill-tempered as the man, Mark Zuckerberg, whose story it accompanied. The Facebook founder, no great fan of the movie, must at least have recognised kindred spirits in it composers, whose tech savvy and taste for experimentalism reworked Edvard Grieg's 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' into a schizoid jolt, harnessed nervy electronica with 'In Motion' and the crafted some beautifully delicate in 'Hand Covers Bruise'. Update your status to 'Oscar winners'.


Drive
Composer: Various Artists
A cult film needs a cult soundtrack, and Drive definitely got one. The electronica picked by Nicolas Winding Refn is nocturnal, pulsing and purring with barely supressed menace, like a neon light playing on the surface of the film. French electro-popper Kavinsky, an opening credits choice suggested by Winding Refn's editor, sets a noirish mood that's enhanced by the hypnotic groove of The Chromatics and College & Electric Youth, as well as the synthy, Brian Eno-infused cues of Cliff Martinez. Be warned, though: with tracks like 'Skull Crushing', 'They Broke His Pelvis' and 'Kick Your Teeth', this will scare off all your other soundtracks.


Inception
Composer: Hans Zimmer
"Epic!" "Thunderous!" "Cinema-shaking!" Hans Zimmer's Inception score had us reaching for superlatives to sum up that tingly feeling you get when a surprise bass line suddenly vaporises one of your key organs. And we had that a lot during Christopher Nolan's existential sci-fi blockbuster. If Nolan was working with IMAX on set, Zimmer was doing something similar in the studio – yup, we're coining the term "EARMAX" – with cues like 'Dream Is Collapsing' and 'Mombasa' driving Cobb and co. deeper and deeper into the labyrinth. If this isn't near the top of any decade's best list you read in 2019, the list is probably upside down.