5. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” Score by John Williams
The music for “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” is an overwhelming, undulating typhoon of a score that gets your heart racing and your blood pumping. John Williams is a master of his own deck, and he weaves his classic “Star Wars” themes into key moments of drama or action that result in incredibly powerful waves of nostalgia. Through enormous swells and soft melodies, Williams’s score indicates the power, both expelled and restrained, that is central to the movement of this iconic space opera. Williams’s score is essential to the fabric of the “Star Wars” franchise, and his work in the most recent film stays true to the traditional harmonies of the original films.
In “The Last Jedi,” the score works like the Force itself, moving through all things to create one dynamic, breathing energy. While that sounds cheesy, watching “The Last Jedi” really is an immersive experience of sensory overload, and the score acts as an anchor to pop culture while being a vehicle to a transcendent, fantastical world. John Williams and Star Wars are irrevocably linked, and the maestro delivers once again with the powerful, dramatic and emotional movements of “The Last Jedi.”
— Sydney Cohen, Daily Arts Writer
4. “Dunkirk” Score by Hans Zimmer
Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) accomplishes many impressive cinematic feats in his recent war movie “Dunkirk.” The movie follows three separate stories — set in the sky, on land and at sea — that eventually converge. With a movie as spatially disjointed as “Dunkirk,” the soundtrack is essential for creating continuity and guiding the audience. Hans Zimmer (“Gladiator”) and company do not disappoint.
This is not the first successful collaboration between Zimmer and Nolan. Their previous films “Interstellar” and “The Dark Knight” both received nods during the major award circuits. Zimmer’s music score for “Dunkirk” brings the tension and drama to another level. It sets the proper mood for the sorrow, violence and destruction of war. In movies centered around battle sequences, the soundtrack must also establish a realistic atmosphere. The carefully curated landscape of mortar shells and gunfire brings the audience into the moment, a craft that is underappreciated. The soundtrack of “Dunkirk” does a tremendous job handling a tricky soundscape in yet another great product from Zimmer and Nolan.
— Meghan Chou, Daily Arts Writer
3. “Blade Runner 2049: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch
If there’s one thing that could be said to be the most characteristic aspect of a “Blade Runner” film, it’s the atmosphere. In the first film, Ridley Scott created a world famous for its neon-infused brand of film noir. “Blade Runner” featured an iconic soundtrack from Greek composer Vangelis, offering a score that became inextricable from the film’s sense of loneliness, paranoia and loss. With “Blade Runner: 2049,” Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch have created a soundtrack that manages to incorporate the genius of the first film while remaining fresh and sonically impactful.
Zimmer and Wallfisch’s score weaves into the film’s story and landscape over long, ambient drones and thunderous electric pulsing. The score remains an exercise in restraint throughout, never crossing into indulgence during the film’s emotional highs. Rather, the score parallels the world of the film; dark, brooding and bleak but not without its strange brand of sparse beauty. Avoiding the self-congratulatory nature of many sequel soundtracks, the score contains only faint glimmers of the past through the whole film before finally drawing a connection with the mournfully beautiful “Tears in Rain.” Zimmer and Wallfisch have truly created a score worthy of Denis Villeneuve’s masterful film.
— Max Michalsky, Daily Arts Writer
2. “Call Me by Your Name” Score by various artists
The soundtrack for Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name” sets the perfect romantic environment in the rolling Northern Italian hills circa 1980. A film that isn’t dialogue heavy demands for the music to tell part of the story, which its soundtrack undeniably does. It takes the viewer and the listener along the protagonist, Elio’s (Timothée Chalamet, “Lady Bird”), journey into exploration, love and heartbreak, which is reflected in the musical variety and cadences. Classical piano like “M.A.Y. In the Backyard” by Ryuichi Sakamoto mirror Elio’s juvenile and playful personality, and the plethora of piano instrumentation shapes the ambiance of the Italian intellectual elite.
Elio, Oliver (Armie Hammer, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E”) and their band of mish-mashed French-Italian teens smoke cigarettes and boogie to ‘80s groovy pop hits in Italian and others like the famous “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs, which has crept its way back into Spotify playlists. And the shining stars of the soundtrack may be singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens's compositions, reminiscent of his 2015 album Carrie & Lowell. “Mystery of Love” scores the film’s trailer and almost prompts immediate tears, and “Visions of Gideon” plays during the memorable heart-rending credit roll. The soundtrack is a fully realized masterpiece with a clear progression, and it's one that has long-term potential to be listened to independently.
— Sophia White, Daily Arts Writer
1. “Baby Driver” Score by various artists
From the opening moments of “Baby Driver,” as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms” plays out over a slick, perfectly-executed heist, Edgar Wright’s latest film announces itself as one that will be defined by its soundtrack. Much of the action is set to the impressive collection of songs Wright collected, the gunshots timed to the beat of the drums, the characters’ words and movements to the lyrics. It’s even more impressive when viewed from a story-based perspective, as many of the songs are chosen to give insight into the state of mind of Baby (Ansel Elgort, “The Fault in Our Stars”) and his friends and partners.
It’s almost impossible to pick a single best scene; there are too many great music-based moments to even begin to list them here. On the one hand, the exhilarating foot chase set to Focus’s “Hocus Focus” and the shootout timed to The Button Down Brass’s cover of “Tequila” highlight the ways Wright uses the soundtrack to accent the action in ludicrously cool fashion. The climax, backed by Brian May’s blistering “Brighton Rock” guitar solo, not only provides a great song for the action to time itself to but has added weight when taken in the context of the fractured friendship between Baby and Buddy (Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”). The opening might finally take the cake, though, as it serves as a perfect introduction to the characters, the style and the world of the film.
— Jeremiah Vanderhelm, Daily Arts Writer