Off and on I write about my favorite film scores of the year. I didn’t the last two years for various reasons (I started writing a post last year but never finished it), but I did in 2015, 2013, 2012, and 2011. Rather than try to rank them as I’ve done in the past, I’m just listing them alphabetically this year. As in years past, these aren’t necessary the *best* scores of the year, but they’re the ones I listened to and enjoyed the most.

There are still some 2018 scores I haven’t listened to yet that I plan to, so this list could be updated with an late addition or two like it was back in 2012 with Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin’s enchanting BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.

BLACK PANTHER — Ludwig Göransson

If I were ranking these, this score would be at the top of the list. For me, this is the best score of the year. Full stop.

What makes this score so great is that it’s a superhero score that fits well in the Marvel musical world established by Alan Silvestri and further developed by Brian Tyler—it has rousing brass fanfares, driving percussive elements, stirring and striking vocals—but it’s a wholly unique entry in that world with its multitude of African flavors, and it even throws in some hip-hop beats. The themes are strong. The orchestrations are strong. There’s an obvious heart and level of care throughout the score. It is simply, uh, marvelous.

This is a fantastic achievement that further cements Ludwig Göransson as a composer to watch. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

CREED II — Ludwig Göransson

Ludwig Göransson’s CREED score, uh, knocked me out back in 2015. His CREED II score does it again. It’s everything I like a sequel score to do: revisit and expand the existing themes and tone of the first score while further developing the musical world. I can’t say I’m a fan of hip-hop music, but I can’t get enough of the track “Runnin” that combines Göransson’s CREED themes with vocals by A$AP Rocky.

THE DEATH OF STALIN — Christopher Willis

This is technically a 2017 score, but with the movie being released in the United States in 2018, it’s eligible for 2018 Academy Awards, so I’m counting it as a 2018 score too. Christopher Willis seems to have taken a page from the Elmer Bernstein book of comedy scoring—write a serious score for a unserious movie (see: GHOSTBUSTERS). Further, he channels his music through the sound of great Russian composers giving it a classical sound that wouldn’t be out of place in, say, a Tchaikovsky ballet. It’s a brilliant effect and execution making for a very satisfying score.

INCREDIBLES II — Michael Giacchino

I was expecting more of the same (in a good way) from Michael Giacchino’s first INCREDIBLES score, but this one is a little different. It’s still jazzy, but not in a John-Barry-early-James-Bond-sound kind of way. Once I got past the sound being a little different, this score became one of my most listened to. It’s bursting with energy, full of familiar and new themes, and is a delight to listen to.

LOST IN SPACE — Christopher Lennertz

Christopher Lennertz’s score proudly and enjoyably evokes John Williams’s and James Horner’s big-themed, orchestral sci-fi scores of the 1980s. And I am here for it. I’m also here for the score’s generous use of John Williams’s LOST IN SPACE theme from the 1960s TV show. I always appreciate when a remake or reboot makes use of the original musical theme. As a lovely complement to the Williams theme is the main theme Lennertz wrote. The theme and the score as a whole exude a sense of adventure and make wondrous use of a sound that is sadly missing from a lot of modern scores.

OCEAN’S 8 — Daniel Pemberton

First coming on my radar back in 2015 thanks to his enjoyable, showcasing-several-styles STEVE JOBS score, Daniel Pemberton is again showing off his diverse talent. His OCEAN’S 8 score has a retro jazzy vibe—exactly what I would expect a heist movie like this to sound like. The music is energized and is just an overall very fun and easy listening experience that comfortably fits with David Holmes’s OCEAN’S ELEVEN musical world.

READY PLAYER ONE — Alan Silvestri

Not having a John Williams score in a Steven Spielberg film is still weird for me, but Alan Silvestri was the perfect choice to score this. He appropriately and successfully evokes his 1980s sound from his BACK TO THE FUTURE score (and even quotes the score here). Like Christopher Lennertz’s LOST IN SPACE, there’s a real sense of adventure in the music that makes for a delicious throwback sound. READY PLAYER ONE is easily Alan Silvestri’s best score in years.

SOLO — John Powell & John Williams

There aren’t too many things in the film-score world that get me more excited than a new John Powell score, but a new John Powell *adventure* score is one of them. And wow was this an exciting John Powell adventure score. John Williams wrote the main themes, and John Powell made them his own throughout the score (part of me wonders what a John Powell SOLO theme might have sounded like).

What I wrote about his PAN score is 100% accurate here too: Strong thematic material, rich orchestrations, and sheer fun. These are all hoped-for things in a John Powell score. And he again didn’t disappoint. Throw in some quotes of and allusions to Williams’s original STAR WARS themes (the music accompanying the Millennium Falcon reveal repeatedly gives me goosebumps), and this is not just a supremely enjoyable score, it’s easily one of John Powell’s best.

VICE — Nicholas Britell

Nicholas Britell’s score is at times dark, dramatic, buoyant, celebratory, soaring, classical, and at times it even throws in a little funk. It’s an enjoyable score that I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it but came out delighted by it. I imagine Britell’s IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK will get more awards recognition, but for me this is the more enjoyable, more accomplished score thanks to the many styles and instrumental voices it employs.

But wait. There’s more!

These, of course, weren’t the only scores I listened to in 2018, so I want to highlight some others. While the following scores weren’t amongst my favorites, they still had some standout tracks I enjoyed listening to repeatedly.


BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE — Michael Giacchino


BLACKKKLANSMAN — Terence Blanchard


FIRST MAN — Justin Hurwitz

HOLMES & WATSON — Mark Mothersbaugh





TAG — Germaine Franco

VENOM — Ludwig Göransson

Thank you to all of these composers and many more for entertaining me throughout the year. I hope you find entertainment in some of these scores too. Here’s to more orchestral delight in 2019!