Sound Off: Best Movies Scores of 2008 - What Are Your Favorites?

January 5, 2009

Michael Giacchino in Studio

I love movie scores. And even the best ones sadly never get mentioned enough. So as a way of highlighting some of the very best movies scores of last year, I thought I'd start this discussion today. I was heavily inspired by ScoreKeeper's Top 10 Best Scores Of 2008, which just hit this morning, because it features a very odd yet respectable list of great soundtracks. I won't spoil his top choice (you can find the list below), but it's definitely something that no one was expecting. As for my own favorite scores, well, where do I begin? Most recently I was quite fond of John Ottman's score for Valkyrie, but besides that, there are quite a few good ones to choose from. Before I get to my own list, let's look at what ScoreKeeper chose.

We'll kick this off by checking out his list before we get into mine. You can read all of his in-depth write ups on his choices over on Ain't It Cool News. Could anyone have predicted these choices?

10. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer by Ryan Shore [Amazon or iTunes]
9. Burn After Reading by Carter Burwell [Amazon or iTunes]
8. The Substitute by Marco Beltrami
7. Cloverfield by Michael Giacchino [iTunes]
6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by Alexandre Desplat [Amazon or iTunes]
5. The Visitor by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek [Amazon or iTunes]
4. Let the Right One In by Johan SΓΆderqvist [iTunes]
3. Wall-E by Thomas Newman [Amazon or iTunes]
2. Appaloosa by Jeff Beal [Amazon or iTunes]
1. Speed Racer by Michael Giacchino [Amazon or iTunes]

First off, I also loved that Speed Racer score. Giacchino is a musical genius and his recent work ("Lost", "Fringe", Ratatouille, Speed Racer) proves it. No wonder J.J. Abrams hired him to do the score for the new Star Trek. As much as I love Giacchino's work, however, my top pick for best score/soundtrack of the year goes to Slumdog Millionaire by A.R. Rahman [Amazon or iTunes], hands down. It's closely followed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's The Dark Knight [Amazon or iTunes], which was a brilliant enhancement to the Batman Begins score. Yes, I legitimately own both of these soundtracks (including that $50 special edition version of The Dark Knight) and listen to them a lot while working.

Other favorite scores from this year include In Bruges by Carter Burwell [Amazon or iTunes], which makes at least two great Burwell scores in one year. Another great soundtrack that featured numerous eclectic styles was Synecdoche, New York by Jon Brion [Amazon or iTunes]. I also loved the score for Milk by Danny Elfman [Amazon or iTunes], which was a perfect fit for one of my favorite films. I've also got to mention Quantum of Solace by David Arnold [Amazon or iTunes], which I thought was another top notch action movie score, even though I'm not sure too many others agree. And lastly, the music in Dear Zachary, which was written by director Kurt Kuenne as well, was quite beautiful.

So there we have it. I've named every last movie score I can remember from this year that I loved. So now it's up to you, as I'm sure there are a few I'm forgetting. So, what are your favorite scores from 2008?

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Reader Feedback - 51 Comments


Slumdog Millionaire by A.R. Rahman The Dark Knight by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's Agree πŸ˜‰

Kill the Batman on Jan 5, 2009


Love The Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire scores. Trying to get my hands on the Benjamin Button score because i didn't notice it enough during the film. good list Alex

Tim Buel on Jan 5, 2009


Im glad to see that Benjamin Button and Cloverfield made it up there, but where is Dark Knight? I agree with you Alex.

Matt on Jan 5, 2009


Revolutionary Road. Thomas Newman's score added a much needed dimension to the film that made the nastier scenes much easier to swallow.

Rahat on Jan 5, 2009


Let's not forget I Am Legend's score done by James Newton Howard.

Ali on Jan 5, 2009


I forgot to mention Clint Mansell's score for The Fountain, best shit ever, unbelievably awesome.

Ali on Jan 5, 2009


Both of those are fantastic scores Ali, but both of those were not this year. We're just talking about 2008 scores... πŸ™‚

Alex Billington on Jan 5, 2009


For me, It's hands down track 14 "A dark Knight" composed by the awesomely talented Hanz Zimmer,for best movie of the year (for me) The Dark Knight! I Listen to that track almost every morning to start my day...In fact, It's playing as I write this πŸ™‚

ChiriSan on Jan 5, 2009


I agree with all of you about the dark knight, the score was a great addition to an awesome movie. I'm not sure if it was violins or some other string insturments that were used in the real high suspense points but it just added a great. And dark feel to those darker moments, truly enhancing the realism that TDK brought to the screen.

midnightlight on Jan 5, 2009


I loved Let the Right One In. It did it's job beautifully and it was a great listen. On the other hand, The Dark Knight was not an amazing musical achievement, but it sure was 100% effective.

Jonathan Z on Jan 5, 2009


There's really nothing special about the Dark Knight score. You guys really need to take it down a notch, on the whole Dark Knight love thing. Just because some parts excel, it doesn't mean all parts do, the score certainly doesn't. It's not even as good as the previous work from Hans. Pirates has a much more powerful and memorable score, well theme at least, which is what TDK has as a strength, a decent theme. Just getting a bit sick of all the INTERNET raging boner over anything TDK, seriously, the score isn't anything out of the ordinary. I personally liked the Benjamin Button score, and wall E. Haven't paid much attention to others, this year was pretty disappointing on that front. I mean just overall it was a pretty bad year for movies, quality wise, writers strike fucked this year up.

Darunia on Jan 5, 2009


You are correct DARUNIA on TDK score. JN Howard use the same effects of the "screeching sound" in The Village and Zimmer, in my opinion, hasn't made a good score since Gladiator.

Jonathan Z on Jan 5, 2009


Slumdog's soundtrack was awesome (just saw it this weekend), but no scores are coming to mind for me from the past year.

Jeremiah on Jan 5, 2009


'In Bruges' was by far the best film in 2008.

MAYNHOLUP on Jan 5, 2009


Best score, too.

MAYNHOLUP on Jan 5, 2009


I absolutely loved the main title music for The Incredible Hulk. When I saw it for the first time in theaters and heard the first 15 seconds I had instant chills.

Viper on Jan 5, 2009


I find it interesting that Cloverfield got any love. The only bit of score I heard was well into the end credits and I didn't think it was anything special. Weird it made a top 10 list. My vote (like everyone else) is for the awesome TDK score. A close second would be the Quantum of Solace score. You know a score is good when it perfectly melds into the film; it neither stands above it nor gets lost in the frames.

Sean on Jan 5, 2009


Thomas Newman's score for Wall-E was the best of 2008 in my opinion. The music sounded other worldy which fit in perfectly with the science fiction theme of the film. I think the best scores aren't just great pieces of music but they also have to enhance the film itself with Newman did. TDK score served its purpose very very well but I'm not convinced it's Oscar worthy (but that one shrieking Joker note is brilliance). Slumdog Millionaire was also fairly incredible along with Danny Elfman with Milk.

Johnbo on Jan 5, 2009


I'm huge fan of Michael Giacchino as he's the composer of my favorite tv show, Lost.

Hassan on Jan 5, 2009


Darunia said "There's really nothing special about the Dark Knight score" There is too, the stuff in track 14 "A Dark Knight" is just so brilliantly intense and moving for me. But not moving in the sense of giving me a raging boner though, as you so put it. And If it's as ordinary as you think, then how come they finally put it up for consideration for an academy award after all the drama, when they didn't let Batman Begins in because of same said drama?? Plus you said "a pretty bad year for movies". I beg to differ! TDK, Iron Man, The Wrestler, Slumdog, Button, and that's just from the top of my head. But I guess, to each their own!

ChiriSan on Jan 5, 2009


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button score was beautiful. top of the list

Georgiana on Jan 5, 2009


ChiriSan Slumdog was an unexpected pleasure, as was Iron Man. Dark Knight certainly brought something new to the world of comic book movies. But The Wrestler, while a good movie, lies largely on the shoulders of an amazing performance, the movie itself, again, while good, didn't resonate as much with me as i hoped and expected. Benjamin Button was a let down, yes, artistically gripping, but it was like a travel in time, back to forrest gump. The movie remains interesting, but some ideas gave me deja vu, and the premise wasn't fully realized, as the movie raced through Benjamin's life, which is funny considering how long the movie is. It was a bad movie for years in my opinion, because it was insipid. And the so called "oscar bait" movies, have been mediocre. Defiance, Revolutionary Road, Benjamin Button, Gran Torino, Valkyrie. Coupled with some huge disappointments on the blockbusters front, like Quantum of Solace, Speed Racer, the dreadful Mummy, Indiana 4 Crystal Skull.... Yes i do think this year promised a lot, but in the end, delivered very little. What movie is gonna win the oscars anyway? Slumdog? It's city of god but not as good, even though i really liked it. And in a year where the best contender is a movie that wasn't as good as a movie that wasn't even a contender for the oscars in the year it released...i'll say that this year has been rather weak.

Darunia on Jan 5, 2009


Number 11, I cannot fathom where you come from on this. wall-e on the other hand was weak, and that is pretty much it. TDK.......C'mon, it is a good score, one of the best this year. If it's too difficult to play, then it must be good.

scrooge on Jan 5, 2009


Darunia Well put dude, awesome defense If I'll say so myself. Wouldn't say insipid, but I see where you're coming from when talking about Oscar worthy movies. When expectations are really up up, then a movie has to really work to meet those expectations. Some movies you talked about like The Wrestler really worked for me cause I wasn't expecting much, then I was just blown away, and not just cause of Rourke's performance, but the entire movie! Benjamin Button did have elements of Forrest Gump written all over it, but it was great for me none the less. Some touching moments in there! Speed Racer was an effing awesome movie, but a disaster at the box office. But true though, when it comes to Oscars, there are few to choose from, but a good few πŸ™‚ Anywayz, back to topic...The Dark Knight score kicks ARSE!! lol

ChiriSan on Jan 5, 2009


The Dark Knight

BadKarma on Jan 5, 2009


I'm gonna agree with Viper about The Incredible Hulk score. Craig Armstrong is always consistent and with Hulk I believe he composed the best superhero score in decades. Right up there with John Williams' Superman: The Movie and Danny Elfman's Batman. As much as I loved Slumdog and Dark Knight, Incredible Hulk blows them away.

Colca on Jan 5, 2009


Revolutionary Road's score was brilliant... it perfectly melded with the film. In Bruges was perfect too, as was The Dark Knight.

Jeff W on Jan 5, 2009


When i first saw this post i immediately thought of cloverfield, but i was afraid that putting a bunch of songs together wasn't considered a 'score', but i'm really glad to see it on the list. the songs were well chosen, and i read somewhere that when marlena was talking to Hud at the party, the song's lyrics in the background were something like "you never listen to me, so i just might have to blow this place up." it was very clever and well put together. TDk was great, too

LeeMan on Jan 5, 2009


What no love for the score from The Wrestler?

peloquin on Jan 5, 2009


Oh and Gran Torino's score was impressive too...Eastwood's one talented guy.

peloquin on Jan 5, 2009


I don't have a raging fanboy boner as someone else mentioned but I really liked the score for The Dark Knight... yet my two favorites are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire both of which I enjoyed as movies too.

BahHumbug on Jan 5, 2009


yeah what about Clint Mansell's score from the Wrester? i still get goosebumps when i hear the last closing socre as Mickey the RAM rourke is climibing the turnbukcle in the final and last scene in the movie just because of the Mansell's riff πŸ™‚ and boy SLumdog is nice, but it aint rahman's best work. You should check out mroe of his earlier Indian scores. Pretty amazing stuff.... Speed racer was refreshing. Thomas Newman's Wall E was picture perfect for the movie. One of the most emotional score of this years. And how can i forget about the album i listen almost every single day of my fcking life for the past 6 mths πŸ™‚ : especially the tracks the Watchful protector and Harvey Twoface...whooooooooooooooooooooooooo.............. havent heard Desplat's Curious case of Button score.... heard its good...

evilnik on Jan 5, 2009


Slumdog millionaire sucked as a movie - Hollywood meets Bollywood and in the most convoluted sense of the way. i cant believe so many people are considering it to be worthy of the best picture oscar- it honestly doesnt deserve it. Slumdog might be "different" for people in the west. but back home every rubbish movie that is made in bollywood looks and feels the same... the score by A R Rehman was good even great but thats because he can do no wrong... his songs have been used previously (inside man - chaiya chaiya and Moulin Rogue - Chamma Chamma (hindi sad diamonds)) i think Milk was the movie of the year... Wrestler though good and realistic it lacked something of a emotional punch ... i hope Milk wins BIG and TDK was the best score this year - Period. you listen to the score and the scenes come alive in front of you... and when you look at the movie the music enhances the experience... every one of th tracks mentioned (with the exception of cloverfield) does that brilliantly but none more than the TDK... its one thing to call the movie over-hyped but to debunk the genius of the soundtrack is just hateful

viral on Jan 5, 2009


I completely agree with Darunia about this year's quality. This year had a bunch of 'good' movies but very very few movies that could be categorized as outstanding. TDK was great, so was Slumdog, frost Nixon etc however compared to last years AOJJBTCRF, There Will Be Blood, No Country, Into the Wild etc they were not even close. The few movies that deserve credit for making this year memorable for me would be, Hunger (Amazing Movie), Let the right one in, Che, Man on Wire and possibly Wendy and Lucy / Synecdoche NY. Even so i can only count Hunger and probably the only movie this year that can stand toe to toe with Jesse James etc. I am surprised no one mentioned the original score by J.Ralph in Man on Wire or Jon Brion's in Synecdoche NY both of which were head and shoulders above the other scores mentioned here. If i am to choose one from this list i would have to go with Let The Right One In.

Aequitas on Jan 5, 2009


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford has an AMAZING soundtrack. cant remember when it was released though hahah. as for Appaloosa...i think it has a somewhat weak soundtrack...but thats just my opinion haha

swisschez on Jan 6, 2009


@11 You're seriously comparing Pirates 3 to TDK? I'm not being sarcastic, I'd just like to clarify. I mean, TDK's score wasn't just recognized by fans as being amazing. Critics everywhere agree that it was a great score. I'd 100% agree with Slumdog. The score was terrific. I'd throw in "In Bruges" as well, in addition to "Wall-E".

Will S. on Jan 6, 2009


Thomas Newman is amazing, so anything he does deserves a look.

Aaron on Jan 6, 2009


Clint Mansell's for The Fountain has to be the best ever.

SLee on Jan 6, 2009


What if I tell you that you are all wrong???? The best score of 2008 is the one created by Benjamin Wallfisch for "The Escapist". You can have a go at it at their official site here: This is by far the best one this year, at least is the choice of most of my friends, we all study together at the Conservatorium in Utrecht - The Netherlands. Cheers.

Roderick on Jan 6, 2009


@36 Yes i am. And Pirates was recognized as having a great score too, it had a very powerful and exciting one. I mean the main theme alone quickly became synonymous with the movie. People would know it was Pirates just by hearing it. Whereas the theme in TDK is basically the same as Begins for example, yet only now is it gaining "strength". Yes it's a good score, but i fail to see what's so "great" about it. We have heard some really beautiful scores in the past years, and TDK is just another good score from a big movie, that doesn't exactly break away from the mold. And it's not Zimmer's best work.

Darunia on Jan 6, 2009


I have to agree with TDK. While not caught up in the... "INTERNET raging boner over anything TDK..." I did enjoy the movie, didn't think it lived up to the gargantuan hype, and in fact left me a bit let down. Hans Zimmer did a fantastic job on the score. While not for some, it's almost like a type of classical trance that Wagner would be most impressed with I'm sure.

bozoconnors on Jan 6, 2009


The Dark Knight's score is by far one of the best of the year. How many big budget blockbuster movies choose to have a score which is almost never uplifting but perfectly underscores every scene with a dark, almost unoticed sublety. Especially the Joker's theme, "Why So Serious", which is an almost shrieking two-note progression which never overdoes it's scene. I also liked the retooling of the main Batman theme in "Like a Dog Chasing Cars".

SlashBeast on Jan 6, 2009


I love Michael Giacchino!!

Susana on Jan 6, 2009

44's called a HOOK Darunia.

Tim "Cloverfield" on Jan 6, 2009


Anyone who likes movie sound tracks should jump onto iTunes or rhapsody and look up "agressive expansion" on the Dark Knight Soundtrack. Sick. Not sure if any other soundtracks stood out to me other than that. Golden compass was from late 07, but I thought that was good too.

j money on Jan 6, 2009


THE DARK KNIGHT! Hands down!!

Brian on Jan 6, 2009


I loved the Wall-E score. It's the only movie score I've bought. I listen to it over and over. It's beautiful.

Korm on Jan 6, 2009


Nico Muhly did a fantasic job with The Reader. His style is very reminescent of Phillip Glass.

Leo on Jan 8, 2009


Here's what the true experts think:

mike on Jan 17, 2009


Darunia is a sperm-eater.

SlashBeast on Jul 10, 2010


Come on everyone, what about Ramin Djwadji Iron Man soundtrack, that was legend!

IamSam on Jul 24, 2010

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