Readers Poll – Top 10 Film Scores of 2010

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote in this year’s readers survey. Over 200 people voted and over 1,600 votes were cast. While I expected certain scores to appear, it was interesting to watch the list form and morph over the voting period. Out of the 201 scores listed, 161 of them received at least one vote.

While this list certainly doesn’t match mine (nor should it), there are a couple of overlaps, several scores that didn’t quite make my cut, and a couple that weren’t anywhere close. This lists provide me with a lot of useful information on what sorts of scores you’re interested in (as well as a few head scratchers). I will continue to strive to provide you with even more film music coverage in 2011.

10. LOST: THE LAST EPISODES – Michael Giacchino


37 Votes–Giacchino’s end to his Emmy-winning work on LOST narrowly edged out David Arnold’s latest NARNIA chapter for inclusion in your list. Having never watched a single episode of the show or heard any of the music for the series, I have no opinion one way or the other. But any list that includes Giacchino can’t be all bad.

9. THE KARATE KID – James Horner


42 Votes–Horner has always been more popular with most film music fans than myself. But his latest was an enjoyable surprise for me. Though the score still echoes TITANIC and AVATAR, there are memorable themes, some exciting action sequences and he doesn’t overplay the Asian influences in the music. I seriously considered this for my list as well.

8. THE GHOST WRITER – Alexandre Desplat


51 Votes–For a film that didn’t exactly rock the box office boat, I’m happy to see other film music fans embrace Desplat’s worthy effort. By any rights, Desplat would get a double Oscar nomination for this and THE KING’S SPEECH, but he’ll have a harder time for this exciting early-year effort.

7. THE WOLFMAN – Danny Elfman


58 Votes–Boy, this movie was a stinker. They got the look of the film right, but Benicio del Toro’s somnambulistic performance ruined what could have been an enjoyable take on this classic story. Elfman’s score, however, perfectly captures the Gothic tone. The score makes more of an impression on CD than it does hacked up in the film.

6. THE LAST AIRBENDER – James Newton Howard


64 Votes–If any score is evidenced that the power of film music does not have to rely on the images it accompanies, I suppose this would qualify. M. Night Shyamalan’s film was crucified by the critics, but film music fans certainly took to the score. I’m still waiting for someone to explain exactly what makes this score special. I don’t hear it.



65 Votes–Some fans have been disappointed with this score because they’re still pining for the return of John Williams. My disappointment with the score comes from the (expected) hybrid with Williams’ style, not allowing Desplat to fully express his own voice. I have made peace with remaining in the minority on this one.

4. TRON: LEGACY – Daft Punk


68 Votes–I thoroughly enjoyed this score and I considered it for my list. I appreciate Daft Punk’s attempt to write a contemporary film score, and the mixture of electronica and traditional orchestral elements works well. They’ve certainly studied their Zimmer closely. The inclusion of this score on your list was no surprise, though I wonder if has more to do with the film’s popularity at the moment.



85 Votes–Here’s the one score that most readers probably expected to see on my list, and it was seriously considered. But the more I listened to it, the most memorable element of the score was that main theme. And it’s a great theme, don’t get me wrong. But I wasn’t as blown away by the rest of the score as many film music fans. Still, it’s another solid effort from Elfman (which once again works better on CD).

2. INCEPTION – Hans Zimmer


97 Votes–For all the bitching and moaning on message boards about this score since its, ahem, inception, it’s nice to see that when fans vote in the dark of cyberspace, their true feelings are revealed. I think fans appreciate this score more than they may want to admit publicly, especially now that the luster has worn off the film’s hype from the summer. If Zimmer wins the Oscar (which I’m expecting at this point), expect a fresh round of bitching about that too.



106 Votes–For the second year, an animated score topped your list. To me, this indicates that film music fans are itching for scores that are filled with memorable themes and music that arouses the emotions. This score provides that in spades.


  1. Wow! I was truly quite surprised that 2 of my 4 or 5 picks made the list since I rarely go to the movies anymore. Of course one was for a TV series that I’ve now watched twice all the way through, LOST, so going to the movies didn’t matter in that one. The other was The Wolfman, the first Elfman score in a long while that reminded me why I used to like his music so much. Very interesting results for me at least!

  2. 10. Was on my list. I don’t usually like Giacchino’s scores, but this one was great.

    7. I’m always chomping at the bit for the next Elfman score, but The Wolfman really disappointed me. I really, really, dislike it.

    6. The Last Airbender was a good score but nothing new or special. I listened to it several times over to try to find what everyone was raving about, to no avail. Jim, I think you’re the first person I’ve found who thinks similarly!

    5. Deathly Hallows felt very subdued and repetitive to me, an unusual thing to say about Desplat. Other than a few interesting tracks, it seemed to all be boring ambient music. I didn’t notice any of Williams’ style in there, though I’d have been happy with an all original style if it sounded good. This left me pining for Patrick Doyle’s fun, bombastic Goblet of Fire score.

    4. After talking with a few friends, this one seems to amount to how much you like electronica. For me, it hit the sweet spot and sounded great.

    3. I enjoyed this score, but like you I wasn’t blown away by it. The main theme is good, but it’s used in a very repetitive way. I’d have liked to have seen more original stuff in this.

    2. Zimmer’s name, all the hype the movie got, and the great movie delivering on that hype will all get this score an Oscar, even if How To Train Your Dragon is far superior. Unfortunate.

    1. Woot!

    Some other scores I wish had been on here:

    – David Arnold’s Narnia: Dawn Treader
    – Bear McCreary’s Dark Void and Human Target
    – Murray Gold’s Dr. Who Series 5
    – Harry Gregson-Williams’ Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
    – Anamanaguchi’s Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game

  3. It looks like I have pretty average taste, given six of my personal favourites of 2010 come out the same as the average of over 200 readers. Of the missing I’m not surprised Never Let Me Go is absent. It may be the most beautiful thing Rachel Portman has ever written, but the film vanished without trace in the US and hasn’t yet been released here in the UK. Personally for the TV score I’d switch LOST for Doctor Who series 5, but obviously the former has been much more widely heard in the US, where I imagine the vast majority of the votes originate. One thing which does puzzle me, and puts me in a minority, the huge love for How To Train Your Dragon. Green Zone anyone?

    1. I won’t ooh and ahh again over DRAGON. Never heard (or saw) GREEN ZONE. I understand it’s closer to his BOURNE scores, which I like quite a bit. Tried to watch the movie but just couldn’t get into it.

    2. I like Green Zone too, but it never blew my mind like some of these did. I remember showing HTTYD to a friend a while back and he just replied “sounds like pirate music. kinda boring.”

      1. GREEN ZONE is more in the Bourne vein, which is hardly surprising. It’s good, not great, but it is rather more fresh than HTTYD, which strikes me as something of a standard generic modern take on the old full symphonic score. Perhaps that’s why people love it so much – simply the lack of rousing full orchestral scores. Personally I don’t find the tunes memorable, though it has plenty of energy and is fun enough. Though, with no disrespect to John Powell (fine composer that he is) every time I hear mock Hollywood Celtic music I groan. It was bad enough in Braveheart. Now its way passed its sell by date.

        1. Perhaps your right. Maybe it is the lack of rousing symphonic scores that has people hanging on to this one. But those scores have worked since Korngold’s day, and I don’t find this one standard or generic. I also think it works incredibly well in the film. Like you, I shudder at mock Hollywood Celtic music. But thankfully Powell keeps it to a minimum and I think uses it for orchestral color more than anything else. At least it felt like it belonged in this film.

  4. Daft Punk’s work was a pleasant surprise, i’m no fan of electronica and the booming chords sounded quite similar to how they were used in Inception’s score, but it flowed really well into the strings part. Wow I’m so glad loads of people here have heard Murray Gold’s score for Doctor Who, I thought it was pretty eventful compared to the Lost theme.
    Still haven’t seen How to Train Your Dragon but every aspect of it is getting so much praise, hope it does well :)

    1. I’ve never seen any of the DOCTOR WHO series so I was pleasantly surprised by Gold’s music when I received a review copy of the specials a few months ago. I never did get around to reviewing it but it certainly is enjoyable.

      Get thee to a screening of DRAGON immediately! :)

  5. I, too, was impressed with Daft Punk’s score for TRON: LEGACY…until I saw the film. It seemed that the music was (for the most part) inartfully placed in the film. I believe that ideally film music should be able to stand apart from its inspirational source (if only for its technical and artistic merit), but the true test of its success or failure should be limited to the parameters of the film it graces. In this regard (and in my humble layman’s opinion), TRON: LEGACY fails dismally.

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