Top Original Film Scores of 2015

Posted: January 4, 2016 by filmmusicreporter in Film Music News

Film Music Reporter’s Top 5 Original Scores of 2015 (in alphabetical order):

bridge-of-spiesThomas Newman collaborated with Steven Spielberg for the first time on the spy drama Bridge of Spies and delivered our favorite score of the composer in several years. Staying true to his signature sound while introducing some unfamiliar elements to his oeuvre including Russian choir, Newman’s music perfectly complements the movie’s period setting and Capra-esque storyline. The director and composer decided to use music very sparingly in the first half of the film and when the score finally gets its moments to shine in the final half hour of the movie, it is all the more effective. A soundtrack album featuring Newman’s music is available on Hollywood Records. (Standout cues on soundtrack album: Homecoming, Bridge of Spies (End Title))

creedLudwig Goransson, whose music first caught our attention when he first broke into the scoring scene with NBC’s Community in 2009, scored the biggest production of his career yet with Ryan Coogler’s Creed. The composer not only delivered on his early promise with his first major Hollywood drama, he surpassed our expectations of what a modern sports movie score could sound like. While tipping his hat to Bill Conti’s original Rocky score, Goransson came up with a unique combination of orchestral and modern elements such as hip hop beats and electronics to give the film a contemporary vibe and to underscore the title character’s underdog journey. Special mention goes to the excellent mix of the music in the film, which allows the score to standout in several key scenes of the movie. A soundtrack album featuring the Goransson’s score is available on WaterTower Music. (Standout tracks: You’re a CreedIf I Fight, You Fight – Training Montage)

jupiter-ascendingMichael Giacchino, who had one of his busiest years of his career to date with four movies being released in 2015, collaborated with the Wachowski siblings for the second time on the underrated space opera Jupiter Ascending. The composer reportedly wrote an 80-minute symphony before the movie was shot and later integrated the musical and thematic material into his full score. The result is not only one of the standout scores of the year, but – following an already impressive resume – is also our favorite live action film score from the composer to date. The level of his action music writing has never been better and the sophistication in the way his music and themes develop throughout out the score puts this on our list of favorite scores, not just of the year, but the whole decade. A soundtrack album featuring the Giacchino’s music is available on WaterTower Music. (Standout tracks on soundtrack album: 1st – 4th Movement, The Shadow Chase)

the-force-awakensProbably the most anticipated film score of the year was John Williams‘ music for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The composer’s score for the seventh installment in the series appropriately incorporates some of his classic themes for the series when needed, but also introduces tons of new thematic material and musical motifs. While lacking the instantly memorable quality some of his other classic Star Wars themes had, Williams’ themes for the character of Rey and his “March of the Resistance” are more than worthy additions to a long list of themes he composed for the saga. At age 83, the composer continues to impress and stand out among his peers. The soundtrack album is available on Walt Disney Records. (Standout tracks: Rey’s Theme, The Scavenger)

wolf-totemJames Horner, who tragically passed away this past summer, had his most productive year in a decade with four movies featuring his music released in 2015. Our favorite of the his last bunch of scores was his music for Jean-Jacques Annaud’s epic adventure Wolf Totem. The composer created a sweeping main theme, easily one of our favorite new themes of the year, which – as typical for the composer – is intelligently developed throughout the movie, lending the impressive visuals of the film with a sense of adventure and awe, and culminating in a powerful final cue at the end of the film. A soundtrack album featuring Horner’s music is available on Milan Records. (Standout tracks: Return to the Wild, Hunting the Wolves)

5 Runner-ups (in alphabetical order):

crimson-peakFernando Velazquez scored his first movie helmed by Guillermo del Toro, a director who always seems to bring out the best in the composers he is working with. The composer’s music for Crimson Peak underscores both the romance and terror of the film and features a main theme for the character of Edith (played by Mia Wasikowska), which is one of the strongest themes of the year and which goes through numerous variations during the film, as well as a lullaby, which is performed on screen in a piano solo version by Jessica Chastain’s character Lady Lucille. A soundtrack album featuring the composer’s score is available on Quartet Records. (Standout tracks: Allerdale Hall, Finale, Credits).


Harry Gregson-Williams composed his first full film score for a Ridley Scott movie in a decade with the director’s sci-fi drama The Martian and marks our favorite score of the composer since his work on Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven in 2005. Gregson-Williams’ approach of an electronic and orchestral hybrid score perfectly captures Matt Damon’s character whose optimism and inventiveness kept him alive during his isolation on Mars. The composer holds back on using the big orchestra except for key moments in the film, making those moments all the more impactful. A soundtrack album is available on Columbia Records. (Standout tracks: Making Water, Crossing Mars)

sicarioA year after writing his Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning score for The Theory of EverythingJohann Johannsson composed the music for Denis Villeneuve’s thriller Sicario and collaborated the second time with the director following 2013’s Prisoners. The result couldn’t be any different, yet equally impressive. The composer’s unusual score adds an unsettling and engrossing quality to the film and – alongside Roger Deakins’ masterful cinematography – contributes to the film’s atmosphere like no other element and makes this composer/director relationship one of the most exciting ones to emerge over the last several years. A soundtrack album featuring the composer’s score is available on Varese Sarabande. (Standout tracks: Convoy, Desert Music)

steve-jobsOne of the most exciting young composer talents slowly rising to the top within the last few years is Daniel Pemberton who collaborated with Danny Boyle for the first time on the drama Steve Jobs. He approached the three different sequences/time periods with different musical styles, showing his versatility both as a composer of complex orchestral music and experimental electronica. The result is hugely effective in the film and expertly supports the narrative flow and transitions between the segments of the movie. A soundtrack album is available on Back Lot Music. (Standout tracks: Jack It Up, The Circus of Machines)

tomorrowlandMichael Giacchino reunited with Brad Bird for the fourth time following their collaborations on The IncrediblesRatatouille and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol on the director’s Tomorrowland. The composer came up with a fully orchestral score slightly reminiscent of some classic 80s/90s Williams/Horner scores, while still unmistakably his own. He composed a standout main theme, which ranks among the year’s best, and provided the ambitious film with a sense of wonder and discovery. A soundtrack album featuring Giacchino’s music is available on Walt Disney Records. (Standout tracks: Pin-Ultimate Experience, Electric Dreams)

Check out a list of all scores/movies considered for our listings, as well as our top 10 movies of 2015 on the next page.

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  1. zzz says:

    Nice list, folks! Here’s my top 10:

    1- Star Wars – John Williams
    2- Tomorrowland – Michael Giacchino
    3- The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
    4- Wolf Totem – James Horner
    5- En Mais, Fais Ce Qu’Il Te Plaît – Ennio Morricone
    6- Paper Planes – Nigel Westlake
    7- Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
    8- Far from the Madding Crowd – Craig Armstrong
    9- Cinderella – Patrick Doyle
    10- Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Joe Kraemer

  2. Thiva says:

    Ah finally someone agreeing with me on Jupiter Ascending.

  3. Robbie says:

    With all of the talk on Carol and some of the other compositions, I always thought Jupiter Ascending was definitely overlooked. Thank you guys for including it, a tour de force to say the least.

  4. Joe says:

    It seems that Trainwreck doesn’t have any official (Jon Brion) score 🙁
    Any clue?