Best Scores of 2011: Update

Dario Marianelli. Image courtesy of

I’m still working my way through the contenders for the best scores of 2011, but I wanted to post an update. First off, thank you all for your recommendations, both in the comments and offline. I’ve seen a lot of great movies and heard some wonderful scores. Here’s what I’m liking so far:

  • Hugo, by Howard Shore: A beautiful and moving score to an amazing film. Shore is absolutely at his best here, marrying music to picture in an almost magical way. I found Hugo to easily be one of the most rewarding scores I’ve heard this year.
  • Jane Eyre, by Dario Marianelli: I love the way this score rides a balance between a period Classical sound and a more modern minimalism and dissonance. Marianelli is exceptionally good at this, and has carved himself a unique niche in the contemporary film world. His score for Jane Eyre is dark and brooding, like the film, but it’s also quite lovely. And in a time when scores sound more and more alike, Marianelli has crafted a truly distinctive-sounding work here.
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe: Despite hearing good reports from a number of friends, I was prepared not to like this score. I enjoyed the first Sherlock Holmes last year, and appreciated Zimmer’s inspired use of Irish and Gypsy music. But in my initial listen to the new score on Spotify, I found it to be more concerned with thunderous driving percussion than thematic development. But in the context of the film it actually works remarkably well. Like the film, the score feels overly obsessed with surface details (as is Zimmer’s tendency, let’s be honest), but that being said it is a beautiful piece of production and the score really drives the film.
  • Hanna, by the Chemical Brothers: I’ve already written quite a bit about this score, so I won’t repeat myself here. But Hanna has some decidedly distinctive moments, and originality is certainly something I look for, especially for a best-of list.
  • Thor, by Patrick Doyle: Patrick Doyle’s recent scores stand out because he manages to sound modern and old-school at the same time. His music contains plenty of melody and a strong use of themes, but he also weaves in the ostinati and driving percussion so common today, and Thor is no exception. Not quite sure it’ll make the best of the year list, but it’s still in the running.

Things I still want to see:

  • The Artist: I’ve heard some amazing reports, and since it’s a silent movie, it’s all music.
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: I’m a bit skeptical. I liked the score to The Social Network by Reznor and Ross last year, but I wasn’t blown away. Previewing the Dragon Tattoo score online, it seems to be more sound design than score, but I’ll definitely keep an open mind.
  • Tintin: I’ve heard this is John Williams’ best score in years. I must admit the whole computerized-live-action-Polar-Express thing really freaks me out, but I’ll likely see it anyway just for the score (and my childhood obsession with Tintin, Snowy, the Thompson Twins, et al).
  • War Horse: Again, I’ve heard good reports about this, and again, it’s John Williams. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good WWI film.
  • Super 8: I saw this over the summer, but I’d like to revisit it on DVD. Giacchino usually doesn’t disappoint, even when he’s not at his best.
  • The Adjustment Bureau: Again, I saw this earlier in the year, but I do love Thomas Newman, and I seem to recall (when I remembered to listen) that the film had an interesting score.

Again, if anyone has any other suggestions, please add a comment below.


  1. Eric Goetz

    Agreed. I saw the Adjustment Bureau the other night. The score is quite masterful, though hardly cutting edge. Musically, it’s exactly what we expect from Thomas Newmann… no real surprises.

  2. Dave

    Now I’ve heard it I would add my voice for War Horse. John Williams is just too darn good. I thought I knew all his voices, and then he suddenly decides to be Vaughan Williams, just for one score, and does it better than Vaughan Williams.