List: Desplat/Giacchino/Mansell: 15 Great Scores

For my money, Alexandre Desplat, Michael Giacchino, and Clint Mansell are the best up-and-coming/breakout composers of the last few years. The thing is, all of them have been in the business for quite a while, and they all come from different backgrounds. But the one thing they have in common besides being great composers is that no matter what movie they score, their involvement will make me want to watch it.

So, in this list you’ll find a short bio on each composer, and a list of each of their top 5 scores, so, without further ado, here’s the list:

Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Desplat was born in France in 1961. He started working as a composer in 1985 for a film called Ki lo sa? And like today, he continued his career by working on more than three scores per year. In 2004 he crossed over into Hollywood after receiving lots of praise for his score for Jonathan Glazer’s Birth. And since then he has been one of the most sought after composers in Hollywood, but he continues to work for French movie. Last year he scored 9 movies and scored an Oscar nomination for Fantastic Mr. Fox. This year he has six, and will no doubt get another Oscar nom for one of them.

5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon

If there is anything that the Twilight movies get rights, is the music. The soundtracks so far have been pretty good, and the scores have been much better than they have any right to be. Deplat’s score for the second movie is the best of them so far, and will likely stay that way. From the first track we are treated to the heavily orchestrated and epic “New Moon” and from then on we are treated to a variety of tracks ranging from subtle and cheesy, to bombastic. And it has high replay value. Shame it could not accompany a better movie.

Outstanding tracks: New Moon, Romeo & Juliet, To Volterra

4. Birth

I have yet to see this movie because I can’t find it anywhere near where I live, and the only way I could watch it is by buying it, and I don’t want to do that. However, I don’t need to watch it to tell you that the score is freaking amazing. The whole album is definitely very Desplat, and it is also very light, although none of the tunes are what you would call happy. I do wish I could see the movie though, if only to see how the score plays out (and Nicole Kidman, of course).

Outstanding tracks: Prologue, Elegy, Birth Waltz

3. The Ghost Writer

What I saw the movie I had no idea that Desplat had scored this. So, when the strange, very Polanski notes started to play when we see the abandoned car in the ferry I was like “Those notes sound familiar.” Eventually I saw who had scored it and I was actually shocked. The score definitely has that familiar Desplat sound, but it is more creative, sometimes more messy, and that is what makes it so great. And in the end, the music that accompanies the shot that leads to the one of the most intense scenes in the movie, makes is so much better. My favorite score of 2010 so far.

Outstanding tracks: The Ghost Writer, In the Woods, The Truth about Ruth

2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Although there are a couple of intense tracks, the score is actually very mellow and passive, much like the title character of the movie. I also love the way the score has like this ticking clock sound to it, which further enforces the theme of the passage of time. This score is definitely one of Desplat’s more playful and is perfect for one of those days when you just want to be the day to be over with, lay in bed, and relax.

Outstanding tracks: Postcards, Mr. Gateau, Benjamin & Daisy

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Speaking of playful scores, this is by far his most playful and wonderful score. It seems that Wes Anderson and Desplat were meant to work together. It is unlike any other of his scores. It uses some rather unorthodox, at least for movie scores, such as the banjo, among others. I just can’t describe how beautiful it is, from the opening scene with the Foxes walking through the fields, to the music that plays when the animals are digging, and the choral pieces that play during the battle with the farmers. It’s just perfect.

Outstanding tracks: Whack-bat majorette, Shoot Out*, Plan B*

*Could not find these on Youtube, but the Additional Music album is worth getting.

Michael Giacchino

Michael Giacchino was born in New Jersey in 1967. He started composing for a living in 1995, but not for movies or television, but for videogames. According to IMDB, his first job was scoring a Gargoyles videogame. Today he continues to work on videogames, but now a days videogame scores are pretty epic. He is also well known for his work on television. He scored all of “Alias,” “Lost,” (for which he won an Emmy), and is currently scoring “Fringe.” He won an Oscar last year for his score for Pete Docter’s Up, and was previously nominated for his work in Brad Bird’s Ratatouille.

5. Let Me In

I have yet to see the movie, but I really want to. However, I was looking forward to score more than the movie, and it did not disappoint. It is not as showy as his other scores, and it doesn’t have that jazzy flavor that some of his best have, but just from listening to it, I felt something intense, a sense of dread that few horror scores are able to achieve on their own. Can’t wait to see the movie when it comes out on Blu.

Outstanding Tracks: Trained and Steady, End Credits, Visitation Rights

4. The Incredibles

Mix a little bit of “James Bond” music, with some Mission: Impossible and Giacchino’s trademark sound, and you get the fantastic score for The Incredibles. The score is loud, chaotic, sentimental perfectly captures the feeling of those old superhero saturday morning cartoons, like the ones they actually mention in the movie. Overall it is  extremely fun to listen to and as great as the movie was, I doubt it would have as much impact without Giacchino’s music.

Outstanding Tracks: The Glory Days, Missile Lock, 100 Mile Dash

3. Speed Racer

Just like the movie is an assault on the eyes, the score that accompanies is an assault on the ears. However, if you’ve read my Cinematic Heaven entry on Speed Racer, then you know that its a good thing. Giacchino’s work here is loud, obnoxious, and exciting. When I listen to it on its own I can picture the big races, and when “Let Us Drink Milk” ends, I can’t help but feel excited just like when I watch the movie.

Oustanding Tracks: I am Speed, Reboot, Let Us Drink Milk

2. Star Trek

Like everyone in the production, Giacchino was given a hard task. He was supposed to make music that would replace iconic music without angering the fans, while at the same time making new iconic music for the new fans. And he succeded. The music sounds as if it came from the Star Trek universe, but it only uses the original theme until the end, but the rest is exciting, epic, and bombastic (in a good way). Let’s hope he continues to create great music for the franchise.

Outstanding tracks: Enterprising Young Men, Nailin’ the Kelvin, Hella Bar Talk

1. Ratatouille

As you may have noticed, I feel like Giacchino’s trademark is putting a jazzy spin to his work. So that makes this like the ultimate Giacchino score. The setting of the movie was perfect for him, as he had to mix a playful, Disney-Pixar sound with traditional french musical sounds, some of which are very jazzy. The result is a wonderful, playful, and overall incredible score unlike any I had heard in an animated movie up to that point. It will be hard for him to top this score, but when he does, it’s going to be so amazing.

Outstanding tracks: This is Me, Cast of Cooks, Colette Shows Him Le Ropes

Clint Mansell

Clint Mansell was born in England in 1963. From 1986-1996 he was in a band called Pop Will Eat Itself as a vocalist, guirarist, and keyboard player. His breakthrough in scoring came in 1998 under the direction of Darren Aronofsky for his debut Pi. Since then he was worked on a variety of projects from action movies and shorts, to direct-to-video crap. But with Aronofsky he has made some of the greatest scores of all time, and he continues to make a name for himself as a composer. He is going places, I tell you.

5. Definitely, Maybe

The scores for most romantic comedies are very minimalist and usually get drowned out by tons of pop songs that play throughout. The same goes for Definitely, Maybe. However, when you hear it playing lowly in the background, it does sort of have an effect on the emotions. And when you listen to it by its self, it is almost as beautiful as other Mansell efforts. One of the best scores in modern romantic comedies that I’ve heard.

Oustanding Tracks: For Emily (Whoever She May Be), The Happy Ending is You, April’s Story

4. The Wrestler

This isn’t so much a score, as it is only one 8-minute track that plays during some of the most quiet parts of the movie, when we see how messed up The Ram’s life really is. And during those moments, the music increases the emotions that we are supposed to feel. That is what makes this piece of music so great. If you listen to in on its own, it’s good, but not as great as you may come to expect from Mansell. However, it adds something to the movie which no rock song would have been able to.

Outstanding track: The Wrestler

3. Moon

This is another score which is more of a mood-setter. With the exception of “Welcome to Lunar Industries” and “Welcome to Lunar Induestries (Three Year Stretch…)”  the music is very moody, and were it by any other composer it wouldn’t be something that you would listen to outside of the movie. However, it is very much a Mansell score, so that means that it has plenty of beautiful notes, even on the more subtle tracks, so it is constantly played on my end.

Outstanding Tracks: Welcome to Lunar Induestries, Memories (Someone We’ll Never Know), We’re Going Home

2. Requiem for a Dream

Like the movie, Clint Mansell’s score is chaotic and paranoiac, and ends with a depressing and haunting,  but ultimately beautifully crafted music piece. It is one of, if not THE, best electronic scores ever. There is a reason why “Lux Aeterna” is one of the most played tracks from any movie in recent memory. After this and Pi, we could see that Mansell’s and Aronofsky’s composer-director relationship has the potential to be one of the gretest of their kind.

Outstanding tracks: Meltdown, Marion Barfs, Lux Aeterna

1. The Fountain

A list that ranks Clint Mansell’s scores is not valid if it does not have The Fountain at number one. The score is epic, filled with emotion, and is one of those that you can listen to over and over again without the movie because the music is beautiful. Just one of the greatest scores of all time.

Oustanding Tracks: The Last Man, Tree of Life, Death is the Road to Awe




There you have it. Feel free to comment and offer your choices in the comments section.


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