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How Movies Get Their Music

Jun 14, 2017

How Movies Get Their Music


The lights are dimming. The baby in the back is shrieking. Giant robots are appearing out of nowhere. It’s probably actually pretty similar to what would happen at a Daft Punk concert—but this time, the electronic duo stayed behind the scenes sans robot helmets to compose the score for the film TRON: Legacy. Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk) are only a sample of the several phenomenal film composers that have emerged this past decade. Music supervisors and composers before and after their 2010 movie feat have tackled films with breathtaking and innovative scores and music selections.

We love movies and we love the soundtracks and scores that come with those movies, so we wanted to take a moment to spotlight those who expertly merge music and movies together. Works from conceptually exploratory composers have emerged in all genres in the past few years, both from professionally recognized and multi-talented performing artists such as Daft Punk as well as individuals like Nicholas Britell, who less known by name and more for their iconic body of work. Did you know that Nicholas was responsible the music of Moonlight, arguably the most memorable film of 2016?  The works of several other composers have also caught our attention over the past few years—many emerging from somewhat unexpected places. Here’s a list of our favorite scores since 2010.

TRON: Legacy—Daft Punk

Featuring an 85-piece orchestra, this score is no Daft Punk: The Musical. Although Daft Punk’s score draws heavily from their signature electronic style, the duo also paid tribute during the writing process to their predecessor Wendy Carlos, composer of the score of the original 1982 Tron movie, to create a powerful, industrial-grade sound.

Driver—Cliff Martinez

Ryan Gosling stars in this 2011 crime film Drive about an unnamed stunt driver; the film features a dark, muted score from Former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez, who subsequently served as a juror for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and whose film scoring is consistently oriented towards simmering, cloudy dramas. The muffled thunder of the Drive score juxtaposed with the intense action of the drama creates the perfect storm and makes up for the scarcity of our favorite smile in Hollywood in Gosling’s first stuntman drama.

The Man With Iron Fists—RZA

Probably one of the baddest soundtracks on this list, music from The Man With Iron Fists was produced and partially written by RZA, who also co-wrote, directed, and acted in the film itself. With heavy hitters like The Black Keys, Corinne Bailey Rae, Wiz Khalifa, and members of Wu-Tang, the RZA-curated soundtrack from the film is the 90’s mixtape from your wildest dreams (meets the slightly dopey 90s martial arts movie from your dreams, if that’s something you dream about).

Nightcrawler—James Newton Howard

Eight-time Academy Award nominee James Newton Howard’s string-heavy, action-filled score soars across this 2014 crime drama critique on the culture of mass media starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Howard’s style has much evolved from his earliest scoring projects, such as 1990’s Pretty Woman, and his diverse skill set has resulted in an intense and multilayered sound for this Black Mirror/Dark Knight hybrid.

Jackie—Mica Levi

Nominated alongside Moonlight for Best Score at the 2017 Oscars, Mica Levi’s chilling score for the film Jackie captures the depression-tinged delirium of the First Lady following the assassination of her husband in 1963. The music is instinctual and dreamlike at the same time, with string swells and flute descants for days. Overall, the score is a breathtaking masterpiece, accompanying Natalie Portman’s thoughtful performance seamlessly as Levi sprinkles fairy dust over the entire film.