Film & TV

Best Film Scores Of 2014

In preparation for Film & TV’s upcoming magazine crossover with Music, and in honour of another memorable year for film, Impact takes a look at some of the film score highlights of 2014…

(Note that’s score, not compiled soundtrack, so there’s no Guardians of the Galaxy in here – don’t write us any e-mails, don’t send us any letters…)

Under The Skin – Mica Levi

While much of the film music buying public was enamoured with the Guardians of the Galaxy mixtape and Philip Glass-aping Interstellar (both were admittedly solid in their own right but, respectively, disjointed and derivative), the most memorable and distinctive score for a science fiction film this year was for critics’ favourite Under the Skin. Unique doesn’t begin to describe the singular approach Levi took, the string dissonance sawing over mechanised bass and percussion genuinely alien to the usual approach to scoring film.

The Double – Andrew Hewitt

Inexplicably considered a slightly weaker sophomore feature by Richard Ayoade following Submarine, the in-fact remarkably assured claustrophobic masterpiece owes much of its resonance to the Hitchcockian score. The dichotomous strings, by turns suspenseful and mournful, strikingly mirror the protagonist’s splintering mind state and existential crisis while the heavy piano sound provides some old-school melodramatic horror to this retrofitted, timeless Kafkaesque nightmare.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat

The score to Wes Anderson’s eighth feature is as surprising aurally as the film was a mainstream hit, and Desplat (who also composed this year’s bombastic and more classical Godzilla) employs an array of eastern-European instruments to create brief, jaunty celebrations reminiscent of the Amelie soundtrack’s joie de vivre. Even the more solemn instrumentation (most notably the organ) is rendered sprightly and wryly amusing, not unlike the film itself.

The Congress – Max Richter

For the most part simply an above average soundtrack, The Congress earns its place in the upper echelon for 2014 in this writer’s eyes for approximately three distinct pieces of music – two of which weren’t even originally composed for the film. Ah well. ‘Beginning and Ending’ has an unsure yet noble grace, a bravura in the face of grief akin to Michael Nyman’s Greenaway scores, while ‘Winterreise’ is perfection, a flighty piece grounded by its use in one of the most hypnotising scenes of the year. Finally there’s ‘Forever Young’, an orchestral take on the Dylan classic with lead Robin Wright which is possibly the definition of divisive.

Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

The third pairing of Reznor and Ross for director David Fincher, the music of Gone Girl has been accused by some as being too similar to their previous collaboration for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but is in fact a completely different beast. Described by Reznor as “music that artificially was to make you feel like everything is OK, but almost in an insincere way”, Gone Girl hovers uncomfortably in a sickly ambient space before sucker-punching you with (in)tense drones.

Tom Watchorn

See this January’s issue (#234) for some of the Impact Film & TV’s favourite ever soundtracks, as part of our special crossover with Impact Music.

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Film & TV
7 Comments on this post.
  • Sim Taylor
    6 January 2015 at 15:27
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    These are truly terrible choices from a musical perspective. The first track is horrendous – that is not a score but ambient noise. I get that the music is meant to be nightmarish, but it manages to be simultaneously ugly and boring. And Gone Girl is just plain awful, painful to listen to and devoid of any musical interest or emotion!

    As the best score of this year, Johannsson’s The Theory of Everything has been criminally underrated by this list. Interstellar should also be recognised for being the first Zimmer score in a long time to divert from the tired four-chord-thudding-drums-and-pulsating-horns model. Admittedly the score is still horn-blast heavy, but actually with some musically sound, original themes! Particularly in the first half of the score there is some beautiful and captivating music. Malificent is also fantastic in parts, notably the quiet, ethereal cues that Newton Howard does so well. The Hobbit is the worst soundtrack of the trilogy, and pales in comparison to LOTR, but Shore still outdoes every composer on this list with ease. On a positive note, The Double Theme is interesting, and Desplat always writes enjoyable scores. I’d argue though, that The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of his poorer scores (compare to the perfection of The The Girl With the Pearl Earring or The Painted Veil). Of his five scores in 2014, Unbroken or The Imitation Game should get the oscar nomination.

    I’d be interested to know the musical background of the Impact film reviewers, because whilst the film content is always very strong, the comments on scores never make any sense. I understand that subjectivity plays a part, but this list is just so far off. Here are some excerpts from far better, and more musically interesting (read: something actually happens) scores this year. Please enjoy.

    The Theory of Everything (Rowing):
    Hobbit p3 (The Fallen):
    Maleficent (Welcome to the Moors):
    (Maleficent Flies)
    Interstellar (Cornfield Chase):

    • Tom Watchorn
      6 January 2015 at 17:52
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      There’s always been (and likely always will be) debate over what role a score should play within a film (and whether or not a score ‘should’ necessarily do anything). To clarify, I chose these purely for how and the way they served the film, rather than standing up as musical pieces divorced from the filmic context or whether they were interesting or ‘something actually happens’, to quote yourself.

      For instance it’s unlikely I would often play the Under The Skin soundtrack on its own, but I feel it is incredibly effective in its deployment in the film. Similarly The Grand Budapest Hotel is a very particular and odd choice maybe, and I really included it to provide some colour and counterpoint to the other, generally more oppressive film scores in the list.

      I will put my hands up and say, despite my enthusiasm for it, my technical and theoretical knowledge and understanding of music (particularly scores) is lacking moreso than the film aspect, and wouldn’t pretend otherwise; I presume from your response that you have a greater understanding of the music from that statement and so will not attempt to argue any of your more specific points.

      As for your choices, every film you have mentioned that I didn’t I have not seen (save for Interstellar, which has a score I do appreciate, just thought had been somewhat overexposed and so was attempting to shed light on other choices), and when i wrote this The Theory of Everything hadn’t actually been released yet so I couldn’t say either way on that particular choice.

      Thanks for the feedback nonetheless, and thanks for taking the time to read. The best one can hope for is to provoke debate and discussion, at the end of the day.

  • The Guy That Agrees With the Guy Above
    6 January 2015 at 17:08
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    What the guy above me says is true, and it’d be fabulous if when commenting about music, the actual music was a) musical and written about from a musical and knowledgeable perspective.

    • Sim Taylor
      6 January 2015 at 22:14
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      I’m a major film score/ modern classical fan – would be up for contributing from a musical perspective if there was interest for it? And if impact liked what I wrote obviously.

  • Sim Taylor
    6 January 2015 at 18:54
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    Sure, enjoyed the discussion! Can definitely see your point about how it serves the film. Just feel as though a best scores list should (at least in part) be to do with the merit of the music. Would be very uncomfortable to watch anything set to that soundtrack from under the skin. And I didn’t once notice the music when watching Gone Girl!

    Scores can have such an impact on film, and I guess i like the ones that really take you along with the film, that are still going round your head when you leave the cinema.

    I’m coming from the direction of sometimes listening to scores before I’ve seen the films – so the differences in opinion make sense! Thanks for the article and response.

  • Tom Watchorn
    7 January 2015 at 10:40
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    If you’re up for contributing some stuff it’d be great to have you, just drop us an email at and/or join the ‘Impact Film & TV Contributors 2014/15’ facebook group to keep abreast of writing opportunities

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