This article is part of our 2019 Rewind. Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from 2019.
2019 was an unusually strong year for film music, to the point where it was a very difficult task to narrow it down to just ten of the best. Nevertheless, the herculean task has been completed, with appearances from Adam Sandler, a cinematic universe of superheroes, and the meanest armed children to hit the screen since Kevin McCallister. Prepare yourself, faithful reader.
10. Avengers: Endgame
The previous year’s installment, Avengers: Infinity War, features music from top composer Alan Silvestri that rolled universes’ worth of emotion, angst, and sheer scale into one huge score, but it still didn’t make the 2018 list. He’s managed it this year with a wonderful Hollywood action score that does a great job of wrapping up the Infinity Saga timeline while providing an emotional finale for the heroes we’ve journeyed with along the way. He even brings out a new noble and stately theme for the Avengers, which plays over the curtain call of the end credits.
We don’t see a lot of films like Sordo around, especially ones that aren’t a part of the Quentin Tarantino canon. Nevertheless, the Spanish picture — also known as The (Silent) War — has garnered strong reviews as a fierce depiction of the Spanish revolution during the 1940s. Equally powerful is its bold score by Carlos M. Jara, which is full of not only emotionally fraught themes but also strong and eclectic set pieces not unlike those by Ennio Morricone. With the addition of its broad canvas and orchestral palette, the result is an evocative and fiercely independent score.
8. For Sama
By their very nature, documentary films on serious subjects, such as experiences of war, tend to have scores that sit somewhere in the background, but this is not the case of Nainita Desai‘s fantastic accompaniment to Waad al-Kateab’s film (co-directed by Edward Watts) about her ordeal during the Syrian Civil War after she gave birth to the title character. Desai’s score is powerful yet respectful, providing an intense emotional backdrop for Kateab’s story without manipulating the audience’s emotions. The music during Sama’s birth is magnificent, with soft piano offering a beacon of hope amidst the whirring blades of helicopters as approximated by synths. It’s an example of the intuitive innovation in a score that complements, rather than distracts, from the subject material.
7. Uncut Gems
People are raving about Adam Sandler’s performance in Josh and Benny Safdie’s intense drama, but behind much of that is Daniel Lopatin‘s unique score. He takes his cue from new age albums of the 1970s, and the result is very close to the music of Vangelis. But what’s interesting is the way the score plays in counterpoint to the film — the serenity of much of the score adds a disarmingly calm atmosphere, especially when there is violence involved, swinging away from what we expect from film music, and that subversion of expectations helps make Uncut Gems a wonderfully creative piece of art.
6. Little Women
People may groan at yet another adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel, but the music from these adaptations has a fine pedigree — Thomas Newman’s score for the 1994 version is a favorite of many — and Alexandre Desplat‘s music for Greta Gerwig’s new film is no exception. The beauty of Desplat’s score immediately stands out from the opening cue with a masterful command of piano and strings, and it gets better and better, with a sure purpose driving each note. It is perhaps the closest any composer has come to creating the power of a John Williams score without deliberate imitation.