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The 20 Best Movie Soundtracks Released in 2020

Let us celebrate the wonderful movie music this year has blessed us with.
Best Movie Scores Soundtracks 2020
By  · Published on December 30th, 2020

News of the World (Back Lot Music)

News Of The World Soundtrack

There appears to be elegance and patience to James Newton Howard‘s score for News of the World that immediately illustrates the grit and determination of the old West, particularly the journey of the film’s protagonists. A nobility also arises from that, a quality easily applicable to Tom Hanks’ real-life persona as well as his film character, which also connects to his relationship with his young companion, and Howard extrapolates tension from that. The score occupies an interesting place; it’s not hugely traditional, but it doesn’t fit with the harsher soundtracks of contemporary-produced Westerns such as those by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, but wherever you put it, it’s a fascinating and rewarding score.

The Personal History of David Copperfield (MVKA)

Personal History Music soundtracks 2020

Delightful is how you sum up Christopher Willis‘ score for the Charles Dickens adaptation The Personal History of David Copperfield. While the score has the symphonic architecture you would expect from a film such as this, Willis further injects a lively sense of whimsy that cohabits the picture’s world with a more traditional sense of dramatic depth, with the latter taking hold and delivering some belting cues that reference both Igor Stravinsky and John Williams with a firm tongue in cheek. Often thrilling, never anything less than splendid, Willis’ David Copperfield blows the dust off and shows just how much fun you can have with the classics.

Soul (Walt Disney Records)

Soul soundtracks 2020

Many people were shocked when the man who wrote “I want to f**k you like an animal” and his film-composing cohort were drafted in to write a score for a Disney movie, but Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, along with musician Jon Batiste, rose to the challenge for Pixar’s latest masterpiece, and the result is beautiful. Batiste’s jazz sections underline the importance of music for lead character Joe and how he lives in it, while Reznor and Ross cover the otherworldly scenes, with some parts meeting in the middle, and it’s joyful. Assuming the Academy allows three composers to be nominated for best score — and it should — then expect to see Soul given full honors.

War of the Worlds (Intrada Records)

War of worlds soundtracks 2020

John Williams scored four films in 2005, and his music for Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, based on H.G. Wells’ classic novel, probably got the least attention due to its lack of thematic bombast, something people expect from the composer. However, Intrada’s expanded reissue recontextualizes the score and presents it as a haunting treatise in the shadow of 9/11 on how easily mankind can slip to certain death, only to be saved by something they’ve tried to destroy. The addition of crucial unreleased cues helps the structure of the score too, and with a beautiful new remaster of the original tracks, this will hopefully see Williams’ music rightfully recognized.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (Lakeshore Records)

Wolf Of Snow Hollow Soundtrack

Considering director Jim Cummings‘ debut picture Thunder Road had no score at all, his hirsute follow-up is remarkably well spotted and scored, of course with a little help from noted composer Ben Lovett (The Wind), who wastes no time getting to the heart of the film’s shifting tones. Lovett’s eerie title cue that introduces us to the town of the title clearly has Bernard Herrmann in its DNA and perhaps some of the Twilight Zone music he composed, while several string pieces twist and wind as the mystery increases. It’s probably more focused than the (intentionally) wildly metamorphosing film itself, and that makes it a clear storytelling asset, which alone makes this score so highly recommended.

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Charlie Brigden is the author of many fine soundtrack liner notes and Blu-ray booklet essays and some call him a film music expert. He also recorded a commentary for Howard the Duck. You can find him on Twitter here: @brigdenwriter. (He/Him)