The question has no doubt been keeping you up nights since we ran our 25 Best Movie Soundtracks of the Century: when the hell is the Playlist going to do scores? Well, here we are now, so quit your bellyaching. Of course, eagle-eyed observers may smell a rat: why was our Best Soundtracks list only 25 strong while this is one is twice as long? Well, simply put, as much as we appreciate the fine art of curation and understand how much a well-chosen pre-existing track can enhance the experience of a film and open up new avenues of music for us to explore, the even finer art of scoring —that is, creating music specifically tailored to the rhythms and cues of the film in question— is closer to our hearts. Utterly integral to the film experience, yet at the same time completely invisible, often almost subliminal, a given score also should be celebrated for being music that simply would not otherwise exist.

READ MORE: The 50 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far

Any scores written for films released since the year 2000 were eligible; we’re very proud of and inspired by our final selections and hope you will be too. Failing that, a quick plea for civility: This is an absolute labor of love and every inclusion is important, so while this list is ranked, let’s not go to war over relative positions, eh?

READ MORE: The 50 Best Foreign Language Movies Of the 21st Century So Far

We freely admit that if the wind were blowing a different way today, or if we’d had something else for breakfast, the order, if not the list itself, might look completely different. We hope you embark on this long journey in the same spirit of discovery and rediscovery that we did, where every second suggestion prompted a chorus of “Oh I love that one!” Here, then, are our 50 favorite movie scores since the year 2000. Enjoy.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Movie Soundtracks Of The 21st Century So Far

50. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
If this had been the first collaboration between David Fincher, Nine Inch Nails frontman Reznor and British composer/engineer Ross, would it have made such an impression? It feels like almost-too-perfect casting for this poisonous tale of rape, murder and torture. But coming after their Oscar-winning success with “The Social Network” instead, their ‘Dragon Tattoo’ work is flattered by contrast, and the grinding blackhearted beast of a score becomes far less on-the-nose than it might at first seem, its atmospheric thrum accented by choral echoes, sharp piano notes and skittering synth-lines. And then, at times, it’s even calm, as though lying in wait.

49. “Tron: Legacy”(2010) – Daft Punk
It’s hard for us to altogether divorce score from movie — you’ll note there are few enough films on here that we don’t like overall. That’s because the score’s primary function is to serve the film, so you could argue, as with Daft Punk’s ‘Tron Legacy’ beats, music that’s distractingly better than the film actually fails as a score altogether. That’s if you weren’t too busy dancing and grinning. The music is so much fun that we can overlook that it’s only in moments, like the bar showdown where the French electro wizards themselves cameo, that you glimpse how slickly irresistible ‘Tron Legacy’ the film, could have been.

48. “Ruby Sparks” (2012) – Nick Urata
A film about a novelist who wills his dream girl into existence, does, admittedly, sound annoyingly twee, but “Ruby Sparks” is actually quite the devastating cautionary tale about control in relationships. Nick Urata of DevotchKa, the band that scored “Little Miss Sunshine” with composer Mychael Danna, delivers a lush, sonorous score that hints at the whimsy and magic of the story, yet manages not to cloy, and bears in mind at all times the deceptive, melancholic wisdom of the apparently fanciful premise. Cooing female voices, balletic violins and orchestral swooshes deliver inspiration, elation and sorrow in equal measure.

47. “Never Let Me Go” (2010) – Rachel Portman
There are many reasons why it’s a shame no one saw Mark Romanek‘s austere, intelligent sci-fi “Never Let Me Go,” but high on the list is that they all therefore slept on Rachel Portman’s best score. A soul-searchingly tender evocation of emotional repression, it’s music that feels almost lonely in its purity, and where Portman can sometimes stray too far into lush over-expressiveness, here the balance between hesitance and deep feeling is perfectly struck. Often using only a forlorn-sounding piano, the score says what the characters cannot, expressing a moving, inchoate longing for a life they are not allowed to have.

46. “Life Of Pi” (2012) – Mychael Danna
Spoiler: this is not Canadian composer Danna’s only entry on this list, though it is the one that won him his Oscar after decades of work, so the Rule of the Oscar Opposites means it should be his weakest. It’s really not. A shimmering tribute to the blue of the ocean and the burstingly vibrant colors of India, his compositions for Ang Lee’s awards-magnet epic find Danna at ease with Indian instrumentation — tablas and sitars — yet also working those traditional notes into a very modern-sounding score, which is by turns soulful and bombastic as the tidal swell of the story demands.

45. “Old Joy” (2006) – Yo La Tengo
The music in Kelly Reichardt’s gentle, fractionally minimalist road movie feels more foregrounded than usual — perhaps because the film stars alt-folk musician Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billy), and moves to a languid, plangent rhythm that feels more like a ballad than a traditional three-act story. The tunes, from muso-favorite band Yo La Tengo, are plaintive and simple but carry the weight of a heavy heart, never distracting from the spartan beauty of the intimate drama, but rather filling out its wordless moments with twanging, sustaining notes that seem to strain outward in the hopes of finding connection.

44. “Take Shelter” (2011) – David Wingo
This eerie, chiming score felt at the time like a fascinating development for Wingo, the singer-songwriter from indie folk group Ola Podrida best known for his plaintive but relatively simple acoustic music for early David Gordon Green films. Full of haunting drones and tintinnabulations, the score builds along with the film: initially, it’s all tinkly bells glistening like raindrops, but as the movie’s psychology turns darker and more fearful, Wingo’s ominous inclinations take over to eventually furious, dissonant effect. Unconventional and yet effective, it’s a fitting accompaniment to film’s storms —literal and figurative— as well as the calm that comes before.

43. “Attack the Block” (2011) – Basement Jaxx and Steven Price
Like many aspects of Joe Cornish‘s “Attack the Block,” the score, from genius electro-pop duo Basement Jaxx (Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe) alongside Steven Price (who’d win an Oscar for “Gravity”), is something of a throwback. Big, chunky beats pummel ominous electronics that recall the atmospheric synths of the great John Carpenter scores, particularly “Assault on Precinct 13.” But this is not pastiche. It’s something new —from the way they weave subtle orchestration, sing-songy rapping and melodic hooks together in the main theme, to the tinkling incidental music before the final showdown that feels like the sound of goosebumps.

42. “Where The Wild Things Are” (2009) – Carter Burwell and Karen O & The Kids
Karen O & The Kids got all the musical ink as an indie rock supergroup composed of members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Raconteurs, Deerhunter and more. But it’s Carter Burwell (longtime composer for the Coen Brothers and another repeat offender on this list) who is the true heart-shaped center of Spike Jonze‘s exquisitely bittersweet adaptation of Maurice Sendak‘s classic children’s book. While The Kids do provide moments of raucous joy (and some engagingly lo-fi childlike melody), it’s Burwell’s don’t-make-me-go-home-again happy/hopeful/grief-stricken score (on which Karen O sings occasionally), that prompts a lump in your throat that just won’t go away.

41. “It Follows” (2015) – Rich Vreeland (aka Disasterpeace)
The musical knock-offs of John Carpenter are everywhere these days —he’s presently touring his music. And to be sure, there’s more than a little Carpenter in Rich Vreeland’s eerie piano and shimmering synth score for breakout arthouse horror “It Follows.” But he goes much further than imitation and, coming from the video game world, delivers a score so heavy on suffocating atmosphere that it lathers you in dread immediately. Credit too to director David Robert Mitchell for using the score so daringly and inventively, at times roaring the woozy, pulsating music into a sonic tidal wave of endlessly approaching, inescapable doom.

  • suitablecustard

    I was going to gripe about a few things, but after seeing Trouble Every Day on the list… I’m not going to do so.

  • I quit reading after reading #50. Missing The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix Trilogy, A.I., How To Train Your Dragon and Signs is unforgivable. If you are interested, here’s a different point of view.

    • MarkoP

      Then you missed a good list.

      • No, not really. I did manage to get through it all – it’s well written – but ultimately unremarkable. I know the list is subjective but it’s missing so many great scores that are considered to be modern day classics. Ignoring Michael Giacchino, for instance, is unforgivable. But his exclusion seems to excites Jessica. And her last sentence tells me that all she was after was a fight rather than writing a balanced article. I see a clear bias against a certain brand of score, which makes this list a bit unfair. Anything that sounds old fashioned or anywhere near adventurous or fun is completely tossed aside and not given any consideration. The simpler, less intrusive the better, right? That sort of thing is become a sad trend in modern cinema and it’s reflected in this list.

        • lostjack

          Wow man. It’s a list. You read it and move on to the next one.

        • Howard Hand

          “Ignoring Michael Giacchino, for instance, is unforgivable”
          Is it? I would say the lack of Lord of the Rings or any John Williams score is a worse offense, as is the inclusion of Gustavo Santaolalla and Trent Reznor scores.

          • i picked Michael because he is of that new crop of composers who are carrying the torch from such greats as Williams, Goldsmith and Horner. Yes, excluding Williams and Shore is just mind-boggling but I thought that Giacchino would have been more of a favourite amongst the younger generation of film music fans. I guess not.

    • irefusetosignup

      Hi there, CSR, I couldn’t agree more on the ones you mentioned. I would have included Braveheart’s OST too, a soundtrack which to this day moves me. What are your thoughts on James Horner’s work?

      • Braveheart is a brilliant score, one of my ten favs of all time BUT that came out in 1995.

    • joeybot

      Yeah, but no one cares about you so no thanks!

      • You clearly do because you replied. Thanks. But you aren’t alone. A lot of people care about me but not EVERYONE cares. Wait… maybe they do.

        • joeybot

          Me replying doesn’t mean I care about you…just letting you know a fact. I like to help people out!

          • Oh boy. You’re an entertaining little fella, aren’t you? Admit it, you care about me or else you wouldn’t keep replying. My heart is fluttering!

          • joeybot

            Wow, too bad some internet commenter gets you so excited. You must really be a loser.

          • Tee hee hee! Keep it coming! You’re making my day… and my point!

          • joeybot

            Tee hee hee? So what are you now, a little girl?

            You know I can totally not care about you, and yet take a few seconds to make fun of your loser life. But hey, for once someone’s paying attention to you, right?

  • Last Samurai, A Single Man…

  • Michael Alan Smith

    Fright Night Lights is that horror/drama mashup or something? lol I will say, this list really doesn’t say a whole lot about today’s composers.

  • lostjack

    I would argue that Michael Giacchino’s best scores are still his work for LOST. Has any other tv show ever had such an expansive and cinematic score?

    • Yes! Batman The Animated Series and Battlestar Galactica (both versions)

      • ShannonA

        Oh, BATMAN!!! <3

  • Jim

    Oh guys. I do love your site but a little more thought and time was needed here. It’s not my favourite score of the 21st century by any means, but to omit Yann Tiersen’s now iconic score for ‘Amelie’ is just sloppy. Others are right here that omitting Michael Giacchino on a number of fronts is also surreal, but especially for the pitch perfect ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Up’. It’s also pretty stunning to forego Ludovic Bourne’s score for the Oscar-winning ‘The Artist’ given it’s not just the score but the script, and speaks so much more than words.

  • Stephen Morton

    That is exactly the right #1. I’ve been saying that is one of the greatest scores ever written for years.

    But come on, how can you omit Howard Shore’s work on The Lord of the Rings?? That is pretty much the last great classic blockbuster score out there, the only one that can really compete with John Williams scores for Star Wars and Superman. I like Danny Elfmann’s score for Spider-Man, and of course Hans Zimmer has done plenty of impressive stuff for Nolan, but Shore’s work is just universally recognizable and is packed with so many different memorable themes that it’s a crime not to include it if you’re open to traditional movie scores at all.

    Plus I like the score to The Village. I like violins.

    • MAL

      I completely agree with everything you just said. The score for Jesse James (and the film itself) are nothing short of brilliant. For me it is a toss up for #1 between this and the score for “Under the Skin.” Both are so integrally tied to the lifeblood of the films themselves that one cannot truly exist without the other.

  • Charles

    Uncharacteristically understated music from Elfman? What about his amazing work with Gus Van Sant and David O. Russell? What about the incredible score for Raimi’s A Simple Plan? Or his Oscar-nominated score for Big Fish? Say what you want about the movie, but the score is fantastic. Same for Burton’s dismal Planet of the Apes movie. That theme has been used over and over for years in trailers. Same for his great Wolfman score (see the amazing teaser trailer for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

  • iheartmonsterpussy

    Mostly agree, but I’d have found room for “Amelie”

  • Daniel Bankov

    A good list, but missing some of the best scores ever – LOTR, Amelie, Goodbye Lenin, Memoirs of a Geisha, Harry Potter etc.

  • Daniel Bankov

    Your list made me listen to scores all day long and I remembered what I forgot – one of the most exquisite scores of the last 20 years, the one of The Hours by Philip Glass

  • Jingles

    No idea how in the world you missed “Lord of the Rings”.
    And Scott Walker’s “Childhood of a Leader” may be new, but it definitely deserves inclusion.
    I might forgive these omissions, though, since you included Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color”. What a score.

  • scarlet7

    Omitting Michel Giacchino’s work, especially for UP, is rightfully being called out. There were a dozen inclusions where I’d forgotten entirely about the scores, such as LIKE CRAZY. Abel Korzeniowski is another composer who should have been mentioned, especially for his lush compositions on the forgotten W.E.

  • NeilLumbard

    A lot of good scores mentioned on that list. However, not a single score by Michael Giacchino? You even mention that as causing fervor in your notes.

    I also find the list disappointing for not including even one of John Williams scores. He still creates fantastic material. War Horse or Lincoln should be on the list.

  • Howard Hand

    I liked Beasts of the Southern Wild better when it was called “Doug’s First Movie”.

  • Jeremy Carrier

    I know you guys like to think of yourself as the Alternative Rock of internet film criticism, just THAT off to the side of accepted mainstream opinion. And the list is real cute with all your indie picks and such…

    But not having anything from John Williams, Howard Shore, or Michael Gianchhino just seems contrarian for contrarian sake.

    • mrbellamy

      Not even listing Lord of the Rings in the long long long honorable mentions section seems a pretty deliberate slight against arguably the most ambitious and significant 21st century scoring achievement….the fact that they only mention it once in context with Requiem for a Dream being used in the trailer feels like a transparent snub.

      Overall the list seems filtered through a pretty specific taste and preference for the alt rock, folk, and electronica sound in American independent films, with a lot of the Hollywood or foreign concessions leaning toward those soundscapes (Zimmer, Reznor/Ross, Arcade Fire, Daft Punk, Tindersticks). Which I love and it’s nice to see champions for this stuff but the issue with me is that it actually makes the list feel weirdly limited in scope for how apparently eclectic it is on the surface. Fine for a personal whimsical list, but it doesn’t seem like there’s been much of an attempt to be that representative and therefore the article doesn’t say much to me except what the authors probably have on their iTunes. There’s a lot of cold shouldering to some terrific Hollywood and non-US scores, especially in more traditional idioms.

      Actually in general, a lot of the most popular consensus favorites that come to mind are weirdly absent from the article….Amelie gets thrown in the middle of the HMs, and not even a token mention to Pan’s Labyrinth, Road to Perdition, The Hours, James Newton Howard’s Shyamalan scores (particularly The Village), Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Far From Heaven, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. John Williams’ impeccably crafted, varied, hugely entertaining output from 2001-5 is also entirely absent from the article, including AI, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Catch Me If You Can, Memoirs of a Geisha.

      And not a single animated score? How to Train Your Dragon merits the only HM when there are dozens upon dozens of fabulous choices from Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Studio Ghibli, and others like The Illusionist and Waltz With Bashir. I get there’s only so much room that you can’t cover it all, but these are pretty major omissions at the expense of certain choices, which may be more idiosyncratic but IMO are less impressive achievements on levels of dramatic and musical craftsmanship….sometimes consensus is consensus for a reason, and again, some of the scores I mentioned are pretty noticeable oversights when the HMs are so extensive.

      • Howard Hand

        What does knowledge of musical and dramatic craftsmanship matter when you can disguise your lack thereof with flowery descriptions?

        “…at times roaring the woozy, pulsating music into a sonic tidal wave of endlessly approaching, inescapable doom.”
        Oh lord…

      • dsongman

        > it feels weirdly limited in scope for how apparently eclectic it is on the surface.

        My thoughts exactly. Seems an oddly one-sided culling from a diverse medium. I’d rather they call it the “Top 50 Most Unappreciated…” or something.

  • Gabberslug

    I’d add my voice to the chorus of disapproval for the weird omissions from this list. You guys manage to include a few genuinely great scores in there (Tron: Legacy, Life of Pi, Ghost Dog, 25th Hour, There Will Be Blood), and I’ll even defend the inclusion of a handful of musically underwhelming but cinematically effective soundtracks (Requiem for a Dream, Social Network, Dark Knight, etc.). But overall it does read like a catalogue of vaguely hip contrarian picks, at the almost intentional exclusion of all mainstream, international, or genre scoring. No Thomas Newman? Really?! Giacchino? James Newton Howard? Powell? Horner? Marianelli? Rahman? Shore? And seriously, no John Williams? The man may be old-fashioned, but in terms of craftsmanship and dramatic instincts, any one random score he has written since 2000 blows the majority of those listed here out of the water. It’s okay if that sort of stuff isn’t to your taste, but it’s hard to take the list seriously when it leaves out so much of most influential and admired film composition of the past decade and a half.

  • Amon Warmann

    Solid list, but where the heck is the Gladiator score?

  • Commodore_Schmidlapp

    Garbage list, filled with boring drones and hums. Millennials have the worst taste in music.

  • bohmer

    A lot of discontent over your list (as usual around here) which is tremendous nevertheless. I’m sure you know you missed some. I would add to your honorable mentions;

    – Yann Thiersen’s Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)
    – Angelo Badalamenti’s Mulholland Drive (2001)
    – Thomas Newman’s Road to Perdition (2002)
    – Cliff Martinez’s Drive (2012)
    – Craig Armstrong’s The Great Gatsby (2013)

  • OMG…how could you leave out some of the best scores ever? No “Perks of Being A Wallflower” from Michael Brook, no “Mud” from David Wingo, no LOTR trilogy from Howard Shore, no “Speed Racer” or “Up” from Michael Giacchino, no “Wall-E” from Thomas Newman, no “Wreck It Ralph”, “Big Hero 6” or “X-Men First Class” from Henry Jackman..the list goes on and on…thank you at least for including “All Is Lost”…there is SOME hope for you…heh heh…

  • Michael Carey

    I think no mention of iconic scores like Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Carribbean and Harry Potter is kind of a miss.
    I would also add the score for Atonement. It’s really beautiful and the use of the typewriter is ingenious.

  • Al Rodman

    No Rolfe Kent, Sideways?!

  • holly

    Be honest Jessica & Rodrigo – you guys were just trying to start a fight and be ironic or satirical, right? This article is akin to Donald Trump thinking he can become President by insulting pretty much every type of human that exists, while looking like a yellow-haired tangerine with the world’s biggest ego. It’s a joke that went a little too far, but now you can admit to us that you were pranking us the whole time and reveal your REAL list…

  • Jockolantern

    This list is mind-bogglingly deranged. No Howard Shore, John Williams, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, James Newton Howard, Michael Giacchino, Marco Beltrami, Thomas Newman, Danny Elfman, Javier Navarrete, Brian Tyler, et al. or the actual best scores of Hans Zimmer or Alexandre Desplat since the year 2000.

    Good lord. There’s no proper place to begin deconstructing this mess of a “list.”

    So, no. Absolutely not.

  • writR
  • Marcus Emanuel

    As ever, a pretty spot on list. Greenwood’s “Norweigan Wood,” Cliff Martinez’s “Contagion,” and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “The Revenant” are some of my favorites too. You can read more here:

  • Ralph Diaz

    I hate this list but at least you tried. No Yann Thiersen?? At least Jon Brion is on the list!

  • How did Ryan Johnson’s “Brick” not make the list? Shame.

  • Inspector Spacetime

    Basil Pouledoris’ soundtrack to the original Conan the Barbarian movie not appearing on this list is beyond ridiculous.

    • Conan was written in the 20th century!

      • Inspector Spacetime

        Ah. I did miss that clear distinction in the headline. Thank you.

  • Megan W

    Amelie should be up on that list! In top 10, not listed as an Honorable Mention 😉

  • yaah

    I don’t really get why this list, which is heavy on alternative sounds, paradoxically ignores the best alternative ones like Mad Max Fury Road and The Man from UNCLE. “The Social Network” was extremely weak. This doesn’t even mention the fact that you completely ignored (and you had 50 choices, so this is unexcusable) the Lord of the Rings movies which were monumental achievements. And if you knew anything about film music you would know that movies like The Force Awakens and Jupiter Ascending were amazing achievements. To not include in the top 50 at the expense of throwing in more stuff is pretty bad. And you throw in mentions of “Babel” as though Babel was a great film score. It won an Oscar but most of the music was derivative and not part of the actually original score. This list would be better entitled as, “The 50 favorite scores of someone who watches mostly indy films, loves alternative music and overrates it, and watches an occasional blockbuster”

  • hi

    The Last Samurai score is the most moving music arrangement I have ever heard.