The Best Musical Scores of 2023


2023 was one of the most memorable years for film. Perhaps even more memorable than the films themselves were the musical scores that accompanied them. From sweeping compositions, epic accompaniments, and subtle yet destructive themes; 2023 has given us some of the most memorable scores in recent years. Here are some of my favorites, listed in no particular order.

Dream Scenario dir. Kristoffer Borgli, music composed by Owen Pallett
Dream-like in its overall presentation, but especially in its eclectic style of music,

Scenario presents one of the most dynamic scores of the entire year. It brings levity, horror, wonder, and sadness to the film simultaneously, emotionally elevating each scene with its presence. The MVP of this film is of course Nicholas Cage–playing a below average-joe who is catapulted into the national spotlight–but Owen Pallett carries a lot of the film on his back as well with a silky, violent, and peaceful score.

Godzilla Minus One dir. Takashi Yamazaki, music composed by Naoki Sato
A movie featuring the most infamous movie monster of all time needs a larger-than-life

score to accompany it, and Sato delivers exactly that. Terrifying in moments of utter destruction and catastrophe, yet hopeful and resilient–some of the most rousing and emotional composing from the entire year exists in this film. The use of the classical Godzilla theme is used to great effect here, striking genuine fear with each appearance of the titular Kaiju, and with the uprising of our beloved human characters: the beautiful song of the indomitable human spirit.

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One dir. Christopher McQuarrie, music composed by Lorne Balfe

Imbuing this high-stakes summer blockbuster with a thrilling sense of espionage, Balfe’s score is reminiscent of De Palma’s first entry in the franchise through its democratic selection of instrumentations. Ear-ringing flute notes evoking the horror of a “ghost in the machine,” or rallying drum rolls as Tom Cruise balances atop a runaway train, the music enhances both the action and the moments leading up to the great selection of set pieces this film has to offer. It does the legwork as it plays underneath some of the most stunning action scenes of the year, but truly shines through in two of the best chase/on-foot evasion scenes I’ve ever seen as Tom Cruise shows off his running skills like never before.

May December dir. Todd Haynes, music composed by Michel Legrand
Acting almost as its own character, the music in
May December has an undeniably

mysterious quality to it. It displays a certain humorous absurdity to one of the most quietly disturbing films of the year. It’s impossible to envision this film without the tones of an intensely dramatic piano crashing down over some of its most memorable moments. Perhaps just as

mysteriously unsettling as the film itself, Legrand spikes this surreal story with a compassionate yet alarming score that’s simply effective.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse dir. Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin K. Thompson, Kemp Powers, music composed by Daniel Pemberton

As wild and diverse as the film itself, Daniel Pemberton’s score for this sprawling multiverse tale is as high-octane as you would expect, matching the film’s energy and boosting each scene with emotional and riveting melodies. The noises of the many worlds that the characters swing through blend in seamlessly with the score to create an encompassing soundscape, and with each world new styles and musical instrumentations can be found. The ingeniousness of Pemberton mixing classical Spider-man themes with new and exciting compositions is as clever and innovative as the film’s absolutely jaw-dropping animation.

Saltburn dir. Emerald Fennell, music composed by The London Contemporary Orchestra & Anthony Willis

One of the most squeamish and divisive films of the entire year, the naturalistic beauty of its score simply can’t be denied. These gargantuan spaces the characters inhabit throughout the film are given life by the bounding orchestrations, and the haunting moments of deception are darkened even further by them as well. This film has an abundance of scenes that are ingrained in people’s minds for the wrong reasons, but the score is simply unforgettable.

The Boy and the Heron dir. Hayao Miyazaki, music composed by Joe Hisaishi
A near-hallucinogenic experience,
The Boy and the Heron’s highs of childlike wonder are

catapulted into the stratosphere by Hisaishi’s ethereal score. It’s simply magical, as you struggle to delineate the dreamworld of the film from reality, the music is just as uncanny. Moments of intensity, uncertainty, and wonder are all captured brilliantly in this film, and the score only strengthens these aspects.

Oppenheimer, dir. Christopher Nolan, music composed by Ludwig Göransson
It can’t be overstated just how brilliant this film’s music is. What Göransson has

accomplished here exceeds what I previously believed to be possible in the world of musical scores. His talent is that of an absolute mastermind as it’s simply impossible for the experience of this film to exist without him. An amazing film, ranking high in Nolan’s filmography, the score is quite possibly the greatest musical score ever created.

Past Lives, dir. Celine Song, music composed by Christopher Bear & Daniel Rossen
As full of longing and moments of quiet yearning as the film itself, this score is a

captured beauty. It evokes feelings of sorrow, remembrance, and the soft pains of past lives unlived, every song perfectly emulates what this movie is trying to make the viewer, and listener,

feel. Images of giant and wondrous cityscapes are forever burned into my memory from this film, as the score quietly sings as a distant memory forever.

Poor Things, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, music composed by Jerskin Fendrix.
Weird. Unsettling. Biting. Unforgiving. Painful? Awkward? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly

what this film accomplishes in the art of emotional persuasion, but it can certainly be said that whatever it is, it’s a lot. This film sprints at you with a handful of ideas and intrigues you to look into it from every aspect, and the absolutely unforgettable music drives all of these ideas home in its own strange, beautiful way.

If you haven’t given any of these film scores a listen, please do! I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting them and categorizing my thoughts on each of them, and I hope you enjoyed reading my expressed feelings on them!

Long live movies, and long live music!

Past Lives
Writer: Chris Robertson

Artist: Solymar Estrella