The Best Science Fiction Music From 2013

Before moving forward with 2014, I want to look back one last time at 2013. 

I'm not going to list 2013's scifi winners and losers (Blastr already did that), rank its coolest fandom moments (I agree with Tony "Crazy 4 Comic Con" Kim's list), or the describe the best psychological studies from the past year. 

Since I've already started counting down the best science fiction film and TV scores of all time, I thought it would be fun to recap 2013's coolest scifi music. 

Here we go!

#7: Doctor Who - Series 7, Murray Gold

Doctor Who

2013 was the year I made first contact with Doctor Who. While Doctor Who's 7th season received mixed reviews, Murray Gold's score remained solid and continued to be some of the best music composed for TV. The music blends in some older themes Gold developed for previous seasons and introduces new darker themes which setup the events of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary and the departure of Math Smith's 11th Doctor. My favorite tracks include "Clara?", "Infinite Potential", "A Secret He Will Take to His Grave", and "Remember Me". I know "Clara?" technically came out during the 2012 Christmas Special, but hey time is all wibbly wobbly, right? If you're a Whovian, check out the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection Soundtrack.

Europa Report

I'm a big fan of Bear McCreary! His score for Battlestar Galactica topped my list of the best scifi music from the 2000s and I love what he's done with The Walking Dead. Europa Report's score combines some of the somber tones McCreary developed for Battlestar with the dread of Walking Dead. The film isn't long, so there isn't much variety to its score, but I enjoyed hearing the different ways McCreary played with a singular theme in "Lift Off", "Landing on Europa", "Mausoleum", "Europa Report (For Solo Piano)", and "A World Other Than Our Own".

Pacific Rim

I had a lot of fun watching Pacific Rim and a big part of that was Ramin Djawadi's awesome score. I've really enjoyed what Djawadi's did with the Game of Thrones score and was surprised by the variety of music he created for Pacific Rim. From the rock and roll theme (featuring Tom Morello's killer riffs), to the optimistic "Gipsy Danger", the spacey "Shatterdome", the tragic "Mako" theme, the competitive "Physical Compatibility", and the pure popcorn fun of "Kaiju Groupie", the music of Pacific Rim has something for everyone.

Gravity

A big part of why Gravity was such an awe-inspiring experience was Steven Prince's score. Since director Alfonso Cuarón remained true to the fact that sound cannot travel in the vacuum of space, the only sounds we heard in Gravity (beyond the actor's voices) were Prince's music. There's a lot of similarity between Gravity and Europa Report's scores, particularly in how synthesized sounds are used to intensify suspense. What's interesting about Gravity is how quickly the music transitions between horror and tranquillity, and then back again. Sometimes the score is a little distressing to hear, but there's something about it that keeps me coming back. Check out "Debris", "Don't Let Go", "I.S.S.", "Parachute", and "Gravity".

Oblivion

Oblivion's score is somewhat of a decedent of Tron: Legacy. Both films were directed by Joseph Kosinski, who tapped electronic bands to write each score (M83 with Joseph Trapanese for Oblivion and Daft Punk for Tron: Legacy). I love the integration of electric and traditional instruments, the variety of music on the score, and just how clean everything sounds. My favorite tracks include "Jack's Dream", "Waking Up", "StarWaves", "Earth 2077", and "I'm Sending You Away". I probably won't watch the film again, but I listen to the score all the time.

Man of Steel

#2: Man of Steel, Hans Zimmer

The most controversial film score of 2013 was Hans Zimmer's music for Man of Steel. It was criticized as being too moody, too light on themes, and too heavy on percussion. A lot of the controversy was the result of Zimmer following John William's original Superman score, which is one of the greatest themes of all time. /Film's David Chen perfectly captured the differences in the scores in his comparison of the original and new Superman themes:

"If Superman: The Movie is about arriving, about this guy coming to Earth, sharing his amazing powers with us, and saving us…[then] Man of Steel is about yearning, longing, the desire to fit in, an unrequited love of a people."

Zimmer's Man of Steel score fits this version of Superman and sets a bold standard for the DC cinematic universe to come (something we've all been yearning for). Listen to samples including "Elegy from Man of Steel trailer" by L'Orchestra Cinematique's and Zimmer's "Look to the stars", "This is Clark Kent", and "What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?". I can't wait to hear how (presumably) Zimmer integrates this score with Batman's for the upcoming movie.

#1: Her, Arcade Fire, William Butler, Owen Pallett

Spike Jonze's Her

Her was my favorite scifi film of 2013. The score, a collaboration between Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett (featuring a song by Karen O) is beautifully simple. It features instrumental variations on many of Arcade Fire's recent songs including "Porno" and “Supersymmetry”. 

The problem is Her's score isn't' available for purchase ANYWHERE! I kept postponing this article until I had the chance to listen to the score again, but for some dumb reason Warner Brothers hasn't released it. Until they do, you'll have to do with the video below which was posted by Arcade Fire this week.

Even though I've only heard it once, the music of Her left a big impression on me, enough for me to rank it the best of 2013.

Honorable Mentions

James Newton Howard's score for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire almost made my list, but many of the themes were extensions of what he did for the first film. I liked Ryan Amon's Elysium score, but it lacked a a cohesive theme. I've been very critical of Marvel for neglecting to connect themes across their Avengers films, but Brian Tyler created some fun music for both Thor 2 and Iron Man 3.  

Notable Exceptions

Along with Bear McCreary, Michael Giacchino is one of my favorite modern composers. His score for 2009's Star Trek set the right tone for the relaunch of the franchise. But there's something missing from his Star Trek Into Darkness score. It does extend Kirk's theme from the first J. J. Abrams film and I really dig the "London Calling" theme for the villain (along with a fantastic nod to The Original Series in "The San Fran Hustle"), but the heart of 2009's score is gone. Maybe the problem is the frenetic pace of the movie. Like the film, I have a lot of fun with the score but it's doesn't live on in my mind like its predecessor. 

What were some of your favorite scores from 2013? Let me know in the comments below.

The Top 10 Science Fiction Film & TV Scores from the 1990s

A few months ago I wrote about the psychology of music and started a countdown to the best science fiction music from past decades. Today, I'm continuing this series with the top 10 science fiction scores from the 1990s.

#10: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, John Williams

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Episode I was a disappointment, but John Williams's score is pretty good. There’re some great nods to the original trilogy as well as a breathtaking new Jedi/Sith theme which became the anthem of this new trilogy. Why didn't I rank Episode I higher? There just aren't enough new melodies. Listen to a sample of "Anakin's Theme", "He Is The Chosen One", "Duel of the Fates", and "[REDACTED]'s Noble End" below.

#9: Contact, Alan Silvestri

Contact movie

What I like about Contact is its simple sounds of discovery. However, it's a little too simple and it's very reminiscent of Silvestri's music for Forrest Gump (which is a far superior score). Maybe it's my nostalgia for this film, but I do think it's good enough to be in my top 10. Highlights include "Awful Waste of Space", "Really Confused", "Media Event", and "No Words".  

#8: Starship Troopers, Basil Poledouris

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The original Starship Troopers novel has been criticized for promoting militarism, fascism, and racism. The movie maintains these themes but rather than glorifying them it makes fun of them. Basil Poledouris's music perfectly accompanies the movie's satire - it's over the top, militaristic, and sounds like it was ripped out of WWII Hollywood. "Fed Net March", "Destruction Of Roger Young", and "They Will Win" are great examples of the propaganda feel of Starship Troopers.

#7: Stargate, David Arnold

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David Arnold's Stargate score is very smooth. It has that classic mix of exploration, excitement, and fear that makes science fiction films so great. While at times it sounds like a John Williams score (specifically Raiders of the Lost Ark), Arnold's use of diverse instruments sets Stargate apart. I really like "Stargate Overture", "The Stargate Opens", "Entering the Stargate", and "Going Home".    

#6: The Truman Show, Philip Glass

The Truman Show

This is a very interesting score. It's the theme to a movie about the world's most popular reality TV show. While it sounds like Philip Glass's music is too emotional, the score is consistent with one of the messages of the movie - TV is produced to make you feel a very specific way about the people onscreen. Listen to the range of emotions in this score with "It's a Life", "Anthem, Pt. 2", "Reunion", "Truman Sleeps", and "Father Kolbe's Preaching".

#5: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Brad Fiedel

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Brad Fiesdel wrote the score to 1984's The Terminator as well as the 1991 sequel. I like the original, but it sounds like it was made on a small budget. With more money and major advances in computer technology, Terminator 2 became one of the best electronic film scores (up there with Blade Runner and Tron: Legacy). What I love most about this score is how it shifts between thunderous action and frightening dissonance. My favorite tracks include "Main Title (Terminator 2 Theme)", "Escape from the Hospital (And T1000)", "Trust Me", and "I'll Be Back".

#4: The Matrix, Don Davis

The Matrix

Like The Dark Knight trilogy and the recent Man of Steel, The Matrix doesn't really have a traditional score. There are some themes that develop over the course of the film, but there isn't anything specific you can hum after watching the movie. Don Davis primarily uses strings and brass instruments to create a frenetic tension during chase scenes and then dramatically extends notes to create a sense of awe as our hero discovers his powers. This gives The Matrix a unique sound and results in a timeless film score. Standouts include "Main Title / Trinity Infinity", "Welcome to the Real World", "The Hotel Ambush", and "Bullet-Time".

I should also mention that the soundtrack is outstanding. I played it nonstop back in the summer of 1999. I especially love Propellerheads's "Spybreak", Rob D's "Clubbed To Death", and Rage Against The Machine's "Wake Up".

#3: Star Trek: First Contact, Jerry Goldsmith

Star Trek First Contact

Jerry Goldsmith’s First Contact score makes me believe that we can actually achieve Star Trek’s optimistic vision of the future. The music is tender and has an inspiring melody. It also became a fitting theme to the cinematic adventures of The Next Generation. “Main Title/Locutus” integrates Goldsmith’s old and new Star Trek themes while “Welcome Aboard” and “First Contact” setup the most important event in Star Trek's history – the first meeting between humans and aliens.

#2: Gattaca, Michael Nyman

Gattaca

Gattaca is one of the best science fiction films of the 1990s and Michael Nyman's score is deeply moving. "The Morrow" introduces you to the melancholy world of Gattaca. "God's Hands" is a beautiful theme about familial love. The film's message of triumph over adversity is highlighted in "The One Moment". "Becoming Jerome" is surprisingly playful. "The Departure" takes the story into a fitting end. Most film scores transport you to another time or place. Gattaca is one of the few scores that turns your attention inward, creating a state of personal reflection. 

#1: Jurassic Park, John Williams

Jurassic-Park.jpg

Jurassic Park holds a special place in my heart. It was the first time I remember watching a movie and completely suspending my disbelief. For those two hours, I felt like I had just visited Jurassic Park. A big part of that was John Williams's score (the other half were the special effects which still hold up to this day). Williams created a score that is very intricate. It seamlessly lifts you up and then slams you down, draws you close for intimate moments and then zooms out for more awesome sights, all while maintaining a cohesive theme that never feels redundant. The whole album is worth the investment but my favorites are "Journey To The Island", "Welcome To Jurassic Park", "Dennis Steals The Embryo", and "High-Wire Stunts".

Honorable Mentions

I liked The Rocketeer and Independence Day, but they didn't have enough variety. Apollo 13 would make my top 3, but it's science fact not science fiction. Batman Return almost made the cut, but it's too dark for my taste.

Notable Exceptions

A TV series! My 2000s list had 2 TV shows, but nothing from the 1990s made the top 10. There were some stellar TV themes from this decade (like seaQuest DSV, The X-Files, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager), but the shows themselves didn't have enough consistent good music to get onto my list. 

Next time, I'll look at the best science fiction music from the 1980s - the decade home to many of my favorite movies of all time! 

Star Trek Into Music: The Best Film Scores from the Final Frontier

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A while back I wrote about how music changes our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. I also started a list of the best science fiction film scores of all time. Today, I'm taking a look back at the orchestral music that made me fall in love with film scores - the music of Star Trek.

Unlike that other space franchise, Star Trek features a wide variety of composers. Each brings their unique style to the franchise while still integrating elements of Alexander Courage's original Star Trek TV series theme. The result is a diverse collection of music that is linked by a common thread (like the James Bond franchise).

Here's my list of the top 5 Star Trek film scores. I’ve spent hundreds of hours listening to each one and hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

#5: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country , Cliff Eidelman

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 Cliff Eidelman isn’t known for scoring scifi epics. His other movie scores include My Girl 2, Free Willy 3, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. But his music for Star Trek VI matches the urgency and mystique of the cold war storyline. Even though traditional Star Trek cues are absent from most of the film, Eidelman gives the original crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise a fantastic send off. The sample below includes “Overture” (a powerful introduction to the film), “Spacedock / Clear All Moorings”, “Spock Wisdom” (love the Vulcan mysticism here), and “Sign Off”.

 

star-trek-2009.jpg

Michael Giacchino's score is fresh and modern (just like the 2009 movie). While it sounds less like a space opera and more like a superhero score, the music fits this interpretation of Star Trek. Spock's theme is reflective and tragic ("Head To Heart Conversation") while Kirk's is searching for a purpose ("Hella Bar Talk"). The best part is Giacchino's take on the original 1966 Star Trek theme ("End Credits") - it honors the past while boldly moving the franchise forward. 

star-trek-first-contact.jpg

Jerry Goldsmith’s First Contact score makes me believe that we can actually achieve Star Trek’s optimistic vision of the future. The music is tender and has an inspiring melody. It also becomes a fitting theme to the cinematic adventures of The Next Generation. “Main Title/Locutus” integrates Goldsmith’s old and new Star Trek themes while “Welcome Aboard” and “First Contact” setup the most important event in Star Trek's history – the first meeting between humans and aliens.

star-trek-motion-picture.jpg

Yes, it’s blasphemous for me to list Goldsmith’s original Motion Picture theme as the 2nd best Star Trek score. Don’t get me wrong, I love each of the iconic tracks sampled below (“Main Theme”, “Klingon Battle”, “The Enterprise”, “Leaving Drydock”). The issue is the rest of the score doesn’t really do much (besides put me to sleep). The Motion Picture has little tension, conflict, or stakes and the score suffers from the same issues. It's still awesome enough to be my #2. 

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a wonderfully complete movie that seamlessly transitions between intimate moments and epic battles. James Horner’s score does not miss a beat. From the explosive “Main Title”, to the mysterious “Spock”, the menacing “Surprise Attack”, and the solemn “Amazing Grace”, the score is a perfect companion to the film’s message of life, death, and rebirth. This is easily the best film score in the Star Trek universe.

 

Honorable Mentions

  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Horner does a nice job, but it sounds a lot like the score to Star Trek II.
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: Too whimsical for me, but it fits the comedic nature of the movie. 

That's my list. What's your favorite Star Trek film score?

A Beginner's Guide to the Star Trek Universe

Image via  Ships of the Line .

Image via Ships of the Line.

Last week I republished my original review of JJ Abrams's 2009 Star Trek movie. In the comments, Charleen said the reboot got her interested in Star Trek and made her want to see more of the franchise. I tried to find her a link to essential Star Trek episodes and movies, but everything I found was way too geeky for people who are new to the franchise. That's when I decided to write this article - a beginner's guide to the Star Trek universe.

Star Trek: The Original Series

Star Trek: The Original Series

What's Star Trek?

Star Trek is a science fiction TV show that was created in 1966 by Gene Roddenberry. While it only lasted three years, the show became super popular in reruns. After the success of Star Wars, Paramount Pictures wanted to create its own big budget space adventure and brought back Star Trek as a movie.

Now, the Star Trek franchise includes 5 TV shows (The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise) and 12 movies (the newest one, Star Trek Into Darkness, comes out next week).

What's it about?

Star Trek is about a group of people exploring space, meeting aliens, and "boldly going where no one has gone before." While each series has different ships and crews, the theme remains the same - what does it mean to be a human?

Why's it so popular?

Star Trek influenced generations of scientists and explorers ( including me ). NASA even named the first space shuttle after Captain Kirk's U.S.S. Enterprise.

Star Trek influenced generations of scientists and explorers (including me). NASA even named the first space shuttle after Captain Kirk's U.S.S. Enterprise.

Star Trek is an optimistic view of our future. It's about humans overcoming our differences, working to solving our global problems, and uniting in a mission of peaceful exploration.

That's rare in science fiction - most stories take place in distant galaxies (like Star Wars) or have a pretty bleak view of what's to come (like Planet of the Apes, Alien, The Matrix).

What do I need to know?

Humans have turned Earth into a utopia and partnered with other likeminded species to create the United Federation of Planets (think United Nations with space ships).

The Federation has an important rule called the Prime Directive, which prevents its officers from interfering with the development of alien civilizations. For example, if an alien species hasn't invented airplanes, Captain Kirk can't give them any technology or information that could help them build one.

While the Federation is on a mission of peace, other aliens have more selfish interests. The Klingons seek honor, Romulans crave power, Ferengi want to be rich, and the Borg are trying to become perfect. Some of the best Star Trek stories highlight the tension between the Federation and other aliens.  

Cool Technology, Geeky Culture

 

While the transporter is uber-cool, Star Trek's fashion is not.

While the transporter is uber-cool, Star Trek's fashion is not.

I'm just going to get this out of the way - while the technology in Star Trek is pretty cool (instant transportation, starships that travel faster than light, devices which create objects out of thin air), everything else is really geeky. The look, feel, and action isn’t as sexy as the Star Wars universe (though JJ Abrams has spruced things up). The trade-off is you get really thoughtful, existential stories.

Where do I start?

With over 500 hours of TV and movies, the Star Trek universe can feel overwhelming to newbies. Below, I've picked the best episodes and movies from the whole franchise, grouped by topic. You can stream episodes on Netflix, Amazon, or purchase them through iTunes. Each one works as standalone viewing and doesn't require knowledge of what came before.

Humanity

 

TNG's "The Measure of a Man"

TNG's "The Measure of a Man"

  • The Measure of a Man (The Next Generation, Season 2 Episode 9): Can Data, a sentient artificial life form, become the property of someone else? 
  • The Inner Light (The Next Generation, Season 5 Episode 25): Captain Picard’s consciousness is transported into another man. Considered by many to be one of Star Trek's best episodes.  
  • In The Pale Moonlight (Deep Space Nine, Season 6 Episode 19): How far would you go to prevent the loss of innocent lives?
  • Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (movie): Revenge is a dish best served cold.
  • Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country (movie): What happens to lifelong enemies when their cold war ends?

Time Travel

TOS's "The City on the Edge of Forever"

TOS's "The City on the Edge of Forever"

  • The City on the Edge of Forever (The Original Series, Season 1 Episode 28): Captain Kirk falls in love with a woman from the past and changes the course of history. Also considered to be one of Star Trek’s best.
  • Tapestry (The Next Generation, Season 6 Episode 15): What would happen if you could correct the biggest regret of your life?
  • The Visitor (Deep Space Nine, Season 4 Episode 3): After discovering that his father is traveling uncontrollably through time, a son dedicates his life to rescuing him.
  • Year of Hell (Voyager, Season 4 Episode 8 & 9): A man is obsessed with altering history in an attempt to save his dead wife.
  • Star Trek First Contact (movie): The Federation's greatest threat travels back in time to erase the most important event in Star Trek’s history – Earth’s first contact with an alien race.

Aliens

TNG's "Q Who?"

TNG's "Q Who?"

  • Balance of Terror (The Original Series, Season 1 Episode 14): Submarine warfare between two enemies who’ve never seen each other before.  
  • Darmok (The Next Generation, Season 5 Episode 2): How do you communicate with an alien species whose language is incomprehensible to humans?
  • Q Who? (The Next Generation, Season 2 Episode 16): First contact with an alien unlike anything the Federation has seen before. 

Shenanigans

DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations"

DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations"

  • The Trouble With Tribbles (The Original Series, Season 2 Episode 15): Captain Kirk must face a race of small, cute, fuzzy, quickly reproducing creatures.
  • Time's Arrow (The Next Generation, Season 5 Episode 26 & Season 6 Episode 1): The crew of the Enterprise meets Mark Twain in 1893 San Francisco, California.
  • Little Green Men (Deep Space Nine, Season 4 Episode 8): A group of Ferengi travel back in time and arrive at Area 51, Earth.
  • Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine, Season 5 Episode 6): The crew of Deep Space Nine travel back to the events of “Trouble With Tribbles”.
  • Message in a Bottle (Voyager, Season 4 Episode 14): The ship’s emergency hologram is transported across the galaxy and meets his replacement – Andy Dick.
  • Star Trek IV The Voyage Home (movie): Captain Kirk and company travel back in time in search of 2 humpback whales. 

That's my list of essential Star Trek TV episodes and movies. What's on your list? Let me know in the comments below. 

The Top 10 Science Fiction Film & TV Scores from the 2000s

Just a couple of psychologists celebrating science fiction and music at the  Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum .

Just a couple of psychologists celebrating science fiction and music at the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum.

A few days ago I wrote about how music changes the way we act, think, and feel. What I didn't mention is how much I'm obsessed with film and TV scores - they suck me in, focus my mind, and make the rest of the world disappear.

While some write off Hollywood composers as "sell outs", the genre is essentially the same as the romantic era of music (you know, the time period that gave us Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9", Strauss's "Blue Danube", and Holst's "Mars") - both use music to tell a story that produces very specific feelings.

Science fiction is home to some of the best film and TV scores. To celebrate the musical contributions of science fiction, I'm starting a series highlighting the 10 best scifi scores of each decade, beginning with the 2000s (2001 - 2010). Check back for updates or save this link to view the whole series.

Here we go...

#10: Wall-E, Thomas Newman

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Since Wall-E rarely speaks, the film relies on Thomas Newman's score to communicate how the robot is thinking and feeling. This is done effortlessly. I also love how fun the score is. While things start seriously with "2815 A.D.", there's goofiness to "Wall-E", a sense of wonder to "Bubble Wrap", and playfulness to "First Date". Listen to samples of these tracks below.

If you like this score, check out Newman's scores to Skyfall, Finding Nemo, and American Beauty.

#9: District 9, Clinton Shorter

District 9.jpg

It was great to see a science fiction film that doesn't revolve around the United States. That's also what I enjoyed about Clinton Shorter's score to District 9 - South African vocals are integrated throughout resulting in a unique sound. Highlights include “District 9”, “Exosuit”, and “Heading Home”.

I listen to District 9 during my morning subway commute. It gets me fired up to take on the hoards of New York City pedestrians.

#8: Moon, Clint Mansell

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Moon is one of the best science fiction films that no one has seen. The score is clean and delicate. It makes you feel the loneliness of being stuck on the moon. Just listen to "Welcome to Lunar Industries", "Memories (Someone We'll Never Know)", and "The Nursery" to get an idea of what I mean.

To hear more from Mansell, try his scores to Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, and Black Swan.

#7: Tron: Legacy, Daft Punk

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Tron: Legacy was a letdown, but the score exceeded all of my expectations. Daft Punk created a true synthesis of electronic and orchestral music that has yet to be replicated. Standouts include "The Game Has Changed", “Fall”, and “TRON Legacy (End Titles)”.

I listen to this album anytime I need an extra boost of motivation - at the gym, during chores, and when I'm behind on paperwork. Tron: Legacy just makes me want to get things done.

#6: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jon Brion

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Like Moon, Eternal Sunshine's score is razor sharp. Here, the focus is on a man desperately trying to hold on to fading memories and the music highlights the fuzziness of that process. Favorites include "Peer Pressure", "Row", and "Elephant parade".

I use this score for short bursts of contemplation, usually when I'm planning something new.

#5. The Dark Knight, Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard

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Both Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard did the right thing when Christopher Nolan rebooted Batman - instead of competing with Danny Elfman's heroic original theme, they created a murkier score. While elements of Batman’s theme were teased in Batman Begins, they weren't fully fleshed out until The Dark Knight. For a sample, listen to “A Watchful Guardian” (Batman), “Why So Serious” (Joker), and “Harvey Two-Face” (Harvey Dent). 

While The Dark Knight Rises's score has some nice moments (I love the chaos in "Gotham's Reckoning"), it lacks the subtly of the first two movies (probably because Howard wasn't involved). The Dark Knight remains the best film and score of the trilogy.

#4: Children of Men, John Tavener

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Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men has been compared to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The score is more similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey, both in style and gravitas. Unlike 2001, John Tavener composed original music for the film in addition to using existing orchestral music. "Fragments of a Prayer, "Eternity's Sunrise", and "Mother of God, Here I Stand (For String Orchestra)" are all powerful examples of the film’s style.

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Like the movie, the score feels fresh and modern. Spock's theme is reflective and tragic ("Head To Heart Conversation") while Kirk's is searching for a purpose ("Hella Bar Talk"). The best part is Giacchino's take on the original 1966 Star Trek theme ("End Credits") - it honors the past while boldly moving the franchise forward.

When JJ Abrams picks a composer for Star Wars Episode VII, I hope he selects Giacchino – I’d love to see what he can do with that universe.

#2: LOST, Michael Giacchino

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This decade witnessed the rise of Giacchino. Along with Star Trek, he composed Alias, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Mission: Impossible 3, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Super 8, and Up (for which he won an Oscar). He also did the music for Disneyland’s revamped Space Mountain and Star Tours rides and a bunch of video games. His most creative work remains the score to TV’s LOST. Throughout the series, Giacchino expresses complex emotion with a few simple notes and uses silence as a way of building or releasing tension. He even used pieces of an airplane fuselage to create some of the show’s strange sounds. Below are some of the best moments from LOST's six seasons including "Oceanic 815", "Hurley's Handouts", "Claire-A Culpa", "The Constant", "Sawyer Jones and the Temple of Boom", "The Tangled Web", and "Closure".

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To keep Battlestar Galactica from sounding like just another space opera, McCreary used non-traditional orchestral instruments like the duduk, taiko drums, an erhu, sitars, gamelans, and bagpipes. Their synthesis results in a score that transcends all genres and is just really beautiful music.

I could go on and on about McCreary's score, but I'll just touch on some of my favorite themes of the series. The Adama theme ("Wander My Friends") highlights the role of family in the show. "Roslin and Adama" is rich and soothing while "The Sense of Six" is cold and unnerving. "Prelude to War" combines strings and percussion to create a dramatic standoff. "Heeding The Call" sets up the biggest reveal of the show and "Diaspora Oratorio" takes the series into its final act.

If you haven't heard of Battlestar Galactica, go to Netflix right now and watch the pilot. It’s that good. You won't be disappointed. 

Honorable Mentions

Inception, X2, The Island, Firefly, and Halo (yes, the video game) came close to making the list, but beyond the signature themes the scores weren't that memorable.

Notable Exceptions

Nothing from the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" (Iron Man 1 & 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers) came close to reaching the top 10. None of the music from these movies is memorable.

We didn't get anything fresh from John Williams. I liked his Minority Report theme, but the Star Wars prequels, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Artificial Intelligence scores sounded A LOT like his previous work. Similarly, James Horner's score to Avatar reminded me of James Horner's score to Titanic

The 2000s saw the passing of Jerry Goldsmith, one of the greatest science fiction composers (Planet of the Apes, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Alien). I really miss hearing his music.

That's it for now. Let me know what you think. What did I get right or wrong? What would you put on your list? And don't forget to come back for my list of the top scifi scores from the 1990s.