2018 has been a strong, diverse, and appealingly weird year for movie and TV music. Three film soundtracks—A Star Is Born, The Greatest Showman, and Black Panther—have topped the Billboard 200 charts this year. A creepy sci-fi earworm from Annihilation became one of the sounds of spring. Bohemian Rhapsody came out this month, and while the film Bohemian Rhapsody itself couldn’t live up to Freddie Mercury’s extraordinary talent, it did remind us that Queen can still bring the house down in 2018.
The year in entertainment couldn’t have gotten much better sonically, and then composer Nicholas Britell dropped this sublime track from his score for Barry Jenkins’ melodious new film If Beale Street Could Talk. The film won’t be released until December, but Britell’s ravishing, strings-and-bass-centric music is as good a soundtrack for fall as can be.
Britell’s having a big year—his theme for HBO’s Succession helped reaffirm the lost art of the TV show theme song. (He’ll also score Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney film, Vice.) Also emerging quickly onto the film music scene is Colin Stetson, a multireedist who is doing things with saxophones and other woodwind instruments that no one else would dare try. Stetson, who’s played with Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, composed the scores for this year’s best horror film, Hereditary, as well as Hulu’s underrated Mars exploration drama, The First.
There has been a lot of experimentation with instrumentation in film music this year—Justin Hurwitz’s First Man score is probably the best example. His use of the theremin—one of the world’s strangest musical instruments—in the Neil Armstrong film is ingenious, perfectly capturing the astronaut’s grief following the death of his daughter. For something a little more upbeat, Ludwig Göransson’s rhythmic score for Black Panther (easily the best Marvel movie original score in many years) was bested only by Kendrick Lamar’s Pan-African soundtrack for the superhero movie.
It would’ve been a great year for movie music even without A Star Is Born, but the romantic musical drama truly put 2018 in the pantheon of all-time great years for film soundtracks, which, sure, is a very specific pantheon to be in, but still an important one. The album is stacked with absolute bangers that range from country to folk to pop to powerhouse ballad. It’ll likely be remembered as a singular achievement in film music.
So no matter what kind of mood you’re in this fall, the films and TV shows of 2018 have your sonic palette covered:
- “Crater” (First Man)
- “Eros” (If Beale Street Could Talk)
- “Agape” (If Beale Street Could Talk)
- “Nonviolent Offender” (White Boy Rick)
- “Revelation” (Boy Erased)
- “Aurora Borealis” (The First)
- “The First” (The First)
- “Bohemian Rhapsody – Live Aid” (Bohemian Rhapsody)
- “Wakanda” (Black Panther)
- “Incredits 2” (Incredibles 2)
- “The Landing” (First Man)
- “Mission: Accomplished” (Mission: Impossible – Fallout)
- “The End” (The First)
- “The Blue Planet” (Blue Planet II)
- “Don’t Stop Me Now (…Revisited)” (Bohemian Rhapsody)
- “Shallow” (A Star Is Born)
- “Maybe it’s Time“ (A Star Is Born)
- “Always Remember Us This Way“ (A Star Is Born)
- “Is That Alright?“ (A Star Is Born)
- “I’ll Never Love Again“ (A Star Is Born)
- “Taiko Drumming” (Isle of Dogs)
- “Bastien” (Game Night)
- “The Start of Things” (Mid90s)
- “Heart-Shaped Box” (Westworld)
- “Being Yourself” (Eighth Grade)
- “Succession Main Title” (Succession)
- “OYAHYTT” (Sorry To Bother You)
- “Annie and Owen” (Maniac)
- “Dark Streets” (You Were Never Really Here)
- “Blut Und Boden (Blood and Soil)” (BlacKkKlansman)
- “Seeing Alice” (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)
- “Pray for Me” (Black Panther)
- “Adagio in G Minor” (The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story)
- “Better Call Saul End Credits” (Better Call Saul)
- “Opening” (Howards End)